Director’s James Jarvis went to Gothenburg with Norwegian aboard the carrier that aims to rewrite the budget airline rulebook. Here’s how we got on
Not since the heyday of Virgin Atlantic in the 1980s has one airline accumulated so many acreages of feverish press coverage. With its much-publicised £149 fares to New York, Norwegian may have radically transformed the long-haul business model (a £179 service to San Francisco launches in May) but the bulk of the 3.9m British passengers who travelled on the airline in 2015, were in fact, short-haul travellers.
The upstart carrier has an extensive network of direct flights from the UK to EU business destinations such as Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw and Helsinki. It also flies directly to Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden, neither of which (as you might expect from Norwegian’s moniker) necessitate a layover in Oslo or Trondheim.
Today, Norwegian is Europe’s third-largest budget carrier, largely thanks to the business acumen of chief executive Bjorn Kjos. The former fighter pilot launched his airline in 1993, and it has since become more profitable than rival pan-Scandinavian service SAS, thanks to shrewd decisions such as basing planes in Spain and using Spanish flight crews (to sidestep Norway’s powerful unions), becoming the first European airline with on-board WiFi and increasing long-haul offerings the moment fuel prices began to fall.
But how does such entrepreneurialism translate to on-board service? Director found out on a trip to Gothenburg…
Having taken the foolhardy decision to travel by taxi from the IoD headquarters in central London to Gatwick during a hellish rush hour (our advice: never do this), Director arrived late for our 7.40pm flight. However, after swiftly printing boarding passes from Norwegian kiosks, it took us a mere 10 minutes to clear security.
Norwegian is Gatwick’s third-largest airline by passenger numbers, but it still needed a 20-minute traipse to reach the gate. Gatwick South was undergoing a revamp and the airline will surely have felt as put out as the passengers.
Our 12A window seat might have boasted Ikea-like functionality, but its 31in (pitch) x 17.2in (width) dimensions were somewhat cramped for Director’s towering frame.
Norwegian boasts a video-on-demand service enabling passengers to download movies and TV shows to their device for €7 (£5.20) (Bloomberg TV is free) via the on-board WiFi. The food menu, meanwhile, was limited, but adequate for a trip of less than two hours.
The flight made its 10.25pm arrival time and the bijou size of Gothenburg’s smart Landvetter airport meant we were in a taxi in no time.
At just £29.90 for a one-way flight, Norwegian’s fares represent real value for money for bargain-hunting business travellers 41/50
Norwegian flight DY 4442, Gatwick to Gothenburg
Norwegian operates a twice-daily service from Gatwick to Gothenburg, with morning and evening options available. The airline also flies to Stockholm Arlanda. Prices start at £29.90 one way.