Sunday, March 24, 2019

Flying A New Airline -- Norwegian

When I discovered the inexpensive flight from Tampa to London, it felt like Christmas morning. A direct flight from Tampa to London for $175 (153 Euros).  I splurged on the upgrade so that I could take a checked bag, pick a seat and get two meals on the plane for about $250. Still, an amazing price on Norwegian Air.
I visited Mom and Dad, and they are about an hour and a half from either Tampa or Orlando. The dilemma was that I flew in on Friday afternoon and took off in a rental car at 4 p.m. The car was already expensive and I didn't dare splurge on late check in, so I had to be back at the airport by 4 p.m. The problem? My flight didn't leave until 10:50 p.m.
So I was looking at a 6-hour wait at Tampa.
For my carry-on bag, I had switched to Earl's backpack because he hopes to go hiking when he flies back to the States next month. The backpack has no wheels and is a bit unwieldy, especially since it is made to fit a man who is a foot taller than me. But it weighed only 30 pounds, rather than the 40 pounds I was allowed to check. Once I got it onto my back, I was fine to walk from the car to the terminal.
Backpacking woman -- feels less cosmopolitan
The problem, this flight to London was the only flight out of Tampa for Norwegian that day. The check in didn't open until after 6, which left me holding the bag. I couldn't check the backpack and wander about the airport, smelling perfume and sipping coffee. I'm not sure if I'd flown another, more traditional airline, like American, whether I could have checked my bags six hours early or if they would have made me wait until closer to the flight time. Nevertheless, I ended up sitting in a row of seats across from the counter waiting. Norwegian also didn't allow online check in, so I if I hadn't checked a bag, I still would have needed to wait to get my boarding pass from the desk.
I met a few other people waiting for Norwegian to open. At one point, I needed to use the bathroom and didn't want to carry the backpack along with my carry-on bag.  The nice British man had dozed off, so I asked a woman who was waiting for Norwegian if she would watch my backpack while I went to the restroom. The door was within sight, I wasn't making a run across the airport, but the woman refused. Perhaps that's the smart thing to do, but the exchange woke up the British man who said he would watch my bag. And later, I watched his while he went to the bathroom.
I reached someone on the Norwegian app and they said that the check in would open three hours before the flight.
Once the check in began, apparently, people in line strategically pick which counter attendant they want to talk to. I was oblivious, in my own American way, assuming everyone would be equally helpful.
So I got the very gruff man who took the backpack, no problem, then said I had to weigh both my carry-on bag and my personal item and they had to way less than 10 kilograms. 10 kilograms is 22 pounds. I knew that my carry-on suitcase alone was 25 pounds, which is a normal allowance. Add my purse, which held my computer and the total weight was 18 kilograms, 39 pounds. The attendant suggested I could pay $15 per kilogram that the bag was overweight. Eight kilograms times $15 is $120. I was not going to eat that cost.
I always feel like the weight thing is unfair. My husband weighs nearly a hundred pounds more than me -- shouldn't I get to take extra baggage to make up for the weight I'm not using.
Anyway, I asked whether I could move things from my carry-on to my checked bag, since it was underweight. The man agreed and wanted me to do it while I stood in line. That's the worst. Now I have to open my suitcase and start making decisions. I moved a folder of papers (paper generally gets heavy) that I use for teaching, and I stuck a pair of boots on the top of the backpack. Then I struggled to get the backpack closed again. The attendant ended up helping me and didn't weight the bags again. But just in case he planned to, I had taken my computer out and set it on the floor in front of the check in. I figured that would help with the weight issue and then I would surreptitiously slide it into my purse again after the weighing. Instead, he waved me on and I scooped up my laptop.
So let the luggage thing be a warning to you if you plan to try Norwegian Air -- the carry-on for the overhead bins, and the personal item that goes under the seat in front of me had to weight less than 22 pound together.
I finally could move on to take the shuttle to the gate. The security guards were testy. I overhead them discussing whether overtime would be given. The TSA Pre check area wasn't open, much to the consternation of some pre-screened passengers. I went through the machine and they patted down my arm.
Then I found that my carry-on bag needed to be checked by hand. The guard (this one was nice)  gingerly moved things around in the suitcase, plunging his hand down between the (luckily) clean clothes.
"There's an umbrella down there," I said.
"No, I can see the umbrella. This is something like a bag of candy."
"Black jelly beans!" I said. Earl's favorite. I had stashed a bag in my suitcase.
"Yes! Where are they?" He explained that jelly beans are dense and hard to see through on an x-ray machine.
I reached in and got them. He took a cloth and rubbed it again several spots on the jelly bean bag.
"It tested positive," he said and set off an alarm that brought another agent.
"Positive for what?" I asked, imagining that jelly beans were about to send me to the Homeland Security secret office where I wouldn't be heard from for weeks.
The security guard assured me that it could be lotion, or anything that set it off.
Another guard arrived, looked at a machine and declared it "Not a match."
Ok, I was allowed to go on my way.
"Want me to lift the bag down for you?" the guard asked. "It's pretty heavy."
"Shh," I warned him. "Don't let on that it's heavy."
Finally, I was free to wander about the airport terminal until it was time to board the plane.
But I got a coffee at Starbucks, my last until the holidays next year, and I sat down to watch another episode of the Great British Baking Show.
The flight from Tampa to London was uneventful, which is the best you can ask for from a flight. I am never crunched for space because I'm short, but I did feel like there is less leg room. My husband would have had a very hard time in theses seats.
And the airplane did have screens with movies, television and games, but I have to say that they weren't as up-to-date as we might see on a mainstream airline.  And the food wasn't worth the time. 
Nope. Not even the Ghiradelli chocolate in the cup got eaten. 
Chicken, mushy broccoli along with instant mashed potatoes for dinner. It was after 11. I shouldn't have taken the few bites I ate, but since it was Norwegian, maybe I should just be grateful they weren't serving smoked trout or Tørrfisk. 
The next morning, breakfast was a piece of ham sandwich.

Okay, the coffee and orange juice made it worthwhile
Just ham bread and some wilted lettuce, along with a pre-wrapped Sara Lee pound cake that is in our kitchen now. The coffee and orange juice were necessary though.
So my recommendation, if you fly Norwegian, watch the weight of your carry-on and under seat bag. Don't buy the meals.
I landed in London Gatwick airport with three hours to kill before my flight to Toulouse. I wandered around in search of a crumpet. I never found any. Crumpets are similar to English muffins but better. The Brits I asked were astounded that we didn't have crumpets in the States. We're deprived, I guess.
A man in a kilt -- always worth a picture. Yes, those are two bottles of liquor in his hands. 
The flight from London to Toulouse was only an hour and 20 minutes, and when I wandered through security, there was my husband waiting with a bouquet of tulips.
Unfortunately, I couldn't tilt my head back to kiss him because his backpack against my neck prevented me looking up, so it was an awkward hello kiss.
We're back in the groove of spending time together and enjoying it.
Me and my guy
Since I returned (only three days ago) we've had adventures already. Can't wait to share them with you -- soon. 

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