|Topic: Off To The Northern Skies, On SAS And X2000 (pics)|
Posted 2010-05-09 15:33:18 and read 19520 times.
As we all know the last couple of months have been terrible in terms of travelling. For Scandinavia in particular, the situation has been terrible. First, we had the unusually rough winter with snowstorms, humid air combined with the cold temperatures, making it almost lethal for transports such as trains, little did I know that it was also going to affect my flying.
On February 26th I was planning to make a visit to my dear friend Eric in Amsterdam, and this time I was flying on Ryanair, which meant that I had to fly from Stockholm Skavsta Airport. At the time, the entire railway network was shut down, but given the fact that airplanes aren’t affected by the cold weather in the same way as trains, I was pretty sure that It was going to work out fine… But I was wrong, dead wrong.
On that Friday morning, the high humidity had formed a dense layer of fog over the Stockholm Area, but this didn’t concern me very much. Given my newly gained knowledge about the sophisticated ILS systems that are found across all passenger airliners and major airports, landing in this weather would just be a walk in the park. As I made it to the airport, everything seemed perfectly fine, the morning flights were going according to schedule, and I was starting to believe that this would work out perfectly fine. But as the day progressed, announcements were made about flights being delayed, including mine. Still, a delay wasn’t much of an issue for me. But soon things got worse, more announcements were made about further delays, followed by flights being cancelled one by one. Very soon, I received a text message from Eric telling me that my flight had been diverted to Arlanda, and that I should expect it being cancelled soon. At first, I didn’t really believe what he said, well I didn’t want to believe what he said.
But after only a few minutes, an announcement was made across the speakers, informing us that the flight to Eindhoven was cancelled. At the same time, another fifteen or so flights had been cancelled as well, making a huge chaos break loose. In despair I tried to get in line to the service counter to get my tickets re-booked for the evening flight to Charleroi, but it was no use. With 5000 stranded passengers, it was a huge chaos, and I ended up loosing my wallet, containing 100 Euros of cash, credit cards and public transport passes. So I decided to throw in the towel, and get my tickets refunded. Luckily I had kept the (return)ticket to the airport coach in my back pocket, so I was at least able to make it back to my father’s house in Stockholm, where I spent the rest of the weekend.
As a comfort, my mother agreed on compensating me for the lost travel expenses. So in order to get myself in a better mood, I booked myself on the Inaugural flight of City Airline’s new route between Vasteras and Gothenburg, on the 19th of April.
My expectations for this flight were a bit higher now, since the winter had stopped and the weather wasn’t going to be an obstacle. Sadly, I was wrong again. The volcanic eruption on Iceland as we all know, prevented my plans from falling through. Luckily, I was given a full refund from City Airline, and SJ were kind enough to give me a full refund on my X2000 ticket, for the return segment.
With one more flight booked for the 8th of May, and given the fact that my two previous flights had been cancelled, my expectations for this trip were at the rock bottom.
Welcome to my 11th report
This time I will cover my daytrip to the City of Östersund, in the northern parts of Sweden. In this report I will cover the outbound segment on SAS in Economy Class, and the return was made on the Swedish High-Speed train X2000 in 1st Class. As Always the report will be accompanied with some decent quality pictures, that I hope you will enjoy!
As a compensation for my lost travel expenses, my mom decided to let me book a daytrip for the same amount of money that was lost, so I looked though several options on where to go. At the time, I noticed that SAS were having a major sale, with flights starting at EUR 39. And given the fact that I only had around EUR 100 to spend, a trip within Scandinavia would be the most suitable option. After some intensive searching, my choices were down to either Helsinki or Östersund. HEL was very tempting, since I would get the chance to fly the ever so rare MD-90, but in the end I went for OSD, since it was a part of Sweden that I hadn’t been to yet. Since there is only one flight to OSD on Saturdays, I wouldn’t be able to return by plane, so I had to take the train back home which was more than fine for me. So I came across a ticket on the X2000 train in 1st Class, for EUR 50. Given the fact that this was the route on the X2000 network that I hadn’t covered yet, and that it was also the longest X2000 route, stretching to almost 6 hours, it was a no-brainer for me. So I booked this itinerary in an instance.
