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Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:34 am

Roundtrip ORD-SVG... Reflections From A Newbie

Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:19 am

Hello everybody!

I have been enjoying the forum for a few months, and in the aftermath of a round trip from USA to Norway, decided to join up and write some words. Unfortunately, I am still a little bit too shy to take a lot of photos inside the airplane, so please forgive the lack of visuals.

My trip to Norway began with SAS A340-300 from ORD to CPH. I have flown this route many times, and with the exception of trips on 747s belonging to KLM and Air India respectively, being from Norway I usually fly with SAS, both the A330-300 and the A340. I have come to like this plane a lot. I still remember the impression it made on me the first time I boarded the A340.

The trip from Chicago was in Economy. The service was fine, but the food left quite a bit to be desired. Also this is a night flight, so there is not so much to be said about it. The lavatories did show some signs of wear and tear which in my opinion really should not happen on a flight like this. Things like that gives me the impression that the airline doesn´t really care very much about how it is perceived. Also in my experience, the in-flight entertainment system often malfunctions, so that the F/As have to go back
and restart it for whoever was having trouble.

There were storms in the Chicago area when we left, so we experienced some turbulence on the way out. It felt as if the plane was being tossed around a little bit but it didn´t last very long. This route is mostly very quiet and pleasant to fly. There is usually some light turbulence when going across Lake Michigan, and then again as we cross the Atlantic between the American continent and Greenland. In light of the current discussion here about the Continental flight that had to divert due to turbulence, I find it worth mentioning that the cabin crew always tells us that we should keep our seat belts fastened whenever we are in our seats. The seat belt signs are usually off while cruising, and the only times I have seen them come on the times I have made this trip, is when we have encountered turbulence that is a bit on the heavy side, and lasts for more than a few minutes. One time we were bouncing around quite a bit, and then when the seatbelt sign came on, I thought, oh my here it comes.

Takeoff is my least favorite part of the traveling with the A340 as the plane shakes and vibrates quite rigorously before lifting off. Also, throughout the flight I kept hearing what sounded like small rocks being poured into the air conditioning system. I had never heard it before, so I wondered what it could be. When we landed I asked the crew. I felt a little silly. One of the pilots was standing close by and could happily tell me it was condensation that had turned to ice, and it was nothing unusual, that they would even hear that in the cockpit. The crew thanked me for letting them know anyway. (In the beginning I didn´t want to ask but was felt that as an Airliners.net lurker, it was better to speak up and look silly, than to ignore something that might be turn out to be a problem later on).

The flight from CPH to SVG was done with an MD-80 (replacing the Atlantic Airways British Aerospace 146). It was a very pleasant and smooth flight. Most of the SAS planes I've been on are usually very clean and tidy on the inside, which - combined with the airline's nice color scheme - gives the aircraft a very bright and uplifting atmosphere. Reading Airliners.net has definitely increased my level of enjoyment when flying, as I notice and appreciate things I haven´t really been aware of before.

While in Norway I did several trips with SAS´ Boeing 737-500 planes. The first trip went to Værnes, right outside of Trondheim. Just as the plane had pulled out from the gate we were told we had to return due to a technical error - which turned out to be some problem with the flaps. The plane had to be grounded while waiting for a technical assistance. Eventually they had to fly in another aircraft. SAS is struggling in Norway, and some predict the company are facing very hard times. I think that is a shame, because when things do actually work smoothly, it is a very pleasant airline to fly with. I do think it was very nice of SAS to fly in another machine, as we were first warned that we might have to wait indefinitely at Værnes airport. I have however talked to others who have also experienced problems with SAS 737 machines. One flight had to return to Reykjavik due to smoke in the cabin, and others had similar problems. Are airlines are simply getting too sloppy with maintenance? Any opinions?

SAS 737-500 at Værnes, Trondheim.

Approaching Stavanger Airport at Sola. Stavanger city center in the distance.

