AMSTERDAM – I got invited by The Points Guy to attend their award party in New York City on December 4th. My tickets were booked at Norwegian Airlines, the cheapest flight option for direct flights from Amsterdam to New York JFK at this moment. However, a few days before departure, Norwegian chartered a Hi-Fly Airbus A340-300 due to operational reasons to operate this route. I wasn’t excited about this at all.
Both of my flights would be operated by Norwegian Airlines with one of their brand-new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. I would be sitting in Economy Class. As I had never flown on a long-haul flight by a low-cost carrier before, I was very keen and at the same time I had my doubts. A question I was asking myself all the time: “How is an airline able to offer quality and comfort for such a ‘low’ price?”
Days before, I found out that they changed aircraft. Now, I would be flying a Hi-Fly A340. First, I was seated on 10A in the 787, and now all of a sudden on 20G, aisle in the A340. Both changes were not mentioned by Norwegian at all, so I went online to have a Live Chat with their customer support. Fortunately, they were able to swap my seat from 20G to 29K, a window seat.
Exactly three hours before flight I arrived at Schiphol airport for check-in. Online check-in for flights to the USA is not available (for flights departing from Amsterdam), something I didn’t know before as this was my first time flying to America! After being in the queue for a short time and having a conversation with the check-in ladies, it was already time to go to security.
As an Economy Class passenger, you often get to deal with long queues at Schiphol airport nowadays, especially during peak hours. Schiphol informed us that the queue would take approximately 15 minutes to pass. Eventually, it took me 45 minutes to pass security and passport control! Not very pleasant, as it is quite warm in this area when packed with many passengers.
With a bit less than two hours left before departure, I had some spare time to explore what Schiphol offers to eat, to drink and to buy at the Duty-Free shopping area. I bought four bottles of water to stay hydrated and some sandwiches.
Then I went to watch some planes at nearby gates. My flight would be departing from gate G6.
An hour and fifteen minutes prior departure I arrived at our gate, almost exactly at the same time of arrival of the Hi-Fly A340, which arrived 30 minutes later than scheduled from New York JFK.
Boarding would start at 14:25, however due to a later arrival of the aircraft and some off-loading problems, boarding started at 14:50. As usual, priority passengers board first and then all the remaining passengers.
During boarding, I asked for the purser, something I always do to introduce myself and to ask what they allow me to do during flight. Our purser was a beautiful lady from Portugal (most of Hi-Fly crew is from Portugal as the airline is based in Lisbon) and she was very keen to help me with my wishes. I told her about @instagramaviation, but she didn’t know about this page unfortunately… One minus point for her so far? 😉
We departed 45 minutes later than scheduled, at 16:00 local time. The Captain announced that the flight would take exactly 8 hours, which meant that our new arrival time in New York would be 18:00 local time. After a taxi run of about 15 minutes, we were ready for take-off! With some light rain into our ‘face’ we took the skies, just in time to explore sunset.
As stupid as I am sometimes, I left my DSLR camera in my luggage, so I only had my one-day old iPhone X to take pictures with. I was astonished by the images this phone was able to make. Unfortunately the angle is not as wide as some DSLR cameras and/or lenses offer, though the pictures are quality-wise almost comparable to most DSLR cameras!
After sunset, I finally got time for a walk through the aircraft to explore the cabin.
This 18-year-old A340 was previously flying for AOM France, Air Lib and Sri Lankan Airlines with some leasing periods for Corsair. Since it’s last flight for Sri Lankan back in the beginning of 2016, the cabin had never been changed, which meant that I was actually flying a Sri Lankan Airlines plane. My first thoughts were bad, I expected an old and worn-off cabin. On the contrary, it wasn’t too bad. Hi-Fly’s ‘maintenance’ gave it a clean feeling.
In Economy Class there are 271 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, however the last five rows are in a 2-3-2 configuration. All seats offer a seat pitch of 34 inch. and in-flight entertainment. The seats were quite comfortable and not too narrow (I am 1.93m/6’3 tall). Also thicker than most seats nowadays as some airlines try to reduce costs by making seats slimmer. The in-flight entrainment though, was really bad. Although I liked the screen’s quality, there were only 10 movie options and nothing else. On a 9-hour flight, you would get bored easily and so did I.
