I just stepped off the SWISS flight from Zürich. In 90 minutes I have a connection to Haugesund. If you’re connecting from an international flight that’s not on SAS to any domestic service, you can’t go straight to departures. Instead, you’ll have to exit through customs, then head one floor up and go through security again. Hm’kay…?
Alas, once I’m landside again, it’s difficult to find the escalators to take me one floor up to departures, because they’re all hidden away.
But I must admit, at least the terminal is very nice and spacious, despite the inconvenience.
Luckily, I’m travelling on an SAS Plus fare, which means I’m entitled to use the fast track for security. Not that it helps much, because the security staff have obviously decided my luggage is a security issue and take for ever to check it. It’s just a rucksack, for heaven’s sake. Maybe it’s something to do with my spectacular beard…
The SAS Business Class Lounge
There’s an SAS lounge in both the international and domestic sectors of the terminal, one floor up from the public area.
I know, I know – it’s such a cliché… but the lounge really does look like something from an IKEA showroom.
There is also a good selection of salads, breads, cheese, cold cuts and soups.
I just have enough time for a bowl of salad while I upload the previous post before my flight starts boarding from gate C8.
It’s obviously cold outside, because they’ve even covered up the aircraft’s engines.
On this flight, I’m seated on 3F and as my luck will have it, the middle seat between me and the guy on the aisle stays vacant.
The seat pitch is good, but compared to the very modern A220, the cabin on this aircraft look ancient!
There is a USB port in the back of every seat, by the way.
The two cabin crew working the forward cabin are… ehm… difficult? The purser is an elderly gentleman who looks as though he should have retired long ago. And he obviously think he’s quite the joker. Only, he’s not funny and his safety on board demonstration is so sloppy that he might as well not have done it at all.
In Norway it seems to be standard practice that aircraft are only pushed back from the gate, but without turning them to point in the direction of the taxiway. I wonder if perhaps it has something to do with the ice.
In any case, before we head for the runway, we make a stop of about twenty minutes on the de-icing pad for them to defrost our plane. It’s obviously such a common occurrence up this end that the pilots don’t even bother to announce what’s going on.
But then once that’s done, we head for the runway and take-off without any further delays.
On domestic services, SAS Plus passengers get to select any item they like from the buy on board menu for free, whereas in regular Economy Class, food and drinks are only available for purchase. Tea and coffe however, are complimentary in all classes.
I ask for some apple juice and a packet of crisps.
It’s obviously not haute cuisine, but hey, the flight is only 35 minutes.
Despite the delay for de-icing, we still land on time. Up here it’s 15 degrees warmer than Oslo, with the temperature hovering around 9 degrees.
Haugesund airport is very small. Arrivals is more or less one not so big room with enough space to deliver the luggage. But at least that also means there are no airbridges!
I step outside, and the airport bus to Haugesund is already there. The bus runs infrequently, but the schedule coincides with SAS’s arrivals and departures. The journey into town takes about 25 minutes.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think the presentation went rather well, and I even had a bit of a fan-boy moment when I chatted with two gentlemen at the conference that I’ve quoted more often in my papers than I care to remember! It is kind of odd when you finally meet somebody and realise they don’t just exist on paper but also in the three dimensional world…
Getting to Pudong Airport
The flight to Copenhagen will be leaving at 13h20 from Shanghai Pudong’s terminal 2. To get from the university in Fudan to the airport will take approximately fifty minutes by car, which is why I order a taxi to pick us up from the hotel near the university at 10h00 on Saturday morning.
To enter the building you first have to undergo a preliminary security screening. Although to be honest, given how sloppy and uninterested the staff go about their job, I’m not really quite sure what the point of this check is supposed to be…
SAS checks in on row H of terminal 2. When I get there, my heart nearly stops, because the queue is endless. How many people fit in a bloody Airbus A 340 anyway? Luckily though, there is a dedicated queue for Business Class passengers, which is much shorter.
From what I can gather on an A 4 sheet of paper lying on the counter, SAS gives you the option to do a last minute upgrade at check-in from Economy to either Economy Plus or Business Class. An Upgrade from Economy to Business would be something like RMB3500, which is a bit less than EUR500.
