Airlines of Europe beware!! There is a ‘new kid on the block’ – one that could potentially change the face of air travel. If you have not heard of Norwegian, it will not be long before the name of the Nordic airline is as common in ‘budget’ air travel as Ryanair or Easyjet. I flew with Norwegian for the first time this week. I have heard many things about them from friends and colleagues and was keen to test the experience for myself.
Over the last few weeks I have done more European travel than usual. Having flown with a variety of airlines, I wanted to know if Norwegian ‘felt’ like any other airline or if it really did deliver an experience that I would actually remember for positive reasons – how would it compare with others? Let the review commence!
|Date Review Conducted||11th December 2014|
|Flights Experienced||London Gatwick to Oslo|
|CX Review Total Score||41/50|
Norwegian is an airline that has been in existence since 1993. It was not until 2008 that is started to make waves in the airline industry with the delivery of a new fleet of aircraft. By 2013 Norwegian had started to receive awards for the best European low-cost carrier – a trend that has continued into 2014. So are the plaudits that Norwegian is receiving reflective of the experience?
Norwegian’s website offers a wealth of insight into the strategy and culture of the business. They publicly share their vision:
Norwegian’s vision is “Everyone should afford to fly”. The business idea of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA is to give everybody the opportunity to travel by air, attracting customers by offering competitive, low fares and a high-quality travel experience based on operational excellence and helpful, friendly service.
You can see how this links to their values and business strategy here. As I always remind readers of my reviews, a public statement like this constitutes a promise or promises to customers. If you are telling us that you are offering low fares with a high-quality travel experience, you have set my expectation as such. The question is – did Norwegian meet the expectation?
Accessibility – CX Review Score 7/10
In my review process, the definition of accessibility is ‘how easy was it for me to do what I wanted to do’ with the organisation I am transacting with. Norwegian score 7 out of 10 for this category.
Let me start with the online experience. Norwegian’s website is ok – not great, but ok. It does what it needs to do, but does not offer the most intuitive of online user experiences. For example, online check in is not that easy to figure out. It took me a while to realise that I had to hunt for online check in through the ‘my reservations’ link at the top of the home page. Even then, it was not obvious what I had to do to actually check in and receive my boarding pass. There are definitely improvements Norwegian need to make before this part of the customer journey can be considered a ‘high-quality’ travel experience.
Checking in at London Gatwick was also an interesting experience. If you want to check in from scratch or simply drop a bag, it is all done via self service terminals. In principle I have no problem with this, if the process is simple for the passenger to conduct by themselves. It was not obvious to me what I had to do as a customer conducting a ‘bag drop’. I ended up having a member of staff do everything for me – from entering the details on screen, to attaching my baggage label. It made me wonder why the process is self service – it would have been so much easier and quicker if I could have walked up to a desk and have a member of staff do it the ‘old fashioned way’!! I am all for innovation, but if the innovation does not make the experience better, then why do it?!
It is for both of these reasons that Norwegian only scores 7 out of 10 for accessibility. This is a shame, because there are other things that Norwegian really do excel at. Offering free WiFi on most flights is one of them. I had great fun ‘tweeting’ from 30 thousand feet – it really did add to the experience. Jerry Angrave, a good friend of mine pointed out:
“rail operators should not be surprised that their customers’ expectations are not met when they can’t get reliable w-fi, or even some wi-fi, at just 3 feet in the air”
Experiencing free Wi-Fi on Norwegian makes you question why no-one else does it and why it is so difficult for other industries to do it – especially rail operators! Maybe it is only a matter of time before they do, but until then, Norwegian have a serious differentiator. Norwegian also offer in flight TV rental on its Wi-Fi enabled aircraft – very cool.
It is important that Norwegian recognise the importance of the ‘end to end customer journey’ – only when everything we experience can be considered high quality will Norwegian be meeting the expectations set out in their vision.
Range/Choice – CX Review Score 8/10
Norwegian is the second largest airline in Scandinavia and the third largest low-cost airline in Europe.Norwegian operates 416 routes to 126 destinations in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Thailand and the US.
