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Overall, SAS was a fine option for crossing the Atlantic — just make sure you bring some food with you. The Pros: friendly flight attendants. The Cons: strange, unappetizing snacks that made me wish I’d eaten beforehand.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Citi Prestige
The idea for my trip started when I spotted a Deal Alert to Iceland — Wow Air was offering $99 one-way flights from San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) to Reykjavik (KEF). I called some friends and we jumped on it immediately. For the return trip, which clocked in at 11 hours and 20 minutes, I chose to redeem a United award ticket and fly home via Copenhagen aboard Scandinavian Airlines’ recently refurbished A340. Here’s what the economy experience was like.
My main motivation for booking a United MileagePlus award ticket home was that I would be able to spend a night in Copenhagen — I would arrive there by 6:25pm and my flight to San Francisco wouldn’t be leaving until 12:25pm the following day. I specifically chose this itinerary as it gave me a full 18 hours to explore the city.
Revenue tickets home from Iceland at the time ranged from $300 to $500, not including baggage fees, so I considered it a great deal to be able to fly home and check out an additional European city for a grand total of 30,000 United MileagePlus miles, which TPG values at 1.5 cents apiece. I was a few thousand miles short, so I quickly transferred over some Chase Ultimate Reward points I’d earned by using my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Taxes and fees came to a reasonable $62.26, which I paid for with my Citi Prestige Card so I could take advantage of its solid trip delay coverage.
I left Copenhagen’s Central Train Station at 9:30am and 36 krone (~$6) and 15 minutes later, I made it to the airport. Once at CPH, I had the option to stand in line at one of the few SAS counters that were staffed or use any of the available self-check-in kiosks.
The check-in kiosk worked great and I was off to security in no time.
I noticed SAS offered a fast track lane for security, which I tried to use because of my Star Alliance Gold status, however an agent informed me the lane was only open to SAS business-class and SAS Elite, passengers. Luckily, security was a breeze and I was through in about 10 minutes.
I made my way to the SAS Lounge, which you’ll find before immigration, for those headed to the US.
It has two sections — one for SAS business-class and SAS Elite passengers, the other for Star Alliance Gold members.
The Star Gold section is primarily upstairs, which I prefer since it offers nice views of the terminal below — you’ll also get great street and hotel views at the other end.
To enter the lounge, you must pass through automatic turnstiles that scan your boarding pass. An SAS agent was there to help just in case of any issues.
Upon entering the Star Gold section, you’ll see stairs to the left, a beautiful SAS A340 replica straight ahead (pictured below) and a small TV room to the right.
Here’s a peek at one room on the lower level of the Star Gold section.
A staircase leads you to a wide open lounge with plenty of seating options. Crowding was not an issue when I visited although the lounge did start to fill up after I arrived.
There were multiple seating arrangements back against the wall as well as a well-stocked newspaper section in the middle of the space. The plants helped add a sense of privacy for the seats along the wall.
The food options were mediocre, with one table full of assorted cheeses, meats and breads, while another featured veggies and fish. The best snack here, in my opinion, was the butter cookies.
The drink selection was pretty limited as well, but I enjoyed the fact that Carlsberg beer was available on tap. The lounge also featured a real espresso machine that was quite popular throughout the morning rush. Back at the buffet, pictured below, the fish option was very popular among the locals.
The restrooms were located in the rear section of the lounge. Note that there aren’t any showers here, but the SAS business-class lounge has a few.
Overall, the SAS lounge was a pleasant place to relax for a while before my flight, however the food selection could be better. After about an hour, I made my way through immigration and to my gate.
Boarding began with business-class and Star Gold passengers, which made up a large portion of this flight. The gate area, pictured below, felt crowded even though our aircraft was only 60% full.
Here’s a shot of our A340 waiting at the gate.
Cabin and Seat
The economy cabin on SAS’s A340 featured 179 seats arranged in a 2-4-2 layout — each seat had 31-32 inches of pitch and 17.3 inches of width. Note that the last five rows shrink to a 2-3-2 configuration.
My seat for this flight was 40A, an exit row window seat I was able to select thanks to my Star Gold status. I was flying solo and thankfully, the aisle seat next to me stayed empty on this flight.
Seats 40A, B, G and H offer the most legroom in economy, so if you’re a tall traveler, try to get one of those.
The seat next to me was open, a fact which, coupled with the moveable armrests, made my seat quite spacious. I also had plenty of legroom thanks to the emergency exits and flight attendant seat in front of me. The FAs were all very friendly on this flight, and the one stationed in front of me even offered to let me use her seat as a footrest during the flight! The only downside with the exit row is all carry-on bags had to be stored in the overhead bins.
There are five lavatories in economy — four up front near the SAS Plus, or premium economy, section and one in the rear. The lavatories are pretty basic, though I did see flight attendants going in throughout the flight to make sure they were always clean.
A pillow, blanket, water bottle and earbuds were all waiting for me at my seat when I boarded the plane.
SAS economy seats have nine-inch seat-back touch screen in-flight entertainment systems, which offered a modest selection of movies, TV shows, music and games. My one big complaint was that most of the TV shows only had one episode available to watch. Film and TV options were pretty evenly split between American and European content.
If all else fails, there’s always the live map feature to help you pass the time.
Wi-Fi was available for $12 or 3,000 SAS EuroBonus points, and while I was able to send emails and surf the web easily, I did have trouble loading videos. A few dozen magazines were also available, which flight attendants encouraged us to keep when we were finished flipping through them.
Food and Beverage
Drinks were served shortly after take-off, and choices included soda, juice, water and red and white wine, as well as a selection of beer and liquor. Roughly 45 minutes later, lunch was served along with another beverage service. There were no menus and chicken was the only meal choice, though I overheard a fish option was available for those seated in SAS Plus (premium economy). The chicken wasn’t impressive — the meat was fatty and the rest of the meal was forgettable. One would think if an airline is only going to offer one meal choice, it would at least make it an appetizing one.
There were small packs of pretzels and crackers available in the galley throughout the flight. For the mid-flight snack, there was again just one option, a cold unappetizing cheese wrap. It didn’t look good and it didn’t taste good either and I gave up on it after a few bites.
The pre-arrival snack was served 90 minutes before we landed and was probably the weirdest snack I’ve ever been served on an airplane. Whatever it was, it was labeled as a “Celeriac and Apple Lattice Pastry.” Again, I gave up after a few bites.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first SAS flight since I hadn’t heard much about the carrier beforehand. You’ll get a comfortable economy seat equipped with seat-back entertainment, power ports — USB and three prong — as well as a decent six inches of recline.
As I said earlier, the biggest complaint I had with the flight is the food, the quality and quantity of which was quite poor. I was especially surprised at the lack of food options offered in economy, as it is pretty standard for airlines to have at least two meal choices available, even in coach. If you’re flying on SAS in coach, I highly suggest eating beforehand or at the very least, bringing along your own snacks.
Otherwise, the flight attendants were genuinely nice and friendly and consistently came through the cabin offering refills on water, tea and coffee. I ended up talking to many of them and all were extremely friendly. It turned out the crew were from all over Scandinavia and each flight attendant spoke several languages — one of them was even fluent in eight! From boarding until arrival, they’d joke around, engage in conversation and constantly check on me.
Overall, SAS was a fine option for crossing the Atlantic — just make sure you bring some snacks with you!
Have you ever flown in economy aboard SAS’ A340? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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