With 10 days before my day of travel, my mom told me that she was going away to Egypt for a couple of weeks, and since her flight was leaving from GOT, she asked me if I could help her with the luggage. I agreed on coming with her, so we took the X2000 to Gothenburg, in 1st Class of course. But this time I had a bad experience for the second time. The seats we were given were broken, and with the train being fully booked, there was no chance for seat change. They had also ran out of breakfast trays for 1st, so we were given a sandwich from the Bistro. In Gothenburg, the Lounge staff were very rude to me, and they didn’t even want to let me enter the Lounge despite me having paid full price for the ticket (in fact the price doesn’t matter at all), but in the end I was let in. But I was given no smiles, welcome or goodbye. Instead, the Lounge lady came up to me and told me that it was time for me to go, despite it being almost 40 minutes until the train would depart. The ride back home from Gothenburg compensated for the bad experiences I had earlier, the service from the crew was great despite them making several flaws, the friendliness made up for it.
I was feeling a very tired after the Gothenburg trip, and with only 4 days to my OSD trip I was having thoughts of cancelling it. Mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t make it to the airport on that early Saturday morning, since mom wasn’t able to give me a ride to the bus station. Luckily, my aunt in Stockholm was more than happy of having me over on Friday night, so with the transfer issue solved it seemed like I would be able to make it this time. With the previous failures in mind, my expectations for this trip were low.
Friday 7th of May 2010
It was a sunny Friday afternoon at Vasteras Central station, I was feeling a bit tired after a rough school day, having written an English exam all morning. I was waiting for the train that would be taking me to Stockholm, where I would spend the night. The train ride was pretty uneventful, I spent most of it listening to music, and despite the fact that there were lots of people in “party mood”, given the fact that they were going to Stockholm for the night, I found the ride rather relaxing.
As I arrived at Stockholm Central, I noticed that the SJ Lounge was open. My ticket to Stockholm was in 2nd Class, but I had my 1st Class ticket for tomorrow so I could at least give it a try. As I walked up the stairs to the Lounge, with the ticket in my hand and the fear from the sheer embarrassment of being rejected, I entered the doors.
As I walked in, I was warmly greeted by the attractive looking Lounge attendant in her 20’s. She was busy with making a reservation for another passenger, but she quickly waved me over to take a quick look at my ticket. With her being rather busy, she didn’t even bother to take the ticket out of its “holder”, so she only took a quick glance at the top row of text before handing it over to me, and welcoming me in.
Some pics showing an overview of the Lounge
Snacks and beverage offerings were rather decent, with several kinds of cookies and breads, a coffee machine, tea, and juice. No alcohol is offered.
I settled down for some cheese and crackers, along with a cappuccino
I personally find the Lounge to be a very nice oasis away from the hectic central hall. The snack and drink offerings are rather adequate, and in the mornings you can make yourself a small breakfast there. Wireless internet is also offered for free, btw. And if you don’t have a computer, you can use one of the surf stations.
I have a very limited experience of Lounges in general, and I wonder how the SJ Lounge will stand against most airline Lounges. But I’m guessing it’s at the same level of standard as a US airline Lounge.
Anyway, I spend around two hours there resting, and surfing the internet, before it was time to take the metro to my aunt’s house.
Saturday 8th of May 2010
I woke up at 6am after a good night’s sleep, followed by a quick shower and a strong breakfast. All of these things are essential for a successful daytrip, IMHO. After the breakfast, I packed down the last of my belongings and said goodbye to my dear relatives. By 7.04am I left the house, and headed down for the nearby metro station. As I was going to buy the ticket, I noticed that the machine didn’t work properly, so I told it to the man in the register. I also asked him if I was able to buy a ticket from him, using a credit card, but he said no. Only cash or cell phone payments are accepted, and I had neither of these. In the end he let me pass for free, but it was at my own risk in case there were any ticket controllers. The metro ride lasted for around fifteen minutes, and I arrived at Stockholm Central at 7.45am. As I was making my way over to the Arlanda Express trains, I was a bit surprised to see so many people there on an early Saturday morning. When I arrived to the dedicated tracks for Arlanda Express, I bought myself a youth ticket for EUR 12, which was very cheap, before jumping on the train at the last minute.
