If you booked a flight on Norwegian this summer, prepare for a potential surprise. While Norwegian’s state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliners feature the latest technology in entertainment, Wi-Fi, and cabin pressure, you might end up with a plane that looks more like the image at right.
Norwegian passengers who get moved onto an inferior plane should receive a text or email, saying the flight will be operated by Hi Fly, a Portuguese charter company. Your flight may also be operated by Wamos Air (Spain), EuroAtlantic Airways (Portugal), or Privilege Style (Spain). More on that below.
Most of Norwegian’s scheduled outsourced flying this summer is related to ongoing Boeing 787 engine issues. Dreamliners with Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines have been pulled after recalls stemming from potentially lethal cracks in fan blades. Grounding planes adds to Norwegian’s stretched-to-the-max fleet, so the airline is chartering planes instead of dropping routes.
Is My Flight Affected?
If you have a flight booked on the routes listed below, you might be flying one of four different airlines. Norwegian is also known to swap aircraft just hours before departure––or hours after, if you are unlucky. The best way to check is by monitoring your booking online and checking your route on flightaware.com by entering origin and destination. Here’s an example using Paris CDG to New York JFK:
You can also check when booking flights on Norwegian. Note the outbound segment says “Operated by Hi Fly” – not Operated by Norwegian Air International or Norwegian Air UK.
The following routes are scheduled to be operated by one of four airlines:
Planned Norwegian Outsourced Flying:
Select frequencies operated by Wamos Air 747-400:
- London Gatwick – New York JFK from June 8 – July 23
Select frequencies operated by Hi Fly A340-500
- Barcelona – Newark operated by HiFly June 5 – July 26
- Barcelona – Oakland operated by HiFly June 1 – July 27
Select frequencies operated by Hi Fly A340-300
- Paris CDG – Los Angeles operated by HiFly May 19 – July 26
- Paris CDG – New York JFK operated by HiFly May 18 – July 25
Select frequencies operated by EuroAtlantic 777 or Privilege Style 777
- Paris Orly – Newark April 16 – Sep 14 (EuroAtlantic)
- Rome – Newark May 22 – Sep 14 (Privilege Style)
What’s The Experience Like?
While the planes are perfectly safe, the older cabin will look quite different from the swanky interiors onboard Norwegian’s Dreamliners. Don’t expect IFE, Wi-Fi, mood lighting, or friendly Norwegian crews. Depending on the aircraft, the one advantage might be the seats. Airbus A340’s are configured in 2-4-2, versus 3-3-3 on the Dreamliner. The seats are a bit wider, and the paired seats are ideal for couples or traveling companions.
What About Premium Class?
Norwegian’s Premium class is arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. Seats feature increased legroom, greater recline, and a footrest. The paired seats look like domestic first class seats with legrests:
Hi Fly has a diverse fleet, with planes previously operated by Emirates, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and more. Depending on the aircraft, Premium tickets on Norwegian may be rebooked into business. Planes configured with business class feature previous-generation seats, but an angled lie-flat seat might be an upgrade depending on your priorities.
Yes, the “Empty Leg Group” Airline is Perfectly Safe
With amateurish graphics and odd names, these charter companies might seem like fly-by-night operations, but the carriers operating for Norwegian are all European-based with FAA and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) certifications. The interiors might be old, but the plane is absolutely safe. There are four primary airlines offering scheduled charter services (an ACMI wet-lease: aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance) for airlines like Norwegian:
- EuroAtlantic Airways
- Hi Fly
- Privilege Style
- Wamos Air
The first Spanish private charter hire airline, owned by The Empty Leg Group...with experience in renting private jets, executive charters, [and] luxury private jets.
The “Empty Leg Group” might sound like a bad translation error, but it’s likely related to industry terminology: in commercial aviation, “empty leg” refers to the positioning flight from the operator’s base. For example, Hi Fly’s aircraft flying from Barcelona to Oakland might depart from Hi Fly’s base in Beja (BYJ). The Beja – Barcelona flight would be considered an “empty leg” since only crew are onboard.
Not Just Norwegian
Air New Zealand, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic are also grounding Boeing 787 aircraft affected by engine issues. Air New Zealand is leasing a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200 to operate its Auckland – Honolulu route and Qatar Airways will operate British Airways routes (on its A330 aircraft) from London Heathrow to Delhi, Kuwait City, and Muscat through the summer. LATAM Airlines Chile and TAP Portugal are also leasing aircraft:
LATAM Airlines Chile
Select frequencies operated by Wamos Air 747-400
- Santiago de Chile – Easter Island through July 5
- Santiago de Chile – Los Angeles through July 4
TAP Air Portugal
Select frequencies operated by Hi Fly A340-300
- Lisbon – Luanda June 5 – Sep 26
- Lisbon – Maputo May 9 – Sep 18
- Lisbon – Natal June 2 – Oct 25
- Lisbon – Recife May 8 – Oct 26
If your flight is booked on one the major airlines or an airline part of an alliance, it’s highly unlikely you will fly a chartered plane. If a KLM flight is canceled, for example, the airline can easily reaccommodate you on Delta, Air France, or any number of its partners. Without partners or other aircraft, Norwegian’s only other option would be canceling flights or dropping routes.
An AvGeek’s Dream?
Hi Fly has one of the most diverse fleets of any ad-hoc charter or “wet leasing” airlines. The Portuguese carrier operates the rare A340-500, acquired from defunct Arik Air and originally delivered to Kingfisher Airlines with a swanky interior:
The A340-500 also features one of the most unique business class seats, seen above. Do not expect this experience on your Norwegian operated by Hi Fly flight. Planned flying for Norwegian features a much older cabin on the A340-300 aircraft…but even Hi Fly is known to swap aircraft at the last minute.