SAS, Business Class (operated by Air Baltic) – Airbus A 220-300: Oslo to Paris Charles de Gaulle

Introduction

Today I’m on my way from Oslo to Paris. I exit the hotel just after six in the morning and make my way across the road to the terminal.

Departures are on the upper floor of the building. The check-in hall is an enormous, cavernous space. At six in the morning the place is not very busy.

I print my own baggage tag at one of the multi-purpose self-service machines and then head over to the Star Alliance Business Class drop-off. Behind check-in is a long corridor that leads to the security checkpoint. Along the way, I stop at the Dr. Dropin test facility to get the mandatory PCR test out of the way.

There is a dedicated fast track for Business Class passengers and the process is swift. OnceI’m airside, I’m still in the domestic part of the terminal. The border crossing to leave the country is to the right.

The SAS Gold lounge

SAS has a lounge in both the domestic and international part of the terminal. They are both one floor up from the common airside area.

Business is obviously still slow, because the Business Class lounge is closed off and not in service. Instead, all passengers are invited to use the Star Gold lounge.

There are plenty of seating options, and the lounge is nearly empty during my stay.

There is a nice selection of cold breakfast dishes available from the buffet. Just a word of warning though. Coffee is generally dreadful in Norway, and the SAS Gold lounge is no exception.

The terminal is very generously laid out, with lots of space and enough place to sit.

Boarding

Our departure is scheduled for 07h55, with boarding supposedly starting at 07h25. Eventually we start boarding at 07h40, which is no big deal, because there are only 32 passengers on the flight.

The cabin

The flight today is operated by a wetlease from Air Baltic with one of their Airbus A 220s. The aircraft is a stark contrast to the old and tatty looking B 737-700 I flew into Oslo on yesterday.

The A 220 really is such such a lovely aircraft from a passenger’s perspective. It’s spacious and so quiet. Of course it helps that the flight is not even half full. Air Baltic only has a row 1 on the starboard side of the aircraft, as the opposite side of the cabin is occupied by storage space. Thus, on the port side, row 2 is the first row of the cabin.

In the middle of the row of three there is a large, removable table, which is very convenient.

Leg space on row 1 is good.

Once we move off stand, our first stop is the de-icing station. It’s an interesting operation they have going on here. They are de-icing six aircraft at a time, and the process only takes a few minutes to complete.

Once we’re airborne, we’re treated to some spectacular views of the vibrant sky.

The crew

The crew have also been leased in from Air Baltic and they’re a lot more engaging than the SAS crew I had yesterday. They take their job seriously and tend to passengers’ needs in a charming and old-fashioned way.

The meal

Okay, this really is abissmal. Shame on you SAS! The flight attendant enters the cabin and inquires if there’s anything I’d like. I request an orange juice and a coffee. Juice is not available, but instead the flight attendant offers me an orange and mango smoothie. And that’s it. She moves on to the next row.

On her way back to the galley I hail her down and shyly inquire if there’s actually anything to eat. To which she replies that they had been informed by SAS that food for passengers was only on request and not actively offered. She tells me she’s happy to bring me something if I like. Then minutes later she’s back with my hot breakfast…

I think not even the Italians have pizza for breakfast, and they invented the bloody thing. But apparently that’s the only ‘dish’ the crew have on offer.

Well that was surprisingly disappointing… With the meal out of the way, I sit back, read, and enjoy the views outside.

Arrival

We land in Paris with a slight delay, caused by the defrosting before departure. The flight ends at terminal 2D. Terminals 1 and 3 at Charles de Gaulle airport are currently still closed.

The wait for the suitcases to arrive is very short. I guess that’s one of the few advantages of the pandemic and the result of there being less travellers.

From terminal 2D I walk to the railway station between terminals 2E and 2F and grab a Roissyval train to Roissy-Pole, which is the airport’s ground transportation hub and the location of all the airport hotels.

Conclusion

What on earth was that? It’s kind of tragic that the only good thing about this flight was that it was not operated by the carriers that should have been doing the flight. If this is seriously SAS’s idea of a European short-haul Business Class product, then I have to say I think it really sucks. Their only saving grace was that the flight was operated by Air Baltic.

