Norwegian 2015 review

Norwegian Logo

Since 2012 I have frequently been flying Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) (IATA: DY) in Scandinavia. This is my 2015 review. My trips with Norwegian went significantly down in 2015 as my travel patterns and destinations changed. Last year I only had seven flight with Norwegian.

Flights and service

Norwegian provides an absolute basic product (while not as basic as Ryanair) and often have very competitive prices. Norwegian’s fleet consists of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 737-800 planes. The Dreamliners are used for long haul routes and the Boeing 737-800’s for short haul routes. I have only been flying the Boeing 737-800 planes. Cabins and seats are clean, and the Boeing 737-800’s are generally pleasant. No onboard service is offered on short flights in Scandinavia (with a few exceptions) but is more normal on intra-European flights. The overheads are spacious and will fit most “standard” carry-on luggage (size: 55 x 40 x 23, weight: low fare: 10kg, and flex and premiumflex 15 kg). As good as everything besides the ticket itself is associated with a fee. Information about baggage and other fees are listed at Norwegian’s website “Travelling with us“. While Norwegian has quite strict policies, they are generally not being unreasonable when it comes to enforcement.

The staff, including ground, cabin and customer service, are generally offering a professional and friendly service, but I have occasionally been in contact with some less helpful ground staff. In 2015 my flights had no or less significant delay. Sometimes this was not well informed, for example, SMS’s with information about delays have at times been more delayed than the flights.

Wifi and in-flight entertainment

Norwegian offers free WiFi on most routes. The stability of the connection is unfortunately often questionable. The in-flight entertainment system is based on the WiFi and “bring your own device” such as a laptop, tablet or mobile phone, and offers video-on-demand, live TV news, and some magazines. I have yet to try out the entertainment system in full due to short flights (30 – 60 minutes) and prices.

Norwegian Reward

In 2015, Norwegian made some significant changes to their loyalty program called ‘Norwegian Reward’. I have in my earlier reviews critiqued Norwegian Reward as being close to completely useless, but the recent changes have made it more attractive for frequent flyers. The essence of Norwegian Reward is the option to earn ‘CashPoints’ (2% CashPoints on low fare tickets and 10% CashPoints on flex fare tickets). Changes have been made both to how CashPoints can be earned and used. Besides flying it’s now also possible to earn CashPoint through car rentals and hotel bookings. CashPoints can are useable for full or partial payment of flight tickets, and now also be used for extra baggage, seat reservation, cancellation, and insurance booking changes. On top, with enough flights (12-18 flights within a 12-month consecutive period), it’s possible to earn different benefits. After 12 flights it’s possible to pick between +2% CashPoint boost, free seat reservation, or free fast track (at selected airports). After 18 flights it’s possible to get free extra baggage (20 KG). Note that all rewards can be used unlimited and that it takes 12 or 18 flights for each reward. For example, after 12 flights you can chose free seat reservation. You then need additional 12 or 18 flights to select an extra reward. More details about the loyalty program are available at the Norwegian Reward website.

Conclusion

All in all, Norwegian continues to provide a stable product at a decent price. As I keep pointing out in my yearly Norwegian reviews, it’s absolutely essential to recognize and remember that Norwegian is a low fare airline. Knowing what to expect and set expectations accordingly will make things easier, for example, to remember that no perks are provided, and basically anything such as baggage, drinks, etc. is associated with a fee. Especially the customer service cannot match legacy airlines and service is generally not flexible. According to other reviews, a common complaint is how Norwegian deals with long delays and cancellations. It’s very positive that Norwegian has upgraded they loyalty program Norwegian Reward, and now provide different benefits besides the option to earn credit for future flights. While my travel patterns have changed, I’m also in 2016 expecting to book a few Norwegian flights.

Feel free to post your own experiences with Norwegian.

More Norwegian reviews can are available at Skytrax.

Review about Norwegians US-EU routes can be found at Yelp.

Lufthansa lounge Hannover review

Lufthansa lounge HAJ entranceThe Lufthansa Business and Senator lounge in Hannover (HAJ) is located in terminal A.  This is a typical Lufthansa lounge and have you ever visited other Lufthansa lounges you will more or less know what to expect. I went to the Senator lounge that is not particular large, but there was plenty of space during my visit. My guess is it could be crowded at times. The lounge is divided into a few different sections including a table/dining area and an area with resting chair. The interior is in a good condition and the lounge looks relative newly remodelled.

