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Old May 5, 14, 4:57 pm   #1
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Mini Report: The New SAS Plus ARN-TXL

Introduction


In early April 2014 SAS were running a fare campaign on a number of European destinations. New for this campaign was the fact that the cheapest 39 fares now also included a few European destinations such as Milan, Bologna, Paris and Berlin. The latter became my choice partly since it was the only destination available at the price which suited my dates.

An one-way ticket was booked on April 29th for the reasonable price of 290 SEK (32 / $45) through an online travel agency which allowed a discount for using bank transfer. For the return I chose Air Berlin mainly for the lower fare but also better schedules.



April 29th 2014


Living roughly 60 miles from Arlanda airport I have a handful of transport options to chose from. Following the "el-cheapo" theme of this trip I chose the regional train and public bus option which cost me approximately 12 (I only paid 2 as I used a voucher as downpayment). The train and bus were both on time, and after a fairly smooth ride I get off at Terminal 5 at 14.16 in the afternoon.

Traveling with just hand luggage and a Passbook boarding pass I headed straight for the south security which is located at the opposite end of the terminal, far away from the SAS check-in area. It holds the benefit of not being dumped right into the duty free store and it's also closer to the lounge as you don't have to backtrack.



SAS Gold Lounge Arlanda


On my way to the lounge I have a quick look at ExpertFlyer on my phone and notice that the flight is zeroed out in all booking classes. As this may indicate that the flight is oversold I stop by at the SAS Service Center (located right below the lounge complex) to volunteer for a bump. The friendly SAS agent confirmed that the flight was quite heavily overbooked and was very thankful for my cooperation. I was told to have a seat in the lounge and wait for my name to be called, as the departure was still two hours away. In the meantime I headed upstairs for some lunch.




SAS Gold Lounge Arlanda


As I arrived in the middle of the afternoon rush the lounge was packed to the rafters. I was pleasantly surprised to see the new furniture in place. Gone are the bright colored IKEA-style armchairs which have been replaced with a heterogeneous mix of wingback chairs, leather armchairs and som odd looking hybrids between a kitchen chair and a foot stool. Needless to say the new interior is very stylish and comfortable. I took my usual seat at the large communal marble table, which thankfully hand't been tampered with.

The food on offer today was fishcakes with broccoli salad and remoulad sauce. Very tasty and filling. After lunch I grab a copy of Fortune Magazine along with some coffee and Bailey's, followed by a few G&T's. As people start leaving the lounge I move over to one of the wingback chairs, but I don't get to enjoy it for long before my name was called on the PA.

At the lounge reception I'm told that they won't be needing any bumps on this flight but they were very thankful for my cooperation. Bummer! As the boarding time starts to approach I walk over to Gate 5A where my flight is leaving from.



Scandinavian Airlines flight SK2679 Arlanda Berlin


Departure: 17.25
Arrival: 19.00
Duration: 1h 35m
Date: 29 April 2014
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat & Class: 3A SAS GO >UPG> 3F SAS PLUS


I arrive just in time for the priority boarding call, something which has recently been introduced at SAS. I scan my boarding pass at the gate and get the red light. As I am still on the VDB list the agent tells me to have a seat and wait for the rest of the passengers to board. The overbooked passengers didn't show up at the end and I am given permission to board the flight.

Once again my boarding pass beeps red, and after some typing on the computer I am given a slip of paper with a new seat assignment in SAS Plus. Score! This was my 4th operational upgrade within the last 6 months, and my 3rd one in a row considering I was upgraded on two earlier trips on Turkish and SWISS

I board the plane as the very last passenger and the flight is full to the last seat. My seat mates who happened to be two large gentlemen didn't look too pleased when I showed up to claim the window seat. Shortly afterwards the door was closed, before making an on-time departure.





To those of you unfamiliar with the service concepts, SAS Plus is the successor of the old European Business Class. Essentially PLUS is a hybrid between Business Class and Premium Economy. On the ground you get all the associated perks of Business e.g priority check-in and security, extra bagage allowance, and lounge access. In addition you also get flexible tickets and 200% mileage accrual. Onboard however it's essentially Premium Economy as you don't have a blocked middle seat, there is no proper cabin divider, and the meals are not served on proper tableware.

Up until very recently the only differentiator was that SAS PLUS could choose freely from the items in the cart, as opposed to SAS GO where you had to pay for everything except coffee or tea. I honestly couldn't see a point for paying an extra 50-100 for PLUS as I get all the benefits (sans the free sandwich) courtesy of Star Gold.

Shortly after takeoff the service begins. Our friendly Stockholm based crew, which by the way are a true mark of quality for SAS hands out the meal boxes with a big smile. This was followed by a round of freshly heated breads from a basket. Drinks were served shortly after.




The three course "evening meal" in SAS Plus.


Recently SAS decided to revamp the service concept in Plus by bringing back the proper meals as well as the oh-so stylish Orrefors crystal glassware previously found in Business Class. And while the paper box presentation of the meal may look cheap, everything except for the Valrhona chocolates is made/cooked from scratch in the SAS (or well Gate Gourmet) catering facilities, with all ingredients sourced locally to the largest extent possible. As a result the quality is top notch!

The Shopska sallad starter may not even be a close resemblance of the real thing, but it was very tasty especially with the Kalamata olives, red onions and creamy feta cheese. The main course consisted of six generously proportioned slices of pork fillet with a tasty quinoa salad and a curry mayonnaise dressing on the side. The pork was very tender and flavorful, and the salad tasted nice, fresh and filling.

