Premium Economy. On most airlines, it's the middle of the road class between 'cattle class' and the VIP experience of the business class. But with Norwegian Airlines, you're flying at the pointy end in premium—it's their top product.
The question for anyone considering the upgrade: is it really worth shelling out more cash for a little extra comfort?
Our Sales Analyst, Christelle Baudrin-Amoyal, should know. She just flew premium economy on Norwegian Airlines' 787 Dreamliner from Los Angeles to Paris.
So, what was her verdict?
- Airline: Norwegian Airlines
- Route: Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG)
- When: 3rd May 2018
- Cost: Total = AUD$1,600 (AUD$300 ticket + AUD$1,300 upgrade to premium economy)
- Flight: DY7098
- Aircraft: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Class: Premium economy
- Cabin configuration: 2–3–2
- Seat number: 3A
- Overnight flight: Yes
- Meal included: Yes (dinner and breakfast, but snacks are an additional AUD$7 each)
- Amenity kit provided: Headphones and a quilt
- Pyjamas provided: No
- In-flight wifi: No
- Duration: Announced at 10.5 hours, only 9.45 hours in reality
- Baggage: 2 of 23 kilos included in the premium price, none included in the economy class
My Husband and I travel a lot. In fact, you could almost say that travel is 'business as usual' for us.
After spending six months travelling through Latin America, it was time for us to fly home for a quick pit stop before our next adventure.
We took a short flight from Bogota to Los Angeles and spent three days soaking up all of the sights that the City of Angels has to offer before I packed my bags, said goodbye to the Americas, and boarded Norwegian Airlines flight DY7098 from Los Angeles to Paris.
A few weeks beforehand, I had paid AUD$1,300 to upgrade our seats from economy to premium economy for the 10.5-hour flight. So I was actually looking forward to the flight, rather than grimacing at the thought of Norwegian's pared-back economy service.
Arriving at the airport a few hours ahead of my 8 pm departure (as was recommended), we made our way to the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX.
But first... security
LAX security was by far the hardest part of making our way through the airport.
It was busy and the security line was long, a situation not helped in the least by the hordes of unprepared travellers clogging up the process in queue ahead of us.
We watched as one after another removed multiple items from their hand luggage and forgetting to take out their laptops, painstakingly remove their shoes, belts, and other items of outer clothing.
We spent almost an hour getting through security and it didn’t matter that I’d upgraded our seats at that point.
The One World Lounge
After battling the crowds, and making it into the Tom Bradley terminal, I was impressed with just how spacious and modern it was.
The terminal is really nice and had a lot of shops and restaurants, but after the security debacle I just wanted to relax. We headed straight for the One World Lounge, access to which comes with Norwegian Premium Economy.
I was struck by how comfortable and homely it felt. Even more impressive was the buffet on offer, with a host of foods ranging from chicken curry, pasta bolognese, and mushroom soup. There was even a pancake machine (I couldn't pass this up).
Drink offerings were also plentiful. Making myself at home in the chalet style lounge, I relaxed as I waited for my flight.
The one downside of this? Well, we got a little too comfortable and almost missed the flight!
We found ourselves being those people as our names were called out over the PA system. Oops...
With less than five minutes before the gate closed, we frantically ran to the gate, where, despite our lateness, we were warmly welcomed by the staff... and pilot.
After upgrading our seats for the bargain basement price of AUD$1,300, I pre-selected seat 3A for myself.
3A was the perfect seat selection. I had a window, and while it was close enough to the bathroom and galley areas, it was far enough away to not have to worry about people passing by and standing close to me.
After relaxing into my seat, I looked at my surroundings and took in the premium economy cabin.
Norwegian's fleet is among the world's youngest, so it should have come as no surprise that the Dreamliner's Premium Cabin was beautiful and felt very new. But it did. I was impressed by how spacious and light it was.