After a few days I went to OSL from SVG on SAS, and it was a great flight. We were offered free breakfast and coffee, and the flight attendants were extremely friendly. As usual, the plane was spotless inside. I like the SAS colours of blue and cream, which gives it a very classy feel while in the air, especially when getting sunlight. The return flight was done with SAS' main competitor, Norwegian. I had wanted to fly with them due to being a bit weary with SAS and their technical problems. My experience, however, was less than stellar. From the cheap ads for gossip magazines on the seatbacks, to a whole seat missing!!! I felt like I had been dumped several notches into some abyss of budget flying. Nothing was offered in terms of drinks etc... not even to buy. When the F/A demonstrated the security routine, he came out from the front galley with the life vest already on. I think the part of putting on the life vest is the part that would most likely be problematic for people when in panic, so I always pay attention to that part about strapping it on. Apart from that the flight was fine.

Ticket prices seem to be discussed all the time. However, Norwegians generally seem to be quite well off financially and will pay HIGH prices for the smallest of things. While at OSL I paid $26.00 for an almost inedible chicken burger, which is an insane price. I am sure Norwegians could afford higher fares, especially with the fact in mind that airlines are now considering outsourcing maintenance to other European cities. Growing up in the early 80s, flying was seen as a bit of a luxury, and even if it is nice that prices are fairly low, I don´t think it is right to expect it to be on the level of cab fare. That, in my opinion, seems ridiculous.

The day had come to go back to Chicago. From SVG we had a CRJ900, which I had been looking forward to. I had previously flown from Chicago to New York with Delta on an E195 machine, which I think is a bit similar, and loved the way it looked and felt (despite it being a strange flight. The flight attendant was really sick and didn't even know what city we landed in).So I was excited as I took my seat. Of course the plane was new, and spotless inside. The takeoff was amazingly swift, and it only took a couple of minutes before the seat belt signs were turned off and service began. The sky was clear and we had a great view of the fjords and mountains surrounding the Stavanger area.

CRJ900 at SVG.

Enjoying a nice meal at CPH. I had no idea I would be upgraded and treated to a first class restaurant in the sky.

Gudrød Viking A340-300 waiting to take me to Chicago.

Great legroom, seat 08G.

Back to Chicago. I was traveling Economy Extra, and to my great surprise, my ticket had been upgraded to Business Class! After taking our seats we were offered champagne and orange juice. The service throughout the flight was impeccable, and the food was very very good. I have enclosed the menu. I had seat 08G. The lavatories in our section were a different story from the old- and yellow-looking ones they had in the back during my ORD-CPH trip. Two windows and mirrors all around lit up the whole room, with a great view to the engines pushing us across the skies. It almost seems strange, but I´d have to say those specific lavatories were among my favorite places to be on the A340. Also, it was replete with towels, wet napkins and other amenities. We also got a nice bag with socks, shoe bag, moisturizer, toothbrush and other handy things. There were at least three flight attendants making sure our little group had everything at all times.

The menu...

At one point, as I was eating my dessert, the Flight Steward (that´s what his badge said) came offering me danishes as I was finishing my ice cream that had just been handed out. I told him he had to stop spoiling me or I wouldn´t be able to go back to my regular life. This flight made me feel proud of SAS as what I imagine should be a world class airline. At the beginning of the flight, the captain informed us that there would be a few bumps in some places due to mild winds. The flight was mostly very quiet, however. The landing in Chicago was a little rough, and while out over Lake Michigan during descent, I could feel the plane starting to increase speed, climb, and making some sharp turns. Even one of the flight attendants came out looking rather surprised and took a look at the flight info screen. But then things calmed down and we came in for a rather bumpy landing in what I would assume to be some slight cross winds (?).

However, all in all, my whole trip was a very rewarding flying experience. Since I am from Norway, I do care about the fate of SAS, and hope they will make it through the rough times.

Hope you enjoyed the read!


[Edited 2009-08-04 19:43:43]

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