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The introduction of efficient aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has helped to re-open routes that airlines discarded as being uneconomical in the not so distant past and that’s why we’ve been seeing American flying to New Zealand, British Airways flying to San Jose and United Airlines flying all the way to Singapore.
But, as well as giving legacy airlines the chance to revisit routes once considered pointless, the new more efficient aircraft have given birth to low-cost carriers that looking to challenge the legacies on their own turf.
Norwegian is the airline that is probably doing the most to shake up the status quo in the industry and it’s doing so, at least partly, thanks to the significant efficiency improvements that come with its fleet of Boeing Dreamliners.
Norwegian has already helped change the way we look at transatlantic travel by offering a low-cost option between Europe and the US, it has announced it’s intention to take on British Airways (again) with non-stop flights between London and Buenos Aires and yesterday it inaugurated the longest low-cost route in the world: London – Singapore.
Norwegian’s Singapore Schedule
Norwegian operates a 4x/weeks service between London Gatwick and Singapore on the following schedule:
DI7407 LGW 10:30 – 06:15+1 day SIN (Mon & Thu)
DI7409 LGW 22:30 – 18:15+1 day SIN (Tue & Sat)
DI7408 SIN 08:50 – 15:30 LGW (Tue)
DI7410 SIN 23:40 – 06:20+1 day LGW (Wed & Sun)
DI7408 SIN 08:15 – 14:55 LGW (Fri)
At a distance of over 6,700 miles this will only be the longest low-cost route until Norwegian starts flying to Buenos Aires…but it’s not the distance that’s interesting here, it’s the price.
Norwegian is advertising its new route to Singapore as having prices starting at £149.90 (~$200) one way and, while close-in a lot of the lower fares I’ve seen are more likely to be in the £180 – £200 region, the claimed low fare is definitely available:
I haven’t spotted any of the £149.90 fares for the return journey back from Singapore but the £179.90 and £199.90 fares appear plentiful.
What all this means is that you can now fly between London and Singapore for between ~£330 and £350 roundtrip without too much trouble (as long as you stay clear of school holidays).
On a route as long as this some passengers will probably want a bit more comfort and that’s where Norwegian’s Premium Cabin comes into play.
Prices for the Premium Cabin appear to start at around £1,340 roundtrip but, because the low-fare finder on Norwegian doesn’t work for premium fares, I can’t be sure there aren’t a few lower fares out there.
How Do The Economy Class Fares Compare?
I picked 5 random Economy Class non-stop roundtrips between London (all airports) and Singapore and this is how the results came out:
Trip 1 – November
Trip 2 – January
Trip 3 – April
Trip 4 – May
Trip 5 – July
On every occasion Norwegian came out cheaper and, if you’re traveling as a family, the combined savings could be substantial.
But the comparison doesn’t end there.
The airlines whose prices I’m comparing to Norwegian’s will all offer you food, drinks and a checked baggage allowance included in their fares while Norwegian will not.
If you can get away with hand baggage and you’re happy to bring your own food and drink on board then this isn’t an issue…but I’m guessing that most families won’t fall into that category.
You can upgrade your fare for £50 each way and that will get you a lot more benefits….
…but if you add £100 to Norwegian’s fares then there will be occasions when they’re not all that dissimilar to what the full-service airlines are offering.
You could always just choose to buy a checked baggage allowance at a cost of £25 each way (for one bag) and that will still keep the Norwegian fare low enough to be very tempting…but there’s one other thing you need to consider – comfort.
There isn’t much difference between the seat dimensions that you’ll find on the BA A380/777 aircraft that fly from London to Singapore and the Norwegian Dreamliner…but with Singapore Airlines it’s a different story.
The Singapore Airlines Economy Class cabin in its A380 and 777 aircraft offers at least 1″ of more legroom and a massive 1.5″ – 2″ more seat width than BA or Norwegian…and on a flight of this length that can make an incredible difference.
If you’re going to pay extra for food and a baggage allowance on Norwegian you’ll find that, on occasions, the Singapore Airlines fare isn’t all that more expensive and that’s when the Norwegian fare stops looking so good – I’d definitely pay the extra to have a bit more comfort on a 12+ hour flight.
It’s fantastic that we now have a low-cost option between Singapore and London but it’s important that passengers are aware exactly what it is that they’re purchasing.
If you’re happy to travel with hand baggage and can provide for yourself onboard then Norwegian is probably the way to go….but that won’t apply to everybody.
Before booking you should be sure of what it is you’ll end up paying for (will you be buying food onboard if you don’t pay up front?) and making sure that you include all costs in your calculations…as well as considering what comfort levels you’re paying for.
A little bit of extra legroom and seat width go a very long way to making a long-haul flight more comfortable (believe me, I’ve flown enough long-haul flights at the back of the plane to know) so don’t put yourself in a tight seat just to save a few pennies….make sure the savings are worth the lack of comfort.