The Arlanda Express train
The interior of the train, which is designed by Björn Borg.
The ride on Arlanda Express was very quick, but rather uneventful. Most of the train was packed with American business travellers, a group of them were doctors heading home from a medical conference. I decided to step off the train at Arlanda North, to take a walk through terminal 5 and Sky City, I had a little less than two hours to spare before the boarding would start.
The newer part of the T5 departure hall. It was packed this morning
I really like the lavatories in this part of the terminal.
View of Sky City
Terminal 4, which is the domestic terminal.
Flight: SK072 Stockholm Arlanda ARN to Östersund Frösön OSD
Date: May 8th 2010
Duration: 0h 55m
Seat and Class: 11A Economy Class
Aircraft and Reg: Boeing 737-683 LN-RRC
I arrived to a rather empty Terminal 4, and since I had already checked in online the day before, I was looking for a check-in counter so that I could print out my boarding pass in the old fashion way. But they where nowhere to be seen, in fact SAS are now checking in people via self service machines or Internet now days, and the counters are only used for bag drops. Oh well, this wasn’t much of a concern for me so I printed out my BP using a machine, and then I proceeded to security. The security check was a breeze and I was airside in no time.
Terminal 4 doesn‘t have much to offer, except from some overpriced café‘s, a bar and some tax free shops.
The gate area.
View of the empty apron.
My boarding pass and train ticket.
Very soon the boarding area filled up wit people, most of them were coming from a connecting flight arriving from Malmö, amongst them was a group of youths heading to Åre for skiing and partying. Very soon the gate agent came over the speakers announcing that the boarding was now starting, with rows of 12 and back, to begin first. Star Alliance Gold members were free to board at any time. Sadly, I had forgot to put the Star Gold tag Philip gave me, on my new Samsonite bag. But this wasn’t much of a concern really. Halfway through the boarding, I decided to stand in line. The line was moving pretty slow, but I noticed a separate line for cardholders and people using biometry boarding. So I decided to give it a try, by swiping my status less Eurobonus card, and believe it or not, I was allowed to pass with success!
Boarding the aircraft.
When I stepped onboard this B736 I was greeted by the friendly crew. For today’s flight the crew consisted of three female flight attendants all in their senior years.
As I made my way to my seat 11A, I noticed that the group of youths from Malmö had occupied my seat row, and the row behind, one of them was occupying my seat. So I kindly told them that I had reserved that particular seat. The asked me if I could sit in the aisle seat instead, but I raised them the camera and told them that I would prefer the window seat. They obliged of course, but they seemed a little bit upset for some reason. I’ve been in that situation myself, and I know how it feels, so I was feeling a bit guilty at the time. I didn’t speak to them during the rest of the flight, and neither did I get up from my seat.
Cabin during boarding.
You sure couldn‘t complain about the legroom.
Since I had selected seat 11A, I was seated right above the air condition packs which meant that it would be extra noisy, combined with the engine noise of course. This was no problem, since I only had to put on my noise cancelling headphones to get the problem solved.
Soon pushback occurred, and it was right on time, followed by a quick taxi to runway 01R/19L. The takeoff was rather long, and not so powerful considering the fact that we had a load factor of nearly 100% on this flight.
The seatbelt sign was turned off only 2 minutes after takeoff, which I find pretty strange, since we hadn’t even made a turn away from the runway at ARN. Anyway, we reached cruising altitude five minutes later.
Soon after reaching cruising altitude, this beautiful voice came over the PA and started singing the song Over The Rainbow, followed by a short poem about the sky. This turned out to be the flight attendant informing us that they are now commencing the Buy on Board service. The announcement was followed by an applause from everyone in the cabin, including myself. I really like those small touches, they can really make a big difference in terms of the in-flight experience. The offer for today’s flight was coffee/tea and a special luxury Mazarin, with blueberry and raspberry filling for SEK 35
Shortly afterwards the crew reached our row, and I decided to try out one of those special Mazarin’s. This time, I could pay with cash, so I used a SEK 100 bill, they had ran out of SEK 5 coins, but that wasn’t much of a concern for me.
