Norwegian is in an uphill battle, and they may have just accidentally pressed the wrong button on the treadmill, or taken a wrong turn, as the saying goes.
Major airlines are bullying Norwegian by matching their prices, but offering things like bonafide loyalty programs, meals and full sized carry ons. It’s a price war to the bottom, where legacy carriers benefit from deeper pockets and more lucrative benefits.
To counter, Norwegian has made the obscure decision to start charging for full sized carry on’s, much like Ryanair. That might work if there was a glaring price difference between traditional airlines and Norwegian, but when prices are the same and you offer even less than you currently do, it’s a head scratcher…
For the most part, the most alluring draw of Norwegian Airlines is their “low fares”, which is precisely what makes this move hard to understand. Anyone purchasing a Norwegian Air “Low Fare” from Jan 23 2020 onward will need to pay an additional $12 for a full sized carry on, or bag requiring overhead bin space. It’s $8 for short haul flights. Those prices are “each way”.
Norwegian made a video to spin their new policy, for your viewing pleasure…
Customers purchasing Norwegian “Low Fare +” tickets, the middle of the road option will still receive a carry on and personal item as before, in addition to a checked bag. These fares can be significantly more expensive, but can also bridge the gap for those who need a checked bag. Norwegian has an oddly low weight limit, where the personal item and full sized carry on cannot exceed a weight of 10kg in total.
To put that into perspective, even the lightest of full sized carry on’s weigh over 3kg, so you’re nearly at a third of your total allowed weight before you’ve placed a singular item into said bag, or added a small personal item bag as well. Shoes aren’t exactly light either.
When Norwegian first came out, the thought was “you can probably get rid of your full sized check bag if you learn to pack your carry on well”. Now, you can’t even have a full sized carry on without paying more, so it’s hard to understand how this might “help passengers be more comfortable”.
Basically, if you buy one of the headline grabbing low fares Norwegian offers, you’re no longer able to bring anything more than a backpack, without paying an additional $12 on a long haul flight each way. That policy has done alright for Ryanair on European flights, but the last airline to try this on long haul was WOW Air, who now are nothing more than a cafe in Washington DC, sans planes.
As travellers, we owe a debt of gratitude to Norwegian for transforming long haul travel into the price competitive market it now is, much like Ryanair and EasyJet did with short haul in Europe. Sadly, for Norwegian, gratitude does not pay the bills, and as customers feel additional service squeezes while major airlines continue to deliver record smashing low fares, the death rattle feels closer than ever…