Norwegian Airlines 787-9 economy review (they so didn’t deserve to die)

Norwegian Airlines 787-9 economy review (they so didn’t deserve to die)

What initially scared me about Norwegian Airlines 787-9 economy is that my eyes twitch (and I start blacking out) whenever I think about long haul flights on low cost carriers. I hardly classify myself as “prissy” (or worse), but I have my limits. Or at least I thought I did.

Guess what? My flight from London (Gatwick) to Los Angeles was a surprisingly good experience. There was plenty of food, the seats were fairly comfortable, and most importantly, I didn’t die. 

Unfortunately, even though I didn’t die, Norwegian Airlines (at least the long haul operation) did. The Covid pandemic of 2020 got ’em good. The following is a full review of my experience roughly a year before they went out of business. RIP. 

London, England (LGW) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Friday, March 15, 2019
Aircraft: 787-9
Registration: G-CKWE
Duration: 11 hours 11 minutes
Seat: 15D (main cabin)

Norwegian Air 787-9 side view
Norwegian Air 787-9 side view illustration by
LGW-LAX flight track
Our route from LGW to LAX today.

The video for this flight focuses on the premise that I think that Norwegian Air flight attendants are some of the hardest working in the industry. I’ve never seen this mentioned in any other Norwegian Air reviews, which is surprising to me considering how they structure thier in flight service.

The other interesting thing about this video is that it captures some of the chaos of Gatwick Airport in a way I wasn’t able express here in pictures on the blog in this written review. Sometimes it takes a good time lapse or two of a crowded terminal to express how frustrating crowded airports can be. The music, as always, comes from here.

My full review of Norwegian Airlines 787 economy class from London (LGW) to Los Angeles

My arrival into Gatwick on easyJet flight number 8868 arrived at the South terminal. Norwegian Airlines operate out of the North terminal. And for those of you who are not familiar with this airport, the best way to get over there was via a shuttle bus. And in order to do that, I needed to go through passport control and technically enter England. I’ve got nothing against England of course, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to do it on this trip.

SANspotter Gatwick Airport bus
Of all the pics I chose to show how I took the bus over to the North terminal, why did I have to select the one that looks like I’m picking my nose? Because this is a SANspotter airline review, and anything else would be far too mature.

Once off the bus and standing smack dab in the heart of the mega-crowded North terminal ticketing hall, I immediately started to understand why many other Norwegian Air reviews start off with a slightly negative tone (or so it seems).

Gatwick Airport North terminal
“I don’t care what it looks like – just get it built” (I’ll bet anything that somebody in a senior management role said that at least once during the construction of the Gatwick Airport North terminal ticketing hall)

The Gatwick Airport North terminal ticketing hall feels more like a busy bus station than anything else. It’s massive, with throngs of people everywhere (most of whom were directly in my way), and if I’m being honest – it’s not very attractive. It’s got a very industrial feel to it – not like any other airport I’ve visited recently.

Norwegian Air check in Gatwick Airport
I like the fake illuminated clouds photos hanging from the ceiling. They aren’t helping to make this a more beautiful place, but I like them nonetheless.
SANspotter Gatwick Airport
Do you ever see pics of yourself and immediately think “holy crap is that really what I look like?” Concentration (and cringe) level 10 as I attempt to extract a boarding pass from this stubborn kiosk.

I was feeling pretty good once I had my boarding pass in hand and I was free of the crowds. I was also really thankful that I didn’t have any bags to check, because that would have easily increased the stress level up a notch (or three).

RIP to anyone checking bags onto their Norwegian Air flight out of Gatwick during the mid morning rush though. From the things I’ve seen, it’s something I would try to avoid at all costs.

The preflight experience

Once inside the main terminal, I had roughly two and a half hours to kill before boarding was scheduled to begin. It had already been a stressful experience out there in the main ticketing hall, and now I was faced with a conundrum of gigantic proportions: how to spend those two and a half hours in here without going absolutely insane.