The in-flight snack
I was also offered a refill on the coffee
The Mazarin wasn’t much special really, it tasted just like a regular Mazarin, only a bit sweeter. The coffee was pretty tasty, though it had a hint chlorine taste, which meant that the technician who was assigned the task of disinfecting the water system was a bit lazy with washing it out the 5’ish times.
Soon we began our descent to Östersund Frösön Airport, and the crew began to clear our tray-tables. The descent was pretty smooth, offering some great views of the northern landscape including the ski town of Åre, and Åreskutan Peak. The descent was followed by a very smooth landing.
Overflying a frozen lake.
…Before lining up towards the runway
Soon we parked and the seatbelt sign was turned off, everyone was rushing to get their stuff from the overhead bins, so I decided to remain seated for a while, until everyone had left. On my way out of the aircraft I took some pics of the cabin, and I also made a visit to the cockpit where I had a small chat with the Captain.
Some last views of the cabin
The front office of this B737-600
I had a rather interesting conversation with the captain, and he let me take a look at the different instruments in the cockpit. I was a bit surprised to see that they still had ADF’s installed on them. The captain told me that it is almost never used, and its only purpose today is to please the authorities, and act as a backup in case the more sophisticated GPS systems are dysfunctional or if they’re operating from an airport that doesn’t support GPS. I had to leave the cockpit after a few minutes, due to the quick 20 minute turnaround time. There were no crews to greet me at the door when I left the aircraft, but I didn’t care so much.
Deplaning via air stairs.
As I was making my way inside the terminal, I took a glance at the clock, it was showing 11.27 which meant that the bus to the city centre would leave in only three minutes. Since it was the only bus of the day I started to rush. Luckily, I made it onboard the bus with 30 seconds to spare.
Exterior view of the terminal
The bus ride was very quick, lasting a little bit less than ten minutes. During the ride, I had a chat with the friendly driver, telling him about my short daytrip. He suggested that I should take a walk down the main shopping street, and then a walk along the lakeside. He also gave me a map, and pointed out where the train station was located.
An office building owned my a major insurance company.
A man walking on the main square in Östersund
Some views of the lakeside, by the lake Storsjön. Which is the Swedish equivalence of Loch Ness.
The main shopping street.
The architecture in the city was pretty interesting. With quite some contrasts between the houses, some of the are built in early 1900s style, while others look like any suburban apartment building, of the 1960s.
A church in the central parts of the city.
The Östersund courthouse
In the beginning, my expectations for Östersund were pretty low, but I must say that those expectations were exceeded by far. It turned out to be a beautiful city, situated in the rather exotic northern parts of Sweden. Still I found it to be very modern, with pretty much the same shopping malls and facilities that you would otherwise find in Stockholm or Vasteras, etc. The people seemed pretty nice too, but I didn’t get much contact with them.
After having wandered around the streets of Östersund for almost four hours, I was starting to feel a bit tired, so with 45 minutes to spare, I made my way down to the train station, where I found the X2000 already parked on the platform.
Train: SJ X2000 nr 587 from Östersund to Stockholm C, via Sundsvall.
Date: May 8th 2010
Duration: 5h 43m
Seat and Class: Seat 22 in Car nr:2 1st Class
The X2000 that will be taking me to Stockholm today.
View of the Cars…
When I arrived to the train station I took a glance at the departure boards, where it said that the train will be departing from track 3, although the train was parked at track 1. So I went inside the station, where I met up with the crew for today’s X2000 service to Stockholm, who told me that they had some trouble with the signs, and that the train would leave from track 1.
So I walked down to the 1st Class car, which was nr:2. Soon people started to gather up on the platform, most of them had already formed groups, one for each car. The load from Östersund to Sundsvall was pretty low, with 1st Class around half full, and 2nd class nearly empty.
