SAS trip report
Check in on line, using SAS app, with option to buy lounge access in ARN (22 eur). For some reason I couldn’t load the boarding passes to my phone, so printed them out. Bag drop off and document check at Warsaw airport a breeze, this is the advantage of checking into a small flight when there are no others (on this carrier). When I ask the agent says the flight is full. I quickly walked to the security line. This was not a nice experience. Maybe the security people were having a bad day. All kinds of people were waiting to miss their flights, creating really bad line energy. Those with more time reacted to the line breakers by reporting the encroachments to the line “police”, who pretended not to hear or see. I didn’t expect the line to proceed so slowly. When I made it to the remove-your –shoes and belt portion, someone in front of me had a problem, and everything just stopped. Just as I was through the xray machine, my phone rang. LOL the SAS gate agent calling to tell me the flight is about to close. WTF is the gate I ask, and I go off running like hell. I made it, a whole 30 seconds to spare. The CRJ-900 was at a remote stand and I got to ride there all on my own. As I stepped out of the bus the ground personnel gave me a sign to get on board real fast. I felt like a latecomer to class, the last on board. The good thing, no problem to find my seat and the wait is over, giving new meaning to the concept board and go. Despite the full load, there was space to stuff my laptop bag. There was some short safety message. I heard the turbines wind up, and we were on the way. Exactly on schedule.
My seat mate was also headed to Newark, but on the CPH flight. We talked a bit which was just enough to know we wouldn’t talk a bit more. Once we reached cruising altitude, the stewardesses came through with coffee and tea, first passing out cups, sugar and milk, then going through the cabin with hot beverages. I chose coffee being the coffee addict that I am, and it was pretty good. Not the usual instant version in lukewarm water and powdered creamer.
I dozed off a bit, waking up as we started our descent into CPH. A beautiful day with beautiful views of the Oresund strait. We landed on time. The CRJ-900 has a rather narrow aisle and deplaning takes time, even if Scandinavians are socially organized enough not to slow things down (assuming they made up a good portion of the pax load). Passengers with larger carry-ons have to pick their bags up planeside. A small line for this, but no shortage of ground personnel to handle them efficiently. A short walk up metal stars into the terminal which by then was already full of people on their morning flights to other places. A quick stop to the men’s room, as I did not have the chance in Warsaw.
The 737-700 flight to Stockholm was in the same terminal as the flight from WAW. About 30 minutes connection time. Boarding started about 15 minutes before scheduled departure, with passengers in SAS Plus and forward section boarding through the jetway, and those in the back end, walking down stairs and outside. I am not sure how this works in bad weather, but I liked this arrangement and the fellow passengers seemed comfortable with it. I had a window seat, 21A or something. The plane was not new, but pretty spiffy. The inflight magazine was highly used, not that I expect a new one, it but it is strange that was just what stood out and then I noticed the upholstery was also showing signs of wear. The flight was about 85% full. Boarding and cross checks were finished ahead of schedule, and right on schedule the tug pushed back the plane at a really fast clip. There were only two planes ahead of us, so we took off promptly for the 1h20min flight to Stockholm.
A bright almost cloudless day, so another nice view of the Oresund strait, windmill farm, the Oresund bridge. The crew was nice, efficient with beverage service.
I ordered breakfast for 80 sek (8.35 eur). A slight frown at the cash, but they did come up with the change. The boxed breakfast was ok, or just right. The time passed quickly as I talked with my seat mate. Some guy in finance from Hamburg. There was some turbulence upon approach to Stockholm, but we landed smoothly right on time. I thanked the stewardess for the tasty breakfast, she smiled when I said, I don’t know how you find the time to put it together, then departed through the rear door, down the stairs and outside into the brisk air. Once inside the terminal, which has a less “train station” feel than Copenhagen, I checked the onward flight. Despite the SAS penchant for timeliness, this one was already subject to a creeping delay. I thought of wandering outside, but that would threaten me with the security line fears, and since I purchased lounge access on check-in I headed to the lounge.
The lounge is pretty good but it is not the gold version. I wasn’t so disappointed, as not impressed with the design, just a bit too sexless or brandless. Comfortable chairs, like something you’d run into a Days Inn Hotel lobby in suburban Minneapolis. Decent internet, with USB and mains power outlets next to each chair. A good selection of hot and cold beverages, though the coffee machine was being cleaned when I got inside. Breakfast food was still available given the time I arrived, and also a decent assortment of greens, cheese, bread and meat, as well as soup. Numerous, regularly cleaned bathrooms and collection of dirty dishes. I knew already that I would have at least 3 hours for the Newark flight so I decided to take it easy. It was kind of empty when I arrived, filling up only about noon. A few older people and the rest, younger business types with lots of I-phones and slimline laptops.
I did doze off for a bit, but the chairs make you wonder whether this was a good idea. An option that is not just upright would have been great. About 40 minutes before the new departure time, I headed towards the other terminal. Document check was fast. On the other side, straight ahead, a SAS service desk. I bid on an upgrade a week ahead of the flight to Go Plus. Didn’t get it, but went to ask about the upgrade price. They had an offer for less than what I bid, so I said yes! It took a couple minutes to run the plastic through the system, issue a new boarding pass. All along the way the SAS staff were easy to find. They know what they are doing, and they seem to know their products. So chalk up a couple points for smart and empowered employees which is not always the case with so many non-employees in the industry these days.