Lufthansa lounge HAJ foodGenerally I am very pleased with the Senators lounges, mainly because some sort of warm food is always available, and they have a decent selection of drinks including soft drinks, coffee, tea, wine, and a selection of German beer. Especially in comparison to other Star Alliance lounges in Europe and the US the food options are better. My only appeal is that they more or less serve the same food in all the lounges and some variation could be nice.

In conclusion the Lufthansa Senator lounge in Hannover is decent. The place was not crowded during my visit, the lounge is a in a good condition, and the food options are good. Great place for a break before a flight.

Asiana lounge Seoul Gimpo review

Asiana Lounge GMP EntranceWhen flying out of Seoul through Gimpo Airport (GMP) a Saturday morning I decided to checkout the Asiana Star Alliance Lounge. The lounge is located at 3F before security. It has an average size considering the size of the airport, but space was not an issue as I was the only guest that Saturday morning. I suspect the lounge will be more crowded during weekdays. The décor of the lounge is very classic and known from many many lounges all over the world. Personally I’m not a big fan of this style, especially when a lounge like this one is crowded. The lounge mostly consists of resting chairs, but it also has a small business area (not very private), and tables along the windows. The snack bar is very basic with a selection of snacks, and common beverages. The snacks were quite good and the selection as can be expected. A selection of magazines is offered, and the lounge offers free Wi-Fi, and free local calls. The staff was polite and made a good impression.

In conclusion the Asiana lounge at the Gimpo Airport is an average Star Alliance lounge. Don’t expect anything special, but the snacks were decent and it was a fine lounge for a short break before the flight, but not the place to spend many hours.

A few pictures from the lounge:

SAS lounge Helsinki review

SAS Lounge HEL EntranceThe SAS lounge in Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL) is located in terminal 1 and is a SAS lounge only (no SAS Gold lounge). Access details to SAS lounges can be found here. The lounge is relative small and kept in a nice ‘Scandinavian’ design. While small I find the lounge very comfortable. It’s basically one big room containing everything, but space has never been a problem during my visits. The lounge has a table/dining area and a small business area with computers. Free Wi-Fi access is provided and works well. The lounge has a high level of cleanness and the bathrooms are clean and private. The staff is in friendly and helpful.

Light food is served during all opening hours. For example, during morning hours typically Scandinavian breakfast in the form of bread, cheese, ham, jam and pastries is served. Besides the breakfast options the food offerings will not be able to make up for a full meal. The food served can more be categorized as snacks. The basic selection of beverages is provided including: juice, coffee, tea, water, common soft drinks, and a small selection of beers, and wine.

In conclusion the SAS lounge in Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is a decent member of the Star Alliance lounge family, but in no way spectacular and quite average. The food and drink options are rather limited. This is mainly a lounge for shorter breaks, but I find the lounge cozy and nice for a bit of work or relaxation before a flight.

More reviews are available at Yelp.

Below you will find a few pictures from the lounge:

Norwegian 2014 review

Norwegian LogoSince 2012 I have frequently been flying Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) (IATA: DY) in Scandinavia. This is my 2014 review (see my reviews for 2012 and 2013).

Overall not much have changed. Norwegian is offering a decent soft and hard product for a low fare carrier. The staff, both when it comes to ground, cabin and customer service, are offering a professional and friendly service. However, occasionally when it comes to minor complications or questions the staff is not always helpful. Even that I have not had major issues this year, Norwegian is known for a lack of service during abnormalities such as delays.

Norwegians fleet consists of new airplanes with decent seats and clean cabins. Most routes are served by Boeing 737-800 planes. The overheads are spacious and will fit most “standard” carry-on luggage. As with other low fare carriers benefits and services are at an absolute minimum and policies are strictly enforced. No onboard service is offered on short flights. Norwegian has three types of tickets: LowFare, LowFare+, and Flex.  I have only booked LowFare tickets and have got some cheap fares during promotions which run on a frequent basis. On a few occasions Norwegian was about 50% cheaper than the competitors. LowFare tickets include one piece of hand luggage (max 10kg, 55x40x23cm, see more details on Norwegian’s website). Checked in baggage and seat selection all involve a fee. See all optional services and charges on Norwegian’s website. Norwegian also offers LowFare+ tickets that include one piece of checkedin baggage and seat selection at a discount, and Flex tickets that includes checkedin baggage, seat selection, fast track through security at selected airports, and some change and refund options. See more details on Norwegian’s website.

A nice feature is free WiFi available on selected flights. The WiFi connection can be a hit or miss. Unfortunately in my case it has mostly been a miss, don’t count on sending a few e-mails, reading the news, get the last “social networking” updates, or sharing a few documents while flying with Norwegian. Norwegian also offers a flight entertainment system making it possible to purchase online content such as movies. The system is running over WiFi and you connect with your own device such as a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Due to short flights and prices I have yet to tryout the entertainment system. It’s nice that Norwegian does offer some sort of entertainment system but I am not impressed and do not expect to use it in it’s current state.

