Air Baltic, Business Class – Bombardier Q400: Stockholm to Riga

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INTRODUCTION
In Stockholm I am staying at the Hotel J in Nacka Strand on the outskirts of the city. I like the Hotel J very much, and over the years I have kept coming back here for a short but quiet weekend. Particularly during the winter time it is nice to curl up with a book near the open fire in the main building.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Boat ferry and train.
Fare: SEK300 per person for the Arlanda Express train if you are travelling as a couple. The ticket for the ferry costs SEK39 and is valid on all ferries and busses within zone A. Although in this particular case, the ticket is included in the hotel package I booked.
Journey time: By ferry it is about 25 to 30 minutes from Nacka Strand to the city centre. From there it is another 20 to 25 minutes on foot to the central railway station, through the main shopping area and then another 20 minutes on the Arlanda Express from the city to the terminus at Arlanda North.
Frequency: During the wintertime the ferry to Nacka Strand runs roughly once an hour at 03 minutes past the hour. If you are in a hurry, alternatively you can take the bus from Nacka Strand to Slussen, which takes roughly 15 minutes. From Slussen you can either walk or take the underground train for two stops to the central station. The Arlanda Express runs every 15 minutes.
Departs from: Nacka Strand ferry.
Arrives at: Arlanda North.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 5. Departures are located on the first floor. Check-in counters 71 – 90. Check-in for Air Baltic is done by SAS in Stockholm. Counter 90 is the Business Class counter.
Facilities: Web Check-in with passbook, or airport check-in at the counter or self-service machine.
Fast track: Dedicated Business Class counters and fast track for security.

I have already checked in for my flight. You will receive a reminder from Air Baltic by mail and SMS as soon as the flight opens for check-in. There is a dedicated fast track for security which, apparently, is only available to SAS and its Star Alliance partners. However, when I arrive at the counter for the boarding pass check, the guy tells me that I may use the fast track if I am travelling in Air Baltic Business Class.

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The security check will spit you out by the entrance to the large duty free store. If you are not interested in shopping, there is an exit on the left, just before the duty free area. But alas, it is probably not entirely by coincidence that the exit is blocked by trolleys, thus obliging all passengers to walk through the store.

LOUNGE
Location:
As you exit the duty free store, turn left and head for gate 1. To the left of the gate you will find lifts and stairs taking you up to the entrance of the lounge on the fourth floor.
Type of lounge: SAS Business Class lounge.
Facilities: Toilets are available in the lounge, but there are no showers.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available. Apparently there is a password, but when I logged in, none was required.
Catering: There is a large buffet with a good selection of salads, crudités and bread. There is also a pot of tasty potato and leek soup, tea and coffee making facilities and a nice selection of cookies.

The lounge is really nice. It has been a while since I was here last and in the meantime the SAS lounges have had a complete make over. Of course it also helps that the lounge is fairly empty and quiet when I arrive.

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BOARDING
Ah yes. This is where things look as though they may start to go horribly wrong. Boarding for my flight is expected to start at 14h45 for a 15h15 departure. However, when 15h00 rolls on and still nothing happens, I figure there may be a slight delay. Just a short while later the gate agents informs us that the aircraft suffered a bird strike on the approach into Stockholm and that therefore the propeller and engine will need to be checked first, before the aircraft is cleared to fly again. Eventually, boarding starts at 15h50, although we still have to wait for the mechanics to produce the documents before they can release the aircraft for the flight.

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During our stay on board, the crew do an excellent job of keeping us informed about the flight’s current status. At some point one of the flight attendants comes and asks me if she can bring me a drink while we wait. She also brings me a blanket in case I am starting to feel cold, what with he door still open.

Eventually we depart at 16h48, with a delay of slightly more than 90 minutes. Our flight time to Riga is given as 55 minutes.
CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2, although in Business Class only one of the seats on the row of two is occupied.
Seat: 2A, window. This is pretty much the standard seat most if not all carriers have installed on the Q400. What I like about the seat is that it allows you to sit very upright. I do not have any information about the width or pitch of the seat. All I can say though, is that on 2A there is plenty of space to move around, and I am even able to cross my legs without any significant contortions. There are 2.5 rows of Business Class, for a total of three seats. Apart from me there is only one other passengers seated on 1A.

There is only a row 1 on the port side of the aircraft. On the starboard side row 2 is the first row and also offers quite a lot of legroom because of the emergency exit.

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SERVICE
There are two young female cabin crew working the flight today and I think they are doing a really smashing job. They are taking good care of the passengers, handling those who are upset at the prospect of missing their connection in Riga. Nothing seems to be a problem for them and they seem very competent and in control.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice.
Hot towel: Scented hot towels are handed out before the meal. Remember, this is a flight of only 55 minutes!
Type of meal: Late lunch.
Service: Individual tray service.
Meal:

  • Goat’s cheese in a dill crust with grilled peppers and frisée salad.
  • Chicken satay with pickled cucumber and carrot on a bed of frisée salad, served with a balsamico vinaigrette.
  • Chocolate and pecan cake with caramel topping.
  • A selection from the breadbasket.
  • Tea or coffee.

Quite surprisingly, a menu is handed out before the meal. The service is very polished and I notice that the crew do not hand me anything directly but serve everything from a small round tray. The quality of the meal is very good and the dessert in particular is really to die for. It is just so rich and sweet. Just how I like it.

At the end of the meal the flight attendant comes to inquire if I fancy tea or coffee. She tells me they have black tea, rose tea, green tea and a special Christmas mix which she can highly recommend. I feel like a bit of a cad telling her I would prefer a cup of coffee. But even then she manages to surprise me and asks me if I prefer milk or cream in my coffee. A short while later she returns with the coffee and a bowl of sugar cubes and a small jug of milk.

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ARRIVAL
A short while later we start our descent into Riga. Probably because we are running late our aircraft is parked right next to the terminal. So we can just walk the short distance across the apron to the terminal.

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Bus.
Fee: EUR2.- if you buy the ticket on the bus or EUR1.15 if you buy it at the kiosk. There are ticket machines, but those are only for day cards and not for single-trip journeys.
Journey time: Roughly 30 minutes.
Departs from: Opposite the terminal building. Upon exiting arrivals turn right and follow the signs for public transport. Cross the road and you should reach the bus stop.
Arrives: If your hotel is in the centre of town, you can alight at the stop after the national library, on the other side of the river. From there it is really just a very short walk into the city. Alternatively, you can stay on the bus until the terminus at the railway station, which is another 10 minutes journey.

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