SAS: Business Class A330
Flight: SK 904
Flight Route: EWR to ARN
Flight Time: 7 hrs 5 mins
Bottom Line: If you’re going to Scandinavia from the US, fly SAS.
Once again this is another airline where I’ve sat in each class on the plane, of which there are three, Business, Premium Economy, Economy. As far as international carriers go, SAS is seen less frequently than some of it’s larger brothers and sisters but it is very consistent and with their new revamped A330s, it does well to hang in the top 1/3rd of international carriers.
Flight Review & Ratings
Everything below is on a 1-10 scale, to see my official ratings guidelines you can go here.
1. Quality of Seat: 7
SAS recently upgraded (no pun intended) their A330 business class cabin. Their old cabin was very much that, old. The new business class seat is similar to the product offered on ANA and several other international carriers that have recently updated their equipment. The seat offers direct aisle access from any seat but there are certainly seats that have a massive advantage over others. For example, all of the even numbered seats on each aisle have a much more private space than the odd numbered. Due to the way the seats are structured it’s like Emirates A380 business class where you can almost manage to get complete privacy if you select the right seat.
Several other small features of the seat that I enjoyed, it had a massage function (these are never awesome but it’s a cool addition) and it did go 100% flat. However, if you’re claustrophobic, these seats can trick you as your feet go under the seat in-front of you until above your knees, meaning you do feel almost like you are partly in a cocoon. It’s kind of cool but can also make you feel like you are slightly trapped!
If you’re concerned about getting cold in-flight, don’t be. The Swedes know how to operate when it’s cold out. The bedding comes with Hastens pillow and duvet, perhaps one of the only flights where I was actually too warm and we were flying over the tip of Greenland.
2. Quality of Entertainment: 8
With the upgraded business class seat came the upgraded IFE system. SAS did well in this area where the screens where made significantly larger with a touch system built-in. There are in-flight cameras, movies, and TV shows, plenty to choose from. Also, the ability to simply dim the monitor or have it low-lit on the flight map was nice for resting.
3. Quality of In-Flight Food: 8
Swedes know how to dine well, this continues on-board their airline as well. The meal service on this flight is one of the best I have had in awhile. The starters are fresh, salad made on the spot from a salad cart (when have you seen one of those on a plane!), and the entree was quite tasty. Also, if you have the chance try the Swedish hard bread (it’s the dark bread)! After chatting with the cabin crew, I did manage to find out from them that the shrimps were the favorite so I went for those. They were actually quite good and overall I did not feel as though it was too much or too little food. Afterwards a cheese cart does come around (Swedes love their cheeses for dinner), I passed on the cheese and after about two hours into the flight I was ready to relax and get some sleep.
4. Quality of Customer Service: 8
I have noticed I am consistently giving high scores in this area, but it won’t last forever. Fact is, the airlines I’ve recently wrote about have been that good in the customer service department. SAS continues that trend. In business class the ratio of flight attendants to passengers is about 6:1, the best ratio I’ve seen and about the same as Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9 service. SAS’ crew is constantly in the aisles checking to see if you have what you need. If I clocked each time a flight attendant passed through, not just walking, but actively checking on passengers, it would be about every 15 minutes. That’s a pretty fantastic level of service, to the point where it may be bothersome to some passengers, but it certainly did not bother me.
One interesting thing to note is that on all international carriers that are not based in the US, the default language they start with when interacting with passengers is English. However, that is not the case on SAS, they start with Swedish, which surprised me. I have flown this specific product twice and it has happened both times, which tells me that this is the default, which I find interesting as I am trying to learn Swedish so it gives me a chance to practice! However, if you get slightly caught off guard when the flight attendant approaches you and speaks to you in Swedish, don’t say you weren’t warned! However, with that being said, all of the flight attendants do speak English. I also found that they see it as a refreshing change as most of the cabin was Swedes.
5. Quality of Fleet: 5
SAS has a mixed bag right now, their A340s are still on the old style and only some of the A330s have been updated. Also, to get to ARN (Arlanda in Stockholm,), you have to fly from EWR (Newark), and I much prefer JFK. These are big ticket items to change and although I highly prefer SAS over Norwegian, the fact that they fly out of Newark is not awesome.
6. Flight Access and On-Time Reliability: 6
Due to frequent weather changes in either Newark or Arlanda, SAS has been delayed several times. I am OK with that if there is a decent lounge to relax in but that is not the case in Newark.
7. Lounge Access: 1
Newark’s lounge experience is terrible. SAS allows access to the lounge for both Business Class and Premium Economy passengers on multiple flights that leave at almost the same time. This means that the lounge goes from being almost completely empty to completely packed in a matter of about an hour. To the point where you cannot get a seat. It can be extremely frustrating. Not to mention there are a limited number of seats with access to a power outlet and the food and drink is sub-optimal. Probably the worst lounge I’ve ever been in.
8. Availability & Cost: 6
SAS has reasonable prices but they are not as cheap as tickets via London, so you’re basically paying slight premium for direct flights which overall I don’t mind. Since I started routinely flying SAS (about two years ago), they have changed their upgrade process several times. SAS used to use a service called Optiontown.com for their upgrade service. They have since discontinued this service and have implemented their own bidding service via their main site. This is good and bad. The bad part is that Optiontown was one flat fee for their upgrade service and you either did or did not get the upgrade. Through SAS, the bidding service is now an actual bid, where ‘depending on how much’ you have a better or worse chance of actually being awarded the upgrade. This is a similar type of service that Virgin Atlantic and Etihad use. It’s not my favorite but it is at least one way of getting upgraded so really, I shouldn't’ complain. Note, the first time I flew SAS business I used Optiontown and paid ~$500 USD for the upgrade, the second time I used the SAS upgrade bidding tool and paid ~$535 USD.