In an age where airline ticket prices remain sky high despite the recent falling oil prices, many people, including a majority of my friends here in the States feel that international travel is out of their reach financially. And in their defense, I don’t blame them. Round-trip tickets from New York to London on airlines like American, British Airways, and Delta cost anywhere from 800 to upwards of thousands of dollars depending on the season.
So, what is a budget traveler to do when they want to travel internationally and have more money once they arrive at their destination?
Norwegian Air Shuttle is making that a reality.
“Norwegian B737 LN-NGN” by Aero Pixels
Ladies and gentleman, I give you the airlines that gives you the long-haul flight without the long-haul price. Norwegian Air Shuttle, commonly known as Norwegian, was originally founded in 1993 as a regional carrier for Western Norway, and it eventually grew into its own entity once its mother company went bankrupt. From 2002 onward, though, it has become one of the most competitively priced budget airlines connecting Europe, the United States, and Asia—all without sacrificing comfort.
Budget airlines are nothing new, and there are a slew of them in Europe and the United States. Most people in Europe are already familiar with RyanAir, easyJet, and airberlin, which are their three largest budget carriers. Respectively, in the United States, most have at least heard of Frontier, Southwest, AllegiantAir, and Spirit Airlines. And in Asia, the first two that come to mind are AirAsia, and its low-cost, long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X, where I recently found a one-way flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Sydney, Australia for a mere 85 USD. Now that’s a deal.
So how does Norwegian tie into all this? They have managed to connect Europe, Asia, and the United States for a reasonable price. So reasonable, in fact, that some on Capitol Hill are opposing Norwegian’s request to allow its long-haul subsidiary, Norwegian Air International in Ireland to be allowed to fly to and from the United States.
According to a Reuters.com article, here is what Norwegian is up against;
The opponents include airline labor unions and big carriers such as American Airlines Group, Delta Air Lines Inc and United Continental Holdings Inc. They say Norwegian will dodge U.S. labor laws by using its Irish subsidiary to take advantage of labor laws that are weaker than in Norway, threatening U.S. jobs.
Kind of ironic how unions and big airlines like Delta and American are concerned that Norway is trying dodge US labor laws. Norway has one of the highest quality of life living indexes on the planet. Smells like a case of, “I’m upset that you are offering round-trip tickets at half the price that we charge,” syndrome.
Look, the fact of the matter is presently there isn’t enough competition among airlines today. There are a growing number of flyers but not enough airlines. There is such a high demand, that they are able to keep their prices high. After the economic collapse of 2008, the prices dipped, but once the economy began to bounce back, the demand just kept going higher and higher. These budget airlines provide healthy competition to their more expensive cousins, and the more airlines that are out there, the more competition. More competition = cheaper airline tickets for all of us.
So, you ask, how cheap are we really talking? Here are four examples of one way flights on Norwegian that can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on your trip. These were found today, 4/11/2016, on Google Flights using a Chrome browser in incognito mode to prevent the website from tracking cookies.
So, you could fly from New York to Oslo, and then once in Oslo you are on mainland Europe, where you can find ridiculously cheap flights to your final destination in Europe. Here are two more dirt-cheap examples from different Norwegian long-haul hubs, Los Angeles (LAX) and Ft. Lauderale (FLL).
Congrats, you have managed to achieve your lifelong dream of visiting London, on a non-stop, nearly 11 hour flight for a mere 245 USD!
Now, here is where it gets really interesting. Norwegian’s biggest hubs in Europe are in order from largest to smallest, Oslo-Gardermeon International, Stockholm-Arlanda International, Copenhagen International, and London-Gatwick International. These four hubs connect Europe and the United States. But wait, I mentioned Norwegian connecting Asia too. Prepare yourselves for a jaw-dropping price shock.
