5 Reasons Norwegian Is The Best Low Cost Carrier In Europe

Filed Under: Norwegian

I’ve written several times both about flying low cost carriers in Europe, and about Norwegian generally. I have flown most of the big low cost carriers in Europe numerous times now, including:

  • EasyJet
  • FlyBe
  • Jet2
  • Norwegian
  • Primera
  • Ryanair
  • Thomas Cook
  • Thomson / TUI
  • Transavia
  • Volotea
  • Vueling
  • Wizz

Without question, Norwegian is the best low cost carrier I have flown in Europe, if not the world.

Note that most full service European carriers now also charge for seat selection, checked baggage and food and drinks. Unless you hold status with that airline/alliance, there’s very little difference between a full service carrier and a good low cost carrier on a short European flight in economy.

Here’s why:

1. Transparent pricing

Unlike Ryanair, there is no fee to check in at the airport. They will happily print your boarding pass free of charge. Alternatively they have an excellent app you can use to get a mobile boarding pass.

Unlike Wizz, there is no charge to take a full sized hand luggage bag on board. I find Wizz’s policy especially frustrating, because their advertised price is never their actual price unless you are willing to travel without any luggage at all (hand or checked).

Ryanair has also recently changed their hand luggage policy, where you can only take a full sized bag on board if you have paid for priority baggage. With Norwegian, if there’s space on board, you can bring it on board.

Simple.

2. No weighing of hand-luggage

I flew Norwegian from London Gatwick last weekend, and not only did they not measure or weigh anyone’s hand luggage, there’s wasn’t even one of those metal stands to try and fit it into.

Obviously if you are trying to bring a 50″ bag on board you will be stopped, but if your bag weighs more than 10kgs or even 12kgs you will not be stopped, questioned or reprimanded.

3. Fantastic staff

This is my absolute favourite thing about Norwegian. Every single flight I’ve had with them, short or long haul, has had pleasant, friendly staff who seem to really enjoy their jobs. On a recent flight to Malaga I had somehow managed row 1 without even paying for it. I went through the boarding gate and noticed everyone turning right. There weren’t any signs but I assume I should turn left to go down the aerobridge. I kept turning left and wandering down and eventually found a plane door. I must have looked very confused as the cabin crew member welcome me saying:

‘Welcome, Madrid?’

I stopped in my tracks and said:

‘Oh god, I’m on the wrong plane!’

She smiled and said:

‘I’m just kidding — you looked so confused I couldn’t help myself. This is Malaga – welcome on board!’

On that same flight there were a number of connecting passengers coming from Helsinki who were delayed arriving into Gatwick. We waited a few minutes for them to arrive, and a couple of Finnish women raced onto the plane, very out of breath after clearly running the whole way from the their connecting flight and sat behind me. Rather than scolding the passengers for being late and delaying the plane like some low-cost crew might do, the Norwegian cabin crew said:

‘It’s okay, you made it! You can relax now. Can I get you a glass of water?’

On a low-cost carrier.

The Captain will also leave the cockpit at the end of each flight to farewell and thank each passenger for flying with Norwegian.

I love that.

4. Free wifi

I don’t value wifi on a flight as much as Ben does, but I love the novelty of having it for a short flight. On my last flight I was able to easily connect and reply to some of your comments on a previous article I wrote.

Naturally it wasn’t lightning fast, but it was certainly fast enough to do what I needed it for.

It’s impressive that they offer this free of charge.

5. Excellent leg room

Most low cost carriers have okay legroom, although I swear the legroom of Wizz was the tightest I have ever experienced and about the only time my knees were actually jammed against the back of the seat in front of me.

I’m 6″0 / 183cms and this was the legroom on my last flight on Norwegian.

The X Factor: Norwegian long haul

Most European carriers don’t operate long haul flights because the economics don’t stack up. If they do, they are usually pretty grim experiences.

Norwegian is different. They operate a fleet of new 787 Dreamliners to multiple destinations between Europe and the Americas and Asia. All of the great things about Norwegian short haul are just as prevalent on their long haul flights. Here is Daniel’s review of Norwegian long haul ‘Premium Class’ from London to Ft Lauderdale.

I flew Norwegian economy from London Gatwick to Boston last year. It was my first ever long haul flight on a low cost carrier, and my first flight over four hours in economy for five years. I wasn’t really looking forward to it but thought the entire experience was brilliant. The seats were comfortable, the staff excellent and I loved the way you could order and pay for food and drinks from your seat back screen and it would be delivered in minutes, meaning you didn’t have to wait for a trolley service.

I would happily fly Norwegian long haul again and recommend it to anyone who will listen. Their financial woes may mean it won’t be around forever —  I will be devastated if IAG or Lufthansa purchase the long haul division and cancel it.

Norwegian 787 Premium

Bottom line

I’ve said before I don’t mind flying Ryanair, but wouldn’t go as far as to say I actively enjoy it.

