Norwegian Now Offers Lounge Access In Oakland

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As British Airways continues its path towards low-cost airline status it would appear that the low-cost carrier it’s most concerned about is rising to meet it part-way. When you think about the traits of a low-cost carrier you probably think about things like checked-bag fees, buy-on-board food and cramped seating but you almost certainly don’t think of lounge access. Norwegian is trying to change that.

Back in August Norwegian partnered with No. 1 Lounge in the UK to offer its premium class passengers free entry, its Norwegian Rewards members 15% off lounge entry and, for a limited amount of time, premium security access as well. Now the airline has done it again.

Norwegian is offering complimentary lounge entry to Oakland Airport’s new Escape Lounge for its Premium Cabin passengers while economy class passengers can purchase access for $40 in advance or $45 on the day.

The offer to Economy Class passengers isn’t exactly impressive because anyone can access the lounge if they’re prepared to pay…..but the fact that a low-cost carrier is offering complimentary lounge access to any of its customers is definitely news.

The Escape lounge at Oakland Airport will open on 15 November and is the only lounge in Terminal 1 (located after security between Gates 8 and 8A).

The lounge will be open from 5:00am to 11:00pm daily and, per Norwegian:

[W]ill offer Norwegian’s Premium passengers a relaxing atmosphere with stylish and contemporary furnishings and an extensive complimentary locally inspired food menu created in partnership with Oakland-based Chef Chris Pastena. Unlimited free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, free high-speed Wi-Fi and a selection of newspapers and magazines will also be available.

Not bad for an LCC!

This comes at a time when British Airways will be launching service between Oakland and London Gatwick (March 2017) and should give customers pause for thought.

While British Airways is very competitive on price right now (Premium Economy vs Norwegian Premium Class) we also know that BA is low balling at the moment to generate interest in its new route. What will happen when BA is forced to raise its prices to cover its overheads?

Norwegian is a true low-cost carrier – British Airways just aspires to be one – and the problem for BA is that it doesn’t have the low cost base to be able to compete long-term with Norwegian. British Airways will have to raise its prices from where they are right now and, at that point, I’m not sure that passengers will pay for its Premium Economy product.

If Norwegian’s premium cabin is cheaper than British Airways’ Premium Economy product (and I suspect it will be in the medium term) why would a non-status customer choose BA if Norwegian is also throwing in lounge entry?

Bottom Line

British Airways may think its taking the war to Norwegian by launching the Oakland – Gatwick route but Norwegian is so far ahead of the low-cost wannabe (better aircraft and better service for starters) that I expect BA to eventually withdraw with its tail between its legs.

I love that Norwegian exists – there’s something about them that reminds me of Freddie Laker – and what I like most is that it appears to be an airline that’s prepared to think outside the low-cost box that it was born into and offer passengers a genuine option to the mediocrity that epitomizes a lot of the “full service” carriers.

Sure, offering lounge entry may seem like a small thing, but the fact that we now have a transatlantic low-cost carrier that is prepared to take on the big-boys is fantastic news. Here’s hoping Norwegian stays the course.