Gatwick North terminal interior
The central core of the North terminal. I should be really excited about seeing another bald-headed dude with red sneakers, but that “FATFACE” sign off in the distance is too funny not to mention.

The crowds were relentless, there was nowhere to sit, and…the way things were going, I was sure that I would never strive to write any more Norwegian Air reviews after this. I tried to keep an open mind though, as the cause of my frustration this morning was squarely on the airport – and not Norwegian Air themselves.

This airline still had plenty of time to redeem itself, but the airport was another story. Other than finding a secret “make people disappear” button under a floor tile somewhere, there was no hope of this airport redeeming itself in my mind.

Gatwick Airport gates
You suppose those two guys ahead of me are talking about how they wish they were flying out of LHR instead?

I ended up killing some time by ducking into a restaurant and spending $20 on a small breakfast bagel. That only ticked me off more, which actually ended up being a good thing. It gave me the energy to put my explorer hat on and set off to find the quietest spot there is in this place. And you know what? I found it. Kind of.

There’s an entire downstairs section that is largely unused in the mid morning hours, and I was able to hide out there in peaceful solitude until they started boarding the flight.

The boarding process for flight number 7095

The one last bit of frustration I had to endure was right after they opened the gate area. After a mandatory passport check, each passenger was herded into a sealed-off waiting area where (you guessed it) there was more waiting involved. I suppose I should have payed better attention to other Norwegian Air reviews out of Gatwick, because this was something I was unprepared for. I just wanted to get on that plane!

Norwegian Air 787-9 LGW
This was the best view of my ride to LAX that I could get from the gate area. I wonder if Jane Austin ever imagined that her portrait would be plastered to the vertical stabilizer of a 787-9?

After a 30 minute wait in the holding cell boarding area, they finally initiated the process of getting everyone onboard. I had to continue to wait however, as I was in one of the last boarding groups to be called. And judging by how long I had to wait, I had more than a sneaky suspicion that this was going to be a really full flight.

Norwegian Air boarding pass
Boarding group “D” – which stands for “Do remain seated while everyone boards before you and selfishly gobbles up all the available overhead bin space.”

As a matter of fact, I was entirely convinced that every seat was going to be occupied and there would be no peace and quiet for the next 12 hours. Norwegian Air sure knows how to fill airplanes – that’s for sure.

Thinking back on it, I guess I’m sort of glad that I was feeling somewhat frustrated and stressed in the hours leading up to this flight. It helped immensely to lower my expectations for the flight itself, and I was feeling ready and prepared to see (and feel) horrific things once I stepped onboard this 787-9.

Boarding Norwegian Air flight
All I could think when looking at her backpack is how frustrating it’s gonna be once she realizes there’s no place to put it. Group D life is a hard life, that’s for certain.
Norwegian Air 787-9 interior
Wow! These Norwegian Air 787-9 interiors look pretty nice actually. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but this looks pretty good IMHO. Maybe I was just happy to see something other than the crusty innards of LGW…

The seats

My first impressions of the Norwegian Air 787-9 economy cabin were unexpectedly positive. To the best of my recollection, words like “rad” and “dope” were swirling around my brain as I navigated my way towards seat 15D (an aisle seat located in the forward section of the main cabin).

Norwegian Air 787-9 seats
Norwegian Air 787-9 seats. What is it with Northern European(ish) airlines and gray seats? Icelandair has really nice looking gray seats as well, so…either there’s a company in this part of the world that produces them, or Northern European(ish) people have really good taste.
Norwegian Air 787-9 seat pitch
Yay! No bloody knees! Leg room is pretty good in these seats actually – something I wasn’t expecting after reading other Norwegian Air reviews. Oh wait – does that mean I’m really short or something?

Not only were these good-looking seats with a nice gray “material” (seriously, I have no idea what they used to cover those seats), but 15E was still unoccupied even though I was one of the last to board. And if you’re keeping score on this quick trip to Doha and back, I’ve been lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me on every flight so far.

