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HFP in Rio: My review of Norwegian Premium – cheaper than British Airways World Traveller Plus, but do you get less? (Part 2)

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This is Part 2 of my review of Norwegian Premium, on a flight from London Gatwick to Rio de Janeiro.  Part 1 of my Norwegian Premium review is here, which looks at the seat itself and compares the pricing and product offered by both Norwegian and British Airways.

The food and service on Norwegian Premium

Soon after boarding I was offered a choice of water, apple or orange juice. Norwegian does not use glassware or crockery on its aircraft, although the plastic cups are slightly more sturdy than I have experienced on other airlines. Due to an air trafic control delay, we remained at the gate for about an hour and the cabin crew came through several times.

Norwegian Premium drink

Shortly after take-off the cabin crew came round with a drinks service. Wines, cava and soft drinks are free whilst spirits incur a surcharge of around $7 per 50ml. I decided to have a glass of white wine as well as the cava.

Norwegian Premium cava

The meal service followed soon afterwards.  Unlike most carriers, Norwegian has these long boxes that contain a salad, main and dessert. There is also a selection of bread.

I was offered a choice from three main courses: a roast chicken dish, a hake dish and a beef noodle dish. I went for the latter and enjoyed it. The beef was tender and flavourful.

Norwegian Premium meal

One thing I would say about the main meal service is that it was a little on the small side. The salad and dessert (a cheesecake) are deceptively small and packaged to make them look slightly bigger. It would have been nice to have a slightly larger meal.

Let’s be honest – in terms of presentation and portion size this is behind what you would get from British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, although I had no complaints about quality.

Like my Premium Economy flight with Air New Zealand in February, Norwegian offers an ordering service through the inflight entertainment system.  This makes it supremely easy to order drinks or snacks at any point during the flight and should be a service that all airlines roll out.

You make a few taps on your IFE screen and the food is brought to your seat.  It’s a fantastic system.  Yes, you’ve got to pay for additional food, but at least you have the option.  You would have to be fairly churlish to argue that having the chance to pay for additional food and drink is worse than – BA-style – not having the option at all.

About five hours in I got a little peckish and decided to order something off the snack menu. This is the BBQ chicken sandwich:

Norwegian Premium sandwich

…which tasted good. There were a range of hot and cold options, savoury and sweet. The only thing that was missing was a Kit Kat which I was desperately craving for some weird reason …..

Two hours before arrival a second meal service took place and the cabin crew handed out another long box.  This contained a salad, halloumi and a slice of cured meat. (I assume vegetarian options for both meals are available on request).  This was served with bread, Boursin and a small bar of chocolate:

Norwegian Premium second meal

The halloumi salad was disappointing, with the cheese very firm and not particularly tasty. It was an odd combination of items, and Norwegian can definitely do better.

In flight entertainment

The front of the cabin has a screen dedicated to the moving map, which is great if you quickly want to check your flight’s progress:

Norwegian Premium screen

All Premium seats have free access to the Norwegian in flight entertainment system. This is provided via a screen that pops out from your armrest. This is better than having it in the seat in front of you and allows for easy use even when the row in front is at maximum recline. It was loaded with a decent selection of old and new films, and I ended up watching Deadpool and Love Simon.

Don’t worry if you are concerned about popping to the toilet mid entertainment – the screen can be folded flat to allow easy egress into the seat!

The supplied headphones are fairly cheap although they do come in a nice pouch. I typically use my own regardless, and it seems I wasn’t the only one.

Norwegian Premium cabin headphonesand

Norwegian Premium cabin headphones

Norwegian also has wi-fi on its Boeing 787-9 fleet, which is currently a pot luck option on British Airways.  Unfortunately this was disabled on my outbound flight and I was unable to give it a test drive. It was available on the return, with a choice of three packages:

Free, messaging only

Social-Surf (€4.95), which permits photos and social media

Stream-Surf (€12.95), which lets you stream video

I went for the final option. This let me send messages with ease and load Facebook videos and photos, although for some reason it struggled with Instagram and Snapchat.

If you need to charge your devices, there is a USB plug in the screen, or you can use the international plug between the seats:

Norwegian Premium cabin plug

Conclusion

If you are expecting a premium economy product equal to that of World Traveller Plus or Virgin Atlantic’s Premium, you may find yourself a little disappointed. Norwegian does not offer pillows, amenity kits or complimentary spirits to its Premium passengers.