It was quiet in the cabin, despite being quite full. There was even a guide dog in the cabin, but none of that took away from just how comfortable it was.
There was a dimmer on my window, so I could darken it without having to pull down the window shades. The windows were big as well, so I had a great view throughout the flight.
Additional comforts such as a quilt were offered. The seats all had USB ports and an international plug socket to allow for charging of computers, and phones, which came in handy.
After 1.5-hours of flying, the airline staff brought out a selection of food and drinks, including a host of cocktails named after major cities around the world (it was a nice touch), and a hot meal.
The food was good, but you had to pay an additional $7 for snacks, which was a bit disappointing.
I had roast beef with asparagus in a sauce for my meal choice, which was nice, but a bit chewier than I usually like.
For dessert, they gave me three macaroons, and they were very good (not going to lie... I was fairly tempted to steal my husband's macaroons as well, but I restrained myself).
The seat was big and comfortable. I had 117cms of space for my legs, which felt very roomy and definitely a step-up from plain old 'cattle class'.
In addition to the generous legroom, the premium seats reclined a full 150 degrees, and offered a footrest. This made it very easy to rest and even to get some sleep.
The seats do not convert into a flatbed, but the pitch when fully reclined is decent and reminiscent of a big, comfortable living room chair.
If you are in a window seat, as I was, then you do not have direct aisle access. This is something that will frustrate some more than others.
Having to step over your sleeping neighbour is a mild inconvenience.
However, if you are travelling as a couple and are seated beside each other, I really don't see the lack of direct aisle access to be a significant problem.
My only complaint about the seats was that my flight wasn’t long enough to really enjoy them. I didn’t have enough time to get a full night's sleep, which I'm pleased to say I could have easily done.
In-flight entertainment may not be a make or break feature for everyone, but on a long haul flight, if you are anything like me you're going to need something to keep you entertained.
The entertainment selection offered by Norwegian Airlines on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was good, but not great.
If you frequent the pointy-ended cabins of Emirates and Singapore Airlines et al and have set your expectations accordingly, then prepare to be somewhat disappointed.
They had around a dozen of the latest, new release movies available, as well as 20 older movies, some of which were classics, along with 20 TV shows, but none of the major shows. There were no titles from HBO or even from the BBC, which was disappointing, but all-in-all the entertainment package was okay.
Considering you can now download Netflix shows, the library's comparative lack of depth isn't something to really worry about if you organise this beforehand.
Despite the lacklustre viewing options, I found myself extremely entertained by another function. Something less renowned for its entertainment capacity: the in-flight map.
The map system was amazing. It was similar to Google Maps in a lot of ways, allowing me to zoom in and explore different cities and locations. I found it a fascinating addition to the entertainment on offer.
An hour before the plane was due to land (45 minutes ahead of schedule), breakfast was served.
The crew served breakfast fairly quickly and included a selection of dried meats, cheese, and fruits. It was a good combination.
I liked that they started serving breakfast as late as possible. Few things are as frustrating as being woken from a good sleep, which might have taken a while to achieve, by the clattering sounds of cutlery. It's one of the drawbacks in more modern planes: you can hear everything!
After landing, it was a shock to go from the quiet comfort of the premium cabin to the chaos of an international airport. It took me more than 30 minutes, even on a French passport, to get through security. Looking at the non-European queue, 30 minutes was a breeze, so I am thankful for that.
Finally, I was through security and home.
Now, just to pick up my bags–which were delayed and the very last off the plane. No extra benefits for my premium economy ticket in this respect.
Considering the benefits of the premium offering, I will definitely fly Norwegian Airlines again.
My flight highlights included the extremely comfortable seats, and the great service offered by the in-flight staff.
In total, I paid just AUD$1,600, including the $1,300 upgrade fee for my premium seat from LAX to Paris, which is great value, given the average price of the premium seat is around AUD $4,000.
And, my tip for next time?
Board sooner, no matter how comfortable the lounge is!
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