EAST BAY TIMES: February 13, 2018
One of the happiest countries on earth is suddenly arm in arm with Oakland — thanks to a partnership forged with Norway’s low-fare Norwegian Air.
I flew on Norwegian Air’s inaugural nonstop from Rome to Oakland, Feb 6, and found it unique in several ways. Most significantly, the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners are designed to reduce jet lag by enhancing the lighting, lowering the cabin pressure and increasing the fresh air flow.
It works. I’m usually a mess after a European flight — but this time, I felt pretty perky. But even more important than the reduction of bags under my eyes is the increase in bags to Oakland International Airport.
Visit Oakland CEO Mark Everton, who I caught up with in Rome, says it’s a marked difference.
“I’ve been on a lot of 12-hour flights and I just feel beat up when I get off. And truly, we probably wouldn’t be standing here today (it was a short 36-hour turnaround), but we’re ready to go to work,” he told me.
The partnership between Oakland and Norwegian Air came at the expense of San Francisco International Airport, which Everton says was eager to win Norwegian’s business.
But Port of Oakland Aviation marketing manager, John Albrecht, says Oakland’s air traffic is up some 143 percent over last year and they’re aggressively going after international carriers.
“We just opened a new international arrivals building and now we have 14 international destinations,” he said.
Not only is Norwegian bringing low-economy class fares to Oakland, they let you bid on an upgrade to premium. Many airlines offer premium class, which is an affordable alternative to first class and business class. But Norwegian takes a Priceline-style approach, letting you tell them what you’ll pay, then accepting it if the offer is right.
My economy ticket on the nonstop from Rome to Oakland, for instance, was $209.90. I bid an extra $200 for the upgrade to premium and my offer was accepted the day before takeoff. For that bargain price, I got airport lounge access in Rome, fast-track through security (with literally no one in line!), two checked bags and front cabin seating with meals, drinks and legroom galore.
Suddenly, flying just got fun again. And that should make Oakland travelers happy indeed.