Finally, time to head home! I used this opportunity to try SAS Business Class from Stockholm. I’d heard mixed reviews of SAS, particularly with regards to service. So, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the flight, though. As a reminder, I used 70,000 United Mileage Plus miles for this flight, plus my short hop from Brussels.
Note: this post is part of a longer series about my trip to Brussels and Stockholm last November. Click here for the introductory post and trip report index.
SAS (SK) Flight 945
- Monday, November 12, 2018
- Depart: Stockholm Arlanda Airports (ARN), Terminal 5, Gate F62, 15:23, 7m early
- Arrive: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Terminal 5, 17:34, 11m early
- Duration: 9 hours 11 minutes
- Seat: 2A
- Equipment: Airbus A330-300
Check-In and Boarding
With only hand baggage, I checked in at a kiosk, which took only a few seconds. After a little time in the underwhelming Stockholm Arlanda Lounge, I headed to the gate about 30 minutes before boarding. Somehow, I avoided the dreaded SSSS this time; so, after a cursory document check, I took a seat in the gate area. FYI, Arlanda Airport has a pretty good setup in the gates, with comfortable seating and a decent number of outlets. Anyway, boarding began on time, and in a surprisingly orderly fashion. Most passengers kept the boarding area clear. Soon enough, I reached the forward door, and headed left to seat 2A.
SAS Business Class – Seating and Interior
SAS Business Class offers 8 rows of Vantage XL seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Basically, it’s the same setup you find on Delta’s 767 and A350 products. (Yes, the Delta One “suite” is the same seat with a door.)
The setup means the cabin is in a “staggered” configuration, with alternating (even numbered) rows containing “true” window seats. Odd numbered rows feature window seats staggered towards the aisle. If you value privacy and/or a view, choose a window in an even-numbered row.
There is also a combination SAS Business/Star Alliance logo on the bulkhead.
I enjoyed the look of the seats themselves. The colors are understated though elegant, and carry a decidedly Scandinavian look, especially with the Hästens pillow and blanket.
True window seats also feature a nicely oversized armrest/table, large enough to hold a laptop bag.
Unsurprisingly, the Vantage XL seat here features the same drawback as others – a narrow footwell that constricts your space. It doesn’t bother me that much since I’m short, but if you’re tall, I suspect it’ll be tight. Also, unlike Delta’s A350 seat, SAS’s version provides no underseat storage.
On the other hand, SAS Business Class seats feel less tight than Delta’s. That’s probably because it’s a wider seat, at 24″ versus 21-22″. The seats also feature good padding, and I found it comfortable in both upright and reclined mode.
As far as storage goes, besides the oversized armrest, there is a storage rack at the back of the armrest. It’s a handy spot to store a wallet or bottle of water. Speaking of which, look closely and you’ll see a bottle of water hiding behind the amenity kit.
There is also a coat hook and extra pocket to store literature, or perhaps a phone.
Meanwhile, seat controls are on the armrest, which I found intuitive and easy to use. The firmness adjustment is a nice touch, especially if you need a softer/firmer bed surface. The massage function didn’t work, though.
SAS provides one 110V power port and two USB ports at each seat. The power port and one USB port are below the storage rack. This area also includes the headphone jack and the IFE controller.
Another USB port is at the side of the IFE screen.
As you perhaps noticed in the above photo, a small amenity kit was waiting at the seat. I’ll post a separate review of the kit, but I found it pretty basic. The usual stuff like lotion, toothpaste, eye shades, etc., but nothing terribly fancy. SAS does not offer pajamas in Business Class.
I decided not to sleep on this daytime flight, but I did briefly test out the flat bed mode. I liked the comfy bedding, and the seat itself felt quite comfortable in bed mode. But as mentioned earlier, I imagine the narrow footwell might prove problematic for some.
Meanwhile, lavatories were standard-issue A330, but the plant was a nice touch.
SAS Business Class In-Flight Entertainment
SAS offers a decent-sized seatback screen with good resolution in Business Class.
The system offers a decent, if unspectacular, selection of movies, TV shows, and games. As you can see, there’s a fair number of options, but it’s not as extensive as, say, Delta Studio. On the other hand, SAS provides plenty of Scandinavian movies and TV, if you’re in the mood for something different.
If you’re traveling with kids, there is a specific children’s selection as well.
For all you avgeeks out there, there is a nose camera to enjoy. Although with the fading daylight, there wasn’t much to see.
There’s the moving map, of course, which amusingly malfunctioned as we passed over Canada. I guess aliens abducted the plane and took us to Tierra del Fuego without our realizing?
The noise-cancelling headphones provided were pretty good, if not quite Bose-level quality.
SAS also offers free WiFi to all Business Class passengers, which I found both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s a great perk. On the other hand, the WiFi was so slow, I found it basically unusable. Even Instagram and Facebook barely functioned, when I could connect at all. There were extended periods where the signal failed completely.
Food & Beverage
I had high expectations of the SAS Business Class food and beverage experience based on previous reviews. Things started on the right foot with an offer of a pre-departure beverage. As is my custom, I picked champagne for the obligatory champagne selfie. SAS serves Gosset Grande Reserve, which garners good reviews and retails for about $60 a bottle.
A few minute after boarding, the FA handed out menus. I enjoyed the winter-themed cover, and kind of hoped the reindeer up top hinted at the main course selection. Sadly, no reindeer on the menu today. Even so, I appreciated the Scandinavian influence throughout the menu, from cocktails to desert.