The cases are labelled all the way to Zürich and so, the next stop is immigration and security. Fortunately, the queue is not too long there either and within twenty minutes I already find myself airside.
The departure gate for the SAS flight is right opposite the exit from security and the escalators leading up to the lounge are just off to the left. So I take a few photos of my aircraft and then decide to escape to the lounge.
The Air China Premium Lounge
In Pudong, SAS uses the Air China First and Business Class lounge, lounge number 71, which is located one level up from the public airside area.
The lounge is spread out over two floors. The lower floor is mainly for lounging about (and surreptitious smoking, by the smell of it…) and there is only a bar with drinks available but no food. The main area of the lounge is on the upper floor, which is also where the buffet with the food is.
There is a good selection of hot and cold dishes, including Western and Chinese dishes, pastries, etc.
The lounge is nice enough, and even though there’s a Lufthansa A 380 being readied for its return to Frankfurt outside, it’s not too crowded. And the wifi is not bad either.
Boarding for the 13h20 departure is expected to start at 12h35, so 45 minutes before departure. There are three different lanes to queue for boarding: one for Economy, one for Business Class and a third for families with children and other disabilities and misfortunes…
The boarding process is completed on time. But no sooner have the doors been closed that the captain informs us there will be a delay of at least thirty minutes due to heavy traffic in Pudong. Eventually, we depart with a delay of an hour. However, given that the flight time is announced as ten hours and twenty minutes, which is one hour less than scheduled, we’ll probably still be arriving in Copenhagen on time.
Getting airborne from Pudong is the usual undignified and somewhat embarrassing spectacle you get on the Airbus A 340: we line up on the runway, we wait, the excited anticipation starts to rise, the throttles are pushed forward to the TO/GA position, the engines start howling…
… still howling…
… and then there a gentle bump and the beast slowly lumbers into motion, slowly gaining speed. Terminal 1 goes zooming past the window… well, passes at a slightly faster pace than taxi speed, then the new terminal still under constructions and then, only then, seemingly in slow motion Astrid Viking raises her nose into the air and reluctantly cuts the ties with earth. We actually made it, we’re finally airborne.
The cabin on this bird is identical to the one I had on the outbound flight, so I think it hardly needs an introduction. Instead, this time I tried to focus on taking pictures of some of the smaller details of the cabin. I must say though, I really like the seat and I think it offers a lot of space and comfort.
On this flight the complimentary wifi is available. But it is turned off the entire time we are flying over Russia. Which is a very long time if you consider the size of the country.
The service on the ground begins with the welcome drinks. There is a choice of water, orange juice or champagne. After that, the menus for the flight are distributed.
After take-off, the slippers and the hot towels are handed out before the start of the lunch service.
The crew on this flight are really excellent. They’re very friendly and go out of their way to make passengers feel at home, for example by suggesting things for them to sample from the drinks cart. There’s something very efficient but still unrushed about their service, which makes the experience very pleasant.
The vanity kit comes in a stylish black bag. It contains socks, eye shades, ear plugs, a Colgate toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste, as well as some lip balm and hand cream by REN. The toothbrush is the same model Emirates uses and it’s very good. The earplugs are also comfortable to wear and good at blocking out the noise.
The meal service starts with the warm nuts and drinks. I decide to go with a Danish, Belgian-style ale that’s quite strong at 9% and has a somewhat disturbing hint of tropical fruit. I’m not sure what to make of it, I’m not even sure I like it either.
The crew make two bread rounds and encourage passengers to take more than just the one piece. The bread is served with a small ramekin of butter. I always find it’s the little things that make the difference between a normal crew and a stellar one: by the time he’s finished the first two pieces of bread, the valiant M. has already demolished all the butter. When the crew come by for the second bread round, one of the flight attendants notices and brings him some more butter without him even having to ask for it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call service.
The First Course
For the first course, there is a choice of two starters. I have the crab and salmon mouse with the tomato timbale, which is very good and flavourful, but without being overly fishy. The first course is accompanied by a small mixed salad, which is served with a small flacon of balsamico and olive oil.
