When 2016 started, I hadn’t planned on taking a trip to Europe. And even if I was, it most certainly wouldn’t have been on a twin-engine aircraft. After all, my main goal was — and, I suppose, still is — to go back to England at some point in 2017. I hoped to once again fly on my favorite aircraft, the British Airways Boeing 747-400, one that I had the chance to enjoy riding on in late 2014.
However, one afternoon I ended up looking at flights on Norwegian.com. While I can’t remember what brought me to their site, I think it was a combination of my knowing that they have some of the lowest transatlantic fares on the market combined with the knowledge that they would be starting service to Boston that spring. And while I’m a BA and London Heathrow loyalist, which means that I would absolutely never fly into London Gatwick given the choice, I figured that it might be interesting to see how much the other routes — Oslo and Copenhagen — were going for. I played around with the dates, and was shocked to find that I could go round-trip to Oslo for less than $300.
At that moment, I had a decision to make. If I was to go to Norway, I would either have to plan a vacation for a week — which, given how much a hotel would have been, wasn’t something that I wanted to do — or go for a day: leave Friday night, come back Saturday night. Yes, that’s right. 7 1/2 hours from arrival to departure.
I chose to go for a day.
Questioning my own sanity as I booked this too-good-to-be-true ticket, I wondered how I was going to explain to people that I was literally going to Norway for a weekend. Financially, though, I thought of a justification: it was about equal to the money that I’d spend on going for an hour-long flight lesson, except instead I would be able to 1. travel to a different country and 2. fly on the Dreamliner.
April 8, 2016 – BOS – OSL
After a quality Friday at work, I hopped in an Uber and ventured off to Logan. While I hadn’t booked a window seat on the way out in my quest to keep my expenses under $300, as they were $298.30 with a seat reservation on the daytime return flight that was approximately $40, I thought that I might be able to snag a window seat if I arrived early enough and played my cards right.
When I arrived at the check-in counter, I made the standard plea of “I didn’t reserve a seat for the way out, but is there any chance I can get a window since I’m here early?” I was told that unfortunately the assigning of seats is random, and that they were sorry. While I was somewhat disappointed, I understood that rules are rules, and that if I had really wanted a window seat I should have just forked over the additional money.
That was soon a moot point, though, because when I received my ticket, I saw that I had been given 19A! While I would personally have chosen to be further forward, I couldn’t have been more thrilled that my poor planning and adamant thriftiness hadn’t cost me – pun fully intended.
Even with the Friday night lines, security went by pretty quickly, as it always seems to do at Logan and especially at Terminal E. After getting to the other side, I happened to run into a friend from college, who was heading to Copenhagen via Reykjavik on WOW air’s BOS – KEF flight. We sat chatting as I watched British Airways 747 G-CIVS – which I referred to in my Facebook album as “Speedbird Big Daddy G-CIVS” – board, taxi, and eventually depart.
Soon enough, I found myself at the gate, ready for boarding. Behind me, two little girls and their father were getting ready to board the plane, too, and one of them remarked at how cool it was that our jetway had an escalator. I forget what she said verbatim, but it was pretty funny, and the father and I shared a laugh.
I climbed aboard the plane, which I could already tell was by far the most modern plane I had ever been on. Having found my seat and gotten situated, I plugged my phone into one of the USB ports, which – unlike those in the American A330 that I had been on a month previous – actually worked. The TVs, meanwhile, were extremely responsive Android devices that had a plethora of cool 3D maps, a number of games, and – most importantly – Hangover II in the movie selection.
After the door was shut and the plane pushed back, we began our taxi out to Runway 33L – the runway which I am able to see departures from both my living room and bedroom. While I figured that I would try to look for my house, as I usually did when sitting on the left side for 33L departures, I had no expectation of being able to see it, as it was at night. And though I’m moving in June, I have been fortunate enough to accomplish my ultimate goal of seeing my house from a plane, so this was by no means a make-or-break takeoff.
We lined up on the runway, and – if I remember correctly – waited for an aircraft to land on Runway 27. Once cleared for takeoff, the engines spooled up to around 60 percent, before finally increasing to takeoff thrust. We hurtled down the runway for a bit before becoming airborne around halfway down the 10,083 foot runway. Soon enough, we were on our way.
At this point, I was looking out the window a lot to see what I could see of my neighborhood. It was dark out and there was a modicum of clouds, so it was difficult to make out much more than perhaps Bello Field — the Tufts turf lacrosse field — and the Reservoir in Medford. Regardless, I was under no illusion that I’d be able to see my apartment, or anything like that.
After flying the LBSTA4 departure, we climbed off the coast of Maine for a while. Again, it was quite dark, so I couldn’t make out much, but the two things I could make out were downtown Portland and the beam of Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. Those two things were incredibly cool, but after that we disappeared into the clouds.
For a while, I dozed in and out of sleep, as the flight went by. While I wasn’t going to England, I did play Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, as I still believe it serves as excellent symbolism for transatlantic flights.
With about 2 hours left in the flight, I started to see the slightest bit of sunlight. It was very interesting, as, instead of getting drastically brighter as we flew east (into the sun), it stayed relatively dark for a while. Then, as if a switch was flipped, it was extremely bright, and we were beginning our descent into Oslo Gardermoen.
Soon enough, we were on our final approach to Runway 1R. What I found incredibly interesting about this final approach is that, while we were approaching a major international airport, we were not – as is the case in places like Chicago, Miami, or New York – buzzing skyscrapers and urban sprawl on the way in. No, we were flying over fields, rolling hills, and farmhouses, which was certainly the first time I’d been in such a situation in a widebody. To me, it was almost like we were landing a 787 in the middle of rural Maine, which I found to be incredibly unique and cool.
