Norwegian Cuts Free Booze In Premium Cabin

Norwegian has been in a challenging financial position, and the airline is working on reducing costs this year. They’ve undertaken an “extensive cost cutting initiative,” which altogether is expected to save the airline $230 million.

This comes in many different forms, and given that they’re a low cost carrier, I imagine only a small percentage of that will come from onboard savings.

However, it seems like Norwegian is cutting costs in Premium, which is the premium economy cabin available on their Boeing 787s. This is generally an excellent value, in my opinion, as I just recently flew Premium from London Gatwick to New York, and had a good flight.

Recently the airline cut lounge access for many Premium passengers without any sort of notice of the change. With this change, only those booking Norwegian’s (substantially) more expensive PremiumFlex fares receive lounge access, while others don’t.

It seems that’s not the only negative change that Norwegian is making. Norwegian is also no longer offering free cocktails and liquor in Premium. Rather, only beer and wine are complimentary at this point.

When I flew Norwegian not that long ago these items were still complimentary. With how Norwegian’s ordering system worked, you could order any drinks they have available at no additional cost through your inflight entertainment system.

Now you’d have to pay for them.

So at this point Norwegian Premium passengers still get two free meals, as well as complimentary soft drinks, beer, and wine. Liquor as well as other snacks are for purchase.

Bottom line

It’s unfortunate to see these negative changes to Norwegian Premium. This is a product that offered exceptional value and that I actually thought was worth flying, though if they keep making these negative changes, it will no doubt be a worse value proposition than ever before.

I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot here a bit. Most major legacy airlines also have premium economy, with the benefit of offering more valuable frequent flyer programs, potential lounge access if you have status, etc. By making all these cuts, they’re making it less worthwhile to consider Norwegian.

What do you make of these changes at Norwegian — smart cost cutting, or bad business?

(Tip of the hat to Wandering Aramean)

Comments

  1. Shame, often they are not that much cheaper compared to economy of full legacy carriers which always offer these things for free (LH, LX…).

    Seems like O’Leary was correct, it’s quite rough to have LCC transatlantic.

  2. One huge benefit of Norwegian is the ability to buy one way ticket without the ridiculous fares the legacy carriers charge. This is where I will continue to give my business to Norwegian.

  3. This is very disappointing, i have a one way booked in May, BOS-LGW so i will still get the lounge, but no GT before dinner og a Bailey with the coffee. Still good one way value, but other Airlines Premium Economy might be the better deal in the future.

  4. I only drink beer/wine, and generally feel much better when I don’t drink anything at all on overnight flights (but will occasionally have one glass of wine just to relax) – I love when cutbacks don’t affect me at all!

  5. It just serves to prove that, however much and however often bloggers espouse the values and virtues of Norwegian, they are no Gulf carrier vanity project and running at an operational loss has a finite time span; reality beginning to bite.
    People need to accept that Norwegian are nothing but disrupters in an already highly competitive market and unrealistically low fares do not bring “amazing value” to the market long term.

  6. While my initial reaction is that it is bad, I reflected on when I flew on Scoot’s ScootBiz premium cabin from SIN-PER last year. They only give you one free drink for the whole flight. Imagine my surprise when I ordered a scotch and soda and the flight attendant replied, “you have to choose which one, scotch OR soda. Or pay $4 for the soda.” So literally just 1 free beverage, alcohol or not; no mixer included. Other than the 1 prepackaged cup of water served with the meal, we even had to pay for additional water. I was surprised to see the ULCC system so rigid in their premium offering. Granted Scoot only charges about 2 – 3 times the Y fare, whereas Norwegian often charges about 5 – 6 times the Y fare for premium. Still, Norwegian has wiggle room compared to their main Asian equivalent.

  7. @Mike, well said – their unsustainable model is hitting a wall and the product is facing a heavy dose of reality.

    It’s a bit strange to be making all these cuts to Premium, their one product that was competitive head-to-head against the legacy carriers, but then I was never able to make the value proposition work, given their round-trip premium fares were usually comparable to BA/Virgin PE on similar routes. With Norwegian you miss the chance to collect miles/tier points for status, and you have additional operational performance risk.

    I suspect many other frequent fliers felt the same, so perhaps Norwegian feel they have nothing to lose by cutting in this cabin. Their one-way pricing is literally their only advantage now, and they’re probably targeting people who are looking for that or infrequent travelers.

