JONAS
Jonas Rask Eilersen
Norwegian B787-9 Premium Class
London Gatwick - Oakland International
29th March 2017

It’s been a while since we last reviewed Norwegian’s Premium Class – but with the number of routes featuring this product increasing rapidly, we thought it wise to give them another try.

Last week I had to travel from London to San Francisco, and so decided to try out the airline’s 787-900 Dreamliner on the Gatwick – Oakland route.

Read on for our honest review!

Check In
Having a lot of baggage made us forgo my usual preference for the train from London to Gatwick; instead, we opted for a taxi which dropped us at Gatwick's South Terminal.

It's a rather long walk from the parking area to the check in, in aisle J. Once there, the dedicated Premium check in line meant that we had to wait less than a minute.

Despite not having added any of the required passenger details online at home, the whole process of checking ESTA, printing boarding passes, tagging bags and issuing a lounge invitation took a mere two minutes. The Spanish check-in agent was kind and efficient.

Travelling Premium also means that we could use the Premium Gatwick security line - all very easy and neat.
The Lounge
Norwegian cooperates with No. 1 Lounges, the UK lounge operator with outlets at several of the largest UK airports, including several here at Gatwick.

Despite the recent renovation of the South (and indeed the North) terminals, the airside area is honestly not that pleasant, and so escaping to the relative comfort of a lounge is a real boon, and, to be honest, not really expected for a product of Norwegian's very reasonable price point.

The lounge is located upstairs, near the BA lounge, and is basically one room with a sunken area in the centre where the bar and the buffet dining is located.

We'd arrived around 1030 - just as the offerings are about to change between the morning menu and the afternoon (or all day) one. Before 1100 the menu is pastries, breakfast cereals, yoghurt and fruit salad form the buffet.

Drinks are all complimentary apart from Champagne (£8 glass) - but prosecco is complimentary as well. The Club Rooms – which are a higher tier give you free Champagne, so perhaps the extra money is worth it if you like drinking.

There are several areas to place yourself, including the Library, which has no children under 12. There’s a TV area, and then several seating areas and a comfortable bar in the centre. If you walk straight through there are a few seats with high stools looking out onto the taxiway – a plane spotter's delight.
Boarding
There are, thankfully, no boarding calls made in the lounge. However, plenty of screens keep you informed. At 1130 we made our way to gate 29; it was quite a walk at the far end of the terminal. Once at the gate, it was clear that boarding had not actually commenced - and so we wandered around (it was very busy, with lots of people waiting for other flights to Kiev and Athens).

At 1155, boarding finally commenced, with Premium passengers invited onboard first. This all went very quickly and easily.
The Cabin, Seat and Service
The Premium cabin on this 787-900 Dreamliner looks practically the same as on the 787-800; there are 35 seats on the -900 whereas the 787-800 has only 32.

With the 787-900 being the newest additions to the long-haul fleet, it was not surprising to find it in pristine condition - but, and let me be clear: Norwegian does not offer a business class cabin that can compete with any legacy carrier; particularly the seats are nowhere near the competition, and recline modestly (46in) for a business product.

However, they are very comfortable for lounging, and the footrest is good. The seat has no bells and whistles in terms of mechanics; but there are electrical outlets, reading lamp, call buttons – and the cabin overall seems really roomy, airy, clean and neat.

On the seat, a wrapped blanket was waiting - there are no pillows, mind - so I grabbed another two blankets for lumbar support.

On this flight, a UK based crew was in the cabin (with what sounded like a Danish captain in the cockpit). The cabin crew were extraordinarily friendly, if seeming a little clueless at times.

All seats, apart from three, were occupied.
Food and Drink
As a passenger in Premium, you're offered the so-called Premium menu; this means two servings, with the first one offered at the beginning (around an hour into the flight), and the second being offered around an hour before landing.

On my previous flights, the quality has always been good and the portions quite small - and for the first meal, this was no exception. My fillet steak was pretty much perfect, but tiny - and the dessert consisted of two small chocolates. There's wine and beer as well - one brand of each - and it's honestly just fine.

A Baileys is served as an after-dinner drink - but from then on, the only food and snacks you'll get have to be purchased through the online ordering system via your IFE screen, even in Premium. This does seem a little weird given the fact that wine when ordered through the system is USD7 - but free if you just ask the steward...

The second meal was poor; a salmon tart of some kind - pretty much close to inedible. My partner's vegetarian meals followed the same trend, with the first one being great and the second simply awful.
Inflight Entertainment
Norwegian's online entertainment system cannot compare with Emirates or Qatar et al. - but it is perfectly adequate. There is a selection of some 30 movies and another 30 series (as far as I recall); all being a mix of old and new, although none of them seemed to be the absolutely latest blockbusters.

I used my own earphones, although Norwegian-branded ones are provided for free.
Arrival
We arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule to a blissfully empty Oakland airport - arriving into OAK is a real delight, if flying Premium that is: being first off the plane, we were literally the first passengers at immigration. Had we not had to wait for bags, we would've been in the taxi within 10 minutes (nowhere in the US can compete with that, to be honest).

Unfortunately, our bags came out only after some 40 minutes - but all in all, still not too bad.

It is also worth noting: Oakland International is the same distance from San Francisco downtown as San Francisco International is....and much smaller. There are both plenty of taxis, Uber and other options to avail here, including a speedy public transport link (BART).
Verdict
Norwegian's Premium Class is an absolute bargain and, for west-bound flights, I will certainly continue to fly them. For overnights, the seat is still much better than most premium economy class seats.