I’m definitely not impressed with the two flights I took with SAS on this trip. And I’m certainly going to try to avoid them in the future. Definitely not worth it!

Scandinavian Airlines – Boeing B 737-700: Trondheim to Oslo

Introduction

The city of Trondheim is beautifully located and elegantly laid out. About three hundred years ago, most of the city was gutted by a huge fire which destroyed a large part of the original city. In the aftermath, the city employed the services of a French architect to help with the reconstruction of the city. Hence, its main throughfares are wide and have the look and feel of French boulevards.

Following the unification of Norway, Trondheim became the capital city of the kingdom for a time. Which is why one of the city’s main attractions, the Nidarsdom cathedral, is often also referred to by Norwegians as the heart of Norway.

When I visited in January, dawn was not until eight in the morning, and by 15h30 it was already pitch dark again. I would like to return to Trondheim some day in the summer, when it’s not so cold and not so dark…

Where to stay

In Trondheim I’m staying at the Radisson Blu Trondheim airport, because that’s also the location of the course I’m giving. Of course, staying in town would have been nicer. But it’s a 38 minutes commute from the city out to the airport.

The Radisson Blue is literally right next to the passenger terminal. A walkway connects the hotel to the airport at ground level, which brings you straight to arrivals.

Check-in

Check-in and departures are loctaed one floor up from arrivals, on the first floor.

Alas, the SAS app really is complete and utter crap. Nothing works, it’s unreliable, user unfriendly and completely lacking in any useful information. My flight is scheduled to depart Trondheim at 19h15. But the link on my lock screen is showing a departure time of 19h55.

It’s only just gone 17h05. I’m early. So I contact the SAS service desk and inquire about the reason for the delay, and if perhaps there might be a possibility for me to take an earlier flight to Oslo. I’m not holding my breath though, because the ticketing agent looks like a very unhappy bunny. In fact, she doesn’t even bother to answer. Which is why I’m even more surprised when eventually she grunts something I cannot decipher and hands me a boarding pass for the flight at 17h45. “Suitcase” is the only thing she says to me, which I take to mean that she wants me to put my luggage on the belt for her to label it. Brilliant, boarding starts in 15 minutes.

I’m not sure if it’s due to Covid or just the fact that we’re still only in the first week of January, but the airport is really not very busy at all.

There’s even a fast track for security, although it hardly seems worth the effort at such a small airport.

There is no lounge at Trondheim airport. Most of the regional airports in Norway don’t seem to have a lounge.

Just as I arrive at my departure gate, the inbound flight from Oslo is pulling up onto its stand. Today’s flight is operated by a Boeing B 737-700 still in the old livery.

Boarding

Boarding is via electronic gates. First, there is a call for members of the SAS frequent flyer programme to board, followed by a general boarding call for everybody else. The load is very light this evening. I count 32 passengers.

The cabin

I’m not quite sure how they do it, but somehow the cabins always look grimey on the SAS short-haul fleet, and I’m not even sure why. I think it’s partly to do with the lack of colour and the really boring grey everywhere, a lot like Lufthansa. But the aircraft also tend to by rather filthy, and this one is no exception.

Initially, I’m seated on 2F and there’s a guy sitting on 2D. However, once boarding is completed – which doesn’t take long – I switch to 4A and have the whole row to myself.

Every seat comes with its own USB port. Leg space is good on row four.

“All by my seeeeelf, do wanna be all by myseeeeeeelf…”

Once boarding is done, our first stop is the de-icing pad for a little pre-departure defrosting.

The flight time is announced at forty minutes.

The meal

SAS has a rather strange fare and service concept on short-haul flights, which I’m sure is easy to understand if you’re willing to invest the time to investigate. Having said that, I’m not really sure how conducive it is to business for an airline, if your products are obscure and difficult to differentiate. In any case, I don’t know for sure what class I’m travelling in. So let’s just call it the allows-you-to-rebook-to-an-earlier-flight-and-gives-you-free-snacks class. Basically, you can select everything that’s on the buy on board menu and get it for free. I have a small bottle of apple juice.

