You May Want to Avoid This SAS Airbus A340 on Routes To/From The US

Aug 30, 2017

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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has a solid long-haul business product on its fleet of 16 Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft, based around Scandinavia and operating nonstop flights to Asia, the Middle East and the US. Arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration featuring the Thompson Vantage XL seat, a favorite of many frequent flyers, it offers direct aisle access from each lie-flat seat. The seats are fitted with Octaspring technology, which are essentially springs that add to the comfort and padding. It’s the same seat you’ll find in the business class cabin on Qantas, on the new South African Airways A330s  and even on RwandAir,

But there is one caveat: while most SAS business class passengers can enjoy this great product when flying long haul, a couple of TPG readers have pointed out that among all the airline’s Airbus widebodies, there is an odd one out — one that you will want to avoid. After flying on the jet, they complained that the business class was nothing like they had expected, and said that SAS had not warned them at all.

SAS A330 Business Class Review
The new SAS business class. Image by Zach Honig

This aircraft is an Airbus A340-300 with the Norwegian registration LN-RKP and bearing the name Torfinn Viking. It joined the SAS fleet in 2014 after flying for both LAN Airlines and Air Canada. Unfortunately for passengers, and even after three years in the SAS fleet, it still features the now-dated  LAN cabin it was fitted with years ago. Unlike the other SAS long-haul jets, LN-RKP has a 2-2-2 configuration in business class, and a 170-degree angled-flat seat. The aircraft has also an older inflight entertainment system, and there is no Wi-Fi onboard.

SAS hasn’t really acknowledged the existence of the substandard business class on this aircraft, and even ran an article in its inflight magazine with the headline “Entire SAS long-haul fleet is now upgraded.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 02.16.06

If RKP were simply a “reserve plane” — used only in the event of a situation requiring a substitute aircraft — then it could be a little clearer why SAS won’t acknowledge that there’s an odd one out in its fleet.

Torfinn Viking is a full member of the fleet, which SAS purchased outright this year after leasing it, a clear indication that it wants to keep it around possibly until its new Airbus A350s begin arriving in 2019. A check of Flightaware reveals it is flying routes with heavy  business class demand too.

From August 24 to 28, for example, the aircraft operated transatlantic routes from Copenhagen (CPH) to Chicago (ORD) and Boston (BOS).

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 21.15.03

Earlier this August, the aircraft was just as busy, flying every day between Scandinavia and the US, mainly to New York – Newark (EWR).

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TPG reader Christopher told us that part of his choice to fly SAS’ long haul business class between New York (EWR) and Stockholm (ARN) was due to a review of the product he saw on the site. After Christopher realized he would be traveling on LN-RKP, he spoke to SAS before the flight. Christopher told us “When called out on it, I asked if they would (a) partially refund my employer in light of the not completely honest advertising that their entire fleet had been upgraded or (b) move me to United 68 (lie-flat Boeing 757-200 departing 5min later, and a Star Alliance partner).”

Christopher said SAS gave him the option of not flying and get a full refund, or fly the aircraft and complain to customer service upon arrival.

Another TPG reader, Michael, wrote to share the same frustrations. Michael said “the crew spent a lot of their time apologizing for the aircraft, and quite frankly I was gutted, as I was really looking forward to trying SAS.”

Like Christopher, Michael said he has written the airline to complain, adding that he has not heard back yet.

Flightaware and other flight tracking sites like Flightradar24 will tell you where LN-RKP is headed at any given time and where it will depart from that day. Predicting where it will be a few days out is however trickier, and may involve calling the airline.

We have approached SAS for comment, and to ask whether the airline intends to reconfigure the aircraft anytime soon to match the rest of the long-haul fleet.

SAS was due to get its first Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft in early 2018, but has postponed delivery by more than a year. Given the cost of refurbishing an entire 234-seat aircraft, it’s not clear whether SAS would undertake that expense for a plane that would be out of service in a couple of years anyway. We’ll update this post with the airline’s response.

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