Review: Norwegian Premium Class 787-9 London To Fort Lauderdale

Filed Under: Norwegian

I just wanted to thank every one of you for the support and for the many kind comments I’ve received since I joined the OMAAT team. It’s been warming to hear all your positive words (and constructive feedback). With each post, I yearn to improve and grow as a writer. Thanks again and I hope you enjoy the review!

I touched down in London at 9:30am for my five hour layover before continuing on to Florida. All Norwegian’s flights depart from the South terminal at Gatwick, which is decent (in the main departures hall at least). I was excited to fly Norwegian to Fort Lauderdale given that it’s a city that is generally not served by large international carriers. This flight is only once weekly right now, but will be increasing to 3x weekly next month thanks to Norwegian’s 90% average load factor on flights from Gatwick to the US. Norwegian also fly from Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Paris to Fort Lauderdale.

As a Premium passenger with Norwegian you get complimentary access to the No1 Lounge at Gatwick South, which would normally cost £28 per person. I’ll be posting a full review of the lounge next week, but in short, it was an extremely pleasant place to spend my layover and it made time fly.

At around 2:30pm I left the lounge, since boarding was scheduled for 2:50pm according to my boarding pass. A word of caution – Gatwick uses holding pens for passengers to optimize the boarding process. There are also no toilets or windows, so try to minimize your time in there – as I did not.

It turned out the actual boarding was scheduled for 3:05pm, although it wasn’t until 3:38pm that they announced boarding in “10 to 15 minutes”. Well, at 4:07pm they said they were rebooting the entire aircraft computer due to an onboard error and that it should take around 30 minutes, in addition to asking everyone to remain in the boarding pen. 30 minutes later they allowed everyone to leave. I went to Boots, returned to the gate, and heard the flight now had an unknown departure time. Given that news, I decided to go back to the lounge where I was warmly greeted (and enjoyed some more food).

Eventually, I nervously headed back to the gate when the flight disappeared from the departures screen and arrived just in time for boarding, which ended up being at 6:20pm.

Norwegian Flight 7045
London (LGW) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
14 September 2016
Depart: 3:50PM
Arrive: 8:15PM 
Duration: 9hr25min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 3A (Premium Class)

Norwegian boards their Dreamliners through door L2 at Gatwick. After walking through the small forward section of economy, I entered Premium which was about 2/3 full. Economy was completely sold out (contrary to my images below).

Norwegian economy class

Norwegian Economy 2

Norwegian economy looks nice!
Norwegian economy looks nice!

I settled into 3A for the 8 hour 45 minute flight to Fort Lauderdale. The Premium cabin has 35 seats on the 787-9 and consists of five rows in a 2-3-2 layout.

Norwegian Premium 5 Norwegian Premium 4

The only seats to avoid are the center seats (although I’m sure they’re fine too if you’re traveling with company) and row five (which lack windows).

Norwegian Premium 6 Norwegian Premium 7Norwegian Premium 1

The seats have individual armrests on both sides as well as a little area to place beverages. Interestingly, both the tray table and video monitor extend from the armrests. As a result, there was no obstruction to your work space or entertainment system when the person in front reclined their seat, which was fantastic.

Armrest on Norwegian
The armrest with the tray table and seat controls built in.
Drink table on Norwegian
The beverage area.
Video monitor on Norwegian
The video monitor when extended.

We were greeted with a choice between orange juice and water. It was a nice touch and the crew were charming and relaxed despite the delay.

Preflight service Pre flight beverage

The overhead lockers are enormous on the 787 – I almost had one to myself.

787 overheads 787 overheads 2

After only a couple of minutes the jetway was removed and we pushed back, 2 hours and 53 minutes behind schedule. The 787 has such a great speaker system – all the announcements sounded crystal clear. The captain informed us we should be on the ground in FLL within two hours of our scheduled arrival, which seemed ambitious, but impressive if true.

Legroom was plentiful, even at 6′ 2”. The generous legroom allowed for a lot of room to store things on the floor, if the seat back pocket was not enough. There was also a coat hook on the seat in front.

Norwegian premium seatback Norwegian premium coat hook Norwegian premium legroom Norwegian premium seatback pocket

Takeoff was stunning during a golden September sunset.

Norwegian takeoff from LGW

Norwegian provides a cozy blanket and a pair of standard headphones. These are the only amenities provided and while I know it’s a low cost product, I think this is the one area that could really benefit from a small additional investment – at least in pillows.

