Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Norwegian has one of the world's youngest aircraft fleets with an average age of 3.6 years.
New York (JFK) to London (Gatwick).
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Norwegian Reward – an innovative program that provides a free reward, such as complimentary seat reservations or fast track through security, every six flights.
Premium, window seat 5J.
Scheduled flight time of seven hours; actual flight time only six.
Daily. Norwegian flies to nine US destinations from its Gatwick hub, including smaller airports such as Stewart International in upstate New York and Bradley International in Connecticut.
Housed in a separate 35-seat cabin in a 2-3-2 layout, Premium seats are spacious and comfortable with adjustable head rests and leg rests plus an international power point. Seat width is 49 centimetres (about six more than economy) and seat pitch is a whopping 117 centimetres – more than any other premium economy offering.
Premium passengers get two checked bags (up to 20 kilograms each) plus one carry-on bag and a small personal item (combined weight 10 kilograms or 15 kilograms on a PremiumFlex fare).
Sleep is a priority on this short overnight flight and the combination of the Dreamliner's quieter cabin and a seat with generous legroom, decent recline and winged head rests that actually stay in place means I get a solid few hours. A blanket is provided but no pillow and there are two dedicated bathrooms in the Premium cabin.
My initial horror at there being no screen in the seatback in front is allayed when I discover one in the armrest. It means you can't watch movies during takeoff and landing but on this overnight flight that's not so important. There's a decent (rather than impressive) range of movies, TV shows and documentaries delivered through a touch-sensitive 28-centimetre screen. There's also a drinks ordering service, a separate kids section and an interactive 3D map. Headsets are provided but there's a headphone jack if you'd rather use your own plus a USB charging point. There's no Wi-Fi on trans-Atlantic flights but it's free on most Norwegian flights within Europe.
After delivering a premium product at the airport (dedicated check-in line, fast track through security and access to the Alitalia Lounge), things start to feel a little more "budget carrier" on board. The two Premium cabin crew are smiley but unpolished. Announcements in heavily accented Italian are difficult to understand and when I ask what the red and white wines are, I get a shrug and a "Not sure".
The food is also a noticeable step down in quality from other premium economy offerings. Premium customers get two meals – a three-course dinner and a light breakfast – plus complimentary drinks. The dinner options are chicken with ravioli, beef with rice and noodles with shrimp – all served in a cardboard box with plastic cutlery. I try the beef, which is substantial but chewy and comes with a so-so curried cauliflower salad and a chocolate shortbread. Most people have sensibly eaten before take-off and are sleeping.
ONE MORE THING
Norwegian is Europe's third largest low-cost carrier and is expanding rapidly, often debuting new routes at staggeringly low prices. Seats on the recently launched trans-Atlantic flights from Edinburgh to Stewart and Bradley started at £69.
THE LAST WORD
There's a reason Norwegian has won SkyTrax's Best Long-Haul Low-Cost Airline for the last two years. With its aggressive pricing and stylish, no-frills product, it's given the long-haul market a much-needed shake-up. Premium is a significant step up from Economy and well worth the investment on a flight where sleep is a priority.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE: FOUR
Rob McFarland travelled as a guest of Norwegian.
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