Norwegian Economy Class Stockholm-Copenhagen – Fresh cabin without any freebies
Norwegian is becoming an increasingly important operator in Scandinavia. In 2012, 17.7 million passengers travelled with Norwegian, compared with 28.2 million with SAS.
While BusinessClass primarily focuses on full-service airlines and alliance airlines, it is clear that Norwegian is here to stay. We therefore decided to test what Norwegian has to offer on a flight between Stockholm and Copenhagen, and how they stand in relation to their main competitor, SAS.
At the Airport
I arrived at Arlanda airport at 1.15pm, one hour before departure to Copenhagen. After many years operating from terminal 2, Norwegian has now moved to terminal 5 and is located mostly in the B-pier with check-in in the old departure hall.
Norwegian does not offer online check-in via your mobile phone or internet, however, if you are travelling within Scandinavia and have only hand luggage, you can go straight to the gate and check in 30 minutes before departure. This is done by scanning the bar code on your booking confirmation, which you get sent both by mail and to your phone. I, however, chose to check-in in the departure hall via one of the automated check-in machines.
The check-in procedure was pretty similar to that of other airlines. I had already been assigned a seat, 30F, but managed to change it to 01A instead. To sit in the front row, however, one had to adhere to certain conditions, including that they did not travel with children or require some form of assistance due to a disability. The machine then printed out my boarding pass in the normal manner.
There was a short queue for the security check, in B pier, where everything went quickly. All formalities were taken care of in less than ten minutes. Since Norwegian does not offer business class and lacks an alliance affiliation, there was naturally no opportunity to visit a lounge at Arlanda. However, using my Priority Pass, I was able to enter the Menzies Business Lounge in terminal 5 for a cup of coffee.
Boarding and First Impressions
Boarding started 30 minutes before departure, at 1.45pm, the time that was stated on the boarding pass. Both the front and the rear doors were used to board the aircraft and therefore passengers with row numbers 1-15 were referred to the front and passengers with row numbers 16-31 were to board at the rear.
A friendly young stewardess met me at the front entrance and I quickly found my seat, 01A, just around the corner. Throughout boarding, a video played in the cabin with beautiful landscape images from Norway and other countries.
Occupancy on board was more than 90 percent, but despite an almost full plane, we left the gate ten minutes before departure. A security video, in Swedish and English, was played on the screens before we took off towards Copenhagen. Flight time was estimated to be one hour.
The Boeing 737-800 aircraft gave a very positive first impression. The interior felt sleek and modern, with screens above every other row. The aircraft must not have been many years old.
The configuration on board was 3-3 with a total of 31 rows. Norwegian has only one class on board flights within Scandinavia and Europe. On intercontinental flights to the U.S. and Asia, a Premium class is also offered, that is best described as premium economy.
The seats on board were traditional economy seats in dark grey leather. Completely acceptable for a flight of one hour. Legroom in the front row was also very good with ample room to stretch your legs or get out of the window seat without the people beside you having to move. Just as with other airlines, all hand luggage had to be put on the baggage rack during takeoff and landing.
When it comes to entertainment, Norwegian really stands out. On all flights with Boeing 737-800 aircraft, Wifi is offered on board, free for all passengers, including this flight to Copenhagen. The internet was activated just over five minutes after take off, before we even got up to cruising altitude, and turned off again 15 minutes before landing.
The connection was great, even though all the passengers could use the Internet without charge, the speed was more than acceptable considering we were up in the air. To log in was simple too. When you opened the browser, you were automatically redirected to Norwegian’s homepage, which required a button to be pressed and you were up and running. Easy and painless. On the same page, there was also an interactive flight map and a clock that counted down the time to arrival, so you could determine for yourself the remaining time of the flight.
Besides Internet, Norwegian also offers a proper entertainment system on board, which is accessed via the same portal. Through the entertainment system, you are provided with access to a number of films and TV shows which you can view via your computer or tablet. The system cost 7 euros to use and is, of course, more useful on longer flights rather than a one-hour flight in Scandinavia. However, the fee is valid for the entire day, which means that you may also access the system on a return flight if you go back and forth over one day.
With Norwegian, all food and drink is for sale, unlike its main competitor, SAS, which offers free coffee and tea in economy class. With SAS, food and other drinks can be purchased from a service cart, with the exception of the more expensive economy class tickets, SAS Plus, where all food and drink from the cart is included in the fare.
Price wise, the two companies are at an almost identical level, for example, £4.50 for a beer and £3 for a muffin. Soft drinks are, however, 50p cheaper with SAS, while a bottle of wine is 50p cheaper with Norwegian. Both companies also offer various combination deals, such as wine and a bottle of mineral water for £8.
What is troubling, however, is the price of a cup of coffee. £3 is somewhat on the expensive side.
The staff on board were happy and friendly and I estimate that the average age of the staff was quite low. There is, however, a difference in the relationship you get with the cabin crew when the airline has no bonus program with status levels and when nothing is offered for free on the flight.
Although the staff on board did an excellent job, there seemed no direct reason for them to create a relationship or begin a conversation (even if only the simplest of small talk) unless you want to buy something from the cart. I usually appreciate being able to exchange a few words with the cabin crew during a flight.
With excellent weather in southern Sweden there was a great view of Ängelholm and later Helsingborg and Elsinore. We landed at Kastrup Airport 15 minutes before schedule and were quickly able to park at the A pier. As I sat in the front row, I was the first to depart the aircraft.
At the gate, there was a screen showing booked connections. From Stockholm, there were passengers who would travel on to Amsterdam, Nice and Rome.
It is the interior, comfort and entertainment, which are Norwegian’s strengths. The plane was new and fresh, the Internet worked great and there is entertainment if you are bored. It is a bit disappointing that everything had to be paid for, even a free cup of coffee creates a different atmosphere on board and a completely different relationship with the cabin crew.