THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2019 --
On an overnight flight this month from Boston/Logan to Paris/CDG, a long-legged man rests comfortably in aisle Seat 3C, his wife of 30-odd years beside him at the window. The man crosses his left leg over his right one while absent-mindedly observing a middle-aged woman across the cabin struggling to retrieve an item from the overhead bin.
This reminds the long-legged man to ask his wife if she wants her noise-canceling headphones from the carry-on locker above him. But when the man turns in her direction his wife isn't there. All he sees is an oversized window (65 percent larger than comparable airplanes, to be precise) and darkness outside.
The woman has vanished.
Several anxious moments later the long-legged man hears the familiar sound of a lavatory handle latch sliding open. His wife emerges, smiling and refreshed.
"How did you do that?" the man asks, standing (unnecessarily, as it happens) to allow his wife unfettered access to the window seat. "I didn't even know you'd gotten up."
The wife smiles then gently taps her husband on the hand.
"Legroom, dummy. Isn't that why you insisted on booking us on this flight?"
If you are thinking this occurred in a pricey first or business class cabin, think again. The flight in question, operated by Norwegian Airlines
, offers neither. On routes between the United States and Europe the only classes available on Norwegian's Boeing 787s Dreamliners are coach and premium.
The long-legged man and his wife were traveling in "premium," the cabin at the pointy end of Norwegian's 787 Dreamliners. The configuration is 2x3x2. Seat width is a nice, wide 19 inches. Legroom? It's 55 inches from your seatback to the back of the seat in front of you.
It sounded great to me. Which is why I, aka the long-legged man, booked Norwegian for this trip to Paris in the first place. Both my wife and I are very glad that I did.
I've flown premium economy on transatlantic and transpacific airlines. At least when it comes to space, Norwegian outclasses all of them. And even though Norwegian has dropped "economy" from the name, its premium service comes at a distinctly economical price. Our roundtrip fare was around $1,300 per person. The next closest premium economy fare I could find elsewhere was literally twice as much.
Raves notwithstanding, however, Norwegian's premium cabin is not--repeat, not--business class
. Seats do not turn into cozy little bed chambers, meals aren't served with silverware, let alone being offered on a printed menu. If that's what you require on cross-the-pond trips then best you move along elsewhere. Norwegian's premium service is not for you.
But if you're looking for the most spacious and civilized premium service—--at a truly unbeatable price--you owe it to yourself to at least sample one long-haul trip on Norwegian.
You see, to me, travel isn't so much about amenities as it is about space. The bigger the hotel room the happier I am. The fewer people crowding around me on train platforms or museums or restaurants the better, too. And, of course, nowhere is space more desirable than inside an aircraft cabin. I'm the long-legged man, remember? Legroom is hugely important to me.
Norwegian's generous approach to cabin space is duplicated in other areas of its premium service as well. Our $1,300 roundtrips bought us two free checked bags each and priority check-in and boarding. There are also two complete meals during the flight. (They're served in boxes with plastic utensils, but food quality is surprisingly good.) There are also complimentary beverages and wine. (French choices poured on our flights actually weren't half bad).
Speaking of meals, a Norwegian flight attendant shocked us both by offering veal as our dinner option on the return trip from Paris to Boston.
"Did you just say veal?" the two of us cried out in unison.
Neither of us has ever been offered veal on a plane and I would like to publicly thank and applaud Norwegian Airlines for its bold decision to do such a thing. Oh, and for the record, the veal entrees really were quite good.
In-flight entertainment was also more than adequate. Although there were no music channels, there were plenty of movies and television shows to while away the hours. I found the movie selection to be kind of quirky in an interesting way. I mean, have you ever seen classics such as Dog Day Afternoon
on an in-flight entertainment system? I surely have not.
Before boarding our flight to Paris I read the airline's description of its Dreamliners. Specifically I was interested in claims that "optimal" cabin pressure and a "steady flow of fresh air" into the cabin would result "in less jet lag."
Honestly, I forgot all about this stuff, probably before takeoff. But after landing in Paris, rushing to catch a southbound train and spending two hours en route to Lyon, I noticed how little it felt like I'd been on a transatlantic flight. So maybe there's something to those Dreamliner claims ...
Either way, the bottom line is this: I'll book Norwegian's premium service again--and probably again after that--for as long as the airline can afford to offer it. (Norwegian's finances are, um, shaky.) I have already scoped out its four European nonstops from Logan, my home port.
Just call me Happy Long Legs.