Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

Without a doubt Mount Pilatus is one of Switzerland’s top tourist attractions. And rightly so! Perched on the shores of Lake Lucerne, the view from the top of Pilatus is simply stunning and on good days you can even see as far as Zürich.

To reach Pilatus, I take the bus line 71 from Lucerne main station to Kriens. The journey takes about ten minutes. And then from there it’s about a ten minutes walk to the station of the Pilatus Bahnen. The journey by cable car will take about 40 minutes to complete and includes changing cable cars more or less halfway up the mountain.

If you’re the nervous type or just not comfortable in vehicles that hang precariously hundreds of metres above the ground, then perhaps you should be warned: it can get quite windy at the summit, so very often the cable car cabin will have to break abruptly just before entering the station at the summit and for the wind to abate and the cabin to stop swinging from side to side…

Once you reach the top at Pilatus Kulm, the place is crawling with tourists – predominantly of the German and Chinese variety. You can’t really blame them because the vistas really are superb!

If you want to escape the crowds, probably the best thing to do is spend a night or two at one of the two hotels. The last departures from Pilatus Kulm are at around 17h45, when the place quietens again and you have the mountain to yourself.

There are two hotels on Pilatus Kulm, the Bellevue and the Hotel Pilatus Kulm. The latter is the older of the two, but is well taken care of. The rooms are spacious and all rooms face the same way, so you’re guaranteed and perfect view of the Alps.

The next morning I decide to take the cogwheel railway from Pilatus Kulm down to Alpnachstad, which is right on the lake. Apparently, the Pilatus railway holds the world record for the cogwheel railway with the steepest gradient. It’s a nice journey down and will take you about forty minutes to complete. Usually the ticket you purchase is valid for both the railway and the cable car.

At Alpnachstad is only a short walk under the autobahn and the railway lines to the pier for the steamboat to Lucerne. Of course, this being Switzerland, the departures of the boat are coordinated with the arrivals of the trains coming down from Pilatus.

The journey from Alpnachstad to Lucerne will take 75 minutes to complete.

Scandinavian Air System, SAS Go – Boeing B 737-800: Haugesund to Oslo

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Getting to the Airport

The meeting in Akrehamn finishes just before 14h00. Which is good, because I’ve ordered a taxi to take me to Haugesund’s Karmoy airport at 14h00. The journey by taxi to the airport takes roughly twenty minutes and will cost you NOK500, which is pretty good by Norwegian standards. Theoretically, you could also go by bus. But in most cases this will be inconvenient, because the busses are infrequent and there is no direct bus from Akrehamn to the airport anyway.

Haugesund airport itself is a dinky little thing. The landside departure area is basically one big room with check-in counters, self-service machines and a highly efficient security lane.

Check-in

I’m unable to check-in online. Or rather, I can check-in, but I can’t get my boarding pass. I try the self-service machine, which at least allows me to change my seat for the onward flight, but eventually only spits out the boarding pass for the flight to Oslo. So I head over to the Wideroe counter, where a frumpy middle-aged female explains that she has no idea what I did exactly, because I’m checked in just fine. What do I know woman, it’s your check-in system. I’m just a lowly passenger, and apparently one in dire need of being lectured…

Airside

There is no lounge at Haugesund airport. Which is hardly surprising, given that the departure area has all of three gates and is roughly the size of a very small broom cupboard. But there is a kiosk where you can purchase snacks, drinks, magazines and last minute souvenirs.

Boarding

Boarding starts slightly ahead of schedule, due to the fact that the plane arrived in Haugesund nearly ten minutes early. I’m all excited, because there are no air bridges in Haugesund. So I’m going to have to walk across the apron and use stairs to get aboard. Woohoo! I know I’m a nerd, but I’ll admit that I purposely selected a seat on row 20, just so I could use the rear door of the aircraft for boarding.

Of course, what I don’t take into consideration, is that this is September in Norway. I exit the terminal building, which is precisely the moment the heavens open. Moreover, it’s blowing a gale. Perhaps a normal human being would just get on with it and make a run for the stairs. But the opportunity is just too good and the plane just way too pretty. So I keep stopping to take photos of my aircraft.

Eventually, by the time I get on board, I’m soaking wet all down the back of my trousers. I look as though I just embarrassed myself with excitement. But I don’t mind, because after all, I got to take aeroplane photos up close, so it’s really not that far from the truth…!

The Cabin

The cabin of this aircraft is in much better condition than those of the two Boeing B 737-700s I flew with to get to Haugesund. The aircraft has wifi installed, which is available at a price in the SAS Go cabin. Moreover, it has the new cabin interiors with the dark grey Recaro seats installed. Seat pitch on row 20 is good and the seat is comfortable enough.

That is, of course, until Mr. 20B arrives. Seriously? I mean, admittedly, his physique really is quite spectacular, and I dare say that back in the good old days he probably would have made even the toughest Viking warrior look like a bit of a wimpy weakling with fitness anxieties. The only way he can fit his long legs into the seat, is to sit there spread-eagled and with his elbows poking into my side. Worse still, I can’t even complain to him, even if I dared to, because it’s obvious that he’s really trying his best to take up as little space as possible. But at least the flight to Oslo is only forty minutes.

