Time traveling across the Atlantic

The so called “in flight entertainment” at the Norwegian replacement aircraft.

For the last couple days I’ve been very nervous over the fact that Norwegian had to cancel several transatlantic flights from (and to) Sweden. It was a huge relief when we finally got our boarding passes (just to add a little extra tension, the self service check-in machines were all out of order!). However, just hours before the flight was scheduled to take off, Norwegian texted all of their passengers saying that the flight was overbooked and that they were looking for volunteers who could consider traveling on a later date instead. Unfortunately, because of our rather busy schedule, this was not an option for us. Most of the transatlantic flights are overbooked these days, and those passengers who had to cancel their trip last week apparently just got their money back—they couldn’t fit them in on other flights…

Eventually though, the situation was obviously resolved, and after passing the various security levels heading for our gate—which is a fascinating process in itself; first, you have to pass the security check, then there’s a mall with taxtree products, then there’s another passport checkpoint, then there’s another mall, and then there’s a final gate control, with extra ”random” security checks—we were finally allowed to board our flight.

Norwegian is bragging a lot about their Dreamliner experience, and just how awesome their planes are. So, we were rather surprised to discover that the plane at our gate was rather small, and not even branded with Norwegian’s colors! When we came on board, we exchanged looks of surprise and disappointment. Where were the flexible seats, the personal TV monitors, the extra leg space, the WiFi connection?

It turned out that Norwegian had in fact turned to a small Portuguese airline company to help them fill in for the Dreamliner planes that were obviously in need of repair. This aircraft was in fact more than 20 years old, and the only entertainment system on board was three badly aligned RGB-projectors (considered high tech in the early 90’s!) which projected silent VCR movies (Yes! Videotape!) on the cabin separation walls, and some Portuguese popular music through the headphones. The seats were hardly flexible at all, and you just had one of those rather weak reading lights above you, nothing else.

However, once we were airborne, we realized this airline, although not exactly modern, took very much pride in their work. In compensation for the inconvenience, we were served a very high class meal for free—definitely the very best food I’ve ever had on an airplane. The pilot really knew his airplane, the start and landing was very smooth, and he also avoided all kind of turbulence. And while I sat there, watching silent, Portugese subtitled animated parrots screaming at each other on the badly aligned movie screen, it actually struck me that if I’d attended one of the first due South conventions, this would probably have been considered to be a rather modern aircraft back then. It was almost  like turning back the clock, and suddenly I realized that in some way, it felt very appropriate…