On routes within the Nordic countries and from the Nordic countries to Europe Norwegian offers “direct to gate”. With“direct to gate” it’s possible to print a boarding pass from home. The main disadvantage is that you will not be assigned a seat until boarding the plane (unless you paid in advance or have a flex ticket). To significantly decrease the chance of ending up in a middle seat I can recommend checking in (again) at the airport. This way you are assigned a seat earlier and the chance of getting a seat of your preference is highly increased.

My main issue with Norwegian continues to be be their so called loyalty program called Norwegian Reward. The program offers 2% CashPoints on low fare tickets and 10% CashPoints (1 CashPoint = 1 NOK) on flex fare tickets. The bonus only applies to the actual fare excluding taxes and fees. These points can be used towards partial or fully paying for tickets. The good thing: easy to understand and use, earn CashPoint and use them on tickets. Less useful: the earning rate is so low that it’s not worth choosing Norwegian over other airlines, and it’s the only benefit. Norwegian claims to offer special deals to members, however, this does not seems to be the case as the page with these “special offers” has been blank for years. It’s understable that a low fare airline such as Norwegian cannot match frequent flier programs offered by legacy airlines and alliances, but having special deals or releasing offers earlier to members would be a nice improvement.

In conclusion I continue to be satisfied with Norwegian, however, when SAS occasionally can match the prices of Norwegian SAS continues to be my preferred airline for Scandinavian routes as more benefits are offered such as coffee/tea, news papers, and better service during abnormalities such as delays. It is essential to remember that Norwegian is a low fare airline and expectations should be adjusted accordingly. I have only experienced short delays and have not yet experienced how Norwegian deals with abnormalities including long delays, cancellations etc. Also in 2015 I will continue to fly Norwegian.

More reviews can be found at Skytrax

SAS Lounge Stockholm T5 Review

SAS Lounge ARN T5 Buffet AreaThe SAS lounge in Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) terminal 5 is divided into two almost similar lounges: the SAS lounge and the SAS Gold lounge. The business lounge is open for passengers in SAS Plus and business class (as well as first class passengers from other Star Alliance partners). Anyone holding Start Alliance gold status can access both lounges (details about getting access to SAS lounges can be found here. It’s also possible to purchase access with credit card or SAS Eurobonus points, more details here). The main difference between the two parts is slightly different offerings in food and beverages.

The lounge is designed in a typical Scandinavian style and have plenty of tables, resting chairs, and work areas with computers. There are plenty of (EU standard) power outlets and USB outlets, and free WiFi access is available offering a decent speed. The lounge has a high level of cleanness and the bathrooms are clean and private. The staff is in general friendly and are very helpful with questions about ticket changes etc.

Light food is served during all opening hours. During the morning typically Scandinavian breakfast in the form of bread, cheese, ham, jam and pastries is served. This works well if you need a quick bite before the flight. The offerings during the day and evening are rather limited but works well as quick snack when waiting for a flight. However, the offerings cannot makeup for a full meal. Different beverages are served including: juice, coffee, tea, water, common soft drinks, a selection of beers, wine (on tap and bottles), and different hard liquor options.

Overall the SAS lounge in Stockholm Arlanda terminal 5 is a good option, but the food offerings are limited. It’s not quite at the level of the SAS lounge in Copenhagen but in comparison to especially US Star Alliance lounges it is superior, yet not at the level of Lufthansa Senator lounges and Star Alliance lounges of Asian based carriers.

Opening hours:

  • Daily: 5am – Closes approximately 30 minutes before last scheduled SAS departure.

List of SAS lounges

More reviews are available at Skytrax and Yelp.

Below you will find some pictures from the lounge:

Norwegian 2013 Review

Norwegian LogoA year ago I wrote my first Norwegian review about my my experiences with Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) (DY) in 2012. I continued flying Norwegian routes in Scandinavia during 2013 and here are my experiences for the year.

Norwegians fleet is relative new with decent seats and clean cabins. The overheads are spacious and will fit most “standard” carry-on luggage. See details on Norwegian’s website. Delays have been at a minimum this year and I have in general been pleased with the flight experience and service from both inflight and ground staff. I have only booked low fare tickets, as the prices in general are considerably cheaper than the more flexible flex fares. During promotions which run on a frequent basis it can be a huge price saver to book in bulk if future travel plans are already decided. A low fare booking does not include seat reservation and checked in baggage but both can be added for a fee varying on the different routes.

