Hello from the Other Side….My Experience on a Budget, Long Haul Airplane
I’ve safely landed at Gatwick airport just about a 45 minute train ride to central London. I took a gamble when booking my airfare & decided to go with the recent upstart, low budget airline – Norwegian Air. This airline is attempting to do what RyanAir & Eurojet did for travel within Europe and revolutionize the industry. I can honestly say that, after one flight, I am immensely impressed!
A few months ago, I was looking at airfare and noticed that Norwegian Air was constantly coming in at least $100 cheaper round trip. After a bit of research, I realized that if I used the Norwegian version of the website, I could get the airfare for $200 cheaper! So, I proceeded to carefully book my tickets in Norwegian & was able to navigate the website with ease! After paying in Kronos instead of US Dollars, my airfare came to $506 round trip including all taxes and fees!
Norwegian Air’s philosophy is to only charge you for what you need, so that means everything from an advance specific seat reservation to a large suitcase to even food and drinks are only available for a fee. As I’m traveling with just a suitcase & my flight was well after dinner time, I decided it was worth it!
Once I arrived at the airport, I checked in and requested a window seat where I received one for no fee. Once I arrived at the gate, I requested pre-boarding and was told they would start to pre-board around 45 minutes prior to departure. Once I boarded, I was amazed by how modern the plane was – the windows were 65% larger than normal windows & had a dimming function in lieu of a proper shade. While it did not block all the light out, it blocked enough. The dimming function also enables the airplane to reduce jet lag by being able to create a false sunrise. The lights in the cabin & the windows slowly brightened around an hour prior to landing. Even though I did not sleep that well, I left the plane feeling rested and ready to explore London.
The seat itself was no different than any other seat I’ve had for transatlantic or transpacific journeys in Economy. They even had the large seatback touchscreen displays (IFE Screens) which are only found on new aircrafts! As an added bonus, the middle seat next to me was open!
The one thing I will do differently next time I travel Norwegian Air is buy a water bottle and some snacks before boarding. The flight staff served passengers who pre-ordered a meal prior to activating the touchscreen system to allow other passengers to order anything from water to food. If that is my only complaint after transatlantic flight on a budget airline, I think that is pretty good!
The flight arrived about 40 minutes early and I was through passport control before my flight was scheduled to land! I had filled out an arrival card and was ready to enter on my US Passport, but found out that I could skip the line with my EU Passport (even though the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement)! The line of non-EU passport holders was at least 300 people long and I walked right up to the EU Passport Control desk! It definitely pays to apply for dual citizenship and the EU passport if you are eligible!
Since I only had my carry on backpack, I proceeded through baggage claims and customs before heading to the train station. Instead of booking the Gatwick Express to London Victoria Station for £25 and transferring to the Underground, I pre-booked a ticket to London St. Pancreas which is less than a mile from my hotel. After picking my ticket up at the kiosk, I just missed the first train, but was able to catch a train less than 5 minutes later!
We’re now about to pull into London St. Pancreas, but I will continue to keep this blog as up to date as possible!