Every expat’s dream right, when a low cost airline introduces a cheap route home!? At the end of March, Norwegian Airlines started flying between Chicago O’Hare and London Gatwick. I flew over Easter weekend for $500/£350 RETURN, if I wasn’t flying over a peak weekend, it could have potentially been even cheaper. I had booked the Norwegian LowFare, my first time flying long haul with a budget airline and believe it or not, it wasn’t horrendous!
Norwegian Airlines Review
Updated: Jan 2021
NORWEGIAN HAS SINCE ANNOUNCED THAT THEY HAVE DROPPED THEIR LONG HAUL ROUTES. ONLY THE SHORT HAUL EUROPEAN ROUTES REMAIN.
Norwegian Chicago to London Review
The long haul routes use the Norwegian 787 Dreamliners, which are some of the nicest planes that I’ve flown on. The economy cabin has a 3 – 3 – 3 configuration with each seat having its own seat back entertainment system (I’ve paid a lot more for flights that haven’t had this!).
The entertainment system is free, even for LowFare travellers, and has a mix of new and old movies (for example I watched ‘Wonder’ (2017) and ’50 First Dates’ (2004)) and a few TV shows (the latest season of the ‘Big Bang Theory’). On my most recent flight in April 2019, I had some great new movies, such as: ‘A Star Is Born’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’. There are a few games and the flight map is awesome, giving you the option to see a digital view of what you are flying over…view from the left window, view from the right, interactive destination guides etc.
Each seat also has its own USB charging port too which is AMAZING. I knew this before my flight so I didn’t need to worry about scrapping over one of only a handful of outlets at the gate before boarding!
FREE Inflight WiFi
Yes, you read that right, even in economy and travelling on LowFare you can access free inflight WiFi! Being free it is obviously slow, but it’s faster than some other airlines where nothing will load at all. I was able to send some messages through the Facebook Messenger app and could browse Facebook, although not all the pictures would load. You can pay for faster WiFi, I believe you buy access for 3 hours, which wouldn’t be a whole long haul flight but it’s better than nothing if you needed to do some work.
Now I’m going to fast forward for a second and then loop back to another feature of the entertainment system!
Travelling on LowFare
LowFare literally only includes the seat…well the seat if you count being assigned one at check in! I saved myself over $90 PER FLIGHT (total saving of $180). This wasn’t too bad as I was travelling solo so didn’t really mind where I sat. I was given 40J, back row window seat, on the flight to London and 24J on the return leg to Chicago. The next ticket up includes pre booked seat assignments.
At the time of writing, you can take 1 large cabin baggage on board (55x40x23cm) for free PLUS a small personal item (25x33x20cm) that goes under the seat in front…unless you are the greedy pigs that sat next to me that had suitcases AND THEN backpacks, that were the same size as my main cabin bag, in the overhead bin too…I even slid my bag over so they could put theirs together…before I realised that they had already completely filled one bin (RANT OVER)! Depending on the ticket type, depends on the weight you are allowed. On LowFare you get 10kg. My bag was weighed in Chicago but not London. Checked baggage isn’t included on LowFare.
I guess the thing I was worried about the most before flying was that the LowFare DOESN’T include food or drinks, on an 8 hour flight I was worried about obviously getting dehydrated etc. They gave out cups of water if you asked for it, but it wasn’t given as part of a service. The flight times actually worked out well for me to be able to save a bit of money by eating in the terminal.
Flying from USA – If you take an empty water bottle through security, there are plenty of water fountains in the USA airport terminals to fill it up FOR FREE. Otherwise it’s around $4 for a bottle of water.
Flying from the UK – One of my FAVOURITE things about flying from UK airports are the WHSmiths or Boots £3.99 Meal Deals…they are such great value! You can pick a sandwich or a wrap, a bottle of drink (including large 850ml bottles of water) and then a snack…I’ve noticed that the snack choices have narrowed recently but still include a few options of chocolate bars, packets of crisps/chips, granola bars or packets of dried fruit and nuts.
You have the option of buying food and drink on the flight. It’s kinda cool, they don’t have an inflight service like what you may find on a short haul flight, but instead you can order food and drink from the seat back entertainment screen and the crew will deliver it right to your seat. You do have to pay on card only though and you do this all on your screen! If you buy a water and a sandwich in-flight, it’ll set you back $10, buying the meal deal mentioned above will get you a water twice the size AND a snack with a saving of £3/$4. (LowFare+ includes 2 meals with drinks. The dinner options on my flight were chicken and rice or beef and mash).
Another thing NOT included on Norwegian long haul flights are free earphones and blankets…although to be honest, as much as I utilise blankets, I do find them a little gross when I’m given ‘clean’ sealed blankets that when opened have hairs still stuck on them. One of my blankets on a flight to Australia even smelt like sick once! Blankets can be purchased for $5 and earphones for $3. I’m guessing that if you buy a blanket, you then keep the blanket, which means no rewashed puke blankets yay!
…& Back To The Plane!
Continuing with my Norwegian Airlines review, I’ll return to some of the cool features of their Dreamliners! The Dreamliners have a fresh air filtration system and a cabin pressure which is set in a way to reduce jet lag. I rarely suffer from jet lag but didn’t get it so I guess it works!
Clever mood lighting throughout the flight is also meant to reduce jet lag…and when you land the plane turns into a rainbow!
But the child inside of me was OBSESSED with the windows. They are AMAZING. I felt sorry for the poor person next to me that had to suffer with my child like wonder playing with them! Not only are the windows 65% bigger…but they have NO BLINDS. Say WHAT?! They work on a tint system controlled by buttons and automatically as part of the cabin mood lighting. When it’s rest time, the windows are automatically dimmed to reduce light, but it’s cool because you can still see through them! When it’s time to ‘wake up’, they are steadily brightened so you don’t suffer from the blinding light when you first open the shutter! The 2 pictures below were taken a few seconds apart…
I’m quite short but I found the legroom to be similar to what you get from a budget airline. I will say that having a window seat, legroom is drastically decreased due to the leg fixture being quite chunky, if you have a bag underneath too there’s then even less. Also when I had a water bottle in the pocket, my knee would be touching the bottle. Although I did like the way that the chairs had a completely solid back. On some airlines you can feel the person behind routing around in the pocket but there was none of this on the Norwegian Dreamliner. The pocket contains an inflight magazine, a barf bag and a safety card.
Currently there is no online check in for flights outside of Europe. At Chicago, the check in desk opened just over 3 hours before the flight, although from Gatwick the ‘USA flight’ desks are always open due to the amount of US destinations they offer. The Chicago – Gatwick route only has 1 flight every other day, the Chicago – London route is a red eye overnight flight and the London – Chicago flight leaves in the afternoon, landing in the evening in America. Economy class is boarded by row number, starting at the back of the plane!
If you use Norwegian to fly long haul a lot, they offer a CashPoints system which is like collecting air miles. The good thing is, is that you can cash the points in whenever you want. So every time I fly with them, I usually get a $15 discount on my next booking. I know it’s not much but it pays for a dinner at the airport!
You can find out more on the Norwegian Airlines website!
Have you flown long haul on a budget airline? Budget transatlanic flights have been a life saver as an expat! This was my Norwegian Chicago to London review. My parents used the route when they came to visit during the summer and I’ve used them for travel over Easter, Christmas and then a random trip in March.