Norwegian Begins Charging For Carry-On Baggage


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It’s no secret that Norwegian’s finances have been strained to near breaking point in the past few years so the airline’s latest move to introduce new fees for carry-on baggage probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nevertheless, they’re disappointing.

Norwegian’s New Luggage Policies

Carry-On Baggage Changes

For “low-fare” bookings made on or after 23 January 2020 Norwegian will now charge an additional fee for carry-on baggage that does not fit in the space under the seat ahead.

As part of the change in policy, Norwegian has also increased the size allowance of the under-seat bag but as the space under the seat itself hasn’t changed this isn’t likely to help all that many people.

Under the newly implemented rule, the under-seat bag can weigh up to 10kg (~22lbs) and the cost of bringing a regular carry-on bag onboard will range from $8 for short-haul flights to $12 for long-haul flights.

In a further change, Norwegian has increased the total hand-baggage weight allowance for Flex and Premium fares from 10kg (~22lbs) to 15kg (~33lbs)

Checked Baggage Change

In an attempt to appear as if it’s giving something back to passengers, Norwegian has increased the weight allowance for checked bags from 20kg (~44lbs) to 23kg (~50lbs) which finally brings the airline’s policy in line with the weight allowance of most other carriers.

Norwegian’s Recaro seats don’t exactly offer much under-seat storage

Baggage Allowances By Fare Type

Following these policy changes, these are the new rules by fare type:

LowFare:

Passengers booking LowFare tickets can now only bring one under-seat bag weighing a maximum of 10kg (~22lbs) onboard.

An overhead cabin bag can be purchased up to four hours prior to departure for between $8 and $12 depending on the route being flown.

LowFare passengers continue not to have a checked baggage allowance.

LowFare+:

Passengers booking a LowFare+ ticket get one overhead cabin bag included in the price of their fare alongside the under-seat bag that LowFare customers are allowed.

The maximum permissible combined weight of the two bags is 10kg (~22lbs) so although LowFare+ passengers get a two-item carry-on allowance they don’t get a greater carry-on weight allowance than LowFare paying passengers.

LowFare+ customers can also bring one checked bag with a maximum weight of 23kg (~50lbs).

Flex/Premium/PremiumFlex:

Passengers purchasing Flex, Premium, or PremiumFlex fares can bring an under-seat bag and a regular carry-on bag on board but the combined weight of the two bags must not exceed 15kg (~33lbs).

In addition, Flex, Premium or PremiumFlex customers can also check 2 bags with a maximum weight of 23kg (~50lbs) each.

Quick Thoughts

It’s amusing to see Norwegian attempting to spin this policy change as something that’s being introduced “[t]o ensure that everyone travelling with Norwegian Air has a smooth, comfortable flight that departs on time” and that it’s based on “giving [our] customers freedom of choice“.

Utter nonsense.

This is nothing more than an effective fare increase for most LowFare-paying passengers and I’d have a little bit more respect for Norwegian if it just admitted this.

There are two key facts to bear in mind:

  1. An overwhelming majority of Norwegian’s LowFare customers travel with a carry-on that doesn’t fit in the under-seat space.
  2. The under-seat space in Norwegian’s 737 and 787 aircraft isn’t very big so the chances of LowFare passengers being able to rethink their packing and being able to travel with a smaller bag (that fits under the seats) is slim.

As a result of this change most Norwegian LowFare passengers will now find themselves having to pay an additional fee if they want to travel with the baggage that, up until now, they have been accustomed to having included in their fare.

Bottom Line

I’ve always said that it’s very important for passengers to work out the true cost of a “low-cost” fare before comparing it with the fares offered by the legacy airlines because, often, the low-cost fare isn’t actually really low-cost.

This policy change by Norwegian just hammers home that point.

Legacy carriers like American, United, Delta, etc… also offer ‘hand-baggage only” fares similar to Norwegian’s “LowFare” but on most of the routes on which these airlines compete with Norwegian (i.e. long-haul routes), these airlines offer customers two carry-on bags included within the price of their fare.

Going forward, most flyers will have to be careful to include Norwegian’s new carry-on fees in their calculations when comparing fares across the airlines and, for passengers that have elite status with another airline (even bottom-tier elite status), Norwegian may now be a more expensive option.