In Business Class there are 24 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. As I was not sitting in Business and didn’t have permission to make a lot of pictures due to the privacy of passengers, I could only explore it from behind. For me it looked a bit outdated, but on the other hand this Business Class had something special. It reminded me of calm evenings in the desert, because of the sandy colors. Maybe it really had been the goal of the designers? All Business Class seats offer a seat pitch of 79 Inches, In-flight entertainment, lie-flat possibilities and extra storage spaces. Passengers onboard this flight were fortunate enough to experience a ‘real’ Business Class, as Norwegian only offers Premium Class.
Back at my seat, I received my warm meal (Lunch? Diner?) which was ordered online. Menu options to choose from were a beef menu or a chicken menu. I chose the latter, as I do not eat meat anymore since some time. Being not a big fan of airplane food and therefore being an organic eater, I didn’t expect much. However, it turned out to be a good meal! The Chicken didn’t taste as a cheap chicken, the broccoli and rice were very tasty (especially with the chicken sauce!) and the salad was fine. Besides this, I got a small ginger cake for desert, which tasted as apple pie but I liked it.
After my meal I was ready to watch a movie. One movie out of the 10. I discovered that I didn’t bring my aux cable with me to connect with the inflight entertainment for sound… Then I discovered that they did not have an aux cable nor plugs for sound for me. Summed up this meant that I couldn’t watch movies for the entire flight. I was disappointed, so I started watching photos and videos I made from the flight, and exported some to my Macbook to edit.
A lot of seats were empty on this flight, especially in the rear cabin. I went to the last row and took a window seat to relax. The seat next to me was empty so I could hang out and chill like I was at home. From here on I started to get quite bored, as I could literally do nothing, even not playing games because I didn’t install any on my phone, stupid me…
Six hours into flight, of which three at my window seat in the rear economy class cabin, I enjoyed my relaxation time: looking out of the window (something I always love to do during flight), listening to good techno music, thinking about life and my upcoming time in New York. This flight seemed to be so peaceful and relaxed. No hard-talking passengers, no crying babies, none to little turbulence and smiling crew members. I think everyone was just enjoying their silent times over the Atlantic Ocean with no Wifi and little in-flight entertainment choices.
During descent I went back to my seat to prepare for landing. We received a small snack, which I would call breakfast in Holland. It was bread with some chicken filet and orange juice with a Dutch ‘stroopwafel’. All tasted fine!
We started to approach New York and it looked so beautiful! My first time to America started with a banger. However, the pilot announced that we would circle above New York for a while as we awaited permission to land. Rush hour in New York at that time!
Fifteen minutes passed, 30 minutes passed, 45… And still we were not on final approach to JFK. Everyone started to be a bit inpatient. After an hour of circling, with a fantastic view though, we finally touched down at New York JFK airport.
While everyone was de-boarding the aircraft, I was waiting in my seat for the last passenger to leave the aircraft. It was time to take a crew photo! I think all crew was there to take a picture, and even the captain joined. He was from Belgium and was able to speak Dutch, so we spoke a bit before it was time for me to leave the aircraft already.
Like a lot of people say: “Don’t judge a book my it’s cover.” So should I do. I expected an outdated aircraft with bad food and little service as this would be considered a low-cost flight. On the contrary, this had been a normal and especially very relaxed flight. Some great plus points, some minuses as well. Though, I don’t think Hi-Fly is going to change my found minus points, as they do so to have costs as low as possible (by leaving the old interiors etcetera). Price-quality wise, I would definitely consider flying this airline again. However, I recommend you to take your own movies and games with you. Or better a book? And by the way, don’t worry about your own smiles as the crew will definitely give you one, even if you’re having a hard time.
*All photos are made with my iPhone X. Tried to keep the edits as natural as possible however edits may vary.