Norwegian, LAX and Gatwick

I spent the last month trolling departures and reviews of Norwegian to see how they performed…kind of a mixed bag, really.  When they messed up, it was spectacular, and don’t expect a whole lot of help on the ground from the sound of things – or from their phone lines.

But when they perform, which is often, and if you keep your expectations reasonable (this is NOT Singapore Air, so do NOT expect that level of performance) – they’re pretty damn good.  If you want Singapore, pay for it.   

If you want cheap and cheerful, if you’re willing to bring your own food, if you’re okay with paying $8 for two bottles of whatever you wanna drink, hell, this is a steal.

Just don’t get all resentful when they only give you a five ounce cup of water when you only paid $249 to fly from Los Angeles to London.  And yes…the seats are 17.5” wide.  Hope you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with your neighbors.

We, on the other hand, budgeted for the regular-priced flights to get across the Atlantic, so for a little more, we were able to get Norwegian’s “Premium Economy”:  48+ inches of seat pitch (compared to 31”), a much wider, reclining seat (far more important to me than leg room is butt room…) access to the American/OneWorld Lounge at LAX, etc…

Okay, I’m in!  I’ll try the cheapo airline in upper class!  What the hell!  We paid $704 each, one way LAX – Gatwick.

So check in was very easy.  Traveling to the extent I do, using their automated kiosks was like rolling off a log.  Five minute wait to drop the luggage after we tagged it, and off we went to the OneWorld lounge.

Not a full buffet, but a pretty decent one.  I had spiced pork, rice and salad (all complimentary).  It’s reasonably clean in there, too.  With my lack of sugar consumption, I didn’t do the desserts, but there was a good assortment.

I was a little concerned about the remote boarding, which apparently occurs on a regular basis at LAX for Norwegian, but not for our flight.

We were in seats 5A and 5C, which,  yes, are missing a window, but not the important one – the missing window is the one over your shoulder.  The window you look out is actually there.

The infamous missing window. Yeah, it’s missing a window, but not the important one.

Seats – yep, the commenters are correct, these are business class seats from the 1990s – the leg rests pop out and the seats tip back and god help you if you’re not fairly mobile and you’re not in an aisle seat when the people in front of you are fully extended.

Old style seats, but comfortable.

But it’s like sleeping in a recliner.  No, it’s not a bed.  If you want a bed, fork over another two grand.  Otherwise, cozy up in your Barco-Lounger.  I’m a native Brit who’s gone home regularly for nearly 50 years now… that was the best sleep I can remember on an aircraft.

The food was pretty damn decent too.  Modest portions by US standards, but IMO that’s a good thing.  Dinner was steak in a cream sauce with potatoes or they had an eggplant something (not Parmesan) – no question there, pass the meat – nicely cooked, very tasty.  I usually avoid dessert but the macarons were delightful.

The morning meal was surprisingly substantial: meat and cheese plate, and they offered rolls.  The fruit was 1/2 strawberry, a sliver of orange and a dice-sized piece of melon, not quite so inspiring.

The bathrooms stayed surprisingly clean (or maybe the crew cleaned them during the flight?  Who knows?  I was unconscious) and they’re a LOT bigger than the ones on the US airlines (the 737s, 757s etc), especially those new slanted numbers where you can’t even turn around properly.

Arriving into Gatwick, use the loo when you see them, because they are few and far between, at least into the South Terminal. 

As you head towards immigration, the natural inclination is to walk to the ramp.  Resist it.  Either take the stairs (bear to the left) or the elevator unless you’re in the mood for a good long walk – that ramp winds around and around the sizable hall.

Also, as you walk into immigrations, they give you a choice  – go to UK and EU passports, or non-EU passports.  GO TO UK/EU LINE.  Yes, I know you’re American/Canadian/other.  Trust me on this.

We obediently went to non-EU, walking level as the UK and EU-ers went down a ramp.  We got to walk all the way past the immigrations hall to the far end and back, looking down into the hall through windows.  

If we had simply gone with the UK and EU holders, the walk would’ve been substantially shorter as the entrance to the non-EU is just past the EU, but instead, they had us walk all the way around.  As Beloved pointed out, it could be in case they have hordes of people and didn’t want the hall backing up, but I was kinda annoyed we had to walk all that extra way.

We’d paid for the £7 each “Premium Gatwick” access to priority immigration.  It turned out it wasn’t really worth it, but that was a gamble I was willing to take; we could just as easily have faced a huge number of people showing up for processing and we could’ve saved a ton of time.  For $18, what the heck.  We jumped the line.

All four of them.  

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