Norwegian Is Introducing Wifi & A New (Worse?) Premium Cabin On Their 787s

Norwegian is one of the fastest growing transatlantic airlines, as they operate both 737 and 787 aircraft to a growing number of US destinations. This morning the airline put out a press release revealing their “biggest ever year of growth in 2018.”

Partly the press release just rehashes previous announcements, like that they’re adding flights to Austin, Chicago, and Buenos Aires, though there are two announcements that are new, as far as I know. One is good news, and one sounds like it may be bad news.

Norwegian is adding more Premium Cabin seats to their 787s

Norwegian has an interesting premium cabin product on their 787s. It’s called “Premium Cabin,” and featured 32-35 spacious seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. SeatGuru claims these seats have 46″ of pitch, while Norwegian claims these seats have 55″ of pitch (9″ is a big disparity). Daniel has reviewed this product in the past, and I’d like to try it soon as well, as it seems to be an exceptional value.

While this is essentially a premium economy product, in reality it’s much more spacious than that, as most premium economy products have somewhere around 36″ of pitch, or so. So they have at least an extra 10″ of legroom over what most of their competitors offer in premium economy.

Starting in 2018, Norwegian will introduce 60% more Premium Cabin seats on their 787s. They’ll go from having 32-35 seats, to having 56 Premium Cabin seats. The new cabin will be fitted on Norwegian’s final 20 787 orders set for delivery from 2018 onwards. Norwegian is planning on taking delivery of 11 787s in 2018, so you can expect all those 787s to join the fleet in the next couple of years.

Norwegian’s new Premium Cabin will be less spacious

When I first quickly read through the press release I assumed there had to be a catch. For an ultra low cost carrier, this seems like a mighty big premium cabin, especially given how spacious Norwegian’s Premium Cabin seats are. Reading further into the press release:

The new 56 seat cabin configuration will offer passengers more than a metre of legroom and 11” Panasonic monitors providing hours of complimentary inflight entertainment.

Now there’s a difference between “legroom” (by my definition, literally how much space there is for your legs) and “pitch” (the amount of space each seat takes up, measured from one point on one seat to the same point on the seat behind it). A meter is roughly 39″, and that’s more legroom than I think the current seats have. However, I suspect that’s not what Norwegian is referring to.

Norwegian claims on their website that their current Premium Cabin features “140 centimetres (55 inches) legroom.”

So while Norwegian doesn’t explicitly state it, I’d be willing to bet good money that their new Premium Cabin will feature significantly less legroom, as they’re going from 1.4 meters to “more than a meter.” That’s not really surprising, given that most airlines in premium economy have significantly less legroom, and Norwegian isn’t really able to get away with charging a premium.

Heck, their current Premium Cabin seems like one of the best bargains in travel. For example, a one-way fare from London to Los Angeles in Premium Cabin is $679, and that includes the $200 premium departure tax out of the UK.

Norwegian will add wifi on their 787s

As it stands, Norwegian has wifi on some of their 737s, but not on any of their 787s. That will change. Norwegian will roll out wifi on longhaul flights starting “later in 2018.” While we don’t have more details yet, it’s great to see that this is something they’re planning on in general.

Bottom line

It has been interesting to see Norwegian’s growth the past few years, and how other airlines have had to adapt to compete with them. While Norwegian has been growing at a fast pace, their financial performance hasn’t been great, so I suspect we’ll continue to see changes from them. I’m happy to see them add wifi to their 787s, though it will likely be several years before their entire longhaul fleet features wifi.

More interesting to me is that they’re adding more Premium Cabin seats to their 787s. While it’s not explicitly stated, reading between the lines it sure seems to me like it will be a less impressive product than they currently have. While I’m sad to see that change, I guess it was inevitable.

(Tip of the hat to @trevon_1)

Comments

  1. Norwegian will add the extra seats on the 787-9 only. They will remove the 3 rows with economy seats in front of door 2 to add 2 rows with premium economy seats.

  2. That’s really disappointing news- they currently have one of the best premium economy hard products out there- and you get easy access to the aisle from the window seat due to the abundant legroom. Hopefully they don’t decrease the seat pitch too much and make positive changes during the downgrade.