Meal service began about 40 minutes after take-off, with cocktails and mixed nuts. I ordered a gin and tonic, made with Norwegian gin. It definitely tasted “crisper” than mass-market gins. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I had another.
About 30 minutes later, the FA brought a choice of bread, and offered another drink. This time, I switched to “apple must”, a natural apple juice common in Sweden and Norway. The bread was fresh and tasty, and the apple must sweet and delicious. As an aside, if you don’t drink alcohol or just prefer not to, the apple must is a fantastic substitute.
Shortly thereafter, the FAs offered appetizers. SAS serves all meals off a trolley, and thus FAs don’t take orders prior to take-off. You just pick what you want off the cart. Caviar in Business Class rates as a rare find, and apparently Kalix Löjrom is quite the Swedish delicacy. But I quite dislike the taste of caviar, so I chose the dried beef and cheese instead. I found it quite good.
About half an hour later, the FAs offered the main course, and I chose the duck. If I had one complaint, it’s the lack of any true Swedish or Scandinavian main course options. I think SAS really missed an opportunity here to showcase their heritage. Anyway, at least they made a good dish, tender and cooked perfectly, with a flavorful sauce that wasn’t too rich. Accompanying the duck were a selection of tender, flavorful green beans and potatoes. The cranberry/apple added a nice sweet/tart combo. Overall a very good main course.
Already feeling full, I skipped the cheese course, but did order the warm chocolate fondant for desert. It was a bit dry but still tasty, and I appreciated the right-sized portion. I enjoyed a glass of calvados with my sweet treat.
The main meal service concluded about 2 1/2 hours after departure. While that may seem slow, I found it reasonable and appropriate for a daytime westbound flight.
Between meal services, the FAs set up a snack station in the galley. Uniquely, SAS also provides a self-service espresso machine for passenger use. It took some figuring out (they do provide an instruction sheet), but I eventually made myself a cappuccino. Though my attempt at foam rated a #FAIL, the cappuccino itself was decent. (You can ask an FA to make one for you if you prefer.)
Finally, about 90 minutes before landing, FAs served a light pre-landing meal. This meal began with an appetizer of ham over a kale, carrot, and celery salad. I could do without the pesto, but the rest of the dish was alright. The crisp, fresh veggies made for a refreshing snack.
The meal also included a small cheese and mushroom quiche. I’m not a big fan of quiche, and the filling was overcooked. The one demerit to an otherwise solid meal service.
Overall, though, SAS impressed me with their Business Class meal service. I found the food tasty, with some innovative Scandinavian influences without getting pretentious. The self-service espresso machine also counts as a unique offering in my book.
SAS Business Class Service
This is where I had the most apprehensions. Previous reviews of SAS Business Class suggest wildly differing experiences, ranging from outright hostility to fantastic, warm service. I don’t know that my experienced matched Matthew’s outstanding one, but for the most part, I found the service very good. No, our flight attendant didn’t address passengers by name, but provided friendly service from start to finish. She did, for example, offer to help when she saw me struggling with the coffee machine. Additionally, I periodically saw the FAs patrolling the cabin, even during the slow mid-flight period.
The exception was one rather stand-offish flight attendant, who I didn’t see crack a smile once on the flight. However, I also didn’t see her all that much; two other flight attendants handled most of the cabin duties and served the meals.
One other oddity – the same flight attendant rather militantly informed passengers during boarding that they couldn’t store coats on the coat hooks, or blankets/pillows on the floor, during taxi and take-off. Maybe that is a safety regulation, though I can’t recall hearing that previously.
The sun sets quite early in Sweden by mid-November, with twilight already setting in as we hit the runway about 3:45. Nevertheless, I did catch a couple of decent photos of the Swedish countryside shortly after departure.
The best, however, came later. One of the great things about westbound Transatlantic flights in the afternoon are the endless sunsets. In this case, though, the sun actually “unset” as we headed west, rising back above the horizon over the North Atlantic. That left us with an orange sunset glow until we reached the coast of Canada several hours later. Every now and then, a crescent moon added to the surreal scene.
Later, the sun briefly rose fully over Québec, providing a look at the rapidly freezing landscape below.
The sun finally set for good about half an hour before landing. We arrived a few minutes early on a chilly (for November) night in Chicago. An unusually sharp cold snap for so early in the season brought a temperature in the mid 30s when I reached Dallas a few hours later. Yes, it was actually substantially colder in Dallas than when I left Stockholm earlier that day…
Anyway, our landing was uneventful, and with Global Entry I breezed through customs and immigration. BUT…I didn’t realize the airport completely shut down the Terminal 5 to Terminal 3 train for maintenance. I quickly noticed a line, at least an hour long, snaking all the way back beyond the international arrivals exit for a shuttle bus. With only a 2-hour connection, I bit the bullet and paid $13 for a Lyft to take me to Terminal 3. Good thing I did, too. As I waited for my flight, I overheard a couple saying they missed their flight after waiting 90 minutes for a shuttle. Ouch…
SAS Business Class Final Thoughts
I walked away pretty impressed with SAS Business Class. SAS provided a comfortable seat, good service, and very good food on my flight home from Stockholm. I’d rate it a good use of a Saver award if you’re looking for a premium cabin flight to or from Europe.
This wraps up my second Belgium trip report (yes, I know, several months after I started it). I’m going to move right into my next report, my trip to Germany in March in search of a Lufthansa First Class duck. Thanks for reading!