The Main Course
For the main course there are four dishes to choose from: chicken, fish, beef or vegetarian. Seeing as I’m not much of a carnivore at the best of times, I decide to try the polenta, served with goat’s cheese, broccoli and a very tasty tomato and bell pepper sauce. The meal is served with shavings of parmesan cheese on it. I really like this dish. Especially the tomato sauce is excellent and tangy and goes very well with the parmesan.
For dessert there is a choice of cheese and crackers, a warm cheese cake with berries and a selection of fruit. I have the cheese cake with a bit of dragon fruit and kiwi on the side. And then to conclude the meal, there is coffee or tea.
By the time the meal service ends and the table wear has been removed, we’ve only been airborne for just over two hours. Not bad!
Being a daytime flight, the crew only dim the lights but do not switch them off completely. Throughout the flight they regularly pass through the cabin offering drinks and snacks.
The Second Service
I miss the second service, mainly because I’ve kept myself well fed and well hydrated from the snack bar during the flight. From what I could gather from a glance across to the valiant M.’s tray, the meal consisted of a shrimp salad, a fruit salad for dessert and a choice of salmon or proc for the main dish, which was served with Anna potatoes and veggies.
Our arrival into Copenhagen is five minutes ahead of schedule. The only thing I think SAS could do better is to provide arrival information for connecting passengers. As it is, there is no information provided until you’re on the ground.
Other than that though, I think SAS has a solid and consistent product. Their main selling point, I’d say, is the crew. On both the outbound and inbound they were really friendly and very hospitable. The meal service is also very nice. There’s something old-fashioned about it but that’s kind of nice. And the seat is also very comfortable. I’d fly them again any time.
I just stepped off an Airbus A 321 of SWISS, arriving from Zürich. It’s just gone nine o’clock in the morning and I now have another six hours to make my connection to Hong Kong.
The SAS Lounge
There is no SAS or Star Alliance lounge in the non-Schengen sector of the F concourse, from where the flight to Hong Kong will be leaving. But SAS has a Business Class lounge and a dedicated lounge for Star Alliance Gold members in the Schengen area.
The Business Class lounge is nice, although it is quite small and tends to get very busy at times. Here too there’s a bit of a IKEA showroom/Starbucks café vibe going on. But given that this is the heartland of IKEA and I’m shameless enough to stereotype, I guess that’s fair enough.
The food and drinks selection is somewhat limited though. But I’m guessing the lounge had been designed mainly to cater for short-haul traffic, seeing as the number of long-haul flights from Stockholm is fairly limited. But the wifi connection is good.
One hour before departure the valiant M. has solved yet another series of mathematical somethings that only an engineer could find exciting, and so we head off for our departure gate. The queue at immigration is quite busy, especially seeing as the Thai Airways and Emirates flights are departing ahead of our flight to Hong Kong. But the line moves quickly.
The non-Schengen area has closed gates, so when the flight starts boarding, that only means that passengers are invited to enter the holding area. But at least there are plenty of places to sit.
I must say, I rather like the new SAS Business Class cabin. The colours are admittedly a bit dark, but I think that only makes the cabin look more elegant. The seats are in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration and there are eight rows of seats, which means a total capacity of 32 seats in Business Class – all of which have direct access to the aisle.
On the even numbered rows the window seats and the D aisle seats have a bit more privacy because they are not directly on the aisle.
The seats are staggered, so that the window seats are slightly in front of the middle seats.
The seat is comfortable to sit and lounge in. In the bed position though, it feels a bit tight because there isn’t a lot of height clearance to move the legs.
The touch screen is very responsive. Moreover, you can touch the screen from your seat without even having to bend forward.
Apparently, there is complimentary wifi on board for Business Class passengers. But I try a couple of times throughout the flight, and it never works.
A duvet, pillow, seat cover and the amenity kit have already been placed at every seat.
After take-off the crew also distribute slippers.
The crew on today’s flight is really excellent. They’re very friendly and their interaction with the passengers is relaxed and welcoming. It’s nice to experience a crew on a flight that actually looks happy to be there, for a change.