On a few occasions I have request a refund for unused low fare tickets. This was easily done online. On low fare tickets only taxes and fees minus an administration charge are refunded so not much is left. It’s possible to make some changes to low fare tickets but with all the fee associated this quick adds up and sometime buying a new low fare ticket can be cheaper and easier. Flex tickets can be fully refunded and changes can be done free of charge but the price of a flex ticket can easily more than the double of a low fare ticket.

In 2013 Norwegian introduced a new in flight entertainment system. The system is running over WiFi and you connect with your own device such as a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. In my opinion this is a nice improvement by a low fare airline. Along with free WiFi access it’s possible to purchase online content such as movies. I have yet to tryout the system, as all my Norwegian flights have been relative short 30 minutes routes. The downside is that the Internet connection more often than not is unstable and slow… sometimes to the point where it’s not worth using it.

With “direct to gate” it’s possible to print a boarding pass from home and avoid self check-in and staffed counters in the airport. The main disadvantage is that you will not be assigned a seat until boarding the plane (unless you paid in advance or are flying on a flex ticket) meaning that whatever seat is available during boarding will be assigned. Instead I can recommend checking in (again) at the airport, either at a self-service kiosk or at a staffed counter, even when you have already printed a boarding pass and are travelling with a carry-on item only. This way you are assigned a seat a bit earlier and the chance of getting a seat of your preference is highly increased.

“Norwegian Reward” is Norwegians frequent flyer program. The one and only benefit provided in this program is “CashPoints” earned from flying. These cash points can be used towards fully or partial paying for tickets.

Norwegian offers:

  • 2% CashPoint on low fare tickets.
  • 10% CashPoint on flex fare tickets.

This bonus only applies to the actual airfare price after excluding taxes and fees.

From time to time Norwegian have special offers for Reward members only. Unfortunately there isn’t much “special” about those offers. All in all the Norwegian Reward program is quite stale and worthless. My main reason for having an account is to have a single login to all my future reservations.

In conclusion Norwegian is an excellent low fare airline. When it comes to expectations it’s important to remember that this is a low fare airline and especially customer service and benefits are at a minimum. This should be taken into account when flying Norwegian. In comparison I have also been flying SAS (SK) several times this year and the flight experience are equally good but SAS customer service and benefits are at a higher level, so are the prices. Especially when flying short routes as I mainly do Norwegian is offering a very decent product at very fair prices. I have already made several bookings for 2014 and expect again this year to fly Norwegian on a frequent basis. I have also been looking into Norwegians long haul routes and might try one of those in the near future.

More reviews are available from Skytrax and TripAdvisor.

United Airlines MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge 2014

UPDATE: This offer has been extended for 2015 with minor modifications.

Last year United Airlines offered a status match challenge. This challenge was supposed to end at the end of the year but has been extended until December 31, 2014. Here some details about the offer:

The following requirements have to be completed during a 90 days period:

  • Premier Silver: Fly 7,000 PQM or 8 PQS on flights
  • Premier Gold: Fly 12,500 PQM or 15 PQS on flights
  • Premier Platinum: Fly 18,000 PQM or 22 PQS on flights

It’s not possible to get a status match challenge to Premier 1K and all miles have to be on United flights including United Express and Copa flights. Until the requirement has been completed only some elite benefits are given. For example, lounge access and complimentary premier upgrades are not included.

The offer is mainly target at Delta elites, but according to different reports from FlyerTalk this offer has also been offered frequent fliers from other alliances such as oneworld. The offer explicit states that: “Customers who have Star Alliance™ Silver or Gold status are excluded from this offer.” However, in reality this offer also seems to be open to MileagePlus elites.

Last year I was granted a status match challenge from Premier Silver (Star Alliance silver) to Premier Gold (Star Alliance gold) when I called MileagePlus customer service. It should be noted that it’s only possible to request a challenge and move up one (and only one) level. For example, from Premier Silver to Premier Gold or from Premier Gold to Premier Platinum. Remember that you are only allowed to sign up for a status match challenge once every fifth year, so add that your calculations.

If you want to request a challenge as a MileagePlus premier member you should call United MileagePlus customer service as there has been reports of very long processing times when requesting a status match challenge through e-mail. Beware that not all customer service agents know that this challenge also applies to MileagePlus premier members. People requesting a status match challenge as a SkyTeam or oneworld elite will still have to send in an e-mail, a fax or send in an old fashion snail mail as a copy of your current elite credentials is required.

