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Norwegian Air 787 Economy Class Review

A proud symbol of the era of affordable air travel

The 787s that Norwegian Air uses for its longhaul operations are far from glamorous — expect slimline seats clad in grey “leather” for as far as the eye can see — but they are representative of an undeniably positive development in the commercial airline industry:  more people can afford to travel.  Norwegian occupies an interesting position in the market; it was one of the first carriers to take the low-cost/LCC model and successfully apply it to intercontinental travel.  Its fares are so consistently low (it’s not unusual to see oneway transatlantic tickets go for around $100), but correspondingly, it’s natural to wonder if there’s any sort of catch involved.  Is flying Norwegian an absurdly miserable experience — in the same way that Spirit can sometimes be — or is it a viable option for higher flyers?

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How to: Navigate Norwegian Air’s fees to get exactly what you want

Norwegian Air’s strong reputation is due in part to the relatively comfortable accommodations it features on its sleek new planes, but its affordable airfares are equally as important in bolstering the airline’s status.  There are some downright incredible deals to be had!  That said, Norwegian shares a business model with an infamous counterpart in the United States:  Spirit.  The former has been praised as an innovative disruptor in the long haul transit market, whereas the latter is reviled for its many layers of (perceived) awfulness… even though they both run pretty similar operations.  Don’t be deceived by Norwegian’s cheery Scandinavian/Ikea-esque branding; crafty bargain hunters must pay careful attention when they’re booking flights.  Otherwise they risk getting trapped in a fee-laden hell all in the name of getting a “cheap” fare… and that’s definitely not higher flyer!

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Not-so-Norwegian Air

The introduction of new, remarkably fuel efficient planes like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 have led to two significant developments in the commercial airline industry:  the emergence of really, really long routes (think Singapore to “New York” nonstop) and the application of the low-cost-carrier business model to longhaul flying.  The former is useful and convenient for premium passengers especially, but the latter is special because it affords more people more opportunities to travel.  Norwegian Airlines is one of the most prominent operations to do this; it’s taken advantage of relatively lax EU laws and has set up shop all over Europe to offer cheap flights to the Americas and Asia.  Is it glamorous?  Far from it.  For the price though, Norwegian is comfortable enough and can certainly be considered “higher flyer” for its excellent value proposition.

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British Airways Club World Business Class Review

Business class closer to greatness, yet still far away

Despite being reviled by customers and critics alike, British Airways’s business class — referred to as ‘Club World’ — is undeniably important in the realm of higher flying.  It was the first true lie-flat product to enter the (uber-competitive transatlantic) market, and it single-handedly elevated the standard of what international business class should offer to premium travelers.  In the few short years after that introduction though, BA’s competitors both caught up and surpassed the original in terms of quality and value offered; Club World’s revolutionary reputation has long since faded and replaced by something far less flattering.  Perhaps no longer contempt to be the butt of jokes, British Airways announced new, much-needed investments into the passenger experiences in April 2017 and then again in March 2019.  While tangible improvements have been rolling out across all classes of service, Club World is noticeably better and now has most all of the makings of a competitive offering.  In practice is it actually competitive though?

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Another Weekend to Europe

After the fun and success of the first Weekend to Europe, I was excited to plan a sequel to help ring in 2019.  Madrid had long been on my radar, and at the beginning of winter, the perfect opportunity to visit presented itself.  This was made possible in part thanks to Iberia’s remarkable promotion in the summer of 2018, during which the airline awarded up to 9,000 Avios to each customer who made a single booking.  But that’s not all!  Buy two flights, and you’ll get another 9,000, and adding a third earned another 9,000… and so on all the way up to 90,000 Avios!  It didn’t matter if you actually took the flights you paid for, you just had to make the booking to receive the credit!  This deal came with a caveat though:  all award bookings had to be made before December 1, 2018, otherwise the points would disappear forever.  What better use for them than crossing the pond for a quick weekend trip?

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Iberia Premium Economy Review

A good value that balances comfort and affordability effectively

Is premium economy really just lipstick on a pig?  For one thing, it definitely isn’t the same as standard economy class with an extra three extra inches of legroom.  With cabins akin to North American regional first class and food served with proper chinaware, premium economy is trending within the industry and for good reasons.  As more and more airlines unveil their own versions of it, it’s abundantly clear that there’s a market for higher flyers who want something better than cramped, poorly-padded chairs but also don’t want to pay fortunes for business class.  Iberia’s Turista Premium, as it’s called, does a good job catering to these travelers; it’s an obvious step above steerage and usually doesn’t carry significantly higher price tags.  The product isn’t perfect, but if you’re trying to fly to Europe in comfort while maintaining a budget, you should look to Iberia for a smart solution.

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AAround the (one)world

It’s cliché to call the start of a new year bittersweet, but this typically trite sentiment should ring true for many higher flyers.  There’s nothing quite like the sting of seeing all zeroes when you check your airline and hotel accounts after New Year’s Day… but that doesn’t have to be all bad!  If you’ve been on a single loyalty hamster wheel treadmill for too long, there’s no better time than in January to start anew somewhere else.  The potential of elite status on American Airlines — in spite of all of the devaluing cuts to it — had long intrigued me.  When a series of attractive oneworld fares materialized later in the winter, I had to take, ahem, AAdvantage!

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Spirit Airlines Review

A rewardingly cheap experience for the brave

Ah, Spirit. The airline that travelers love to hate, yet somehow keeps convincing those who say “I’ll NEVER fly Spirit again” to give the ultra low cost carrier another go. There are a number of good reasons why Spirit has become as notorious as it has, but perhaps none are as infamous as its fee-driven business model. After flying on it a few times though, I’m convinced that Spirit is a viable option for higher flyers, albeit with a few conditions. You can’t go in expecting Emirates — this passenger experience will be much more akin to riding a public bus (that flies!) — but you can definitely count on a safe, affordable, and effective mean to your end. For those reasons alone, it’s worth your while to at least consider Spirit for accomplishing your travel goal(s).

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How To: Not get screwed by Spirit

Spirit offers a far from glamorous flying experience, but its no-frills service approach isn’t exactly the reason why the airline so reviled. Its flight crews and staff are helpful and competent and pretty kind, while the carrier’s operational reliability is just about in line with everyone else in the industry. Its fleet is even the youngest in North America! Spirit is fine — definitely no more awful than its legacy competitors like American, Delta, and United — and its fares are markedly cheaper. “How does the airline make money?” you might wonder. Easy: its notorious fees make profit margins skyrocket. You definitely wouldn’t be the first to scream “Spirit sucks!” as your expenses balloon and frustrations mount… but you don’t have to suffer this fate.

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