So Belfast has their direct route back to the USA with Norwegian finally starting their New York (Stewart International) and Boston (Providence) direct flights over the past 3 weeks.
The headline grabbing fares for both these routes has brought a lot of skepticism with many scoffing at the location of the 2 airports in their proximity to New York City and Boston.

So the #Ninja thought it was a good idea to give it a shot and see what all the fuss was about – was it worth the hassle? And is it a good #Ninja option for NI holidaymakers looking to access the United States and NYC in particular – as an alternative and easier option to flying direct from Dublin or connecting in the mainland UK?



Booking Flights
The #Ninja was lucky enough to get return flights to New York during a #NInjatastic flash sale, and purchased through the Norwegian website for only £170 … yes you are reading that correct, £170!! Now that was the bottom line rate, hand luggage only and no inflight meal. But the Norwegian website is extremely easy to use and gives you the option to add on things (like your checked bags, an inflight meal or pre-booked seats) per person and per journey. All in all, I was extremely impressed with how simply and intuitive the booking stage was – and I ended up booking particular seats for the return journey for an additional £20.

Check In
Usual drill at airport check in within the terminal at BIA – check in opens 3 hours prior to your flight departure  However one thing the NInja was not expecting was to be asked for his ESTA visa details. The NInja would regularly travel to the USA and has never been asked for this before – luckily I was able to get the details from my mobile phone, however to save this time and hassle would recommend you have your confirmation print out handy, better safe than sorry!



Aircraft /Flight Experience
So Norwegian is a low cost airline. So don’t be expecting a large aircraft with entertainment screens on the back of your seats and all singing all dancing cabins – this is proper no frills flying. The layout of the cabin is the same as Easyjet with a 3 & 3 three seat layout (see image).

Unless you have pre booked meals you won’t get any food OR drinks on the flight. You can of course purchase the snack varieties that you would get on most usual lowcost airplane routes – sandwiches (hot and cold), crisps, confectionary and drinks (soft drinks and alcoholic) … BUT the costs are the usual overpriced variety – for example, a sandwich, crisps, twix, bottle of water and can of Sprite cost … $17 eeeekkk (*about £13)

The flight itself is advertised as taking 7 hours ..BUT depending on things like tail winds and technical stuff (that the NInja hasn’t a clue about!) the journey can take as little as 5 hours 20 mins which is amazing to be that close to the USA for us good folk of NI

Obvious advice, but bring things that will make the journey more comfortable and enjoyable – we live in a great age of technology these days so the likes of iPads and tablets pre loaded with films, tv shows, games and other content will make your flight go in a LOT quicker.

Also, you may want to bring a blanket or some type of warmer clothing, especially for the night flight back to Belfast as the airline have nothing to provide or help you with if that situation arises and you are too cold!


Customs / Immigration
One of the biggest arguments for potential customers using Dublin to NYC direct fight providers over the Belfast Norwegian route is that all the visa / customs stuff is done before you get on the aircraft and that when you arrive you simply get to the baggage claim … And that the Belfast to Stewart route will take ages when you arrive in the US to get through this ….. WRONG!! Stewart International is a very small airport  (probably about half the size of Belfast City Airport!) that has nothing like the traffic that you would expect from one of the closer NYC airports so when your flight arrives it will probably be the ONLY flight arriving at that time – the NInja started his watch upon disembarking the aircraft and stopped the watch when he was done all through in the terminal …. Just over 8 mins! Easy Peasy!

Transfer to NYC
Stewart International is approx 65 miles away from Manhattan so prebooking a transfer is certainly recommended. The NInja booked a return journey on Shortline Stewart Intl Transfers for only $20 per person each way. The coach leaves from the very front of the building (you can’t really miss it – see image!). On the bus each seat has a USB power source so all your electronics can stay fully charged. The NInja clocked the airport to NYC journey at just under 85 mins – leaving off at the Port Authority Terminal not far from Times Square.

If you consider what time you would walk out your front door to leave for a flight to NYC from Dublin, then the Norwegian Belfast route total travel time still works out about an hour less than the Dublin route to the moment you arrive at your Manhattan hotel.

NInja Tip – for your return journey, factor in the late afternoon NYC traffic. It’s fine once you get off the island of Manhattan, but the initial section of the journey from the port authority terminal to the Lincoln Tunnel can take a long time for such a short area – for example the NInja spent a good 50 mins maybe moving only 2 blocks – the total journey time back to the airport was closer to 2 hours. But the buses have been set and allocated by Norwegian to get you to the airport for your flight, so you should be grand!


Conclusion  
The opportunity for a direct flight to NYC from a Belfast airport is always going to be very enticing. Add in some of the prices that have been advertised (AND booked in this NInjas instance) and demand will no doubt be high to get to the USA for such a great price. However as mentioned above, Norwegian is a lowcost airline and it’s important to manage your expectations and realise you arent flying a British Airways or United Airways service. But as long as you plan properly and bring the essentials with you, then the bottom line cost will outlay any lower service expectations you may have. Belfast needs this link to NYC and I have no doubt that it will be a very successful first venture into NI for Norwegian. Who knows, if this route does well, we could maybe even see other USA destinations in the future!?! In short, if you are looking at getting to The Big Apple for as little cost as possible, then this is the one for you!

For bookings, and more information on all Norwegian routes – please click here https://www.norwegian.com/

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