More details about the offer are available here.

SAS Lounge Copenhagen Review

SAS Lounge CPH EntranceAs I frequently visit the SAS lounge in Copenhagen Airport (CPH) it’s time for a review.

The lounge is divided into two almost similar lounges: the SAS lounge and the SAS Gold lounge. As a Star Alliance gold status holder you can access both (details about getting access to SAS lounges can be found here. It’s also possible to purchase access with credit card or SAS Eurobonus points, more details here. There are only small difference between the two. For example, more wine and hard liquor options are available in the Scandinavian lounge and this lounge also has a dedicated quite area. The overall design of both are held in a typically Scandinavian style.

SAS Lounge CPH Dining Area 2The lounge has table/dining areas, several sections with large resting chairs and a couple of work areas with computers. Several tables well equipped with (EU standard) power and USB outlets. A nice feature is a dedicated quite area and at the front of the lounge there is a small children’s play area.

During mornings hours the lounge can be crowded, but it’s not a problem to find seating. During the day and evening there is plenty of space in all parts of the lounge. A decent selection of both Scandinavian and international news papers is provided.

SAS Lounge CPH Drinks AreaThere are several beverage and food areas. At the two main areas food is available and at the rest soft drinks, coffee/tea and sometimes snacks can be found. Different beverages are served including: juice, coffee, tea, water, common soft drinks, a selection of primarily Danish beers (Tuborg and Carlsberg), wine (on tap and bottles), and hard liquor including single malt scotch (normally a 10 year Laphroaig). Light food is served during all opening hours. During the morning typically Scandinavian breakfast in the form of bread, cheese, ham, jam and pastries is served. This works well if you just need a quick bite before the flight. The offerings during the day and evening is definitely not why one would want to visit the lounge. The selection is very limited and not of a very good quality. The day and evening offers are not able to substitute a full meal.

The bathrooms are clean and private. Nothing fancy but for sure nicer than the regular airport bathrooms. Showers are available and can be booked at the desk, and towels are included.

The staff is in general friendly and will help with all sorts of things from changing frequent flyer number to rebook tickets. Staff will continuously clean the lounge for used tableware and newspapers. In general the lounge has a high level of cleanness.

Free WiFi access is available in the entire airport, and the lounge does also have a dedicated WiFi network. In my experience the network is fast and works well for web surfing, e-mail, and watching short videos.

SAS Lounge CPH Light FoodIn conclusion the SAS lounge in Copenhagen is a good option. The lounge is large, the furnitures are in a good condition, there is a nice selection of beverages, but the food options are rather limited and the quality is far from top class. When comparing to other Star Alliance lounges in the US, Europe, and Asia this lounge is is about in the middle of the worst and the best. It’s far better than most US lounges regarding everything, but especially when it comes to the food options, the Lufthansa Senator lounges are often at the same or higher level. Also Asian lounges such as the Air China lounges have better food options. Overall SAS is providing a decent and fair lounge product that is certainly worth to visit when flying out of Copenhagen.

Opening hours:

  • Monday – Friday: 05:15am – 30 minutes before last SAS departure.
  • Saturday – Sunday: 06:00am – 30 minutes before last SAS departure.

Phone number: (+45) 32 32 35 19

List of SAS lounges

More reviews are available at Skytrax and Yelp.

Below you will find a few pictures from the lounge.

1600 bonus points when joining SAS EuroBonus

Scandinavian Airlines or simply SAS (IATA: SK) is currently offering 1600 points when joining their frequent flyer program EuroBonus. This bonus seems to have been around for a while but also seems to be unpublished. I recently joined the program and noticed that 100 bonus miles labeled as “Welcome to SAS EuroBonus” had been posted. In the welcome e-mail I was then offered to watch eight EuroBonus introduction videos of about two minutes each that yielded additional 100 – 300 points each, totaling up to 1500 points. With the signup bonus this adds up to a total bonus of 1600 points. As I signed up for the Danish version I don’t know if the offer of 1500 points also is available to members singing up for the English version. After each video a quick quiz has to be completed, but even if the answers are wrong it’s possible to change the answers so this should be no issue for non Danish/Swedish/Norwegian speakers.

The points are so called “extra points” meaning that they do not count towards elite status.

Besides a basic member level two elite tiers are available: silver (20.000 points or 20 segments on SAS or Widerøe during a 12 months period) and gold (50.000 points or 50 segments on SAS or Widerøe during a 12 months period). Details about the different elite level are available here.

A nice benefit for all EuroBonus members is free WiFi in any class of service onboard SAS.

Go to the EuroBonus website to signup.