The service on the ground begins with the welcome drinks. There is a choice of orange juice, water and champagne. While we’re still on the ground, the crew also distribute the nicely designed menu for the flight and an unscented hot towel.
After take-off, once the service begins, I notice that the crew always make sure to start the service at the same time on both aisles. This is really just a minor thing, but still I think it’s a nice gesture.
The meal service begins with a large bowl of mixed nuts and an aperitif. I decide to go with the Apple Must, which is some sort of thick apple juice and very tasty.
After that, the table is set.
The salad is prepared in front of you.
The First Course
There is a choice of two first courses. I go with the smoked cod served on a bed of pickled root vegetable julienne and a mustard, dill and brown sugar dressing. During the first course the crew make two bread rounds and actively encourage passengers to take as much bread as they like.
The Main Course
For the main course there is a selection of four main dishes. Again, I go with the fish and have the baked cod with herb butter, parsley potatoes, cabbage with onions, oven dried tomatoes and a Hollandaise sauce.
After the main course there is a cheese and dessert service, which is served from a trolley and really looks very nice. I have the rhubarb tart and strawberries, which are served with thick whipped cream. With that I have a Sauternes to drink.
And then to conclude the meal, I have a coffee.
All in all, I have to say I really enjoy the meal. I think the quality of the food is very good. What’s more, there’s copious amount of it and the presentation on the trolley is nice. After the meal service the crew set up a self-service bar by the side of the L2 galley. And here too there is a large selection of items to choose from, including crisps, biscuits, instant noodles and fresh fruit.
The Second Service
Ninety minutes out of Hong Kong, one of the cabin crew comes to wake me up, it’s time for the second service. This consists of:
a selection of breads and butter,
yoghurt and müsli,
a selection of cold cuts, cheese and vegetables,
a small Stilton and broccoli pie,
coffee and juices.
The timing of the meal is very good and shows that the breakfast service needn’t take for ever. Again, the quality of the meal is very good.
Normally you can expect arrival traffic into Hong Kong to be fairly busy, causing long delays for the approach. But today is different and we’re on the ground fairly quickly. I guess it probably has to do with the fact the SAS is one of the earliest arrivals from the European airlines in Hong Kong, with most of the others not arriving until the afternoon.
At the end of May 2011 I decided to have a break and spend a few days in Beijing sightseeing. My residence during my stay in China’s capital city was the Aman at Summer Palace, a lovely hotel which sits adjacent to the Imperial Summer Palace and was built in what used to be one of the palace kitchens.
Date: 04 June 2011 Flight number: SK996 Aircraft: A 340-300 From: Beijing To: Copenhagen Cabin: Business Class Seat: 2A
Getting to the Airport
I leave the hotel at 12:00. The journey to the airport takes us a little less than one hour, mainly due to the fact that traffic in Beijing is really bad and crawling most of the time. Having said that, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Chinese drive live mad men. The day before my departure I visited the Great Wall at Mutianyu. As soon as we left the inner city behind us, traffic became lighter. My driver kept swerving in and out of the traffic and left me wishing for a traffic jam to slow him down. But all that is another story.
In any case, upon arrival at the airport I am already being expected by a young lady from the hotel’s escort service. She takes my bags to the SAS Business Class check-in counter and then guides me to the shuttle to take me across to the satellite of terminal three, from where all international departures seem to leave. The journey is quite long and really impressive. The new Terminal 3 at Beijing really is amazing. Once we arrived at the satellite, my escort shows me the way to the immigration counters where she bids me farewell and a safe journey home.
Immigration takes about 10 minutes to complete, as there is quite a queue. At least behind immigration there’s an express line through security. In order to take advantage of the express lane at security though, you need to show your boarding pass to some official, not sure who he works for, who stamps your boarding pass no less than 4 times with the same stamp before letting you through.
Once you pass security there really isn’t that much to do, except gape in awe at the magnificent and impressive architecture of the building.
The Air China Lounge
There are a few shops, but there is not really anything appealing there so I head to the Air China Business Class lounge one floor up. The lounge is okay, nothing special but with a good selection food and beverages. By the time I leave to get on my flight it’s getting rather busy and the reception area is a complete mess, with people pushing and shoving their way forward to be served first. What fun!
