16th February 2002
Photo © Stefan Sjögren
As this is one of the first flights that leaves Dublin in the morning, I knew that I would have to leave home to get there on time really really early. So, I woke at 04:30, took a shower, checked I had everything packed for the conference I was going to in Helsinki and got a lift from my mum to the airport. So far everything was going to plan. I was going to fly on the direct Finnair flight via Stockholm, but this does not operate on Saturdays, so SAS was the preffered alternative, I wanted to avoid Heathrow.
Check-in was provided by the happy smiling people who call themselves Avariace or something silly like that, anyway- British Midland subcontract them. There were 3 check-in desks open for this flight, with Check-in for Star Alliance partner bmi right next to it. The line was short and in no time at all I had a boarding card. I only wanted to be checked as far as Copenhagen because I wasn't sure wheater I would fly with SAS or Finnair up to Helsinki later that day.
We boarded from the C pier, boarding was done to star alliance standards and the cheery gate agent pulled my ticket and said goodbye, which was nice. pleasantness doesn't go a miss at 6:30 in the morning! Once onboard we were greeted by a very senior crew. I grabbed an Irish Times and took my seat. I had an aisle seat with nobody next to me. The flight was roughly 2/3 full and then once the doors were closed the captain informed us that there was air-traffic overcrowding over Northern England so we would be delayed 15 minutes. This was made up en-route. Safety announcements were in Danish and English. We taxied out and took-off behind bmi A320 which was going to LHR.
On this flight we were served breakfast. The tray was well stacked, with cold scrambelled eggs, slices of meat and a fruit salad. Hot Rolls along with crackerbread were distributed regularly. The very attentive cabin crew also offered tea/coffee regularly, and the cups were real crockery, not plastic. I'm thinking that SAS are a quality airline, that looks after it's passengers well. I always thought SAS were good, but I haven't flown them since over a year and boy did my reaction to their service improve. They are great. Ok, the crew are a bid on the stern side, not falling overthemselves laughing/friendliness, but they seemed genuinely nice, especially the rather matronly purser who gave me a nice danish smile when she passed by. I like SAS's NG737's, but i'm suprised they didn't install Flip-down TV's as an option like Iberia did on the A320's.
I glanced through their boutique brochure and scanorama (great inflight mag) and had a little cat nap before we began our descent into Kobenhavn. We arrived on time, and taxied to our gate in the new non-schengen part of the airport that SAS uses. At Copenhagen on this Saturday morning were- SIA 747-400, TG 747-400, PIA A310 and a beautiful new SAS A340.
16th February 2002
OH-LYV (not 100%)
Photo © Alexander Jonsson
I had a look around Copenhagen airport for a while, really cool airport - very modern, spacious and efficient. Decided to catch the 11.45 Finnair to Helsinki, so I took a wander over to the corresponding terminal (The old part of CPH airport) where all the oneworld airlines are grouped togehter. I went to check-in and the handling agent (Norvia or something like that) controlled it. I was told that as I hadn't confired my reservation I would have to go over to the Finnair ticket desk and sort it out. So I did, went back and he checked me in. I made my way to the gate where our DC-9-50 kitted out in the new blue of Finnair was waiting to take me to the cold north. There were only about 20 people on this flight and so it was all a bit casual. I couldn't figure out though, why I was given a seat assignment next to some other guy. I moved, but it seemed odd! Then a middle aged f/a came through with newspapers, none in English though, not even a Herald Tribune, only danish or finnish. Anyway - I amused myself with Blue Wings, the inflight magazine of Finnair, with a handy pull-out map of Helsinki and a finnair timetable, also the other magazine was called Lento, all in finnish. Safety demo was done in Finnish and English and we pushed back, taxied and took off to the east really quickly. Shortly afterwards there was a really muffled announcement over the p/a about service. I didn't understand it at all. Right then, as the curtain between business and economy was still open an f/a came around with funny little meal boxes. They looked pretty appetising. They contained a tasty potato salad, some chicken, a nice piece of chocolate cake, a roll, and some finnish chocolates....mmmmm.
Then, just as I was looking forward to a gin&tonic, an f/a comes through with a bottle of water. I asked her where the drinks trolley was (from my previous finnair experiences SIN-BKK-HEL-STO-DUB last year, I remember just how much drink finair supplies you with!!!) Anyway, she said "did you not hear the announcment" and explained that there was a problem with the uplift in Helsinki so there was only water. I sighed, but understood, she then explained that on the flight from HEL to CPH there was not even any food. Okay, then I would have gone mental. Anyway, this was a bit unusual.
The flight was uneventful as we crossed Sweden and then started our descent into Vantaa. I also observed that unlike my experience on the finnair MD-80 last year, the crew on this DC-9 were all middle-aged, and with the exception of maybe 1, not particularly attractive. It looked pretty dead when we arrived. Just 1 finnair MD-11, a LH 737, then a couple of finnair MD-80's/DC9's.
21st February 2002
Photo © Chris Sheldon
Well, after having the best time EVER in the Helsinki area and with Nordic Management Seminar complete, which was such an amazing experience, thanks to all the finnish people who made it work so well!!!....it was time to go home!