Except for the Qatar A380 business class flight, which was a single seat at the window. But still. I’m normally quite unlucky with these sorts of things so all I could do was cross my fingers and toes tightly while I waited for the boarding process to finish.

Norwegian Air 787 seats and video screens
Those “no smoking” stickers slapped to every seat were a bit overkill IMHO. And I kind of felt sorry for smokers who had to stare at a picture of a cigarette for 11 hours…
SANspotter Norwegian Air selfie
Smiling? In a Norwegian Air seat? Absolutely! Well, sort of. I thought I was smiling huge in this pic, but…it looks more like a sarcastic smirk than anything else. It was supposed to be a huge smile though.

Remember what I said earlier about whether or not I was sure that I’d ever want to fly this airline again? Well, we hadn’t even pushed off the gate yet and I was already thinking that this was definitely one of the first of many Norwegian Air reviews coming to over the coming years. I was more than impressed!

The departure out of LGW

It used to be that I’d be really upset with myself if I couldn’t get an aisle seat for any flight that I review here on the blog or my YouTube channel. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and more boring (true story), but I’ve come to realize that a proper airline review doesn’t necessarily need that kind of stuff. Sure, it’s nice to have, but I’ve learned how to deal with it in a way that prevents being bombarded with too much hate mail.

Norwegian Air 787-9 safety card
Since I can’t see any of the action outside, I might as well check out the action on the safety card. It was kinda boring actually – it definitely could have used a few “POW!” and “ZAP!” captions IMHO.

One of the benefits of not having a view to the outside world is the fact that it forces me to be more aware of what’s happening inside the cabin.

787-9 interior
Those freakin’ no smoking stickers!

To be honest there wasn’t much to see out the window on this flight anyway. The weather was downright gloomy here in London today (as usual), and the flight attendants tinted the windows shortly after takeoff anyway. And you’ve certainly already seen enough LAX arrival pics from me over the years. Check out my Austrian Airlines VIE-LAX review (or American Airlines HKG-LAX) if you desperately want to see juicy arrival pics into LA…

USB ports Norwegian air
Oh – and since I’m looking around the cabin during takeoff anyway, now is a good time to let you know that there are indeed USB ports at every seat. Ain’t nuthin’ “low cost” about this experience! At least not yet…

The first meal service

Well, that’s a section title I never would have expected to write when it comes to Norwegian Air reviews. For some reason or another I was expecting nothing but light snacks, but I’m happy to report that there are indeed full meals served in Norwegian Air long haul economy class. It’s not free of course – you will have to pay extra, but there is indeed real food.

787-9 economy class cabin
You might think that I learned my lesson about using the lavatory before the meal service from what happened during my recent Air Tahiti Nui flight. But I was quick this time, and I’m happy to report that I made it back to my seat before they came through the aisles with the food carts. Oh…and those freakin’ no smoking stickers! #grr

I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention when I booked this reservation online six weeks prior, but there is an option to pre pay for meals on the Norwegian Air website. Apparently I paid for my meals, because they were happy to serve me when that trolley came down the aisle.

FYI, prior to the commencement of the first meal service, the cabin crew made an announcement that only those who had prepaid for a meal would be served at that time. Everyone else (at least those who wanted to eat) would have to order something via the food-on-demand system (which is integrated into the video entertainment system).

It’s by far one of the best food-on-demand systems I’ve ever seen on any airline. It was so good as a matter of fact, that it kept the flight attendants extremely busy throughout the entire flight. More about that later…

Anyway, the meal that they served for lunch (or was it dinner?) was surprisingly good. It was surprisingly substantial as well, which is the thing that I wasn’t expecting at all. Who would’ve thought that the food would be the most important part of this Norwegian Air review?

