What It’s Like To Fly Norse Airways—The New Low-Cost Airline Offering $120 Flights To Europe
On Tuesday, June 14, 2022, Norse Atlantic Airways took off with paying passengers for the first time in the airline’s history. The Norway-based airline hopes to succeed where many other airlines failed: low-cost point-to-point service across the Atlantic.
We at Forbes Advisor made sure to be on the airline’s first flight from New York to Oslo—the second passenger flight ever operated by the airline—to see what the experience was like. Here’s what to know about booking and flying on Norse Airways.
Norse Airways Cabins and Airfare Options
Norse Airways aircraft offer two types of cabins: Premium and Economy. While the primary difference is what kind of seat you’ll sit in, each cabin includes different perks and fare options.
Norse Airways Premium Class
Norse Airways “Premium” class is equivalent to premium economy on other airlines. The front cabin of Norse’s Boeing 787-9 aircraft are arranged with 56 more-spacious recliner seats. Seats are installed in a 2-3-2 configuration—meaning there are two seats on either side of the aircraft with three seats in the middle.
Norse offers three types of Premium fares, each providing different inclusions. However, with all Premium fares, you’re guaranteed a more-spacious seat, a carry-on bag plus underseat bag, priority boarding and two meals.
Here are the three kinds of Premium fares:
- Premium Light—which includes an underseat bag, carry-on bag, two meal services, priority boarding, priority check-in and the ability to change your flight for a $200 fee.
- Premium Classic—with all of the perks of Premium Light, plus 1 standard checked bag (up to 50lbs) and the ability to change your flight for a reduced $100 fee.
- Premium Plus—with all of the perks of Premium Plus, plus free seat selection, a second standard checked bag, and the ability to make free changes to your flight or cancel and get a voucher.
Norse Airways Economy Class
Most passengers flying this low-cost airline are going to opt for the cheapest cabin: economy. As on almost all Boeing 787 Dreamliners, seats are arranged in a 3-3-3 seating configuration: three seats on both sides of the aisle and three seats in the middle.
For passengers sitting in this cabin, Norse offers three types of fares:
- Economy Light—which only lets you carry one small underseat bag onboard. Changes can be made to your ticket for a $200 fee.
- Economy Classic—includes an underseat bag, one carry-on bag, one standard checked bag (up to 50lbs), one meal and the ability to change your ticket with a $100 fee.
- Economy Plus—includes all perks of Economy Classic, plus seat selection, priority boarding and the ability to change or cancel your ticket with no fee.
Where Norse Airways Flies
Norse Airways is a point-to-point airline, meaning it provides very limited connection opportunities. And Norse isn’t partnering with other airlines to provide connections in the U.S. or Europe. That means the usefulness of Norse is limited to those that live in one of the airports it serves — and who want to visit one of its destinations.
Here are the nonstop routes that Norse currently has for sale:
- New York (JFK) to Oslo (OSL): inaugural flight service launched June 14, 2022.
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Oslo (OSL): starting June 20, 2022.
- Orlando (MCO) to Oslo (OSL): starting July 5, 2022.
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Oslo (OSL): starting August 9, 2022.
- New York (JFK) to London Gatwick (LGW): starting August 12, 2022.
- Oslo (OSL) to London Gatwick (LGW): starting August 13, 2022.
- New York (JFK) to Berlin (BER): starting August 18, 2022.
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Berlin (BER): starting August 18, 2022.
The Numerous Fees of Flying Norse
Norse Airways is a low-cost airline. That means many of the aspects that travelers might expect to be included in any international airline ticket aren’t included in the cheapest fares — from carry-on bags to meals and drinks.
In short, the cheapest “Economy Light” fares only provide transportation for you and an underseat bag to your destination — plus free entertainment and power onboard. For everything else, you’ll either need to pay for a more-expensive fare option or pay a la carte. We reviewed the fare options above. Let’s now look at the costs to add-on bags and other fees on their own.