Norwegian blanket

As you can see, the blanket was pretty thick and comfortable.
As you can see, the blanket was pretty thick.

Norwegian headphones

The headphones were pretty standard.
The headphones were standard and not noise canceling.

Dinner was served about an hour after takeoff. There are no menus on Norwegian, which is a shame. I asked about the options and was told that the meats are always the same. On this flight we could choose between beef with potato, salmon with white rice, and turkey with gravy.

I would have gone for the salmon, but had preordered my meal online. I really appreciated the speed at which the meals were brought out, and actually liked the little serving boxes.

Hot dinner.
My dinner box.

My meal consisted of ratatouille with white rice, cooked carrots and steamed broccoli. Meanwhile, the sides were a fruit salad and a standard salad (a lot of salads, in other words). What struck me was how incredibly fresh all the food tasted. The vegetables and fruit were so juicy and ripe, while the rice and ratatouille was simple, but surprisingly good – and equally fresh.

Norwegian dinner

Ratatouille with rice.
Ratatouille with rice.
Side dishes.
Side dishes.

After dinner I played around with the entertainment system for a while. It was by far the most responsive system I’ve had on an airplane, and there was a plethora of options to choose from.

The start screen is easy to navigate.
The start screen is easy to navigate. 

Norwegian Entertianment system Norwegian Entertianment system 2

I ended up watching Carol, mostly due to the fact that Cate Blanchett just moved to the tiny town where I grew up, making the movie an especially interesting watch… It was a little underwhelming, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Norwegian Entertianment system 3 Norwegian Entertianment system 4

The entertainment screen also features a USB charging port and headphone outlet. There are power ports between the seats for charging larger devices.

Norwegian Power Ports

Norwegian has individual air vents to control the temperature, which I’m sure we all appreciate.

Norwegian air vents

Another great thing for us avgeeks: the inflight map on Norwegian’s Dreamliners is one of the most advanced in the world.

Inflight map on Norwegian Inflight map on Norwegian 3
Norwegian inflight map

I decided to catch a few hours of sleep after playing around with the maps for a good 15 minutes. I didn’t get a picture on this flight (though you can see it in my photos of the seat), but when the seat reclines, the leg rest moves forward and upward. There is an extendable footrest at the bottom of the leg rest, so as you recline, the entire seat flattens out. This is a major advantage over regular premium economy products.

Take note of my leg rest.
Take note of my leg rest.

Norwegian recline

As you can see, the recline is really generous – I’d estimate you get a good 40 degrees. This made it incredibly easy to sleep in the seat. In fact, I slept better in this soft recliner than I have on my last few flatbed flights. This presents the problem that it becomes virtually impossible to leave your seat if both people in front of you are reclined. Then again, that’s the reason I appreciate that the video monitor and tray tables are stored in the armrests so that the recline does not hinder you from enjoying your time in your seat.

The sun has set long before I woke up. Look at how large the windows are!
Bedtime was just as sunset started coming to an end.

Two and a half hours later I woke up because I needed to use the restroom. The mood lighting was intense in there, though the 787 lavatories are top notch. There were no special toiletries, but I wouldn’t expect it in premium economy anyway.

Norwegian toilet
Mood lighting in the lavatory.

Coincidentally, the crew had just entered the aisle to serve the pre-arrival meal when I left the restroom. Clearly I woke up with perfect timing!

Pre-arrival service

I didn’t hear the meal options this time, but was served a cold salad with grilled vegetables and bread, along with a veggie sandwich and another fruit salad. The salad dressing was delicious and I found this meal just as light and fresh tasting as the previous one. In fact, this one was basically the same size as dinner.

Norwegian pre-arrival meal.
Norwegian pre-arrival meal.

Norwegian pre-arrival meal close up 2 Norwegian pre-arrival meal close up

Before I knew it, we were descending toward Fort Lauderdale above The Bahamas.

Approaching FLL
Crossing the Atlantic coast.
Crossing the Atlantic coast.

We touched down at 10:25pm and had a quick taxi to the gate.

Parked at the gate.
Parked at the gate.

I was actually excited to see we were deplaning by stairs as I’d get great pictures of the aircraft. However, after a near 10 minute bus ride in 80 degree heat and high humidity, I could only wish that Fort Lauderdale had gates that could accommodate wide body aircraft in the international terminal (I assume this was the reason for the bus ride?). At least I sped through immigration once I’d arrived.

