British Airways vs Norwegian Long Haul Economy – Is There A Difference Anymore?

If we had to pick one airline to be frustrated right now, we would say its most definitely British Airways.

They are currently going through these issues:

British Airways and their parent organization have been trying to buy rival Norwegian for some time, even going as far as giving them until next year to accept their latest buy out offer.

In the meantime, they have created a Norwegian competitor in the form of LEVEL. But with only a few older ex-Iberia A330’s in service, LEVEL is hardly a match for the Scandinavian giant.

So how does British Airways Economy compare to Norwegian Air Shuttle? As BA tries to compete, is there any difference anymore or is it all based on price?

What routes will we compare?

Like our previous comparisons (You can read about Delta Economy vs United Economy here) we will be trying to match two routes as closely as possible. Fortunately, Norwegian and British Airways go head to head on many routes.

Additionally, we will be focusing specifically on the trans-Atlantic trade, rather than Norwegian domestic routes and British Isle domestic routes respectively.

We will be comparing first the service design of each airline. This includes everything from aircraft selection to pricing, seating and comfort, service, food and drinks, and entertainment.

The Comparison

The route to choose is rather obvious, London to New York. Gatwick to JFK. Both airlines operate this route, sometimes within minutes of each other.

Price

Price is highly subjective depending on ‘when’ you want to fly. For example, on Feb one way between these two destinations was $193 USD on Norwegian, and… $2,008 on British Airways ($1,800 return, always worth looking!). Obviously, that is not a comparison and Norwegian would win no matter the difference. After all, if you don’t care about the price you would be flying in a more expensive class anyway.

However, if we look at a round trip in July (peak season), 15th – 22nd, we get a very different story.

British Airways economy ticket is cheaper than Norwegian, but not by much. On some other days, it is reversed.

Norwegian prices
Norwegian flights are all cheaper during March. Undercutting British Airways significantly.

This leaves us wondering that if the price is matched, what about the experience?

The Planes

The planes that the two airlines use for those dates are as follows:

Norwegian – DI 7013 – Boeing 787
IAG norwegian takeover
Norwegian 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Norwegian
Norwegian seat Plan:
Seat plan
Norwegian Seat Plan

British Airways – BA 2273 – Boeing 777

British Airways
British Airways 777-200

British Airways seat plan:

British Airways
Seat plan of a British Airways 777-200 that operates the route, before the economy section was increased to 10 seats per row.

Below is an updated seat plan.

British Airways economy
Just the economy section in the new configuration.

Some might argue that the Norwegian craft is better because of the technology in the 787. But the BA 777 has been freshly renovated with all the quality life perks we have come to accept.  Does this lead to a better customer experience? Read on to find out.

Seating

The seating for each of the two planes is as follows:

AirlinePitchWidthOnboard Capacity
British Airways3118.1252 standard seats 
Norwegian31-3217.2309 standard seats 

It seems that British Airways just beats out Norwegian in terms of Width and Norwegian beats BA with their Pitch. But is this argument valid when are talking about less than an inch?

Norwegian economy
The economy section of Norwegian.

That being said, on BA there 10 seats across compared to the Norwegian 9 seats. Whether or not this is super cramped it up to you, but certainly would feel much more congested than the 787.

BA
British Airways World Traveller on the 777

Overall, which seat is more comfortable? That’s up to personal preference. Draw

Baggage and Seat Selection

Both airlines offer fares that do not include baggage or seat selection (Basic Economy for BA and Economy for Norwegian).

We have calculated the total and:

  • For British Airways, it is an extra $100 to add checked bags and also choose your seat BOTH ways.
  • For Norwegian, it is an extra $180 to add checked bags and choose your seat BOTH ways.
British Airways baggage
The fare difference with British Airways. Last to board is particularly rough.

Overall I’m disappointed that a flag carrier charges for checked bags, but I suppose this is what you have to do to compete with Norwegian. Winner: British Airways

Food and Drink

Now, this is where it starts to get a bit more interesting. Norwegian is a low-cost carrier and British Airways is a full-service airline. What this means is:

On Norwegian, you must buy your food separately in the economy section. Everything is for sale and you can go a whole flight without any food or drink (Although we believe, unlike Ryanair’s crazy policies about water, you can get free water). The cost of a meal is 35 EUR (40 USD) and must be ordered BEFORE the flight.

Norwegian
Norwegian Meal on board.

On the other hand, British Airways offers two meals on the 8-hour flight, Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner depending on when you fly. Afree hot meal in the sky when your tired is such a fantastic perk that this is an easy win for British Airways.

British Airways.
British Airways food selection.

However, it is also worth mentioning that British Airways allows economy passengers to ‘upgrade’ their meal for the same price as Norwegian… so whether or not this basic meal is any good remains to be seen.

British Airways also brought back free snacks throughout the flight as part of their menu overhaul earlier this year. Winner: British Airways. 

British Airways
British Airways brought back snacks on board.

Entertainment and Wi-Fi

Again, with entertainment and wi-fi, these two airlines differ:

  • Onboard British Airways World Traveller (Economy) all passengers have seatback entertainment screens. On these screens is complementary entertainment, movies, TV shows and more. Passengers are provided with headphones. Only half of the 777 fleet has wifi so far and it can be bought for five British pounds.
  • Norwegian likewise has seatback entertainment on their planes, but if you forget headphones you will have to buy a pair from Norwegian.

Winner: British Airways

Should I fly with Norwegian or British Airways?

As usual, Economy tickets come down to price. But if both the prices are the same, British Airways simply has Norwegian beat. In this opinion, the fact that you get free food, free entertainment and more, whilst you pay through the nose on Norwegian makes it an easy argument…

But are these differences superficial? Is the BA free meal low quality (That they want you to upgrade before the flight?) and that you are crammed in with another 9 passengers on your row alone on a smaller, older, plane deal breakers?

Essentially what British Airways is building itself at Gatwick is a long-haul fleet to rival low-cost carriers, charter flights and tour operators – it can call itself a “premium airline” as much as it wants to but the reality is rather different. – Travelling For Miles

I can conclude that if British Airways is more expensive than Norwegian (like we have seen out of season), then go cheap, download some movies and enjoy the red nose express.

What do you think? Is Norwegian Economy better than British Airways Economy?

7 comments
  1. Are you sure about Norwegian charging 5 euros for movies? I’ve flown long haul 4 times and the seat back entertainment was always free.

  2. You missed the comparison of the improved 787 cabin pressure and humidity which results in a much more comfortable flight than the 777, or most of BA planes, and also the reduced carbon footprint impact. These factors alone means Norwegian wins if the individual wants to feel better of themselves, and for the environment.

  3. Thank you for your helpful advice; I had to decide between a Norwegian and British Airways flight at the same time and same price and this made up my mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recommended: