Over the summer I was browsing Expedia, wondering if I could swing a short trip from New York to Paris to celebrate my 35th birthday in October. I was excited to find a deal for $3,104.60 for 2 premium class direct flights JFK-CDG on Norwegian Air and 3 nights at a Hotel Ibis in the 10th arrondissement. On previous trips from New York to Paris, I’ve spent from $750-$1250 on economy seats, so this seemed like a great deal–so long as the premium class of service was distinct from your standard economy flight.
Since Norwegian bills itself as a shuttle service, I was worried that the experience would be similar to a budget airline. I’ve taken budget airlines in Europe before, and they’ve been fine–but for 7-8 hours? I recall a lot of extra charges for food, baggage, and a relentless amount of advertising. Over at The Points Guy, however, there is a lot of positive talk about Norwegian Air deals, and a friend of mine had enjoyed taking the service back and forth from New York to Berlin via Oslo and Gatwick as she was relocating there in 2015/2016. Norwegian’s premium service between JFK-CDG includes pre-flight access to the Alitalia lounge; 2 free checked bags per passenger; dinner, drinks, and breakfast; lots of legroom and a wider armrest; and a responsive LCD entertainment system loaded with movies, games, TV, and a flight tracker. From everything I was hearing, this is a great way to get across the pond without breaking the bank, so I went ahead and booked.
One thing I liked about this flight option was that it departed JFK at 10:25pm and arrived at CDG at 11:25am. I prefer late departures when going to Europe, not just because I might actually get some sleep on the flight, but also so that you arrive late enough to check into your hotel right away.
Here’s my experience:
Norwegian Air flies out of JFK’s Terminal 1 with many other international airlines. This is an older terminal with lower ceilings and less trendy dining offerings, but it does have many luxury brands offered at Duty Free. The Alitalia Lounge (check out a review of it on One Mile at a Time) was mobbed when I got there. It’s dark and rather old-fashioned, but it’s well stocked with beer, wine, spirits, sodas, juice, sandwiches and wraps, and other snacks like Lays potato chips, goldfish crackers, Oreo cookies, etc. Free Wifi was available. This lounge was better than some of the other lounges at JFK about very clearly announcing your flight.
Norwegian’s boarding process was friendly and efficient. I liked how the male flight attendants were wearing bright plaid blazers. Premium seats are not lie-flat, but they are large and comfortable, with lots of leg room. As this is the main reason my husband will pay more for a higher class, we were pleased with how roomy our area was. As you sit down, there is a beverage service of just sparkling water and juice. As champagne is the main reason I will pay for a higher class of service, I found this disappointing. However, I’d had plenty of drinks in the lounge, so having some water was a good idea. Norwegian does not offer bottles of water to everyone sitting in premium, so bring your own (perhaps from the lounge) if you are worried about getting thirsty. A thick quilt is laid out on every seat, but there is no pillow.
This flight was aboard the 787 Dreamliner, which is an enormous plane. I loved how high the ceiling was. The premium seats are in a 2-3-2 configuration, but it felt very spacious. The baggage compartments were enormous, which was refreshing.
My favorite part of the Dreamliner is the huge windows. Instead of a shade, you dim the window by pressing a button that adjusts the light gradually.
The meal service started fairly quickly after takeoff. It’s a boxed meal that is actually pretty tasty. Wine and other beverages were served at the same time. I had beef with peppers and rice, a fresh roll, a quinoa salad, and red wine. The Fika chocolates were a nice touch for dessert. When you open the box, the lid creates a little space for your beverage.
Once dinner service is over, you order drinks via the entertainment console. In premium class, alcoholic drinks are free.
There is no amenity kit for Premium passengers on Norwegian Air. I brought my eye mask and slept right through breakfast. I woke up to one of my very favorite sights: the plan descending over northern France into CDG.
I also really liked the flight times for the return trip back CDG-JFK. We departed at 6:15pm, arriving in New York at 8:30pm. This means we had until ~3pm to spend in Paris, and when we got back to New York, we were sleepy but it was a reasonable time to go to bed.
At CDG, Norwegian Premium passengers use the iCare lounge in Terminal 1. One Mile at a Time has a funny account of the hard work of finding the iCare Lounge (there are elevators and long corridors involved), though the pictures of the lounge itself are out of date. It’s been revamped since then, with high-backed chairs and couches with adjustable desks and a self-serve bar. There is an outdoor patio so that you can enjoy your refreshments en plein air–or with a cigarette (this is Paris, after all). The lounge offers cakes as well as the usual wine, beer, packaged snacks, etc. There is free Wifi.
So what are all these amenities on Norwegian Air Premium Class worth? It really depends on personal preference and how much these services are worth to you.
All in all, I was impressed with Norwegian Air’s Premium service, especially if you find a fare comparable to an economy seat on another airline. I would say the added value of the services you get on board would be worth about $300 to me. (Not a scientific analysis, just what I personally would feel good about paying.) So, for example, if I found a roundtrip economy flight JFK–CDG for $1000, and the Norwegian Air premium fare was $1300, I would book this again. The legroom alone is worth the extra money. However, I just did a search for a similar trip in February (about 10 weeks out, the same time frame I booked within for the trip above), and the premium fare was $1124.20.
A quick search on Expedia for economy fares showed that you could make the same trip on Norwegian (paying for food and baggage), and Air France/Delta (with a more traditional style of economy service) for under $600. That means you’d be paying almost $600 for the added benefits of Norwegian’s premium service. At that point, personally I would start shopping around to see what other deals I might be able to find for standard business class using miles or even just looking around for promotional fares or upgrades. I don’t know why, but the Norwegian Premium amenities don’t feel worth $600 to me. As someone who’s easily paid $1500 to upgrade to business class and felt happy about it, I don’t know why that is. Maybe because a traditional business class service feels like luxury, and you’re spending with that luxury in mind. Norwegian’s premium is comfortable, but not luxury. I might feel differently, FWIW, if they’d greeted me with a glass of champagne when I boarded.
Save “Review: Norwegian Air 787 Premium Class — Roundtrip JFK – CDG” for later!