There was another security control for bags at the gate that some passengers had to undergo. I was not one of them. The boarding area was tight, a lack of seats and you could tell people were tired of waiting for the flight to leave. I made a few calls and then boarding started. There was some order to it, but it wasn’t entirely orderly. Go Plus and Business class passengers could board at any time. Upon entering the plane (A330) I was directed to the right aisle, and found a seat in the row on the boarding card, next to the window. That’s what I thought the SAS lady agent told me when I purchased the Go Plus upgrade. Well a nice, young couple approached me to ask if I am really sitting there, or whatever people say, you’re in my seat. I told them I was expecting to learn some Swedish, but after checking my boarding card, I had an aisle seat in the center section of three seats. No problem I said, I’ll study Swedish later. I settled into the seat. It was rather comfortable, and being on the tall side (180 cm), it was great to have the extra space.
The cabin is charcoal grey, a bit corporate but pleasing and relaxing. Waiting in the seat, a pillow, blanket, light-blue earphones and a shoe bag with toothpaste and toothbrush. The pilot apologized for the delay, due to mechanical, and announced we would depart as soon as documentation arrived.
I stopped thinking about the delay, of course I had no onward connection so this was easy. Plus I was tired. After takeoff you could see lots of forests as we headed west over Sweden and Norway, some of this visible from the flight cameras. The cabin crew went through the cabin with an aperitif/drink offer. Encouraging us to take two if we wanted it. Before or after this hot towel service. Once again, I have to say the crew was great. A good age mix. As my US friend says, older than your daughter and younger than your mother. Good sense of humor, decent interaction with the passengers. I asked for something Scandinavian from a rather short and older stewardess. She said, well my husband and my son both drink beer, but I don’t, really it’s all I can offer you. So I took it. Something brewed especially for SAS. It was good.
The inflight map system was broken on this flight. Despite a split second of paranoia, are we really going where we are supposed to go, it was like in the old days when we relied on the occasional announcements from the flight deck. I discovered that the flight seemed to go faster, because there was no opportunity to check and anticipate where we were. Somewhere, there on the way to Newark. I played with the internet connection a bit, which is free from GoPlus passengers. It worked for messages, and kind of for text mails, but no attachments. Even when it cut out, it would reconnect automatically.
Sometime later, dinner was served. Codfish or chicken I believe. I choose the former. No regrets. Pleasantly surprise. The only strange thing to me, the salad was without dressing. Dry pieces of lettuce, and olives. Maybe this is a Scandinavian thing, but I noticed several people around me also did not each much of their salad. Afterwards there was coffee and digestif service. The cake was decent, better than the frequent sugar coated sugar that gets served on many carriers.
After dinner I watched a movie. The entertainment system is flawless, highly responsive and no box beneath the feet. I would have liked a few more music options, but all in all I’d give it 8/10.
Snack service was offered about 90 minutes bf arrival. Other than the dry lettuce, I was almost impressed. Potato salad, ham, and bread. And a choice of dark or white bread. This was all I learned in Swedish, mörkt bröd for dark bread, plus öl for beer. Decent presentation. The only complaint about the seat is the tray tables in Go Plus. They do not quite support the tray when you open up the two halves. Sort of like a mini disaster waiting to happen if things slide off the sloping down part. They didn’t so maybe it was just me.
We arrived in Newark to a really muggy and hot day. The crew asked us to lower the window shades to keep out the sun. A long walk to immigration/ customs but no lines. And the officers were really nice. My first thought was something must be up. But no, just really nice, as if they had just completed customer service training. Generally speaking, you know you’re in the US by the baggage wait times. I waited quite a while for my bag to not show up, when I caught sight of it in the middle of a pile against the wall. Evidently, SAS had rerouted it on the CPH/EWR flight as it probably wasn’t forwarded in time to the ARN flight. Kudos to them actually, but it did make my baggage wait longer than necessary as no one told me.
The ride into Manhattan was not quite intuitive but easy enough. I am always struck by the over signage at American airports. There was one ticket machine operating for the rail ticket and quite a line for this, but a service agent came up and said we could buy tickets at Newark Station as well. Several ticket machines there were also broken but two were not. The trip to Penn Station cost $13 and took about an hour and 15 minutes from the time I left customs. Not too bad for a rookie.
All in all, I was impressed with SAS. A few things on the minus side. The ARN lounge lacks pizzazz. The gate area for the long-haul flight was submarine sized. Some brand details are a bit off when you look at the whole experience. On the plus side? I really liked the Go Plus product. Everywhere, the staff was at least pretty good if not great. The lounge pass made the ARN /EWR delay almost comfortable. The hard product was pretty good, entertainment great, and the seats comfortable even for my height. The soft product a pleasant surprise. The phone call to me in Warsaw that I had a minute to make to the gate was a nice touch. The coffee good on each flight. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again.
Next: headed back