Norse Airways Bag Fees
All Norse passengers can bring one underseat bag, measuring no more than 17 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches. If you don’t pay for a fare that includes it, you’ll need to pay for all other types of bags — from $25 each way for a carry-on bag purchased during booking up to $90 for a standard checked bag during online check-in.
Bag sizers weren’t utilized at the gate for either of my Norse flights. However, passengers who didn’t purchase a carry-on bag will find an image of a bag with a cross through it on their boarding pass. This makes it clear to the gate agent who didn’t pay for a carry-on bag.
For the initial route between New York and Oslo, Norse Airways currently charges the following one-way bag fees for bags pre-purchased online:
- Carry-on bags (10kg / 22lbs): $25 at booking or $35 at check-in.
- Light checked bag (15kg / 33lbs): $60 at booking or $80 at check-in.
- Standard checked bag (23kg / 50lbs): $70 at booking or $90 at check-in
- Heavy checked bag (32kg / 70lbs): $170 at booking or $190 at check-in.
During online check-in, Norse takes passengers through the same options as you saw at booking — but this time with higher prices for bags. If a passenger doesn’t select a bag, Norse inquires if you are “traveling light?” and clarifies that “this fare only includes a underseat bag.”
Norse seat selection fees
Both at booking and when checking in, Norse charges a fee to select your seat. If you’re considering paying extra to select a seat, it will be cheapest to do so at booking. At booking, seat selection fees cost between $20 to $28 for middle seats, $28 to $35 for aisle and window seats, and $100 for bulkhead and emergency exit seats.
For my first Norse flight, I skipped paying for a seat at booking to see what the cheapest experience was like. Sure enough, I was randomly assigned to a middle seat between two other passengers.
Plenty of rows were still empty on the seat map, but selecting another seat would cost me. At check-in, middle seats priced between $25 to $35, window and aisle seats cost $35 to $45 and emergency exit seats cost a whopping $120 to select.
After testing the emergency exit row seats onboard, I wouldn’t recommend these seats to any but the tallest passengers. The legroom in standard seats is sufficient. Meanwhile, the emergency exit row seat width was cramped and the smaller in-flight entertainment systems were laggy. Also, with the high fees for selecting these seats, no passengers opted to purchase these seats on either of my flights. Passengers were free to move to them as soon as “boarding complete” was announced.
For my second Norse flight, I skipped online check-in to test the airport check-in process. When I checked in at the counter just two hours before departure, I was assigned an aisle seat. Happy with that, I didn’t inquire about the cost to change seats.
Food and Drink on Norse Airways
Norse doesn’t include any complimentary food onboard. Only water is offered to economy passengers for free. However, passengers have the option of purchasing a meal by buying a more-expensive Economy Classic or Economy Plus fare. Or, you can add a meal to an Economy Light fare. At booking, the departure meal costs $30 and the arrival meal costs $20.
Norse also offers passengers the option to order from a buy-on-board menu. A “hot snack of the day” or a “sandwich of the day” will cost just $10. On my flights, the sandwich choices were:
- Mozzarella tomato pesto hoagie
- Roast beef with havarti French roll
So-called “light meals”—seemingly just an instant cup of noodles—cost $5.50. Brownies and muffins cost $4.50 and sweet and savory snacks start at $3.50. All of these are quite reasonably priced, particularly compared to the cost of a meal. The downside is that you need to wait until pre-purchased meal service is complete before ordering buy-on-board items.
Non-alcoholic drinks range from $3 to $4 each. Beers cost $7 to $8, wines price between $9 to $10.50 and sparkling wines range from $11 to $13.50. Or, opt for a spirit for $9 to $10 plus a mixer for $3.50.
However, you’ll need to bring a Visa or Mastercard. Norse doesn’t currently accept Amex cards or cash. Norse also had trouble accepting my Chase-issued Visa cards. Both my Ritz-Carlton Card and my Ink Business Preferred were rejected. But I was eventually able to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to pay for my onboard snack.