  8. Michael is correct, People like to say “its not more to fly a legacy carrier” but that assumes you are flying a round trip with certain conditions (ie, Saturday stay). Norwegian gives you the flexibility to do the trips from different points via various 1-way purchases

  9. Michael lp – right on. Being able to book one way award then take Norwegian Premium one way is a very good thing too.

    Also 43-46” of seat pitch is nice. I want space in PE. Don’t need booze.

  10. Unfortunate direction for Norwegian’s premium product.

    To those who value the ability to book PE one-way at the lowest fares, consider checking with a travel agent, as legacy carriers generally make cheaper one-way tickets available through consolidators.

  11. How is this a major negative change for you, lucky? People in premium have better things to do than to get blind drunk on free spirits.

  12. Aren’t they on the verge of financial doomsday?
    Also they have horrific flight delays and layover connection times. One way premium still make sense.

  13. So in addition to having a decent pre-boarding meal, you also need to drink up at the same time. (I’m guessing Americans will be the hardest hit by the pay-for-spirits.)

  14. I believe we are seeing the beginning of the end for Norwegian. The amount of booze consumed by premium pax is minimal. Realistically, the cost of the fuel burned to transport said booze on a transatlantic flight is likely higher than the cost of the booze itself.

    It sounds like Norwegian needs a new CFO, one with serious experience and already knows the above fact.

  15. Maybe little out of the topic, but often a ticket included luggage, food, drinks and a personal service at the airport is never cheaper with Norwegian compared to other non low cost carriers. Especially thinking about choices of airport and cancelation of their flights.

  16. My recent flight AMS-JFK in 10C was awesome. That said no way would I pay for “premium” on this airline.

  17. Here is a trick if you want a decent one-way fare.

    Book round-trip but make sure the return is the lowest refundable fare in Economy. Once you get to your destination, cancel the return leg for a full refund. Result? A one-way (usually in Business for me) and no penalty for not buying a round-trip

  18. Certainly makes me less likely to consider them. It’s not the lack of a drink, but when they are cutting to the last $4 bone, what else has been minimized?

    It sounds like Doug Parker approach to keeping your customer “happy”.

    The real approach to fixing your finances is to price your product properly. Simply raise fares a few dollars and be done. When you can cross the Atlantic for < $300 one way, charging $310 is not going to be seen as a negative.

  19. As far as I know, free booze and lounge access are still offered in Premium, Flex that is. I booked the Premium Flex product several months ago LAX-FCO non-stop for an upcoming trip. Benefits are still intact for Premium Flex as far as I know but the one-way ticket is the cheapest for a very business-like product. I’ve been checking airfares on other carriers. There is nothing that comes close to that price ($1,750), especially if you’re talking non-stop, 11 hours on a 787. I’ll miss the no-flat bed but hoping for a decent recline on the seat. Cheapest fares to Europe from N. America are supposed to be 160 days out, so for August travel, I’ll be checking carefully for competition in March and right up to travel date. Tickets are changeable for no fee and cancelable up to 30 minutes before departure. I’d use them coming back out of Athens but it doesn’t appear they fly out of ATH. If they can keep this intact, I’ll certainly be a repeat customer.

  20. I flew Norwegian up front and could not figure out how that could be sustainable. If that change keeps them going, then fine. I have flown PE to Europe once and it was nowhere near as comfortable as the Norwegian seats, they were wide, spacious, and had lots of leg room. I wish Air France was of the same hard product (with lie flat, of course). FYI, I am tall with long legs and wide shoulders, so seat width and leg room is very important to me. I don’t think this is a game breaker.

  21. So, it’s kind of confusing. Lounge access seemed like it would be a pretty big deal, although not all departure cities had lounge access for Norwegian. I use AMEX lounge access and also Priority Pass, so not a huge deal personally, but…
    I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in five years, so again, personally not a big deal. You still get beer and wine, so that’s good enough for some, I guess, but…
    The “but…” is this sounds like a trend. I truly hope the trend continues down to flight cancellations, severely reduced schedules or even shutting down completely. It’s hard to trust what their CEO says when it’s always a positive message with profits “right around the corner, yet service reduces and the soft product downgrades. I’ll still fly their PE when it works out to be the best deal, but…
    Oh, about the failed takeover bids, my fantasy of acquiring Avios on Norwegian has ended. Oh well…

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