But I have enjoyed every Norwegian flight I have ever taken and actively try and fly them whenever I can. They are often more expensive than Ryanair, given they have a higher cost structure because they offer a better product.

As a point of comparison, of the low carriers I have flown, I would say the next best two would be FlyBe and Transavia, while the worst two would definitely be Wizz and Vueling.

But if you have never flown a low cost carrier in Europe I would encourage you to give Norwegian a try. They are as good as it gets.

Have you flown Norwegian short or long haul? Who is your favourite low cost carrier in Europe?

Comments

  1. One remark. The Wizz hand-luggage policy described is not accurate anymore (since 1-2 years ago). They allow a full sized hand-luggage on board with the lowest fare. Only a 2nd personal item is not allowed, but this is fairly standard in Europe as well.

  2. My favorite low cost carriers in Europe are Norwegian and Easyjet. I haven’t flown Wizz but have flown Vueling and will do my best to avoid flying it again.

  3. I’ve flown Norwegian few times, and Ryanair many times in the past (didn’t fly either one in the last year though) and I’ve never seen any bag being weighed on any Ryanair flight, though I’ve seen it begin done at LGW once, on a flight to Rome, and it was weird they were only doing it on one of the two queues…

  4. I need to disagree with you on the long haul operations:

    – engine issues with their 787 that lead you to be dumped onto cheap charters that have nothing to do with the experience advertised… and awful communication about it (i mean i get where they are coming from, they are advertisingg brand new 787 with air pressurization technology to help you fight jetlag and you end up on wamos 19 yr old 747)
    – grew up way too fast in some outstations (eg JFK has 5 flights departing within 2 hours) which led to awful ground experience regardless of class flown (no online check in, 60min to check in a bag, 20min to use kiosks, T1 security, …)

    The one thing I agree with you is their premium hard product, which is superior to BA, VS and AA (but soft is totally lacking, eg food options, no socks/eyemasks, …)

    I actually hope they get acquired by LH instad of BA. Some competition out of the UK would not hurt.

    JB

  5. Actually Wizz changed their policy and now allows a full size carry-on on board, Ryanair also allows a full size carry-on for free even without priority but you might have to gate check it if you don’t have priority.

  6. On a worldwide ranking it would be hard to beat Kulula. Once in a while with a Kulula ticket you may even end up on a BA branded flight and get a meal served in flight.

  7. If Norwegian actually installs their 787 premium class seat on their narrowbodies – I may consider flying them within Europe.

  8. As much as we rag on US Carriers, I think Europe has it far worse.

    I took a trip on JetBlue with a friend from the EU who was shocked the snacks, WiFi, and TV were free and couldn’t believe how much legroom we had. In the EU you’re lucky if you’re above 30″ of legroom, and here we are scoffing at 32-33″.

    Another friend took a trip on Alaska (which we laugh at as having a pathetic first class) and was shocked how nice the seats were for a mere 2 hour trip.

    Even Spirit has nicer front seats than Air France for a short haul flight. Let that sink in.

  9. One other thing about their long haul, and I NEVER thought I would be saying this – even their 737MAX flights are enjoyable.

    My girlfriend booked the first one we ever took (Stewart -bergen) and I was scared shitless of a transatlantic flight on that tiny thing. Thought it would be the most uncomfortable ~8 hours of my life. However, after 3 RT’s in their 737’s, I’ve noticed that they all fly to places that are not hot spots, and we have had our own row on each segment. That withcombined with the awesome crews (and a good amount of wine) made them very enjoyable flights.

  10. Most full service airlines charge for baggages? Which one? Except there is no smting like basic economy. Flew austrian, Lufthansa, condor amd di not noticed

  11. For the casual traveler, would you say that interlining is still one potential strength of legacy carriers? Just among family and friends I hear so many issues about a LCC flight getting cancelled and the airline not having another opening for 2-3 days.

  12. My personal view … Norwegian schedule is not that frequent: and that’s a big negative point. You may have a fantastic onboard product, but it is limited; and that’s the price Norwegian pays – if they’ve had a network as big as Ryanair or EasyJet, they wouldn’t offer all those perks, and the crew wouldn’t be that friendly.

    Sorry @alpha, but I don’t think you can get cheaper than a lunch menu ticket in the USA with JetBlue: nothing is free, you pay for it!!

  13. “‘It’s okay, you made it! You can relax now. Can I get you a glass of water?’”
    Did you accept the offer? And when they brought you the glass of water, did they say “5 euros please”?

  14. Also at least in Copenhagen, Norwegian doesn’t use remote stands like the other low cost carriers.

  15. It’s a good airline – I’ve never been disappointed – but the fact that it’s financially unsustainable can’t be ignored.

    I always laugh at the idea that people complain about airlines when the fares now are barely higher than the fares 30 years ago – the US airline industry is sustainable now because they have consolidated so much and it must be better to have 3 profitable carriers than 6 flawed ones.