Cost of Onboard Amenities
The “nothing included” mentality extends to onboard amenities. However, travelers can purchase amenities at reasonable prices:
- “Comfort kit” including ear plugs, neck cushion, sleep mask and case: $6.50
- Wired in-ear earphones: $3.50
- Blanket: $5
Other Norse Airways Fees
Norse also charges for a variety of other fees. For example, priority boarding can be added to your reservation for $15 each way. As I found from experience, purchasing priority boarding grants you group 2 boarding.
Norse also charges a $10 airport check in fee. That’s right. You may even have to pay to check into your Norse flight at the airport. You can avoid this fee by checking into your flight online—where Norse will attempt to sell you extras like seat selection and priority boarding.
The good news is that Norse doesn’t seem to be enforcing this airport check-in fee, at least for now. I visited the counter for both of my Norse Airways flights to get a printed boarding pass, and agents didn’t mention or try to collect any fee. However, this may only be the case for the first few flights. I wouldn’t recommend counting on this fee being waived.
Passengers can pay $20 to access priority airport check-in. I didn’t see any passengers in this line during either of my flights. However, the standard check-in line only took a few minutes in both New York and Oslo. So, priority check-in isn’t likely going to be worth the extra fee unless you are running to catch your flight.
Norse Airways On-Board Experience
Norse Airways initial fleet consists entirely of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Economy rows are arranged in a 3-3-3 seating arrangement. As a low-cost airline, seats aren’t stocked with blankets, pillows or any other amenities. Instead, passengers have the option to purchase these items once inflight.
Each seatback offers a large in-flight entertainment screen with a USB charger and standard one-prong headphone jack.
Under each seat, you’ll find a universal power outlet. That’s a feature that some legacy airlines—such as British Airways—no longer offer to economy passengers. If you luck into an empty row, armrests fold up most of the way.
Bulkhead seats have a smaller in-flight entertainment screen that stows away between seats in the fixed armrest.
Legroom is surprisingly good—particularly for a low-cost carrier. Not only is there enough space for a full-size tray table, but seats are arranged with enough pitch that the tray table can be adjusted toward you.
In the mesh seatback pocket, you’ll find just two items: the safety card and the buy-on-board menu. That leaves plenty of space for personal items like cell phones and passports.
Overhead, each seat offers an individual reading light and air vent.
A Lot To Watch Onboard
For a low-cost airline, the Norse Airways in-flight entertainment system is surprisingly well-stocked with entertainment options. Passengers have the choice between seemingly hundreds of movies and TV shows from a wide range of genres—from new releases to musicals.
The “my flight” screen on the in-flight system shows the time remaining, altitude, distance, speed, air temperature and more. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t include a flight map or an outside camera. Also, the progress bar for the flight was buggy. With still more than five hours to go in my first flight, the flight progress bar showed the flight was more than 90% complete.
A Very Late Flight
Norse flights from New York-JFK to Oslo are scheduled to depart at 11:55 p.m. That’s already quite late. However, between the late inbound flight and some minor inaugural festivities, the inaugural flight didn’t end up departing the gate until after 1:30 a.m.
Once our flight reached cruising altitude, the crew switched on the lights to begin inflight service. After selling amenities, serving pre-purchased meals and drinks and picking up trash, the crew finally turned off the cabin lights at 3:59 a.m. Eastern Time—which is 9:59 a.m. in Oslo. It was already so early in the morning that daylight streamed in from undimmed windows.
As Norse gains experience, hopefully flights will depart on time and service should become quicker. Indeed, the airline is quickly learning and adapting. On my return flight on Norse from Oslo to New York—the airline’s third-ever flight—the crew from my previous flight noted that they had already overhauled the in-flight service to be quicker and more efficient.
Still, be prepared for the cabin lights to be on for a couple of hours after takeoff. Even with a quick service, lights are lightly to be on until at least 2 a.m. Eastern on this route. If you want to get some sleep on the short flight to Europe, make sure to eat before boarding and bring an eye mask.
