Tried & Tested

SAS MD-81/82 Economy Extra

4 Dec 2009 by Mark Caswell

CHECK-IN Scandinavian airline SAS flies up to six times a day from London Heathrow to Copenhagen. I had a meeting in the Danish capital, which meant I needed to fly there and back in one day. I had already checked in online the night before, choosing seat 3E, but arrived at the airport seriously worried about missing my flight. My meeting in Copenhagen had over-run so I arrived in the departure hall at 1935. The flight was due to depart at 2010, so by rights I should have been waiting at the gate to board within ten minutes.

With visions of crowded security areas and disgruntled airport employees, I was pretty sure that getting airside would be time consuming. Not so. Copenhagen’s light and airy airport was free of hordes, and the distance I had to cover was not far. I was at my gate by 1950.  

BOARDING I arrived at the gate just as business class passengers started boarding, and as I was flying in Economy Extra (SAS’s premium economy product), I was shortly invited to board as well. The flight was full but all the passengers were in their seats within 15 minutes.

THE SEAT The plane had an asymmetrical layout, with two seats on the left-hand side (when facing forward) and three seats on the right, so the configuration is A-B, C-D-E. There were no curtains to separate business, premium economy and economy sections.

In premium economy and business class, the middle seat of the right-hand section is left free, but on the left-hand side there are only two seats so this is not possible.

I was seated on the right-hand side, next to the window, so had the extra personal space. The seat was comfortable, and I had plenty of legroom (although I should confess I don’t have particularly long legs, so this isn’t usually a problem).

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? If you’re travelling Economy Extra or business class, definitely go for seats C and E, so you can benefit from the middle seat being left free.

If you’re travelling in economy class, there is a very pleasant little section at the back of the plane on the left-hand side (seats 32 and 33 A and B), behind the galley, which provides a sort of barrier to the rest of the cabin.  Because of this, the seats feels more private and quieter than the others. Seats 32 A and B also offer extra legroom, along with emergency exit rows 20 and 21.

THE FLIGHT The flight departed a negligible five minutes late, by which point I had been given a newspaper and offered a drink – wine, beer, champagne or soft drinks were available.

The meal was served around 20 minutes into the flight. I had a meat-heavy dinner of a whole chicken breast, served with some coleslaw and a lone piece of lettuce, plus a warm roll and a piece of cheese. This was followed by a cup of tea or coffee, and a chocolate.

In premium economy, the meal is included in the fare, but economy passengers had to pay for food and drink.

For the rest of the flight I attempted to go over the notes from my meeting in Copenhagen, but was distracted a little and couldn’t concentrate – unfortunately a plane can’t be a guaranteed replacement office.

Very rarely do I find other passengers to be a nuisance, but this flight proved to be the exception.  The gentleman in front of me snored throughout the entire journey – having paid for business class he slept through the full experience, missing the champagne and the meal. Is it bad etiquette to poke one’s fellow passenger in the ribs?

The lady beside me decided that the middle seat had been left free for her exclusive use, so piled her coat, laptop, empty drinks bottles and tissues on it. Not that I needed the additional space, but again, it’s a question of etiquette. She was also rude to the cabin crew.

ARRIVAL We arrived at 2110 and there was a short wait before we were let off the plane.

I used Iris to pass through immigration, which worked fine for me, as it usually does. I noticed that the person next to me had a lot of problems trying to get his head in the right position, and in the end he had to give up and join the back of the long queue for passport control instead.

I had no checked baggage, so sped through the baggage hall and arrivals lounge, and on to the underground into central London.

VERDICT Despite a very busy flight, cabin crew were thoughtful and efficient, and Copenhagen airport is a joy. Shame about my fellow passengers.

PRICE Internet rates for return economy class flights from Copenhagen to London Heathrow in December started from £757.


Sara Turner

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