What you DO get is a lot of legroom, the option to order extra food if you want it, wi-fi access (for a fee), dedicated check-in and bag drop desks at Gatwick and a few hundred extra pounds in your pocket.  That’s a trade off I can live with.

Thank you to Norwegian for arranging my trip.  A final article later this week will, at reader request, cover a few thoughts about Rio itself.

Comments (38)

  • @mkcol says:

    “This makes it supremely easy to order drinks or snacks at any point during the flight and should be a service that all airlines roll out.” and is something that BA have the ability to activate on the A350, as well as ordering duty free from the screen meaning they’ll no longer need to carry the magazines.

  • Alan says:

    Nice review looks like a return of the bmi Bento boxes! 😀

    • Lady London says:

      Got a feeling Norwegian used to get their meals from Do & Co?

      I don’t care about lower class packaging I’d rather the quality of the food was good.

  • AJA says:

    The comparison with flight costs vs BA is enlightening however I assume the BA flights are from LHR? As far as i know they don’t fly to GIG from LGW anymore unless they’ve recently re-introduced that option? Every fare quote i get is departing LHR. Oddly the “how many Avios will I earn” page on the BA website shows LGW – GIG as an earning option giving 90TP and at least 5767 Avios for an E Or T fare each way in WTP.

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    How much is seat reservation in WT+? Add that into the cost differential and it’s getting huge.

  • Alex says:

    Keep in mind that Norwegian is horrible if things go wrong, while BA always has been able to sort all my issues I had from delays and cancellations effectively.

    • Rob says:

      It can go both ways. Anika had a Norwegian flight go tech and the replacement they chartered had flat beds, so her Premium ticket got her a bed for the overnight flight back.

      • Alex says:

        Sure sometimes things work out. The cases I had, I ended up buying a new fare with another carrier and got stuck with the cost of the new ticket.

        Norwegian doesn’t interline with other carriers and thus is unable to rebook you onto other carriers if things go wrong. That might not matter too much if you don’t necessarily have to travel on certain dates. And there is also no guarantee that an interlining carrier will get you there on time, but on average they will be able to assist you better especially if you have a status.

        That being said their agents were always friendly, but unfortunately unable to help.

        • Lady London says:

          Surely thé airline is obligéd to organise and pay the hotel directly? And not just expect thé passengers to have to make arrangements psy potentially very high sums in some places like NY, and fight or wait for reimbursement?

          Faced with a long queue at midnight from a 380 load might mean some might say its unreasonable to wait so long and those people can choose to make their own reasonable arrangements but a substantial number if passengers may not be in a position to help Norwegian out in this way.

  • TGLoyalty says:

    £7 a spirit there goes that £300 difference!

  • Steve says:

    Horribly biased and ill informed review, would have expected better from HFP.

    • Rob says:

      Difficult to be ill informed after spending 24 hours in the seat 🙂

      Seems a pretty clear review to me. Some bits are better than BA (inc the seat), some bits are worse, it’s a ton of money cheaper.

    • Leo says:

      Odd comment. Please explain. “Horribly biased and ill-informed”???

  • Lily says:

    I can’t even compare Norwegian with BA or especially with Virgin Atlantic!!!
    When I flew to Cancun with BA it was just amazing! Food every 2-3 hours, drink service non stop. Tasty coffee, good cups.
    Then I decided to save some money and fly to US by Norwegian and Omg!! Food (costs £25) was 1 hour after we took off, not cooked properly potatoes and smallest cup of tea I ever saw. Then we stayed 5 hours with no food, when I asked cabin crew about it, she said that there will be sandwiches 1 hours before landing. I can’t stay 8h without food, so I had to order their sandwiches.which were not so good and costs around £8 each.
    I think it’s my mistake, I did not check how good their food is before my flight. I just bought ‘meal on board’ option and did not take any food with me.
    I will never ever fly with Norwegian any more.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Rather depends on the fare difference. If you said here’s £1000 for you if you don’t eat for the next 8 hou … easy peasy. Or £984 for you AND you can eat a couple of sandwiches; that’s even easier.

      As above; food can be bought or taken on – or even stuff your face in the lounge. More space can’t be manufactured and trumps all else.