Norwegian Air Shuttle and I became very good friends during my trip to Sweden, Norway and Finland.
Norwegian Air Shuttle specializes in budget air travel – like a Scandinavian Southwest Airlines with assigned seating. My wife handled the bookings. Knowing that I like sampling different airlines, she looked into Finnair for some flights. But she found Norwegian Air was the way to go for cheap air travel. Its fares were sometimes half the price of its competitors. She booked us on flights from Stockholm to Oslo to TromsÃ¸ to Bergen to Helsinki.
Like Southwest, Norwegian Air Shuttle runs a fleet of 737s, most of which are the new 800 model (including a few with the cool new Sky interior based on the 787). The airline has a neat shtick to put a regional stamp on its fleet: Most of its aircraft have the image and name of a Scandinavian who, in some way, made a mark on the world. Think Greta Garbo, Anders Celsius, Edvard Munch and Edvard Grieg, to name just a few that you should recognize. Nice way to add some history to the air travel experience.
Its niche is cheap air travel, so be ready to pay for every extra on a Norwegian Air Shuttle flight: checked baggage, meals, even water. But here's what else you can count on based on my flights:
- You'll get where you're going on-time. I can't remember a single late flight in the bunch.
- You'll board and disembark more quickly than you'd believe. Norwegian Air boards from the main door and from the rear.
- The cabin crews are pleasant. Not a scowl or ill temper on any of my flights.
- The flights all have free wi-fi. But you'll need a European SIM card in your phone to get anything out of it. I wasn't able to make it work with my U.S. SIM card.
The word is that intercontinental flights are on the horizon for Norwegian Air using several of the 787s the airline has on order. Where will they fly? Well, New York and Bangkok, for sure. But I'd bet that Denver International Airport would push to land Norwegian Air. Denver's population is pretty outdoorsy, and it's a United Airlines hub. So it could draw from other regions to get people headed to Oslo to dive into the many outdoor adventures that await in Norway. Meanwhile, I'd bet all my US Airways Dividend Miles that the staff of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (my hometown airport) hasn't even considered a bid to lure a few weekly visits from Norwegian Air Shuttle's Dreamliners.
Norwegian's CEO is quoted in the in-flight magazine as aiming to make the intercontinental air travel affordable through the Dreamliner's low operating costs and fuel efficiency. That could open Norway as a tourist destination for a U.S. airport smart enough to make itself attractive. And with the right price and level of service, Norwegian Air Shuttle could compete with Scandinavian Airlines as a major player in getting travelers to Norway – and to Sweden, Denmark and Finland, too.
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