    Norwegian is great, but someone else is paying for your trip. Either IAG or LH will be paying for it soon, but I’d expect the free ride to end……

  16. While not in Europe I don’t mind Jetstar when it’s cheap what’s your thoughts on JQ James?

  17. Unless you’ve flown all the low-cost carriers in the world, it’s pretty presumptuous to state that “without question, Norwegian is the best LCC I’ve flown in Europe, if not the world”, don’t you think?

  18. Hmmm, Norwegian was very strict about the weight of hand luggage back in March from LGW… I ended up just putting a few heavier items in my pockets (eg battery charger).

  19. I was flying Norwegian from CDG to JFK and there they asked me to weigh my carry on luggage together with my laptop bag. The lady at the counter gave me quite a hard time for being over the allowed weight. (I think I was over 9 kg) I gave her a sad look and was about to open my luggage to chuck some jeans and other possible “heavy” items when she let me pass. It was not a fun experience, however, I would still travel via Norwegian because of their good service and new planes.

  20. @ William – Norwegian didn’t even have scales or a measurement stand at the gate so were never going to measure hand luggage on this flight.

  21. @ Varun Susarla — given BA and Lufthansa don’t have larger seats on narrow bodies it is extremely unlikely Norwegian will do this.

  22. @ Alex – easyJet get better and better with every flight I take with them. They are much stricter on hand-luggage and have a more annoying boarding process where you have to queue outside the plane at some airports but they’re one of the better LCCs.

  23. @ VS – read my article. It was not for me it was for two late arriving passengers behind me. They accepted the offer and were not charged, nor did I expect them to be.

  24. @ Moragn – Jetstar is okay. I don’t seek them out but don’t actively avoid them either. Their MEL T4 set-up is truly awful though. I do find the Jetstar passengers to be the worst part of flying Jetstar – have a look at their Facebook page to get a sense of the sort of ignorant, entitled people who fly them.

  25. Absolutely agree with this although I would say easyJet is pretty close and although almost never partake the few times I have the buy on board was surprisingly good quality!

    I would also agree WizzAir and Vueling are the worst. Vueling is absolutely the pits and worse than Ryanair yet escapes without anywhere near the heat or criticism it deserves – so glad you are drawing attention to this!

  26. Nicely put, I definitely agree that Norwegian is the best of the lot. The article doesn’t even mention one cool point: they usually board through front and aft doors simultaneously. Rows 1-16 board through jet bridge, 17-32 through stairs. It doesn’t look like much, but it significantly accelerates the whole process.

    In fairness, though, Wizzair updated their cabin bag policy last November, so that it’s more in line with other LCCs. Also, I’d guess that seat pitch varies only based on the physical seat type, since there’s no way Wizzair A320s have more seats than, say, Easyjet or Pegasus A320s.
    Also, the name of the airline is Wizzair, not Wizz 😉

    Want to experience the very worst in legroom in Europe? Try Iberia Express and their 28″ pitch. It’s possible because they still have business class up front, whereas LCCs space out their seats evenly from front to back.

  27. I do not fly Norwegian because of their policies with cancellations. They offer rebooking to another Norwegian flight or full refund. I have KLM platinum for life and SAS diamond so I’ve flown a lot and had many cancelled flights, and they (and many others) have rebooked me to competitors to get me to my destination as quick as possible. All major airlines are members og IATA som they may by decent priced tickets from competitors when flights are cancelled. Norwegian is not a member, so if a flight is cancelled you hve to rely on hour luck (or HiFly after 48 hours…)

    https://www.norwegian.com/uk/travel-info/delayed-and-cancelled-flights/cancelled-flights/

  28. Norwegian does not fly to Vienna, my hub airport. Shame. So for us, flying out from this part of the world – Norwegian is, well, only one of them. From low cost carriers I’ll take EasyJet or Eurowings anytime. Flying to all major and not so major airports across Europe, simple booking, both have loyalty programs (with Eurowings you can also earn Miles & More miles), friendly staff. Luggage, yes, Eurowings are bit stringent…

    So if Norwegian is so great, I suggest they start flying from more airports as well maybe 😉

  29. Not sure that I’d call Flybe a LCC. I regard them more as a regional airline given their flights to the likes of Newquay, Exeter, and the smaller west coast airports in France. Was served a snack and drink on a recent flights between Edinburgh and Manchester, and they often have their own lounges at these regional airports – not exactly LCC behaviour.

    Have to agree with your comment about the JQ gates at MEL T4 – feels like you are walking to Essendon Airport to catch your flight 🙂

  30. I’ve flown Norwegian twice, from Gatwick to Copenhagen to Riga. The experience was good, apart from one thing, the smell of jet fuel when you taxi on a 737. This is a 737 and not Norwegian, but it does encourage me to try and look for flights not on 737s.

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