And some salty roasted cashews.

Arrival in Oslo

We land in Oslo on time and taxi to our stand at the domestic pier. The weather is much betterthis time around than when I first arrived in Norway.

My suitcase is surprisingly quick to arrive. Tonight I’m staying at the Radisson Blu Oslo airport. As you exit from baggage claim, turn right and head for the exit. Keep on going, cross the road and then you’re already standing in front of the passage way that leads to the hotel.

Conclusion

Usually I have at least a short section on the crew of the flight in my posts. However, in this case, I really wouldn’t know what to say. They were all friendly enough, but otherwise not really outstanding. Perhaps the flight just wasn’t long enough. Perhaps one should also factor in that in Norway, flying literally is a lot like getting on a bus. However, I cannot help feel that SAS is heading for some serious issues. More and more, they have started outsourcing their short-haul operations to other carriers, basically because they are able to operate at a lower cost. In doing so, SAS is seriously putting itself at risk of losing sight of its own identity.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Oslo to Zürich

Introduction

To be honest, I wasn’t actually going to write a review of my return trip from Oslo to Zürich, figuring it would just be more of the same as the outbound.

As such, this isn’t much of a trip report either, consider it therefore, as an update or, for me at least, a very pleasant surprise.

The Crew

I already figured this would turn out to be a good flight the moment I stepped on board. The female maître de and her male colleague were standing at the L1 door as though their only reason to be there was to welcome passengers aboard the flight.

This continued throughout the flight, with all the cabin crew giving the impression of wanting to make sure passengers felt comfortable and welcome.

The Meal

The biggest surprise though, came when the inflight service started. With a departure at 13:55, SWISS considers the Oslo to Zürich flight a lunch time service.

As such, the service started with an apéritif. Here too, the crew very proactively offered wine and champagne to passengers. The maître de looked charmingly disappointed when I informed her I’d just be having a Coke Zero.

The drinks were served with a small packet of snacks made with olive oil and containing pieces of black olives.

The male flight attendant then went through the cabin addressing every passenger individually and by name. He informed me that for lunch there was a choice of beef or Spätzli for the main course. As I’m not much of a carnivore, I went with the latter. One way or another, I must admit I wasn’t expecting a hot meal.

The Main Course

The meal was served on one tray and consisted of the main course, which was Spätzli with rosted onions and a cheesy cream sauce.

The First Course

A small bowl with potato and smoked sausage salad, served with a chunky piece of smoked salmon.

The Cheese

A small plate of cheese, served with bread from the basket.

Dessert

An excellent piece of apple pie with cherry compote and a chestnut mousse.

Throughout the service drinks were regularly replenished by the crew.

Conclusion

In summary, this really was a highly enjoyable flight I had with SWISS. The crew were excellent and gave the impression of having been properly trained. They were motivated and relaxed, but without being sloppy. Of course, it also helped that I had the whole row of three all to myself and could spread out comfortably.

In fact, I got so comfy that I dosed off and slept for the rest of the flight with the warm feeling of sunshine on my face.

The fabulous Swiss chocolates served at the end of the flight, which have become SWISS’ trademark, were offered to passengers as they disembarked, which I thought was another nice touch.

I wish all flight could be like this!

SAS, Economy Class -Boeing B 737-800: Haugesund to Oslo

I must admit that I never really understood the Scandinavians’ obsession with summer and the sun until I came on this trip.

But I’m starting to see their point. It’s coming up to eight in the morning and it’s still dark outside. It’s also windy, cold and all round unpleasant.

Getting to the Airport

From Haugesund to the airport there is an airport bus. The journey time is about 30 minutes. The bus leaves at 08h15, to arrive at the airport with enough time to check in and go through security for the 09h35 departure to Oslo.

The bus departs from the Haugesund terminus, which is a rather depressing edifice that really could do with a fresh lick of paint.

Check-in

In any case, I arrive at the airport about 50 minutes before departure. It’s a very convenient and small airport, with only four check-in counters and just as many gates. There is no lounge though.