After I woke up and got ready I decided to take a taxi from the conference site at Espoo to Vantaa. As I had an open ticket I immediately scanned the departure boards to see when the next flight to Wonderful,Wondeful Copenhagen would be. Finnair, no, they only operate 3 flights on this route every day, SAS, yes, they had a rake of departures. Good old reliable SAS, it'll get me home.
I went straight to the sas check-in where the charming and pretty agent made it her mission to get me on the next flight outta Helsinki, heading in the general direction of Ireland. She was a little puzzled with my routing, she told me most connecting passengers for DUB are routed through Stockholm. But anyway, she checked me straight through to Dublin via Copenhagen, the next flight would be boarding in 15 minutes, and I was on it! I had a nice aisle seat on the MD-87, row 14 or something like that. I went straight to gate where I encountered this really bitchy gate agent. She wanted my passport (already checked, but fair enough, bear in mind i was travelling inra EU) She then just pulled my ticked and practically threw my passport back at me (I was about to say something smart about how not to treat a sapphire member, when i realised it was SAS and Star I was dealing with...oopps, just as well i didn't say it). The story continues, as I was pissed off and thought she was just being bitchy with me, but when I was sitting down in the well appointed gate area watching a SAS MD-80 push back for Stockholm, there is a really big commotion going on at the gate area. Basically the same agent is verbally arguing with a guy telling him he must show her ID now! in the end security gets called and the guy who is shouting that he wants to see his brother (even though he doesn't have a ticket for the flight) is dragged away. Quite amusing. Not something one would expect at a quiet Scandinavian airport. The flight was only about 2/3 full, so there was room to strech out.
The crew on this flight, once again seemed exceptionally old, only one young positioning f/a seated behind me. I overheard his conversation with another man seated in that row who was connecting to Zurich, while the steward was working a flight to Brussels from Copenhagen. After an uneventful take-off a really tasty snack-box/meal was served. It was the best plane food I've had in ages. There was salmon, herbs, lemon,waldorf salad, potato salad, hot bread rolls were also distributed. Then there were finnish mint chocolates. More rolls followed, if you were still hungry. When the drinks cart came around I had a Swedish Beer and a coca-cola. I liked the way on SAS they ask when you have ordered your drink if there is anything else you would like. nice touch! Tea/Coffee were also offered. Soon enough Capt.Nilsson announced we would be starting our descent into Kastrup Airport. On approach we had a wonderful view of Malmo and the bridge linking Sweden and Denmark. Before we landed the purser informed us on which stand we would be arriving and the connecting gates for Brussels, Manchester, Aarhus, Zurich, Paris CDG, Heathrow.
After arriving Copenhagen I had a couple of hours to kill before my flight back to Dublin so I went shopping in the really cool shops at CPH, and spotted some more SAS A340's, they look huge in comparison to the 767's.
21st February 2002
Photo © Charles Falk
Well, after wasting the time in Copenhagen I went to the gate, which was pretty deserted until there was a stampeede of people that arrived all at once for the flight. I boarded towards the end. I have taken this particular flight before and it's usually jam-packed with connecting passengers from all over Scandinavia, the CIS, Far East, Eastern Europe. Anyway, the business class cabin was huge, 10 rows. I had an aisle seat on the left hand side, row 12 if i'm not mistaken. The flight was completely full and I thought I would have the middle seat free until a mother and baby show up!!!aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! it was hell all over again!!!!! I was panniking and looking for a free seat on the plane, anywhere, even the wing would be better. Alas, I resigned myself to 2 hours of torturous non-stop screaming, toilet breaks and god knows what else. I ordered myself a stiff gin&tonic and suffered it all. The flight was uneventfull, again a really old crew (does anyone under 40 work for SAS ex.Copenhagen?) The meal was great, cold, but great. It was a pork oriental style maincourse with tasty noodles. yuummmmy! for starters there was again a sort of waldorf salad mix with mayo and rolls with danish cheese, followed by more rolls. Coffee and Mint Chocolates for desert rounded it all off. I was stuffed, once again, not a rare occurance in the skies of europe these days. Our descent seemed to take forever, and we broke cloud on the approach to runway 28 at Dublin really really low. The winds on the approach were very strong, as well as the rain. The landing was definately one of the roughest i've experienced. My bag was one of the first off, I was tired - took the aircoach back into the City Centre and the good old' trustworthy 15B Bus back home! the end of another uneventful but memorable trip to the top of Europe (well, almost)!
In conclusion, I think SAS are going against the trend. While most full-service European airlines are removing catering/drinks services on european routes, SAS are improving them. This will make them the airline of choice. I was sceptical as I always thought SAS were good and reliable, but then was discouraged to fly with them, as I though Lufthansa were having too much of an influence on them service wise, especially in economy, but i got off every SAS flight feeling full, satisfied and happy. Infact I was so impressed with SAS on these flights I have already booked my next flight with them, I'm gonna fly DUB-CPH-Hamburg and back in 3 or so weeks!
Regarding Finnair, well, I always liked this airline. I am a big Oneworld user, so naturally I like them, but after my last experience (ie. an intercontinental flight with no meal choice whatsoever) I was kinda hoping they would have improved their general service. Maybe I cought them on a bad day- but I was not very impressed, they could do better with their resources. SAS have all the finnishing toughes that Finnair lack (eg-newspaper choice) I'll fly them again though!
Hope i didn't bore you too much - look forward to your comments!