After a protracted descent of around 10 miles or so, we touched down at Gardermoen, and pulled off the runway. I remember seeing a Thai Airways 777, a Qatar Airways 787, and a Scandinavian Airlines A330, so a relatively unique set of widebodies. The one interesting plane that was there that I didn’t anticipate was a Turkish Airlines A320. My surprise was not because I wasn’t expecting Turkish to fly to Oslo, but because I was used to seeing much larger Turkish aircraft, such as the A330 and A340, from my experience in Boston. Regardless, we de-boarded, but not before I was able to get a quick tour of the cockpit.
Now, I was slightly nervous about what passport control was going to have to say about me being in the country for less than 24 hours. However, I figured that the best thing to do was – if they raised the question of how long I’d be there – come clean, as doing otherwise would only land me in more of a pickle.
When I was asked what I would be doing in Norway, I told the customs agent that I grew up a Nordic skier (which is true) and that I had hoped to see the Holmenkollen Ski Museum (which was also true.) When he told me that it was late in the season to be doing such a thing, I replied “yeah, but that’s when the $300 tickets are available.” He made a remark to the effect that he didn’t know that Norwegian would be giving the tickets away, and let me go on without incident.
April 9, 2016 – OSL – BOS
Having spent a fun-filled 5 or so hours in downtown Oslo, in which I managed to hit just about everything except Holmenkollen to the north of the city, I arrived back at Gardermoen for the flight back. While I got through security relatively quickly, I didn’t realize that passengers leaving the Schengen area had to go through passport control when departing as well. ‘Oh boy,’ I thought, ‘they’re going to have a lot of questions this time around.’ Thankfully, I was let through by the agent without so much as a question.
For the ride back, I was in 8J, so right next to the starboard side jet engine beast that is the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000. While it doesn’t have the same pounds-force level as, say, a GE90 or Trent 800, it still packs a punch, and is absolutely massive when you sit next to it.
After a quick taxi out, we had an uneventful takeoff from Runway 1L in which we passed over a number of snow-covered mountains. It was easy to tell that we were getting further and further north, as the amount of snow increased.
Given that we had taken off in the late afternoon in Oslo, it was a somewhat disorienting that – as we were covering roughly one time zone per hour – we were in a seemingly perpetual state of late afternoon. Indeed, it was difficult to remember that, while we’d left Gardermoen’s the runway shortly after 6 p.m., it was barely noon in Boston at that same moment. That said, I was happy that we would be landing back in Boston before dark, and was entertained by the idea of having “two afternoons.”
The flight certainly became monotonous at times, but that is to be expected from a transatlantic flight. When that did happen, I usually changed the music I was listening to, the movie I was watching, or the setting of the window (which can do a lot, surprisingly!) That said, despite my regret that I hadn’t bought any food or drink at the duty-free store before boarding the aircraft, I must say that the flight did seem to go by relatively quick. Either way, I was looking forward to being home.
Around 2/3 of the way through the flight, we climbed to the aircraft’s service ceiling of 43,000 feet, putting us firmly in Flightradar24‘s “red zone,” which signifies that we were above 41,000 feet. From my observations, few flights – commercial or private – enter that designation, so I found it cool that we went that high.
After crossing into U.S. airspace over Northern Maine, we remained at 43,000 feet for quite some while. And though I was hopeful that I would get to see the Maine Coast as we began our descent down the OOSHN3 arrival, a thick bank of clouds emerged below us before we reached that point. I was somewhat – irrationally – angry that the pilots were in no hurry to start our descent, figuring that they were dawdling in the sky. (I am fully aware that this is not the case, and that the viewing priorities of one passenger are inconsequential compared to the safe operation of the aircraft.) We eventually emerged from the clouds near Kittery, ME, where I could clearly see the mouth of the Piscatiqua River and the land adjacent – New Hampshire on the left, Maine on the right. I could even see the Isles of Shoals, a nine-island archipelago of which five islands are located in Maine and four in New Hampshire.
We flew right downwind to Runway 4R, an approach I had suspected we would be using since I’d checked Windfinder before I’d left. I managed to get a snap of Logan from the air, as it was the first time I had flown a downwind approach and been able to view the airport.
We turned onto the final approach for 4R around Brockton, and began our descent near the junction of I-93, I-95, and 128 near Canton. I was on the lookout for my office, as it sits on the right side of the 4R ILS. I was able to see it at the last second, at which point I knew that we were about two minutes or so from touchdown, as aircraft usually pass over at around 1,500 feet. After floating above the water for a bit, land re-appeared under us, and we touched down smoothly.
There was a bit of a delay getting off the plane, as the aircraft at our gate – I couldn’t see what airline or type – was running behind. Once they got out, we snuck in, and just barely managed to beat a British Airways 777 to the stand, ensuring that we got ahead of their passengers in the queue (completely unintentional use of “queue” – my friends tell me I’m British) for customs. And while I had perhaps been slightly anxious of potentially being questioned about a one-day trip to Europe, the most that the U.S. Customs officers asked of me was where in Maine I was born (Portland, for the record.) I emerged from the airport into the cool Boston air, another trip to Europe complete.
Within a half-hour or so, I was back home. And while I completely understand that most people wouldn’t take a 22-hour trip to Europe, for me it was 100% worth it: I got to see a new country, set foot on Continental Europe for the first time (I even made sure to walk on grass, just for kicks), and flew on the 787 for less than one of my previous flight lessons. While I probably won’t make my next trip across the pond as short as this one, my message to the skeptics is clear: if you can find a cheap flight and things work out, you don’t question – you go!