Norwegian Air food
How’s this for low-cost carrier food? My buddy Bay Area Traveler knows a thing or two about airline food (the guy flies a LOT), and I’m sure he’d approve of this. How could he not?
SANspotter selfie 787 interior
Speaking of fellow flying buddies, it was hard not to wonder if perhaps Moments In The Sky was on this flight as I nibbled on my salad. Nah…I didn’t see anyone else taking pictures of *everything* just like I was. We trip reporters can spot each other through a crowd of people a mile away!

The meal service concluded with an assortment of macaroons packaged neatly in a little section of the Bento box. Based on what I could tell from looking around at other people’s meals, everyone got a different assortment of flavors. They weren’t all the same, which I found to be really interesting. If anything, I guess it could be somewhat of an incentive to fly Norwegian Air again sometime in the future, because hey – every experience is going to be different. Kind of.

Norwegian air snack
Moments before shoving this little guy into my macaroon hole. Interestingly enough, this was the first ever macaroon I had ever eaten in my life. It won’t be the last though, I can assure you of that.
Flying over Iceland
I’ll bet they make a mean macaroon in Iceland. Put ‘er down boys! We need to stock up! 

A few words about the flight attendants

By far the most fascinating part of this flight was the on-demand food system I mentioned earlier. I’ve seen this before on other airlines, but I’ve never seen so many other passengers take advantage of it during a single flight. Especially on a flight where they served two full meals.

Norwegian air food for purchase
The amazing and very easy to use food-for-purchase UI. Admit it: you’ve always had a craving to consume beef jerky and champagne at the same time.

Even though it appeared that nearly everybody else had pre-paid for a meal and took part in the main meal service earlier, the amount of food that people ordered throughout the entire flight was simply astounding.

I’ve never seen this mentioned in any other Norwegian air reviews, so I’m not sure if it was just something about this flight that was different, or if it’s actually the norm. Those poor flight attendants were up in the aisles delivering food the entire 11 hours. They were delivering food before that first meal service, and immediately after and all through the entire flight. Right up until the point where they had to start with the second meal service when there was just two hours of flying time remaining.

Norwegian Air drinks
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to resist ordering food when there’s a menu just inches from your face for 11 hours? 7 Euro got me this bottle of water and can of Coke. Expensive, but oh so impossible to resist.

I’m not joking when I say that everybody ordered something at least twice. I ordered drinks twice during the flight, which is something that I have never done on any other flight in my life. But with that really easy to use food ordering system right there in front of my face, it was all too easy to swipe my credit card and have whatever I wanted delivered to me within minutes.

LGW-LAX flight
4 hours and 12 minutes to go. Plenty of time to order something else that I absolutely don’t need…

I can’t say for certain, but they sold at least $15,000 worth of food on this flight. That was shocking enough, but to see the flight attendants up in the aisles delivering snacks for the entire 11 hours without a break was something else.

Norwegian air passengers
Wanna know how to make loads of cash? Find a way to put people in front of a video screen stocked with good movies and an extensive menu of snacks for 11 hours. You’re gonna get rich.

Maybe if other travel bloggers mentioned how overworked these flight attendants are in their Norwegian Air reviews, the airline will do something about it and pay these flight attendants what they’re worth? All I can say is that being a Norwegian Air flight attendant is not a cushy job. At all.

Mid-flight cabin atmosphere

The entertainment for the middle part of this flight consisted of a series of movies and watching those hard-working flight attendants hustling snacks up and down the aisles. It was also interesting to watch them deal with the guy in seat 12F who had a bit too much alcohol and was starting to become difficult.

Passenger no more alcohol
You’d think with all the technology onboard this 787, the flight attendants would have a better way of communicating with each other.
787-9 wing flex
Because no 787 review is complete without a pic of the wing with a caption that reads “but that wing flex tho.”

Every now and then I think of how fun it would to be part of an airline crew for a large international airline, but watching this particular crew work so hard today made me feel otherwise. As a matter of fact, I was actually feeling quite thankful that I’m just a lowly travel blogger doing my own thing. I would most certainly lose my mind if I had to deal with my own “12F’s” on a daily basis.

