Norse Atlantic – a new nordic low-cost long haul airline – has started selling tickets for its upcoming Gatwick to New York flights.
Norse Atlantic’s executives – unrelated to Norwegian – are clearly sold on the viability of the business model, despite the collapse of Norwegian’s long haul arm during covid. Norse Atlantic will be virtually identical to Norwegian in every way – it is even using Norwegian’s old aircraft, with the same seats.
Gatwick is the airline’s second base, with flights already on sale from Oslo to New York, LA, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
Flights form London Gatwick to New York JFK start on 12th August and will operate daily. Further US destinations are expected to follow, with Orlando, LA and Fort Lauderdale the obvious choices.
Here are the flight times, which are very reasonable:
- N0701 departs London Gatwick at 13:00 and arrives in New York JFK at 15:55
- N0702 departs New York JFK at 17:55 and lands in Gatwick at 06:20 the following day
The blocked time for the return flight is 7:20 hours, which seems very long – thanks to the gulf stream, most flights from New York to London clock in at closer to 6 hours. You may arrive home much earlier than you expect!
What is it like flying Norse Atlantic?
We don’t know yet, because flights haven’t yet launched.
That said, based on the information we have, Norse Atlantic are taking on Norwegian’s former Boeing 787 Dreamliners without modifying the cabin or seat. That means you can expect a decent premium economy cabin, with 56 seats in a 2-3-2 cabin:
I reviewed Norwegian’s premium economy product on a flight Rio in 2019. I was impressed with the seat itself which had a great recline, although I found the meal service somewhat lacking.
How cheap (or expensive) is Norse Atlantic?
Norse Atlantic offers six pricing tiers: Economy Light, Economy Classic, Economy Plus, Premium Light, Premium Classic and Premium Plus. There is no business class.
Tickets start from £255 return in Economy Light, which I had no trouble finding even on the launch date, whilst Economy Classic is £402 return.
Premium Light was on sale for £460 return, whilst Premium Plus – the most expensive option on Norse Atlantic – was £933 return.
For comparison, here is the economy pricing for the equivalent dates in August for other airlines:
- £615 with JetBlue
- £686 with British Airways
- £711 with American Airlines
- £725 with Virgin Atlantic
- £733 with United Airlines
I suspect the fare difference is smaller outside of the peak school holidays. BA’s lowest fare to New York is £356 and is available from October this year right into Spring 2023. You also have to remember that the service on these airlines is closer to Norse Atlantic’s Economy Classic than Economy Light, with a full meal service and select baggage included.
Of course, one of the benefits of a low cost airline like Norse Atlantic is that it offers cheap one-way tickets whilst most legacy carriers charge an arm and a leg if you only book a one-way flight. The pricing, per leg, is £160 from Gatwick to New York, whilst the return flight is cheaper, with tickets starting from £93.
A one-way ticket with any other airline costs the same as a return ticket, and in many cases as much as £1,500+!
What does Economy Light get you?
Not much, to be honest. Here is a comparison of the three economy tiers:
As you can see, Economy Light gets you the actual seat on the aircraft plus an under-seat bag. That’s it.
When we say that’s it, I really mean it. You don’t get any meals.
Economy Classic (£402 return) gets you three pieces of luggage (an under-seat bag, 10kg cabin bag and 23kg checked luggage) plus one meal.
Economy Plus (£691 return) gets you all of that plus priority boarding and better ticket flexibility, with no-fee date and name changes, although you’ll be on the hook for any fare difference. You can also get a free refund.
If you book an Economy Light ticket you can add any extras you would like. Here is the luggage pricing:
- 10kg carry on from £21 one-way
- 15kg checked luggage from £49 one-way
- 23kg checked luggage from £57 one-way
- 32kg checked luggage from £137 one-way
Sports equipment, musical instruments and other non-standard luggage is priced separately, from £81 to £141.
Seat selection isn’t included as standard for any economy tickets unless you pay for Plus. You’ll have to pay extra:
- An extra legroom front row seat costs £81 one-way
- A ‘preferred’ seat in the front half of the cabin costs £49 one-way
- Selecting a standard seat costs £29 one-way
If you want to add a meal on to your booking you can choose between a £25 ‘main’ meal or a £17 ‘light’ meal, one-way. Both choices also have options for diabetic, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan etc at the same price.
Other extras are also available:
- Priority check in from £17 one-way
- Airport check in from £9 one-way (bag drop is free if you check in online)
- Priority boarding from £13 one-way
Unlike Norwegian, Norse Atlantic does not appear to be charging for in-flight entertainment or to charge your devices.
Which economy fare is best value?
In most cases it makes sense to opt for Economy Classic over Economy Light, unless you really don’t need any extras.
Economy Classic, which comes with a 23kg checked bag, 10kg cabin bag and under-seat bag plus a main meal comes in at £396 return.
For comparison, the same flight in Economy Light is £252, plus:
- 10kg cabin bag – 2 x £21, so £42
- 23kg checked bag – 2 x £57, so £114
- Main meal – 2 x £25, so £50
In total, it would cost you £458 to create the same bundle with Economy Light as you would paying for Economy Classic – £62 more.
What about premium economy?
Norse Atlantic doesn’t offer a business class cabin so premium economy is as good as it gets. There are three tiers to choose form – Light, Classic and Plus:
As you can see, basic inclusions for Premium Light include:
- An under-seat bag
- 10kg carry on
- 2 meal services, including 1 house beer or wine per meal
- Premium boarding
- Priority check-in
If you upgrade to Premium Classic, normally for an additional £70 each way, you also get a 23kg checked bag plus you can change your ticket for half the price – just $100. In this case, if you don’t value the additional flexibility, it would actually be cheaper to pay for the checked bag separately, based on the unbundled pricing structure above.
Premium Plus, which is an extra £145 one-way, gets you an additional 23kg checked bag, plus a completely refundable and changeable ticket – although you’ll have to pay the fare difference.
By and large, the sweet spot with Norse Atlantic appears to be when booking the ‘Classic’ fare, which bundles extras for less than it would cost to do individually.
You are getting diminishing returns if you upgrade to the ‘Plus’ fare, although the flexibility – with no change or cancellation fee – will make it worth while for some, especially business travellers.
In general Premium looks good value, both when compared with Economy and when compared with Premium Economy on other airlines. This is especially true for the overnight return flight where you will appreciate the extra space.
The bigger question is whether Norse Atlantic will succeed where Norwegian failed. Although Norwegian struggled with some problems outside its control – it had to deal with hugely disruptive problems on its Rolls Royce engines, which have now been solved – its business model also left it with virtually no financial buffer in case things went wrong.
What won’t go away are the fundamental issues. It doesn’t benefit from the very lucrative Business Class cabins, and as a passenger you need to factor in a risk premium in case your aircraft has technical issues. British Airways or Virgin Atlantic will simply move you to a later flight, but Norse could leave you stranded for literally days until an empty seat opens up.
For most people, however, Norse Atlantic’s launch can’t come soon enough and will provide some welcome competition this year when air fares are sky-high.