Choice of flights and their prices is very good and clearly displayed online. You can also select three different fare types according to your requirements:
Despite this, I personally was not able to get flights that met my needs. Living in the North West of England, I would have ideally been able to get a flight from Liverpool or Manchester. I could have flown from Manchester, but the limited choice of flights offered by Norwegian did not work for me. I therefore had to drive to London Gatwick instead.
Norwegian may not quite have the reach or frequency of its better known competitors, but I suspect it will not be long before it is able to offer as many routes and options as any other airline in Europe.
People – CX Review Score 9/10
Norwegian score 9 out of 10 for the people category. I was very impressed with the crew on my flight. I would describe them as relaxed, friendly and polite. They were not too formal or stuffy, but were very attentive to the needs of all passengers.
What I found interesting about them is that even though they were performing the same tasks as millions of cabin crew on airlines around the world, they did not seem to do so in the ‘stiff’ or ‘forced’ way that many make it feel. It is almost as though they have been trained to ‘chill out’ and have fun. It was nice. I would also say that they were the least ‘pushy’ cabin crew I have experienced in recent times. They did not try and SELL SELL SELL at every opportunity. They quietly and unobtrusively glided through the cabin with food, drink and gifts.
From my recent experiences, Ryanair could learn a lot from the crew of Norwegian!
Value – CX Review Score 8/10
Whilst the cost of flights is generally good, I do not think that they can be considered as ‘low cost’ as their better known competitors at the moment. My flights were not that cheap (£300) although this price was competitive with other carriers – this therefore does meet the expectation set out in their vision.
However, despite this, I do feel that Norwegian offer good value for money. It is amazing what good service and free Wi-Fi can do! The funny thing is, I was not bothered about not having a free cup of tea or a dry sandwich – what some airlines consider to be ‘added value’ does not have much effect on me. I would much prefer the service to be high quality with a few unexpected moments where my expectations are exceeded – such as free Wi-Fi.
I have therefore awarded Norwegian a score of 8 out of 10 for Value – not as high as I awarded Ryanair, but not far off.
How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 9/10
My first ever flight with Norwegian left me feeling pleasantly surprised. Having flown a lot recently, I have become used to feeling ambivalent and uninspired by my airline experiences. If flying with airlines were to be compared with a blind food taste test, I would say that they all taste exactly the same!!
Flying with Norwegian did feel different though. The modern planes are very light and airy – the decor is excellent and lighting very good. When I compare the Norwegian cabin with the oppressive yellow and blue of Ryanair, it does make me realise how important the environment we travel in actually is.
The friendly, relaxed crew made me feel as though I was on my way to a fortnight in the Canaries, rather than a couple of working days in Norway. Then I come back again to the free Wi-Fi. It is often the simple things that make experiences better…..different. I felt like a little kid being able to tweet and post pictures on Facebook whilst flying overhead. I guess the excitement will wear off eventually, but for now, this element of the Norwegian experience is incredibly memorable.
All in all, I would say that Norwegian are creating positive, memorable experiences – something their competitors are finding difficult to do. For this reason, I have scored Norwegian 9 out of 10 for how they made me feel.
Would I use them again? Yes
An easy question to answer – a big fat YES! I was impressed with Norwegian – I have not been impressed with a short haul airline for many years. In fact, Norwegians total score for this review – 41 – is the same I awarded to Etihad. This score is higher than I awarded to Emirates, British Airways and Ryanair. If you have not flown with them, you must give Norwegian a go. I think that their competitors should be very afraid of what they are offering.
There are still improvements that they need to make to the experience for it to genuinely be ‘high quality’ throughout. However right now, Norwegian are offering something slightly different in an industry where differentiation is not very common. I will be flying Norwegian again – very soon!
My reviews are based on a format I created to assess experiences I have with a variety organisations. They are intended to act as a demonstration of how Customer Experiences affect the customer in a number of ways. The reviews are based on my opinion as a Customer Experience Specialist – an opinion that readers are perfectly welcome to disagree with!! I always welcome others perspectives and would love to know what you think of the companies I do review.
You can read all of my reviews here.