Bottom Line

Norwegian Premium exceeded my expectations and I ended up having a wonderful flight despite our late departure. The seat recline was the best I’ve ever experienced in a premium economy product (miles better than you’d get in a domestic first class). The food was also of surprisingly high quality, the entertainment system was good and the crew were friendly. While it’s not the most glamorous way to fly between Europe and Florida, I’d highly recommend Norwegian Premium if you’re in the market for a more affordable premium product or looking for a reasonably priced upgrade from economy.

  1. Nice job. It looks like it compares relatively well to Icelandair’s Saga Class (the 2-2 aisle seats only). Looks like a nicer plane and more leg room, but narrower seat than Saga. Was the premium priced significantly over regular economy? Thanks.

  2. Also, Daniel, did it look like the aisle pair in the bulkhead had around the same legroom? Were you able to choose seats? Would you choose the bulkhead?

  3. Nice review Daniel. I hear you on your preference for angled seats for sleeping. I’ve always slept better on angled seats than on the few fully flat beds I’ve had the opportunity to try on planes. In fact I usually position the fully flat beds as angled seats just to get a better sleep. For some reason I find flat business class seats to be like the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever slept on. Position them as angled and it’s like a Lazy Boy recliner.

  4. are their flights still cheaper to book on the norwegian version of the site rather than the US english version?

  5. The product looks very similar to Scoot’s. With the exception that Norwegian is honest enough to brand it “Premium Economy” while Scoot calls it “ScootBiz” which I deem misleading.

  6. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve checked out the price for this flight for a random date in February and this cabin is over €300 more than the economy price one way (even more if you can live without checked luggage, seat selection and in flight meals).

    The choice between saving €500-600 and having it to spend at the destination is a no brained as far as I’m concerned, the same as most premium economy flights.

    Having said that, the best thing about Norwegian is the ability to book one way cash fares, to use in conjuction with a one way miles redemption.

  7. The one time I flew Norwegian I thought it was a 787-8, not a 787-9. but maybe they have both?

    Yes, when I reclined the seat the woman behind me said to her neighbor (but loud enough to be sure I would hear) “I guess I’m stuck here for the flight”. She wasn’t.

    The food was good – better than any economy meal I’ve had anyway.

    There is only an airport lounge at Gatwick for North America flights as far as a I know, so no lounges at US airports.

    Overall decent value, especially if you just want a one-way flight (why do airlines so gouge on one-way flights? It sometimes cheaper to buy a round-trip and then cancel your return flight. Insanity).

  8. As a nationally syndicated columnist, I must say that your writing is certainly improving! Bravo! And a hearty congrats on getting to the airport on time! I, for one, really didn’t want to read a slew of comments berating you, my young friend, for asking to cut in line. Because we all know that is reserved for members of the media, such as myself.

    Looking forward to the review of the No1 Lounge at Gatwick soon! And, please do indicate what types of adult beverages are available there, so that I can plan accordingly. A lounge without my personal jug of Almaden is no fun! I’m Margaret Grey.

  9. Interesting, it looks somewhere in between a modern premium economy product and what used to be business class in the late 1990s. If the price is right, why not.

  10. @Ben – “cue”, not “queue” (unless you were going for a pun based on a certain previous Daniel post.)

    Interesting report, I’d consider the product if the price was right.

  11. @Margaret, if their selection isn’t good, I’m sure you could do with rubbing alcohol! And how’s Frank condition developing? We here at Western Estates are all rooting for him to get better, dear! Just don’t throw up at our Summertacular again – it was certainly because you drank too much and not because we left our deviled eggs out in the kitchen overnight.

  12. Your writing style is turning out to be familiar to Ben’s, only later did I realise it was your review.

  13. @Dan – it’s just you. Why not wear shorts on a long haul flight, especially if the flight is on a plane you know won’t have individual air nozzles? Many airlines are notorious for keeping their cabins very warm, and most people (most people I know, at least) sleep better if they’re cooler, at least up to a point.

    And he was flying to Fort Lauderdale, so already being in shorts means not having to change as soon as you get there. (Now if you were flying from, say, Moscow to Toronto in the middle of February, then shorts would be ridiculous.)

  14. Seems likely the bathroom blue “mood lighting” is also intended to make it difficult for people to find their veins to shoot up with drugs. This is done in many public restrooms for the same reason. I wonder if that was enough of a specific problem for Norwegian on their planes to do that? I have not seen that on any other airlines that I can recall, and one would hope the airport security would confiscate drug paraphernalia.

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