Getting off the plane quickly is also important. After the inaugural Norse flight to Oslo, passengers in the rear of the aircraft experienced immigration wait times of nearly 2.5 hours—further delaying their arrival into Oslo. Hopefully, these wait times can be reduced as additional immigration agents are staffed at Oslo. However, be prepared for long waits on arrival.
Norse Airways Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
As Norse Airways just launched this week, travelers have plenty of questions about the airline. Here are answers to some of the most-asked questions — both from my experience flying the airline and from an interview conducted with Norse Airways CEO Bjorn Tore Larsen.
What terminal does Norse fly out of JFK?
Norse operates out of Terminal 1 of New York’s JFK airport. However, at the time of writing, you won’t find this anywhere on Norse’s website. Even Norse digital boarding passes leave the terminal field of the boarding pass blank. Particularly at an airport like New York JFK — where each terminal is operated as a different airport — knowing which terminal to show up at is key.
Thankfully, JFK airport has added Norse Airways to the signs on the roadway as you approach the airport and on AirTrain signs.
Do you get free meals on Norse Airways?
No meals or drinks—except water—are included in Norse’s cheapest “Economy Light” fares. Passengers can purchase a more-expensive fare class that includes a meal or pay to pre-order an onboard meal. Alternatively, you can purchase food from the buy-onboard menu. You can bring food onboard with you if none of those options appeal to you.
Does Norse Airways have Wi-Fi?
Norse Airways doesn’t currently have Wi-Fi. However, many of its aircraft already have Wi-Fi equipment installed. Norse Airways representatives confirmed to Forbes Advisor that the airline is working to activate Wi-Fi on its aircraft. However, the airline doesn’t expect that Wi-Fi will be available until summer 2023.
Is Norse Airways the same as Norwegian Airlines?
Norse Airways isn’t the same airline as Norwegian Airlines. But, it would be understandable to confuse the two. Both are based in Norway, Norse uses aircraft that were previously in Norwegian Airlines’ fleet, and Norse is flying many of the same routes as Norwegian’s long-haul operation.
However, Norse CEO Bjorn Tore Larsen insists that Norse is a completely different airline with a different business model. Norwegian long-haul saved costs by flying out of secondary airports—such as Stewart Airport north of New York City—and connecting them through to European destinations. Instead, Norse plans to operate as a point-to-point carrier between major U.S. airports and European destinations.
Does Norse Airways partner with other airlines?
Norse Airways doesn’t partner with any other airlines, nor does it plan to do so. In an interview with Forbes Advisor, airline CEO Bjorn Tore Larsen insisted that Norse plans to operate as a completely standalone airline: “The more complexity, the harder it is to control the cost. And, the harder it is to control the cost, the higher the cost. Period.”
That means Norse Airways is going to be the most useful for those that live near an airport served by Norse Airways and who wants to visit one of Norse’s destinations. To connect in the United States or in Europe, you’ll need to book a different ticket with a different airline. If you’re considering doing so, make sure to leave plenty of time between flights — particularly due to the flight and immigration line delays experienced in the airline’s first week of service.
Bottom Line: Is Flying Norse Airways Worth It?
Whether or not Norse is worth the cost is going to depend on a lot of factors. Norse offers bargain-basement airfares. For example, you can currently book New York to Oslo in August 2022 for just $223 round-trip:
However, this price only includes transporting you and a personal item to your destination. Adding in a checked bag, meal and seat selection will add at least $220 to the cost of your round-trip. Make sure to factor in the final price of a Norse flight including fees when determining whether to fly Norse or a more established airline.
That said, the actual in-flight experience of flying Norse isn’t significantly different than that of a mainstream carrier. If you’re traveling light and don’t mind playing seat lotto, consider Norse the equivalent of a basic economy ticket on a large airline. If Oslo, Berlin or London is on your bucket list, Norse will get you there in no less comfort than another basic economy seat, and possibly for a bargain-basement price.