The chocolate brownie dessert may look like any store bought brownie, but don't let the looks fool you. It was packed with generous chunks of chocolate, and the texture was rich and moist. The Valrhona chocolates is a nice premium touch, and a big step up from the Green&Blacks chocolates which they used to serve. Coffee and tea is served after the meal.




Drinks in SAS Plus. I opted for some white wine with the meal, Irish Cream as digestif, and a bottle of water to take with me just before landing.


The crew on this flight was absolutely amazing. Like you'd expect from an experienced Stockholm based crew (the only good SAS crews if you ask me) the service was very warm, informal, yet attentive. They were happy to respond to every request, as opposed to the Norwegian crew I had on my previous EWR-ARN flight in Business who were extremely reluctant to answer even the slightest request.

Due to a stomach condition I am a slow eater, and by the time I was done with my meal we had already began our descent into Berlin Tegel Airport. Having consumed a number of G&T's in the lounge + the wine onboard I was feeling a bit dehydrated, so the crew were kind enough to bring me a bottle of water to take with me off the plane.




The approach takes us straight over the urban parts of Berlin. Not strange considering Tegel lies in the middle of the city.


After a smooth landing we taxi to the D-Terminal where a bus picks us up and drops us 50 meters away at the terminal entrance. In no time I head over to the terminal curbside and jump into the X9 Bus to my hotel in Charlottenburg.



Conclusions


SAS Plus is a product which I haven't had any expectations about since its introduction in June 2013. The fact that you're essentially paying for a sandwich has discouraged me from booking it as I'm not really in the need for the ticket flexibility or additional mileage (Plus fares only earn 150% to Turkish Miles&Smiles). The recent improvements however have changed my perception of the product and the service I received was very similar to that of the old Business Class. The food was tasty and of very good quality which in fairness adds quite some value to the product. If you are lucky the price difference to Plus is sometimes as low as 30 and if that was to be the case I wouldn't think twice before making the up-fare.

While I may have my gripes about SAS, they still have the potential to be a truly great airline, particularly when flying from Stockholm, but it's only a shame that I so seldom get to see the good side of theirs. All in all I am very thankful for the upgrade and they have for sure earned some more of my future business.

Thank you for reading!
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Old May 5, 14, 5:31 pm   #2
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Nice report. While not a great product (i.e. "true" business class), SAS Plus is better than the rear and the food actually looks decent.
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Old May 6, 14, 9:50 am   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MatthewLAX View Post
Nice report. While not a great product (i.e. "true" business class), SAS Plus is better than the rear and the food actually looks decent.
Thank you Matthew. Yes it's not a 'real' Business Class in the same sense as BA or SWISS, but on shorter routes like this one I'd say that the food was better than what Lufthansa would have served. Also you are free to pick from the cart in addition to the meal, so on longer flights it shouldn't be a problem to keep your hunger still.
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Old Jun 23, 14, 7:26 pm   #4
  
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interesting TR. If US airlines sold this type of catering in Y for TCON , Hawaii or other like flights, for a reasonable price, I would be all over it. I wonder how much it costs per unit.
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Old Jun 24, 14, 1:13 am   #5
  
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Two of my favourite cities in Europe!

I like SAS. I know they're a bit old fashioned but there's something about the logical, clean, sensible, functionality of Scandanavia that really appeals to me. I had a fairly long layover in the SK OSL lounge last year and it was very pleasant - good food, peaceful atmosphere, light and airy, very friendly staff. Passengers were well dressed and well behaved.
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Old Jun 24, 14, 1:26 am   #6
  
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Thanks for sharing, interesting findings. You mentioned "...as I get all the benefits (sans the free sandwich) courtesy of Star Gold..." does it mean if Staralliance Gold travels in SAS GO also receives the free sandwich?
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Old Jun 24, 14, 4:30 am   #7
  
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Nice report Jonas. Great that you got an upgrade, although the new "business" class looks a bit half hearted. Why not have a proper business?
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Old Jun 24, 14, 4:52 am   #8
  
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Nice one. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jul 2, 14, 10:50 am   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thetravelingRedhead View Post
interesting TR. If US airlines sold this type of catering in Y for TCON , Hawaii or other like flights, for a reasonable price, I would be all over it. I wonder how much it costs per unit.
For a $100 premium which includes extra legroom and a meal I'm sure they could bring in some profit. Doubt a boxed meal would cost the airline much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smit0847 View Post
Two of my favourite cities in Europe!

I like SAS. I know they're a bit old fashioned but there's something about the logical, clean, sensible, functionality of Scandanavia that really appeals to me. I had a fairly long layover in the SK OSL lounge last year and it was very pleasant - good food, peaceful atmosphere, light and airy, very friendly staff. Passengers were well dressed and well behaved.
Yes that summarizes Scandinavia pretty well. The Oslo lounge is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours. I find the catering and drink offerings to be more than sufficient, and the lounge offers a nice view over the terminal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AhogZ View Post
Thanks for sharing, interesting findings. You mentioned "...as I get all the benefits (sans the free sandwich) courtesy of Star Gold..." does it mean if Staralliance Gold travels in SAS GO also receives the free sandwich?
No, Star Golds in SAS GO still have to pay for their sandwich. I rarely do since I always make sure to eat in the lounge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shefgab View Post
Nice report Jonas. Great that you got an upgrade, although the new "business" class looks a bit half hearted. Why not have a proper business?
They got rid of their Business Class on European routes since nobody bought it. They carried on average 1% paid Business pax on every flight, so it made sense to get rid of it.

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Originally Posted by themapelligroup View Post
Nice one. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for reading!
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Old Jul 2, 14, 3:46 pm   #10
  
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Great T R.

But Green & Blacks chocolate is very good too!
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