Yes, you are seeing that correctly. You are not on drugs and no, your contacts are not blurring. That is a non-stop, 11 hour and 15 minute flight from Stockholm, Sweden to Bangkok, Thailand. Norwegian has not only allowed you to hop across the pond for dirt-cheap, it has also opened the door for a Southeast Asia backpacking adventure for even cheaper.
This is actually how I am flying to Bangkok on May 7th. My flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Stockholm was 290 USD, and the flight from Stockholm to Bangkok was 182 USD. Most people don’t even believe me when I tell them I’m flying to the other side of the planet, with over 20 hours of flight time, for 472 USD.
So, what’s the catch?
There isn’t one. You can take my word for it, even send me an angry Facebook message if you believe otherwise, but I promise, I’m telling the whole truth. The only thing to take into consideration with budget airlines like Norwegian, is besides the ticket price, nothing is included for free. If you want to check a bag, it will cost you 65 USD for international flights and 35 USD for domestic flights. One carry-on bag is permitted for free, and if you manage fitting everything in your carry-on, then do it. The other is for seat reservations. You have to pay anywhere between 12-26 GBP to reserve your seat ahead of time. If you wait until you can check in online, your seat choice is free.
For those of you that are on an extreme budget, and really want to pinch pennies, don’t pick your seat, don’t pre-order a meal, and don’t order checked baggage. Personally, I paid the extra money to choose the aisle seat on both of my long-haul flights to Bangkok. Why? Because after my first ever long-haul flight from Orlando, Florida to Reykjavik, Iceland (nearly 8 hours), and I had chosen the window seat to “sleep” (Ha! Nice try, person who gave me that advice), and I was sitting next to an Icelandic couple so elderly the husband could barely get out of the seat to use the bathroom, so I was stuck and I realized the window seat is a mistake for long-haul flights. Do you really want to be that person that has to wake up the 70-something-year-old man in the middle of his nap to ask to go pee? This is why I choose the aisle seat every time. More leg room, and you can go to the bathroom whenever you want. Regardless of what you choose to do, you are still saving hundreds of dollars on your airfare to wherever you want to go.
What sets Norwegian apart from other budget airlines?
Well, for their long-haul flights, their Boeing-787 Dreamliner aircrafts offer ample leg room (31″), TV screens behind every seat with a variety of entertainment, and free WiFi. Yes, FREE WiFi. And the best part is, free WiFi is available on mostly all Norwegian aircrafts, even the shorter flights around Europe. Their leg room on non-long-haul flights is marginal at best (29″), actually an inch less than what RyanAir offers, but the free WiFi makes up for that in my opinion. Also, the planes are spotless, the flight crew very personable, and the seats and headrests are comfy. Norwegian also has an impeccable safety record.
Which airports are served by Norwegian?
This is the most important part. Their long-haul hubs are as follows. Non-stop routes provided to the right of the arrows.
Oakland Metropolitan International (OAK) → Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN), and London (LGW)
Los Angeles International (LAX) → Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN), Copenhagen (CPH), and London (LGW)
John F. Kennedy International (JFK) → Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN), Copenhagen (CPH), and London (LGW)
Ft. Lauderdale International (FLL) → Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN), Copenhagen (CPH), and London (LGW)
Orlando International (MCO) → Oslo (OSL), Copenhagen (CPH), and London (LGW)
Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS) → Stockholm (ARN), Copenhagen (CPH)
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International (BKK) → Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN), Copenhagen (CPH)
The frequency in which these flights are offered varies, but I have taken the time to eliminate the route-searching stress of planning your next getaway with this ultra-low-cost budget airline. Also, if you happen to not live near one of these airports, don’t fret, because if you live on the east or west coasts of the United States, chances are you can find a cheap flight to one of these airports. Keep in mind, being diligent about booking your flights 2-4 months in advance, being flexible with dates, and thinking outside of the box are all paramount to finding that ridiculously cheap rate! Remember, budget travel is not outside the realm of possibility, and airlines like Norwegian make it a reality.