Shortly afterwards the doors were opened, and we were allowed to board the train. At the door we were greeted by the friendly train attendant dedicated specially for 1st Class. The boarding was done in less than a minute, and I was able to find my specially selected seat nr:22 in spotless condition, with both the recline function and tray table fully functional.
View of the 1st Class cabin.
View of the very comfortable seat. Seat 22 has a panorama window, which is one of the reasons to why I chose it.
The legroom was good. Though I find the 2-seaters to have slightly better legroom.
The table remained empty for the first segment to Sundsvall.
Shortly after having settled down in the comfortable seat, the train began to roll, it went very smooth and quiet so I didn’t have to use the headphones. A few minutes after departure, the t/a came over the PA welcoming us onboard this X2000 to Stockholm. He also informed us that due to railway construction between Gävle and Skutskär we had to make a short bus ride, and the board a new X2000 in Skutskär. This of course made me and some of the other passengers worried. So when the t/a came over to take a look at my ticket, I informed him about my connection to Vasteras, and also that I had a bus connection to my house outside Vasteras that I would miss if the connection in Stockholm was missed, and in case I miss that bus I would have to spend the night out on the streets. Since the bus connection wasn’t on the ticket, the t/a told me that he could see what he can do about it. Until then he told me to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Which I certainly did!
Enjoying the spectacular scenery from my train window.
Unlike any of the other X2000 routes I’ve been on this was very different, since the train was going on very old and very curvy tracks, it was going pretty slow with a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour. This did of course result in a lot of tilting back and forth, which was more than fine by me since that is what I love about the X2000. In fact the tilting system on the train was cutting edge at its time, and it still is. The hydraulic tilt is controlled to precise measurements by a dozen computers.
One example is when the train goes through an S-shaped curve, one half of the train is tilting in one direction while the second half is tilting in the opposite direction.
I spent most of the ride enjoying the scenery, which consisted mostly of mountains, lakes and people’s gardens. I also took use of the onboard wireless internet, which is free for 1st Class passengers. I was a bit surprised to see that the internet connection worked flawless, despite the train being out in the middle of nowhere.
Enjoying the ride.
After one hour or so, I got up from my seat to get something from the self-service bar. I ended up taking a cup of coffee and a brownie. While enjoying my coffee and brownie, I had a small chat with the friendly t/a in the galley. We talked mostly about the new meal concept for 1st Class, and he seemed pretty critical against it since they had cut down on quite a lot of things such as the coffee cups in porcelain and the Lindt chocolates, and at the same time raising the price from EUR 9,60 to 12,90.
He also asked me when I wanted the dinner served, which was a very nice touch in my opinion, since they always forget to serve me (It has happened a couple of times). I told him that I could take it after Sundsvall.
Some tea, and another brownie.
Soon the train arrived in Sundsvall, where we would make a 20 minute stop. During the stop I took a walk down the platform, and made a short visit to the other cars. Meanwhile the train was filling up with people, and 1st Class got packed.
Full house to Stockholm this evening
Soon the meal service began, and this time It was going to be extra exciting for me since I would get the chance to try out one of the new menus. Not too long ago SJ announced that they will enhance the dished in the three course meals served in 1st Class. The man who was given the job of composing the new dished was Master Chef Leif Mannerström who runs the Michelin restaurant Sjömagasinet in Gothenburg.
Starter: Chicken salad with crisp fried bacon, diced apples, walnuts, a cherry tomato with a curry dressing.
Main Course: Beef á la Lindström with Scanian potatoes and pickled cucumbers.
Dessert: Passion truffle tartlette.
Bread and butter: A selection of breads along with organic butter.
Drinks: A selection of non-alcoholic beverages are offered complimentary, including low-alcoholic beer. Beer and wine are available for purchase.
Coffee/Tea: A selection of Dilmah teas or freshly ground coffee from Kahls.
