If you’re an experienced traveller, you know how to understand the system and you work around its various flaws such as how to pick the best seat on a particular flight or how to choose a certain aircraft for the best flying experience. Little things make a difference on a long flight.
Problem is, if you’re not experienced, you can easily be caught out. Any frequent British Airways flyer would tell you they’d prefer to travel business class upstairs on a 747, then the more cramped 777. With the launch of the quieter Dreamliner, the 787, it’s made travelling an even more pleasant experience and there’s a reason why airlines such as Norwegian implemented the 787 across their portfolio. It enhances their reputation and their 787’s are decked in a style which you’ll see promoted on the Norwegian website. So we book our flight on the basis of what we see online.
Until you get to your flight and find it’s not a 787 at all. Due to recent Rolls-Royce engine issues with the entire 787 fleet, many have been withdrawn whilst each aircraft is tested (and fixes applied if necessary).
This has impacted all airlines that use the 787, but Norwegian has been hit hard. Over summer the airline had to lease planes from the relatively unknown Spanish Wamos Air, using it’s 19-year-old Airbus 330 to transport passengers from flights leaving London Gatwick to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Unfortunately at the end of August, Norwegian announced that the Wamos Air fleet would continue to replace most 787’s through September and October. But not every flight and this the important part. Only one of the two daily flights to New York are operated by Wamos Air and it’s 330. We suggest you look more carefully at the schedules, before booking, to make sure you select your aircraft carefully before paying for the flight.
What’s it like flying on a Wamos Air 330? The Points Guy flew recently and described it as an ancient smelly plane with a very slow service, awful food, limited IFE and amenities. There were some pluses. If you travel Norwegian Economy, the Wamos Air flight actually offers a little more legroom than the 787. If you look at Trip Advisor, there are various reviews of Wamos Air, mostly negative.
If you’re used to travelling Norwegian Premium, with lots of legroom, a modern seat and fantastic entertainment, you may find yourself relegated to economy on your Wamos Air flight, primarily as there are only 24 business class seats on a 330. Be warned. Even if you do get into the business class section, located upstairs, The Points Guy found that this area “reeked… the smell was truly terrible”.
This plane replacement strategy isn’t limited to Norwegian. Recently British Airways was forced to use a Belgium-based budget airline Air Belgium to fly passengers to Cairo. In another example, Titan Airways has had to step in and help BA fly passengers from Gatwick.
There’s some good news. This wet-lease airline experience can work in your favour, too. British Airways was recently forced to hire planes operated by Qatar Airways to fly passengers to Delhi, Muscat and Kuwait, over summer. If you were on a Qatar Airways flight, most passengers felt that the Airbus 330 was an upgrade, with a much-improved modern cabin, particularly in business class.
You can’t always be sure if your plane will be swapped when booking the flight, but it’s worth checking the type of plane scheduled for your route and do some research. If your airline does try and swap out your plane after booking, try and ask for some compensation. British Airways offered it’s customers Avios points and lounge upgrades when their flights were switched to Qatar Airways.