787 full cabin
Let’s do the math: 288 hungry economy class passengers + an amazing food for purchase product + an eager crew happily delivering orders within minutes = mad profit.

The second (pre-landing) meal service

The food kept coming and I was getting a bit over excited about it. Seriously – I had no idea that there was going to be this much food served on this airline.

The reason for this, I’m sure, is the fact that there was very little food served on my recent Iceland Air flight between San Francisco and Reykjavík. I had to pay extra for the privilege to eat on those flights, and the amount was hardly worth the cost. I was hungry the entire time. But anyway, back to the second meal on this flight to LAX:

Norwegian Air second meal service
Well, it’s not as substantial as the first meal service, but it’ll do. I especially like how the brownie is proudly gluten free, but the sandwich is most definitely not. Good thing I don’t care about theft kind of stuff.
SANspotter eating
Mmmmm, gluuuuten.
In flight snack
Where are the rockets? More importantly, where’s the chicken?! Plenty of delicious gluten though.
SANspotter eating on plane
What that brownie saw just moments before I stuffed it into my macaroon hole.

If I’m being honest, I have to say that it wasn’t as substantial and delicious as the first. All we got was a little sandwich and a small brownie to go with it. This wasn’t enough for me since I hadn’t been snacking that heavily for the duration of the flight.

However, with the amount of food that other people consumed during the past 9 1/2 to 10 hours, I guess that a small snack was just about right. Again, I just have to reiterate how amazing it was to see the amount of food bought and paid for during this journey. Norwegian Air certainly has a good thing going with their food for purchase program and they’ve got to be making a ton of money from it.

Long haul flight pics
At this point I’m kinda bummed that I didn’t order more snacks earlier in the flight. That second meal service was hardly satisfying and I was looking around the cabin looking for scraps of anything. “Sir, do you mind if I lick the inside of your empty bag of chips?”

There’s one final point about that food for purchase thing that I want to make before moving on (sorry, I know that I’ve beat this to death). I could easily understand them selling so much food if they didn’t serve hot meals. But the fact that there were two complete meal services that nearly everyone took advantage of makes it all the more astounding that they were able to sell so many other things during the duration of the flight. It was nothing short of astounding.

Final thoughts

If it’s not completely obvious by now, this was an airline experience that left me feeling impressed. I was prepared for uncomfortable seats and the agony of feeling hungry for 12 hours, but as we made the descent into Los Angeles I was feeling anything but. As matter fact, it occurred to me that it was one of my most pleasant flight experiences of the past two years. Which is saying a lot, because I fly a ton.

Travel with Apple Watch
I’ve got more computer power strapped to my wrist than what was in an entire 727. Unfortunately, the only thing it was useful for at this exact moment was informing me of how much of a lazy slob I had been for the past 11 hours.

This basic Norwegian Air 787-9 economy product was so good that I was feeling especially excited to try out the premium seats at the front of the plane at some point. Unfortunately, Norwegian Air went out of business before that happened.

The good news is that this airline resurrected itself as in Norse Atlantic in 2022 – and I did get a try it after all. Do be sure to check out my Norse 787-9 Premium Cabin review to see what that experience was like.

 End of LGW-LAX flight
Does that look like a well-fed bunch of people, or what? And why do I feel like I need a cigarette even though I don’t smoke? It’s like I’ve been subconsciously thinking of cigarettes for the past 11 hours or something…
Norwegian Air cabin crew
Maybe he’s in a hurry to go have a cigarette. Because he’s certainly not hungry, I can assure you of that.

Comments (8)

  1. AVLspotter

    May 15, 2019
    • SANspotter

      May 15, 2019
  2. Albert

    May 17, 2019
    • SANspotter

      May 18, 2019
  3. Max

    August 28, 2019
    • SANspotter

      August 28, 2019
  4. Char

    September 15, 2019
  5. Christopher

    October 25, 2019

Give a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.