Boarding

Ever since I arrived in Norway, I’ve been craving one of those cardamom rolls. But somehow, wherever I go on this trip, they’ve either just run out or they’re still preparing them. I try my luck at the airport airside kiosk, but no luck…

But at least there is the fact that there are no airbridges at this airport. So when boarding starts, I can take my time walking across the apron taking pictures of the airrcraft taking me to Oslo.

The Cabin

I’m seated on 16F, which is on the second emergency exit row. Seat pitch is obviously very good. The only problem is that there is no arm rest on the window side of the seat. As a result, you’re either sharing the one on the other side, which seems a bit unfair on the guy stuck in the middle seat, or you have to find something else to do with your hands.

Our take-off is to the northwest and very bumpy, thanks to a strong crosswind. But shortly after we’re airborne, we pierce through the cloud and a burst of sunshine floods the cabin.

The ‘Meal’

The fligh time to Oslo is only 34 minutes. On board service in Economy Class consists of complimentary tea, coffee or water.

Arrival

The weather in Oslo is slightly better. I think. It’s colder, but at least the sun is trying to break through the cloud.

And once more I have the good fortune of deplaning via stairs instead of an airbridge. Hurrah!

I now gave three hours to make my international conn… finally, come to papa my sweets, I’ve been looking all over for you…!

SAS Scandinavian Airlines, SAS Plus – Boeing B 737-800: Oslo to Haugesund

Transfer in Oslo

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.

Boarding

It’s obviously cold outside, because they’ve even covered up the aircraft’s engines.

The Cabin

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.

The Meal

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.

Arrival

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.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 220-300: Zürich to Oslo

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m on my way to Norway. The flight to Oslo isn’t leaving until 09:40. But I figure I might as well take my usual train from Basel to avoid the worst of the morning rush hour.

Getting to the Airport

I arrive at Zürich Airport at 07:20. They’re currently replacing the tracks in the station, so half the platform is closed off. It’s not so much of an issue, but it means that the platforms are quite crowded and it can take a while for the queue to move.

Either the morning rush for security is already over, or most companies have already spent their travel budget for this year because the airport is very quiet.

The SWISS Business Class Lounge

My first stop is the lounge. I’m starving! Luckily, the lounge isn’t too crowded either.

When it’s empty, you can actually appreciate the design of the SWISS Business lounge. I’m not so sure if the Swiss rustic look will age all that well, but for the time being it’s okay.

There is a small buffet with a rather limited choice of food. However, the centrepiece of the lounge is the open kitchen, where you can order hot dishes. So I help myself to some bread and cheese and order an omelette with chives and some beans to go with that.

I answer a few office e-mails and then decide I’d much rather be looking at the aircraft outside. So I leave the lounge around 08:30, with 50 minutes to go before boarding starts.

Boarding

My flight is departing from gate B41 on the mixed Schengen/non-Schengen pier.

The Cabin

There are six rows of Business Class for a total of 18 seats. However, there are only nine passengers seated up front this morning. I am on 3A, with the aisle seat next to me empty. Seat pitch on row 3 is good and very comfortable.

I really like the the A 220’s cabin, because it feels so spacious. Although I probably shouldn’t confess to that to my colleague Mr Bighead, who worked on the development of the CSeries.

As usual, the service starts with the distribution of still water and towels.

Departure is from runway 28, right behind an A340 which only just manages to get off the ground…

The Meal

Once the crew is released, the breakfast service begins. It consists of a tray with cheese, melon, parma ham and some disgusting liver parfait. Yuk!

With that, there is a selection of breads offered by the crew. Although Mr 3D manages to grab a total of five buns before the flight attendant can stop him. Some people…

And with that there is butter and apricot jam. There’s also a small jar of very sweet berry Müsli.

And to conclude there is a Swiss chocolate, which strangely vanished before I could take a photo…

As we head further north, the weather rapidly deteriorates. And much to my horror, when we break through the cloud on our descent, the ground below is covered in snow.

Arrival

Eventually we land after a flight time of two hours and twenty minutes. The runway and taxiways are covered with ice, but nobody seems phased by that.

