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.

KLM, Business Class – Embraer 175 & Boeing B 737-800: Basel to Amsterdam and Oslo

Introduction

My first flight of 2022 sees me travelling from Basel to Amsterdam on KLM. I’m on my way to Trondheim. Originally, I booked a ticket on KLM for Basel-Amsterdam-Trondheim. But I wasn’t really happy with the itinerary, because both the flight to Amsterdam and then on to Trondheim would be operated by an Embraer 175. I don’t mind the little Embraer on a flight of one hour or so. But the block time for Amsterdam-Trondheim is over two hours, and the KLM Embraer 175 is very uncomfortable on longer journeys.

Then I decided to go to Paris to see Turandot on 30 December 2021 at the Opera de la Bastille. I figured there would be no point in returning to Basel in the evening of 1 January 2022, only to leave again the next morning at the crack of dawn. I was also still frantically looking for an excuse to get me out of having to spend so much time on the Embraer. Which is how I ended up booking a flight from Paris via Amsterdam to Oslo instead. First on an Air France A 320 and then a KLM B 737-800. Much better.

Then one week before I should have left for Paris, I decided to cancel the trip again because of Omicron. I’m double-jabbed and boosted, but I think it’s clear that the only way to get this pandemic under control is if we all show at least some restraint, by trying to keep our distance and avoiding any unnecessary travel. So probably not by spending over two hours in the Opera de la Bastille shoulder to shoulder with a couple of hundred culture vultures. Of course, that then meant that I had to change my ticket from Paris-Amsterdam-Oslo back to Basel-Amsterdam-Oslo… I really have to say, Air France KLM were excellent. No matter how often I called to change/refund me tickets, their staff were always friendly and competent.

Check-in

I’m carting a large suitcase with me on this trip, because I’ll be giving another course after the one in Trondheim. The check-in process at Basel airport is really slow. They’re checking in the flights to Paris and to Amsterdam at the same time. The majority of passengers are non-Schengen nationals heading back home after the holiday via either one or the other of the two hubs. Without a Schengen certificate though, checking that passengers have all the necessary documentation takes up a lot of time.

The Swissport Skyview lounge

The lounge in Basel is open again on both the lower and upper level, although half the upper level has been taped off, presumably to save costs on staff and cleaning. There aren’t that many passengers around either. The food options in the lounge are somewhat limited. There are three questionable hot items to choose from: a platter of rather dry looking samosas, sausages and soup. I don’t try any of them.

Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts on time and doesn’t take very long, as the load is very light. There are only about thirty passengers on the flight. There are two rows of Business Class, and I have the whole Business Class cabin to myself.

The cabin

So yes, the Embraer 175. There are a number of things that elude me about this aircraft. First, I’ve always wondered why it has a slightly nose-up attitude when standing on the ground. Especially seeing as its larger brothers, the E190 and 195, have a more nose-down attitidue. But that’s not really all that important. What bothers me though, is that none of the windows on the E175 ever seem to be properly aligned with the seat rows – no matter on which airline. You’re either having to crank back your neck to get a look outside, or you’re view is obstructed by the seat infront of you. The recline also isn’t very good, and pitch on row 1 could be better too.

In addition, this particular aircraft is having a toilet malfunction. As a result of which, the crew call button keeps going off every two minutes or so, even though there’s nobody in it.

The crew

The crew on the flight from Basel to Amsterdam are typical for KLM. Very professional and friendly. That is something KLM and Air France do well, I think. You always know exactly what to expect from their crews. And that’s exactly what you get.

The meal

There have obviously been a few changes and cutbacks to KLM’s European meal concept in Business Class. First, the food box that passengers previously only got on the Cityhopper flights has now been extended to the mainline fleet as well. Which is a bit of a let down. In addition, the meal is no longer served with breadrolls or butter. So it’s really just the main course, a dessert and a small plastic bowl with walnuts, which is just plain weird. Apart from that, KLM catering has a tendency to be a bit on the ‘experimental’ side…

Tonight’s offering is a bulgur salad with falafel, a few pieces of cheese and hummus. It may not look very appealing, especially the hummus, but the taste is surprisingly good.

On a positive note, those horrible little tubs of sweetened gelatine they used to pass for dessert have been replaced with these rather tasty little fruit pies.

KLM has also replaced the plastic cutlery with politically correct and biodegradable wooden cutlery.

Arrival

The weather in Amsterdam is not very nice when we arrive. It’s quite warm but raining. At least with such a light load it doesn’t take long for the passengers to disembark and the bus to bring us to the terminal. I think this is the first time I’ve actually been on a flight that parked on one of the remote stands between piers C and D. I’m guessing the aircraft will be heading to maintenance for some TLC and to check out the pinging loo.

Transfer in Amsterdam

I have one hour to make the connection to Oslo. Normally I probably wouldn’t bother with the lounge and would just browse through the shops until it’s time for boarding. Only, the shops have all been closed because of the lockdown measures in the Netherlands.

The flight to Oslo

The flight to Oslo is mostly unremarkable. As on my previous flight, the load is rather light. At least there are five passengers in Business Class in total. On this flight, the meal is the usual Cesar salad in a box. I seem to get that one quite often lately…

The crew

The really outstanding feature of this flight isthe crew. They’re just so nice! The purser is professional and competent. She makes excellent announcements and takes very good care of passengers during the flight. What’s more, when the pilot comes out of the cockpit during the flight, I even manage to pick his brain for my PhD. He’s just so friendly and helpful, just brilliant!

Arriving in Oslo

Eventually, we land in Oslo on time at 22h30. It’s very misty and there’s a thick layer of freshly driven snow. The pilot applies full reverse thrust to slow us down, and as we vacate the runway, the snow removing crew is already entering the runway to start clearing away the fresh snow.

As per 02 January 2022 visitors to Oslo from a Schengen country need to have a Covid test done upon entering the country. This can either be done directly at the airport, or at home. Arriving passengers also have to complete the registration form ahead of their arrival. The only problem is, nobody seems to be able to tell me what to do with the test result…

Conclusion

I’m assuming the diminished meal service on the European mainline fleet has less to do with Covid-related health measures and more to do with an urgent need to reduce costs wherever possible. Of course, one might argue that driving down the costs by making cuts where the passengers will easily notice them is rarely a good idea. But these are strange times, and if anything, my constantly changing travel plans showed how volatile and unpredictable air travel has become. With that in mind, it’s refreshing that KLM has taken that on board, making it easy and effortless for passengers to change their bookings, cancel trip altogether and request refunds – even at short notice. I’ll take that any day over a fancy meal and a plush seat. Furthermore, KLM’s strong point, as far as I can tell, has always been its staff. And that has certainly not changed, luckily.