New York, if you can make it there, you make it anywhere. This wisdom, which the great Frank Sinatra once sang about in his hymn to one of the most exciting metropolises in the world, can also be applied fantastically to this Norwegian start-up called "Norse". If you can make it on Berlin – New York, you can make it anywhere. As a preview of the upcoming winter flight schedule shows, Norse does not seem to have made it, at least from Berlin.
In the midst of the Corona Pandemic, with a low-cost concept on long-haul routes, the only intersection is currently Berlin's capital airport BER. The airline started with daily 787-9 Dreamliner flights from Berlin to New York JFK, of which only 4 weekly flights are currently left.
The much announced LA (LAX) connection, for which I was also invited to the maiden flight in August, became superfluous within a few weeks. The third Berlin route to Florida, which was initially advertised as “Miami” on the Norse social media channels for a short time on the day of publication and then turned out to be Fort Lauderdale, should be history again after a short winter season 2022/23 according to current information. As Flurfunk reports, the occupancy figures are not bad at all and since the announcement a year ago the prices have risen from €149 one-way to New York to around €250, but Norse urgently needs to earn money and for it the market from Berlin is obviously not enough.
After initially planning a flight from Berlin to Fort Lauderdale, it ended up being New York. A city that has fascinated me for more than a decade, some would say my "happy place". Whether it's in the sunshine on the Brooklyn Bridge, jogging on the Hudson, snowing on the Empire State Building or at my first NBA basketball game at the MSG, I will associate numerous wonderful memories with "The Big Apple" throughout my lifetime.
When we touched down on runway 20R at John F. Kennedy Airport this Friday evening at 39:4 p.m. local time, we were in the air for little more than 7:15 a.m., my personal “fastest” outbound flight on the Berlin – New York route. From the door opening of the 2L at 20:51 p.m., through immigration less than 10 minutes later, to the departure of the UBER in the direction of Manhattan, everything went like clockwork that evening and at the actually planned landing time at 22:00 p.m., I was already there with my backpack and Venti coffee mugs in front of the Empire State Building. Prelude to another great stay in the US metropolis.
Norse has actually been requiring prior online check-in in the classic LCC format since it was founded in the cheapest fare, but since this is still not technically implemented properly, this was not possible despite my outbound flight booking in the Economy Light fare and I had to use the classic Check-in counter (no fee / according to the website otherwise 10 dollars). Although I was able to see the middle seat that was automatically assigned to me on the outbound flight when I tried to check in online, the message “this is not a boarding pass” appeared in the last step on both flights. This made the previous trip to the counter unavoidable. Both in Berlin and in New York, this worked smoothly on both flights.
Pre-reserved seat pricing on Norse ranges from $25 per seat per way (for a middle seat in the back of the plane) to $120 per seat per way at the emergency exit. The system automatically allocates the cheapest tariff and only allows a change against the written fees.
First of all, I would like to anticipate that both test flights were almost fully booked at the end of April (no holidays). There were only a few remaining seats available in both Premium and Economy Class, and on the return flight from New York to Berlin, Premium Class was fully booked.
I found it all the more amusing that I had booked and paid for priority boarding for the full flight from Berlin to New York in economy class ($20), but this didn't happen at all. When I explicitly asked the ticket-controlling staff of the service provider "WISAG" responsible for Norse, they only said "there's nothing like that here"...aha. After all, after showing my booking confirmation and the note "priority boarding" there, this was acknowledged with "then just go to the front". Incidentally, the luggage was meticulously provided with a label for carry-on (trolley) and underseat (small hand luggage/backpack) and also checked. The prices for this at the airport are reasonable and should definitely be planned in advance when planning your trip and also booked (if necessary) in order to avoid unnecessarily high prices.
First of all, it should be positively mentioned that Norse has installed in-seat monitors (unlike Scoot, for example) and provides ALL passengers with an entertainment program free of charge.
Since it can only be used with a regular 1-pin connector, you should have it with you, otherwise the purchase will cost you $3,50. The entertainment program itself offers a selection from more than 100 films and series. However, it should be mentioned that both do not necessarily have the latest blockbusters and series, but rather "old-fashioned" content.
While the monitor in Economy Class is the size of an iPad Mini, it is significantly larger in Premium Class to fold out of the armrest. The biggest minus point for me is that the plane does not have any air show or moving map, but only a "fact screen" with the remaining flight time / time at the departure and destination. A pity.
Another point of criticism is that all infotainment content was offered neither in German nor with German subtitles, so you could brush up on your travel language right on arrival. Well, if Norse should stop its flights from/to Berlin, this will probably no longer be necessary for the remaining months. WLAN is currently not offered on the 787 Dreamliners.
