Tried & Tested

SAS MD-81/82 business class

4 Dec 2009 by Mark Caswell

BACKGROUND Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), a founding member of Star Alliance, serves London Heathrow to Stockholm up to six times a day.

After successful trials earlier in the year, the carrier launched its mobile boarding pass in autumn 2009, which means passengers with mobile internet (WAP) can check-in via SMS or the SAS Mobile Portal. Check-in confirmation is sent directly to your phone, and will contain a web link, which, when you click on it, will display your mobile boarding pass with your flight and seat number, departure and arrival time, and bar code.

To register baggage, scan this bar code over the screen at one of the self-service kiosks at the airport, and follow the instructions. To get through immigration, fast-track or into the lounges, pass your handset to the official who will scan it for you. Remember – make sure your phone has plenty of power in it otherwise you could have problems if it dies midway through the process.

CHECK-IN As a matter of habit I checked in online the morning before my flight at flysas.com, which opens 22 hours in advance, and chose seat 3A. (There were 16 business class seats assigned across rows one to four.) I then printed out a paper boarding pass.

My flight was departing from London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 1755, and I arrived at 1630. The SAS check-in area is in Zone E, but as I was only travelling with hand baggage only,  I made my way straight up the escalators to fast-track security, where there was a good 15-minute wait. Once this was out of the way, I went through passport control, turned right and then left, following the signs for “Airline lounge B” (the SAS lounge by Gates 1-11, which is also shared with Air Canada and Thai Airways).

THE LOUNGE The lounge is a split-level facility with light wood floors and furniture, long bars for working and eating, high stools, comfy red and blue armchairs, coffee tables and a round work zone with eight Mac computers downstairs. Wireless internet access is free (username LHR, password SAS) and there was good range of newspapers and magazines in various languages.

The lower level of the lounge was quite busy when I arrived on this midweek afternoon, so I explored the upper floor and found it was a little quieter. There was a second refreshment zone up here with a bottles of spirits, Carlsberg and Becks beer on tap, cans of Britvic juice in the fridge, salads, coleslaw, cold pasta, crisps, rolls, packets of cheese, crackers, tea and coffee. The bar downstairs, however, was a little more extensive, providing hot soup, fresh cheeses and Cup Noodles as well.

There were various cosy workspaces with a contemporary feel, including a circular lounge surrounded by a green string curtain, a business centre with two telephones and two Playstations, and a minimalist zone with a printer and eight work benches, each with two power sockets. On the back wall were orange statues of Buddha, which I also noticed in the SAS lounge in Copenhagen on my return.

BOARDING I kept an eye on the departure boards in between sipping a Diet Coke and watching BBC News 24 on mute, and soon noticed boarding had started on time at 1720. Ten minutes later, I made my way to Gate 7, a five-minute walk away. There was no queue and I was soon making my way on to the plane via an airbridge at the front. Once on board, I was greeted by the friendly crew and directed to my seat.

THE SEAT I was in window seat 3A on the MD-81/82, which was configured 2-3 (A-C, D-E-F), with the middle seat (E) kept free in business. Seats are upholstered in smart blue- and white-flecked fabric, and have navy blue padded leather armrests, soft pillows, and cup holders independent of the fold-down tray table. The flight was very full but the plane looked clean and smart on first viewing.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? On this occasion there were four rows of business class, and 13 rows of Economy Extra (premium economy), in addition to economy class. There is no difference in pitch throughout the plane (32 inches), so if you want extra space and privacy, opt for seat D or F in business every time.

THE FLIGHT The female captain welcomed us and announced that flight time would be two hours and ten minutes, but that there would be a short delay of abut 20 minutes while we waited for a take-off slot. We pulled back at 1820, 25 minutes late, but I immediately noticed how quiet the plane’s engines seemed.

Drinks were served at 1850, and I requested a gin and tonic, which was accompanied by a bag of spiced nuts. The evening meal service started at 1900 and business class passengers were served a hot option of chicken in cream sauce with wild rice, mange tout, a side salad, cheese and a bread roll. Wine is served in individual glass bottles, and food is comes on china plates with metal cutlery.

As I am vegetarian, I had ordered a special meal, and was served this before anyone else got their’s. It was a really tasty spinach and potato curry with carrots, perfectly cooked basmati rice, and tomato and lentil dhal. There was also a side salad and a tangerine, with dessert (fruit cheesecake) served after, along with tea, coffee, and a choice of brandy, Calvados or Baileys.

Economy Extra passengers get a cold meal, while those in economy have to pay for drinks and snacks.

ARRIVAL We started the descent into snowy Stockholm at 2010 and landed and on schedule, despite the delay to the start of the flight, at 2120 local time. We were disembarked quickly and through immigration within ten minutes.

VERDICT A smart, punctual service despite the delay to the beginning of the journey. The SAS lounge at Heathrow offers everything a business traveller might need, and the meal and service on board were of a high standard.

PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Stockholm with SAS in January started from £728.

CONTACT flysas.com

Jenny Southan

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