Flying Norwegian This Summer? Beware of Surprising Aircraft Swaps

by Sam Roecker

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.

 

Hi Fly Airbus A340-300. Image by Hi Fly.

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:

Note the Hi Fly A340-300 (A343)

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 

  • BarcelonaNewark 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?

Hi Fly A340-300 Interior. Image by Hi Fly.

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:

Norwegian Premium – Photo Credit: One Mile at a Time

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:

  1. EuroAtlantic Airways
  2. Hi Fly
  3. Privilege Style
  4. Wamos Air

Privilege Style describes itself as

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:

 

Ex-Kingfisher Airlines A340-500

The Rarest Business Class Seat?

 

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.

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11 comments
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11 comments

Mike June 16, 2018 - 9:00 am

Our BCN-EWR flight is scheduled to fly the CS-TFX A340-500 which is the “rare” plane you mentioned. We’re flying premium so I’m hoping that indeed this would be the case. I will take pictures. Looking at other websites, it seems Norwegian has been and will be using his plane until end of July on BCN-OAK and BCN-EWR.

Reply
Sam Roecker June 16, 2018 - 9:47 am

That’s awesome, Mike! Take a look at this on-time performance though…! Keep us posted and definitely take pics.

Reply
JL Kilgore June 20, 2018 - 1:09 am

The day before this was published, Norwegian & Hi Fly had what is hopefully the ultimate “teething problem” incident.

For Flight DY7075 on 6.June 2018, we were told at Barcelona airport about noon that the plane being operated by HiFly would not be ready until approx 20:00 (scheduled 14:55 departure). After a 5+ hour delay, the flight left BCN bound for Oakland, CA. We were in the air for ~ 1-1/2 hours when the announcement was made that our arrival in Oakland would be too late for U.S. immigration to process us after landing (expected about midnight CA time), so we were returning to Barcelona. Some fraction of the passengers had actually gotten texts within ten minutes of takeoff saying the flight was canceled, but clearly this did not get communicated to the flight crew in time. The plane dumped fuel over the Atlantic to reduce weight for landing and returned to Barcelona.

Landing and collecting checked baggage got us into long lines for hotel vouchers after midnight Barcelona time. No more than one person from the airline was available to tell everyone from the plane where to go (next building over from baggage claim.) About four or five Norwegian customer service staff somehow managed to get hotel rooms for about 200 passengers, but we arrived at ours well after 3 AM. As we waited in line, copies of a sheet were distributed giving reimbursement policy and listing the usual minimally-responsive Norwegian phone support services*. The option of booking our own alternative flights was also offered, with the understanding that there was a maximum ϵ600 for the fare. (Hopefully the other costs, hotel for the extra day required by our connection in London, taxi, etc. – are not counted toward this.) By around 6 AM I managed to get the alternative flights booked and paid: BA to Gatwick, then Norwegian (operated by the airline, this one on-time) to Oakland. We finally arrived about 46 hours later than planned.

Clearly communication between carrier and outsourcing operator is critical and both companies have work to do. We can only speculate about the monetary cost of this screwup to the airline, not to mention loss of customer confidence, environmental damage (fuel dump)…. I’m kind of amazed this hasn’t gotten into any news outlets. It was a truly bizarre experience, in addition to the inconvenience, sleep deprivation, etc.

If there are any difficulties getting reimbursement that will be reported here as well.

*Lists of toll-free numbers for about 40 countries were distributed while we stood in line, and we were advised to call customer service in the country where the flight was booked. If you call the number in Oslo (which was the only number on the cancellation text, by the way), the telephone tree has only Norwegian-language prompts. Anybody know how they say “press 2 for English”? Do they bother?

Reply
Sam Roecker June 21, 2018 - 1:20 am

Hi JL, wow this is horrific… thank you for taking the time to share these details, very much appreciated. Was there any follow-up compensation from Norwegian? On-time rates for this route have been abysmal.

Reply
JL Kilgore August 20, 2018 - 11:34 pm

Two months after sending in receipts for replacement flights and lodging forced by the cancellation all we’ve gotten so far is a holding pattern letter. Just sent a request for ETA on the money and reminded them we know the Eu rules about these situations:

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004
(http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32004R0261)

http://www.airpassengerrights.eu/en/flight-cancellation.html

Reply
JL Kilgore October 15, 2018 - 6:19 am

Two months later and all we’ve gotten are a couple of e-mails from Norwegian and a tiny fraction of the money they owe us; still about € 600 to go for my wife and I. Much of what we’ve gotten was in the form of refunded “Cash Points” their frequent-flyer funny money. A bank transfer last month was € 69 with no description of what (or whom) this payment was for, no attempt to explain why this was their response to multiple detailed messages describing why they owed us nearly ten times that much. The Norwegian Airlines code of customer service is basically: ignore the customer so that they won’t have to provide any service. They make no pretense of accounting for the costs they will and won’t reimburse, they just dribble out a few euros from time to time and hope that we will go away. This manner of putting out fragmentary payments then pretending to not be home is typical of companies on the brink of bankruptcy – anybody heard anything recently about Norwegian’s financial status?

Reply
Flying Norwegian Soon? Beware of Cancellations and Delays - Point Me to the Plane June 21, 2018 - 6:49 pm

[…] weeks ago Point Me To The Plane warned about the outsourcing of the below Norwegian routes to other European carriers, and what that would mean for travelers expecting to fly […]

Reply
Nikola Dezin August 21, 2018 - 6:40 pm

i Flying Norwegian This Summer too

Reply
Kristen November 29, 2018 - 9:35 am

They’re doing it again! I’ve had two flights EWR-ORY this week switched to WAMOS and one CDG-JFK switched to HiFly. Not sure as to the reason…

Reply
世界上第一趟,没有一次性塑料的航班起飞 – RSS Feeds January 18, 2019 - 5:27 pm

[…] 题图来自 BoardingArea […]

Reply
Cece September 11, 2019 - 7:56 am

this is so awful

Reply

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