Norse offers 3-3-3 seating with gray leather seats in Economy Class and 2-3-2 seating in Premium Class. In both classes, the seats, which are still quite comfortable after 7 hours, have adjustable headrests and a small recline function in Economy Class. In the Premium Class, the seats including the built-in footrest can be adjusted to an angle of approx. 150 degrees. Both in Economy and Premium Class there is a USB port directly on the monitor for charging the smartphone, and there are also power connections in Premium Class between the seats.
service on board
First of all, I was very surprised that on the outbound flight the apparently majority of passengers had booked the cheapest fare. This was noticeable at the latest from the fact that only a handful of pre-booked meals (hot meals) were distributed. The cabin crew also seemed friendly and tried hard, but sometimes helpless or even overwhelmed with the list of meals included in the ticket price or pre-ordered meals, as well as the number of complaints from travelers WITHOUT entitlement to food.
I had ordered one of the advertised tapas platters in advance, which I found to be fair at 9 dollars, compared to the 30 or 20 dollars for the 1/2nd service. When I asked, the crew informed me that the tapas were not loaded on this flight and so they offered me a sandwich (price otherwise 10 dollars) as an alternative and a soft or hot drink (free) to compensate for the circumstances, a nice one Train.
Overall, the prices on board are ok (starting at $3,50 for a soft drink or coffee) but not exactly cheap. I found it striking that the crew's vending machines still had a thick "DY" - pronounced Norwegian logo. Also, on the return flight, I noticed a funny little thing. On the blankets distributed free of charge in Premium Class (5 dollars in Economy Class), the Norwegian logo was only half-heartedly cut out in the corner. “The Spitit of Norwegian” somehow still flies in the Norse planes.
And finally ...
If you get hold of a cheap Norse ticket in one of the (currently) quite frequently repeated sale(s) and want to fly from A to B without any big "service fireworks", you get what Norse promises. A point-to-point connection, at least to/from major airports, in a modern plane without any frills. Nevertheless, Norse is a low-cost carrier and this is also noticeable on board, in both classes, sometimes clearly.
Since for this trip report I had a seat in normal economy class on the way out and in premium class on the way back, a very good comparison can be made of both products on offer. The seat pitch is also acceptable in Economy Class. Whether I want to start an 11 or 12 hour flight in the direction of LAX or BKK in a middle seat in the 3-3-3 configuration is a completely different piece of paper.
The Norse Premium Class is absolutely comparable to a "standard" - Premium Economy Class, but in no way comparable to a Business Class. The seat pitch is ample, the lying surface with a 150 degree incline and no pillow is acceptable but not necessarily comfortable. On my 7:55 return flight in the fully booked Premium Class, I was able to close my eyes for a good 2,5 hours more. The seat pitch to the front seat alone and the smaller cabin with only 56 passengers were worth every cent on this "Red Eye Flight". However, when I then see premium ticket prices of $1100 one-way(!) from Paris CDG to New York on the Norse homepage, I personally have to state that I would definitely not be willing – such a price – for to pay for the currently offered product.
For 500-600€/$ each way you can do this with a clear conscience. (Here the prices are currently on average from/to Berlin) For my taste, it can be noticed on many rough edges that Norse urgently wants to earn money, if not has to. In the last 8 days before the respective departure, I received up to 6 e-mails per flight with the reference to add-on sales, e.g. to upgrade to the premium, followed by the next e-mail with the chance to do this by "auction " to do.
Hardly arrived at BER airport, 3 crew members were already waiting 2,5 hours before departure in full gear at the check-in counter to sell upgrades, followed by a triple(!) announcement on board, where the upgrades were then available for 250 $ per person or $75 for an upfront seat in Economy.
And the prices on board are sometimes hefty, payment exclusively(!) by Visa and Mastercard is quite acceptable but quite regulated. I would explicitly advise against paying for the 1st or 2nd meal service separately if it is not included in the ticket price. The $50(!)$ extra that Norse charges for both mail services compared to what was handed out on board does not justify THIS price in any way.
Even if the food prices in the USA are (still) significantly higher than in Germany, 30 extra dollars for a small standard economy hotmeal bowl, a cold bun and a small side dish plus a soft drink are, for me, at least 1/3 too high . After Norse released new destinations in the 2023/2024 winter timetable for bookings in the middle of last week, Berlin only seems to play a subordinate role, if at all, in the Norwegians' network planning.
Since the connections from Landon Gatwick and Paris CDG to New York in winter have already been bookable for a few weeks, it seems that they now want to quietly say goodbye to Berlin. Even though two other airlines, United and Delta, are still on the Berlin – New York route, it is to be hoped for the prices and the variety in the capital region that the die for a possible farewell from Berlin is not yet final have fallen.