The starter taster really nice and fresh, the tener bits of chicken breast fitted in perfectly with the curry dressing, combined with the apple and walnuts it tasted like heaven. The bacon on the other hand seemed a bit over excessive, but it tasted well too. My only complaint was the lack of salad. To me this was more like chicken only, I guess one could say that the tomato made it a salad.
The Main Course on the other hand was a bit of a disappointment. Scanian potatoes is just an euphemism of diced potatoes soaked in some sort of sauce, I’m guessing it was brown sauce. The two elements formed a sticky goo that seemed to stick to the walls of the bowl, but it was at least edible. The beef on the other hand was very salty, and along with the pickled cucumbers which made it even saltier. It would have been edible if It wasn’t for the sticky potatoes that helped taking down the saltiness.
The Dessert however was an absolute dream. The passion fruit custard filling, with the caramel sauce on the top and the chocolate truffle in the bottom, all put together in a semi-sweet pastry shell went together simply perfectly, one of the best desserts I’ve had on the X2000 by far, since they’ve always been boring compotes or overly sweet pastries. Sadly, I declined coffee because of the lack of porcelain coffee cup on the tray.
All in all the meal was a success, and the new meal concept had met up to my expectations despite the Main Course being almost a disaster, the starter and dessert compensated for that. I’m really looking forward to try the other menus on future X2000 trips, and hopefully there’ll be quite many of them before the end of the year.
Shortly after having finished the meal, the t/a came over the PA announcing that we would now arrive in Gävle, so he told us to gather up out belongings and prepare to disembark the train. When we arrived to Gävle, all passengers disembarked the train, and walked over to the nearby bus station. It took more than 10 minutes before the busses arrived, and by now most of the passengers had become rather upset, and many of them were complaining.
Soon it was time to get onboard the bus, which was very crowded. And sadly, the last seat got occupied by some sort of Bondinbella, so I had to sit on the floor, but it wasn’t much of a concern for me. The bus ride lasted for 20 minutes, and when we arrived, I was the first one to leave the bus. At the train station in Skutskär an X2000 train was waiting for us, and as a kind gesture they had cleaned the train and filled up the self-service bar for us.
Chillaxing on the last segment of this almost 7 hour long trip. Now we were doing 200 km/h
The train left Skutskär almost 40 minutes late, and the delay was expected to be one hour since we had to hold a reduced speed after Arlanda, due to some sort of problem with the signals.
Soon the t/a came over to my seat regarding my connections, and he told me that I was not going to make the connection in Stockholm. So I was given two options, either to leave the train in Uppsala, and take the bus to Vasteras, I had to pay for the bus ticket myself. Or I could continue on the X2000 to Stockholm where I will take the next train to Vasteras that would depart at 23.37, and from Vasteras a taxi would deliver me all the way to my home, free of charge. Of course I went for the latter.
Personally this was great service from the crew to offer me a free taxi ride, on a segment that hadn’t even been booked. But I’m pretty sure that this special treatment is only given to 1st Class, if I would’ve been travelling in 2nd, then they’d probably said “If it‘s not in your itinerary it‘s none of our business”.
Anyway I arrived in Stockholm at 22.21, almost one hour late. As I stepped off the X2000 I noticed that my connecting train was already parked on the platform nearby, so I simply walked over to it and sat there for one hour until it departed.
The ride to Vasteras was pretty uneventful, but it was at least on time. When I walked out from the station building in Vasteras I noticed one taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it, now that is what I call service they even remembered my name! The taxi ride went by very quick, and I arrived safely at my house. I thanked the driver and went inside, to find the house completely empty. I dropped my bag on the floow, threw the jacket aside and passed out on my bed, where I slept like a baby until mid-afternoon the following day.
I must say that this trip was a huge success for me, everything went just perfect this time. Although my expectations from both the crew on SAS and the service onboard the X2000 were low, they were exceeded by far. And I would definitely recommend them, when travelling domestic in Sweden.
But the best thing about it was the complimentary taxi ride provided by the friendly crew on the X2000. I simply can’t understand how people can hate SJ, when they’re actually doing a great job!
That will mark the end of this report, I hope you enjoyed reading it, and feel free to leave a comment.