I arrive at the gate where boarding has already started. There is a dedicated line for Business and Economy Plus passengers and a separate airbridge for premium passengers. I am greeted at the door by an elderly but ever so stylish flight attendant. As soon as I settle in, a male flight attendant come round offering orange juice, water and champagne.
The cabin on this bird shows some signs of wear and tear but is still generally in good condition.
Our A 340 has rather unusual overhead bins over the middle row of seats. They’re same ones Royal Jordanian has on its A 330. They dropped open, pretty much like the bins on the Tripple Seven. As we taxi to the active runway I suddenly spot a large dot gradually growing bigger. At first I figure it must be a B 747. A look through the lens of my camera however reveals it’s an A380. ‘What a great location for a photo’, I think. But alas, as the aircraft draws nearer I get tangled in the strap of the camera and by the time I free myself and have an opportunity to take a picture, the thing is already too close and too fast. And this is the outcome.
Take-off is another one of those painfully undignified A 340-300 departures. Such a lame duck! Accordingly, it takes us a while to climb through the pollution of Beijing.
Once we are airborne, the crew come round handing out earphones, slippers, menus and vanity kits.
They then distribute the much appreciated hot towels. Check out the rather funky decoration with dry ice smoke coming out of the glass with the flower.
We begin with a drink run, served with dry pretzels and a shrimp and scallop on a toothpick with veg. The presentation in the plastic cup is not exactly the epitome of the much acclaimed Danish and Scandinavian design, but what will you?
What impresses me most about the service is the timing of the crew. Throughout the flight they make sure that they pass through the two aisles at the same speed, rather than having one side served way ahead of the other, as often happens on other carriers.
The meal tray duly arrives and has a a mixed salad on it, which comes with a bottle balsamico and olive oil.
The First Course
The first course is Gravad Lachs with cucumbers marinated in dill. There is also a plate with cheese for dessert on the tray. But I demolish that before the main course arrives. Which however, does not mean that service is slow. Quite the contrary, it is very well timed.
The Main Course
And then comes the main course. I have the chicken in a tomato and basil sauce with polenta and grilled vegetables. And it isn’t bad either. My neighbour has the ravioli with mushrooms and vegetables and says it is also very nice. Thanks for letting me take a picture.
After the meal I have a lovely port.
This is followed by dessert: apple and rhubarb pie with fruit and vanilla cream. I have a Sauterne and coffee with this. Lovely!
After the meal the blinds comes down and the lights are switched of. This is also when the crew set up the tremendously well stocked self service bar. Even so,the crew pass through the cabin regularly with drinks, sandwiches and ice cream.
I don’t usually ‘do’ a section on the toilets in my trip reports but I think I’ll have to make an exception this time. The SAS A340toilet is absolutely huge. There are even two windows including a shade for those of us who worry that they might be seen in an unflattering position by another aircraft passing close by…
The Second Service
And then, surprisingly quickly, it’s already time for the second service: we have a beef salad to start, followed by a buffet with a choice of either chicken or pork with rice and vegetables. The portion of the second serving is rather substantial!
As they say, time flies. Shortly after clearing the trays from the second service, we’ve already started our descent into CPH. We make a beautiful approach over the Öresund, with the bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden coming into view just before we touch down.
In Copenhagen I have a connection onto the Swiss flight to Zürich. I have two hours to kill. The lounge in Copenhagen is nice and very typical of what I would call Scandinavia design. But perhaps all I’m trying to say is that it reminded me of an IKEA show room.
I was going to include my connecting flight to Zurich in this report. But as things turned out, I think I’ll save them the embarrassment and not comment. Save to say the flight was not one of Swiss International Air Lines’ finest moments.
I must say that SAS was a big surprise. I was not really expecting anything much but found their service to be excellent and very professional. Sure, it is not fancy and more functional than elegant. But they get the job done and rather well at that. I would choose them any time for another long-haul trip. In fact it’s a pity their network is not that extensive.