  3. @Thomas – close, they are replacing the 3 rows of economy with *3* (not 2) rows of Premium and scrunching the existing 5 rows of Premium closer together. I’d expect about 40-41″ of pitch, assuming they don’t change the footprint of their lavs/galleys. Still 2-4 inches better than Level/WOW and most other Premium Economy layouts, but disappointing to see shrinkage here.

    The one plus is that upgrades/premium tickets will likely become cheaper as a result of supply/demand (56 out of 338 total seats vs 35 out of 344 now). Hopefully they keep the legrests.

  4. It’s too bad Delta didn’t install Norwegian’s 2x3x2 seats in its new A350 (and soon-to-be new 777) premium-economy product.

  5. I sometimes even see these seats coded as “business class” on Kayak through travel agencies, though they’re far from it. I don’t mind the decreased legroom as long as the fares decrease.

  6. Some longhaul flights already have wifi; those operated by the 737MAX (such as Belfast BFS to “NYC” Stewart SWF).

  7. by far the best value for TATL travel, especially for flights to london and paris, since their (relatively) short duration makes it hard to justify paying or even using miles for business class on full service airlines.

  8. @AJO: SWF is NYC only if Poughkeepsie is one of the 5 boroughs.

    The SWF website advertises a helicopter charter service, which would cost $750 for a trip from HPN (White Plains) to SWF. Hmm, so I could buy a cheap Norwegian premium economy flight, take a helicopter to SWF, and with the savings on car service to JFK, still come out ahead vs major carriers’ flights to Norway or Ireland!

  9. I have traveled on two premium cabin Norwegian flights and neither one offered headphones. I’m not sure if that was a temporary problem or the company policy but carry your own headphones if you want to watch the (rather limited selection) of movies in premium.

  10. I just flew back on Norwegian from London and have to say I have mixed feelings about premium and probably wont fly them again – or perhaps would if its the last resort. Check in was somewhat problematic. They don’t board or deplane using gates, they use very remote locations in the airports they service and while we had to make a connection we were abandoned at the airport without a representative in sight to direct us. Food was crappy but service was charming. I find its a lot to swallow and certainly see a difference between that product and other premium products

  11. Why isn’t Daniel writing this? Has he been bumped? He always used to write every Norwegian article as if he owned the airline….

  12. This certainly doesn’t sound like an upgraded cabin to me. Sounds like what it is — adding seats; decreasing legroom. I usually fly Business or First but am curious enough about Norwegian to give them a try from JFK to Gatwick. I am going in with very low expectations. One thing I have done since booking the flight is check arrivals and departures daily. It seems to leave on time, if not early, most of the time. We’ll see…

  13. 41″ of pitch is still a lot better than what BA, AF, Lufthansa and any of the US airlines offer.
    I’ve flown Norwegian premium economy on a RT from OAK to ARN with premium being only half full on both flights.
    The discrepancy between the cheapest economy fare and the lowest premium economy fare is enough for a lot of people not to consider premium economy, especially since there is no upgrade system and the economy fares are so low.
    That being said, other than not handing out eyeshades or an amenity kit (which next time I’d definitely bring shades, as the monitors were not dimmed during the flight) , I was quite happy with both of my flights.
    The planes were fresh and new and the FA’s friendly. Food was decent as well.

  14. These guys and others are why BA and other legacies are cutting costs and service to lower fares for We UK travellers. Brand new planes, menu pricing, optional premium economy that shames Club Europe. Most passengers are paying their own way in Y, not mileage jockeying premium cabin pax. If the basic fare is way cheaper than legacies like BA, and the connections/airports are convenient, it’s a no-brainer.

    I did an LGW-Oslo rotation with Norwegian. We boarded/exited both ends via air bridges, plane was brand new (738 with then-new Boeing Sky interior), food and beverage service was reasonably priced and everyone was served, we departed and arrived on time. No cabin bag charge. Mine hosts (business group) said their travel agent had saved thousands vs BA, the only compromise being LGW instead of LHR.

    At BHX, we no longer have daily AA or UA (25 year old 757s) rotations to New York. Would be good if Norwegian would fill the gap with its Y and premium economy product though I hear a new LCC is going to give the route a go.

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