Transfer in Oslo

Once we stop at the gate there is an ID check before we’re allowed into the terminal. But the check is painless enough. I now have 90 minutes to make my connection.

Helvetic Airways, Economy Class – Embraer 190: Oslo to Zürich

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Introduction

I just stepped off my flight from Haugesund. I now have three hours to make my connection to Zürich. The airline industry is a strange business. I’m flying on a ticket booked with SAS, on the code-share flight with SWISS, which is operated by Helvetic Airways. Or something like that…

Transfer in Oslo

Changing planes in Oslo is easy and straightforward, even if you’re connecting from a domestic flight to an international one. All gates are under one roof, so all you need to do is find the exit to leave Norwegian territory. And that’s it.

Airside

The terminal has a bright and airy feel. There are quite a few restaurants and there is ample space to walk or sit around. Not being quite sure what to expect on SWISS Economy Class on a flight of this length, I decide I better find something to eat. Of course it helps that most of the restaurants in the terminal offer some exceptionally good apron views…

Once that’s been taken care, I find myself a quiet corner and settle down with my Kindle.

Boarding

There is a bit of a hold up boarding the flight, because the aircraft previously occupying our gate is running late and only moved off stand after the SWISS flight had landed.

It looks like it’s going to be a full flight this evening. Even so, we still manage to complete boarding in time for a punctual departure.

The Cabin

Luckily, I was able to snag a seat on the emergency exit row. Helvetic Airways is one of the few airlines I know of that has a row 13 on its aircraft. As it happens, row 13 is the emergency exit on their Embraer 190.

On the exit row the seat pitch is really very good. There is ample space to spread out. Otherwise though, as I already commented on in one of my previous posts, seat pitch on the Helvetic Embraer is pretty tight.

Alas, the seat next to me is taken by a middle-aged woman. The two seats on the opposite side of the aisle are taken up by one of her daughters on the aisle seat, and the daughter’s husband on the window seat. The row behind me is taken up by her other daughter on the aisle seat and her son on the aisle seat opposite and a wannabe music producer on the window seat next to the son. And man, do they talk! They start yapping even before pushback. They totally miss the gorgeous sunset on climb out for all the talking and they don’t stop talking even when the crew make their announcements via loudspeaker.

The Crew

There are three cabin crew on this evening’s flight. Two females and one male with the rather unfortunate name Randy.

Anyway, the service is efficient. Randy and the maître d’ don’t seem too happy. But the other female crew member is really friendly. She’s all smiles during the service and generally seems quite content to be there.

The Meal

There’s a funny smell in the cabin as we board the plane. It’s an odd combination of the stench of old socks and something decomposing in the ventilation system. Once the cabin crew is released, it soon materialised what the source of the smell is: the Economy Class service consists of complimentary drinks and what the Swiss lovingly refer to as a ‘Chäschüechli’. It’s usually a popular term to try at a party if there are foreigners in the room… ‘go on, try saying Chäschüechli…’. In case you’re wondering, a Chäschüechli is basically a small cheese quiche.

I really wish they wouldn’t serve stuff like this on planes. The thing is served in a cardboard box. But by the time the crew reach row 13, the grease from the Chäschüechli has seeped into the cardboard box in which it is served and I start to get heart burn just from looking at it.

But at least the service is efficient and the thing is removed again fairly quickly, leaving behind an even stronger stench of eau de chaussettes.

The service concludes with the distribution of the chocolates, which is always a highlight.

Arrival

I can’t really say the rest of the flight passes peacefully. The mum next to me has gone to sleep. But one row back, here son has inadvertently struck a conversation with the young man next to him, who is a tremendously successful (his words) music producer and obviously loves talking about himself.

Eventually though, the flight draws to an end. Because it’s already late, the approach is made onto runway 28, which usually means that once we touch down, the crew have to break like something nasty to make the turn off in time. And today is no exception. I love it.

Conclusion

The flight with Helvetic Airways was okay. At least they try and the fact that you still get complimentary food and drinks in Economy Class sets SWISS apart from a lot of the competition. Although from what I understand, that may be about to change.