The Crew

There are four crew on this flight. One young man who allegedly smiled the last time way back around the turn of the century, and three senior females who could be his mom, granny and great-granny respectively. I can’t really say anything much about the cabin crew because there is no interaction with them. During boarding they successfully ignore their passengers and pretend we all aren’t really there, and then after take-off, I drop off to sleep and miss the service. Such as it were.

The Meal

In SAS Go, tea and coffee are complimentary. All other snacks and drinks are available for purchase, subject to the duration of the flight.

Arrival

The landing in Oslo is quite bumpy. But at least the weather is much better here, so I get some good views of the landscape on the approach.

I have three hours to make my connection. Transferring in Oslo is painless and easy. The biggest problem really, is that the facility is too crowded, so getting through can be difficult at times.

Conclusion

When I flew to China with SAS in July, I have to say I rather enjoyed their product and service on long-haul. But on short-haul, I think they’re a complete stinker. As I already mentioned before, their aircraft tend to be filthy and tattered, which makes you wonder about the state of those parts of the aircraft that you can’t see. But apart from that, the crews on all flights were totally uninspired and bland, which again is a stark contrast to my experience with them on long-haul.

Scandinavian Air System , SAS Plus – Boeing B 737-700: Zürich to Oslo

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Introduction

A few years ago, I think it was somewhere around 2014, SAS took the decision to abolish its Business Class product on short-haul intra-European routes. Instead, it launched a new cabin concept comprising SAS Go, which is your classic Economy Class with buy on board set up, and SAS Plus, which replaced what used to be Business Class.

In SAS Plus you get more or less all the perks you can normally expect from a European Business Class product: fast track at security, lounge access, complimentary meals, etc. The only difference to other carriers appears to be that the middle seat is not left empty in SAS Plus.

Getting to the Airport

I depart from the office at 12h17 to catch the 12h28 train to the airport. The worst of the summer is over here in Switzerland, and although it’s a lovely, bright and sunny day, you can already feel that the sun is losing its heat and the harshness of summer.

Check-in

SAS checks in on row 2 of terminal 2 in Zürich. Their handling agent is DNATA. There are self-service machines available for check-in as well. One day before the flight, I receive a text message from SAS, informing me that online check-in for the flight is open. Strangely enough though, although I can check in, I can’t upload my boarding pass to passbook.

Airside

By the time I’m through security and airside, it’s already 12h55. My flight will be boarding from gate A72. So I decide to skip the SWISS lounge and head for my gate instead to watch the movements on the apron.

Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts on time and it looks as though the flight is fairly full. Before the gate agent even manages to finish his announcement, there’s already a scrum for the automatic gate readers… You’d think they’re giving it away for free.

The Cabin

There is no cabin divider, which I always find slightly awkward. Instead, there is a small sign attached to the aisle seat, indicating where SAS Plus ends and SAS Go begins. On today’s flight there is just the one row of SAS Plus. Leg space on row 1 is very good. I am seated on 1A. On the opposite side of the cabin, there is even more pitch between the seats and the bulkhead.

I also needn’t worry about having somebody sitting next to me, as I’m the only passenger in SAS Plus today and therefore have the whole row to myself.

The one thing that strikes me though, is that the cabin is really dirty. And it’s old dirty that has spent years maturing into grime.

The Crew

There are three cabin crew. The service up front is conducted by a rather unhappy looking female just past her middle age, and a gentleman of roughly the same age who does not necessarily look happy but at least seems less unhappy than the female.

While the aircraft is on the ground, there is zero interaction between the crew and the passengers. There are no welcome drinks, no newspapers, nothing.

The flight time is announced as two hours and fifteen minutes.

The Meal

In SAS Go the service is buy on board, with the exception of tea and coffee. In contrast, in SAS Plus passengers are served the full range of complimentary food and drinks available from the snack menu.

The service begins with a partially wet towel, which should probably have been served warm. Shortly after that, the cold meal is served in a rather stylish but oddly shaped square cardboard box with cutlery that looks like something they nicked from a pre-schooler.

The box contains a salad of carrots with honey glazed chicken, a yoghurt dressing and pollen sprinkles, which I still hadn’t figured out by the time I’d finished the meal.

The quality of the meal is good and so are the flavours, at least they are if you like overdosing on carrots and beets. Otherwise, I think you may have a problem. Fortunately, in SAS Plus you can order anything you like from the buy on board for free. And so, in a bid to ward off a vitamin-induced coma of too healthy food (I hope the tall, blond M. ain’t reading this…), I ask for a packet of those delectable Larsson crisps I enjoyed so much on my last flight with SAS from Shanghai back to Copenhagen…

To drink with the meal, I have a Coke Zero.

After the meal, the male cabin attendant comes to clear my box away and brings me a cup of coffee and unceremoniously plonks a small box of not really very nice chocolates in front of me.

Arrival

As we approach Oslo the weather starts to deteriorate. When I left Zürich, the temperature was a balmy 27 degrees Celsius. But here in Oslo they’re expecting rain showers and a maximum temperature of only 14 degrees…

Eventually, by the time we land it’s already 16h16. My connecting flight to Haugesund will already be departing at 16h55.

Conclusion

I’m not really sure what to make of my SAS Plus experience. All in all, the flight was okay, I guess. And it certainly helped that I had the first row all to myself. But even so, the entire experience was kind of underwhelming and unspectacular, from the dirty cabin to the rather lacklustre service.

I think next time, if I have an alternative on European short-haul, I’ll take it.