Viking Zen: A Review of SAS’s A330 in Business From Newark to Copenhagen
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[tpg_rating tpg-rating-score="82" ground-experience="7" cabin-seat="21" amens-ife="10" food-bev="21" service="23" pros="Soothing and stylish cabin, comfy seat, truly great food and exceptional service." cons="Very crowded lounge at Newark and tight footwells at certain seats." /]
Sometimes, especially when you play the points-and-miles game, you've gotta take the long way home. And, depending on the carrier you choose, that can turn out to be a very good thing. On another hop between my home in London and TPG's headquarters in New York, I decided to take the long way home, thanks to award availability on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). The airline has been working hard over the past few years to refit its fleet of long-haul aircraft with a new, very competitive business-class product, so I was excited to see how it stacked up to other carriers that I'm more familiar with, such as British Airways. Plus, I'd never flown with SAS before, so the #AvGeek in me was thrilled to add another carrier to the list of ones I've flown.
SAS is in the Star Alliance, so there are a couple of great options for using your points to book flights. One is using United's MileagePlus program, which is how we booked this flight. The one-way trip from Newark (EWR) to London (LHR) with a stop in Copenhagen (CPH) cost 70,000 miles plus $22 in taxes and fees. Another option is to use Air Canada's Aeroplan, where a one-way ticket will cost 55,000 miles in business class with similarly low taxes and fees. Luckily, it’s easy to come by miles in either of these programs, since United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. If you wanted to go the United/Chase route, you could almost earn a one-way biz ticket just by signing up for a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, both of which are offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. Alternatively, you could earn enough miles in one signup for a one-way business-class ticket if you signed up for a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express, which is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 points (5,000 more than what’s required to book with Aeroplan) after spending $5,000 within the first three months.
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I had the good fortune of having a beautiful evening to travel, and to make things even better, check-in at EWR was close to empty and totally stress-free. I checked my bags all the way through to London and was on my way to the security checkpoint in just a few short minutes. Security, however, was not such a joy, with TSA PreCheck and first- and business-class lines all merged, but this was no fault of SAS.
I headed to the Terminal B SAS Lounge, which felt appropriately Scandinavian to me, with its light wood accents, round tables and muted colors. The lounge had various nooks and crannies, and was very busy during my visit. Despite it being filled with travelers, there were seats available, and the food was replenished regularly.
The food offerings were decent, with the majority of them concentrated in one area.
Cold options included a salad bar as well as a selection of pastrami and cheese.
Alcohol was self-serve and featured mainly mid-range liquor options, as well as a variety of red and white wine.
Lasagna was the centerpiece of the hot food options, but knowing that I had quite a bit of food to look forward to once on the plane, I skipped this heavy dish.
There was also a coffee station that allowed you to make a variety of beverages -- I helped myself to a very mediocre cappuccino.
There were several distinct seating areas that featured more of the Scandinavian design aesthetic, with more light wood, a gray color scheme and potted plants spread throughout.
I was delighted to find an all-you-can-eat tray of maraschino cherries. A welcome but dangerous feature of this lounge.
After walking around the lounge for a little bit, I took a plate of cold meats, cheese and salad and a tomato juice, and settled down for my short stay.
It was a very short walk to Gate 67 from the lounge. Boarding through the priority lane was orderly and quick, and I was on board our almost-17-year-old Airbus A330, which was delivered new to SAS in 2002, with very little standing around.
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The welcome on board was incredibly warm and friendly, and first impressions of the cabin were great. It was a chic space with a relaxing feel and smart color tones. It continued the muted color scheme and Scandinavian vibe that was started in the lounge.
The business-class cabin on the SAS A330 was arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, with the window seats alternating between the seat being right next to the windows and a reverse version with the console table closer to the window.
I was seated in 2A, a single-window seat which was "protected" from the aisle. If you're traveling alone, this is one of the best seats you can grab. The seat was set up with a pillow, thin mattress and duvet when I arrived, along with the amenity kit.
Like I said above, I would recommend these window seats in even-numbered rows for solo travelers, as they felt much more private. The middle seats are much better for couples (unless you're a selfish window-seat-for-lifer like me!).
The seat was comfortable, but I found the footwell a little tight, without much room to move my feet around once I stretched out.
There was a handy shelf by the seat, with plenty of flat space to put personal things, a USB outlet and universal power outlet.
The table slid out the side of the console and was large. It was a good size for eating and working, even with a 15-inch laptop.
The seat in front of mine had a much larger footwell, as it was a bulkhead seat with no other seat in front of it. The extra space allowed for more movement when the seat was flat, and so I asked the flight attendant to set this seat set up for sleeping. I slept a solid four hours on this short transatlantic hop!
The business-class lavatories were larger than average, and had fresh greenery to liven things up.
Another nice touch was the window, with a nice blind. (Don’t forget to use it while the aircraft is on the ground!)
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Although a little crumpled, the amenity kit contained the usuals bits and pieces, including REN hand and body cream and lip balm. The actual case was nothing special, nor were its contents, but everything was useful enough.
SAS-branded over-ear headphones were also provided.
The IFE system itself was easy to use and had a decent selection of 59 films. There was a tailcam, but there wasn’t much to see on this night flight but for some blurry lights as we approached Copenhagen (CPH).
Wi-Fi was available and worked well for basic uses such as emailing, but it struggled with Instagram and anything else requiring heavy data lifting.
[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Food and Beverage" tpg-rating="21" tpg-rating-max="25" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" meals="2" dine-on-demand="No" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]
At my seat was a very cute and unique menu designed by Japanese illustrator Natsko Seki depicting typical Scandinavian winter scenes -- I was a big fan of this, and it reflected the airline's heritage.
Shortly after takeoff, flight attendants brought around a drinks trolley, and, after very little persuasion from the cabin crew, I went for a cocktail made with Danish Mikkeller vodka, cranberry juice and pink grapefruit tonic, which was delicious.
Along with the cocktail, I also took a cool, SAS-branded, Champagne-style bottle of Danish beer as a souvenir. These were served with a bowl of warm nuts.
To start, there was a choice between halibut and conch ceviche with jalapeño, cilantro and olive oil and grilled chicken breast with herbs, fresh papaya, roasted piquillo pepper and chimichurri sauce. I went for the chicken, which was fresh and delicious -- and it looked great too!
The main course was served off a trolley as well. I particularly enjoyed being able to see all the dishes before deciding what I wanted. I had a choice between seared grouper with herbed fingerling potatoes, baby zucchini and squash with a lemon and chive cream sauce; slow-cooked lamb with blue cheese polenta, Brussels sprouts and sautéed leeks; venison medallion with shallot bread pudding, cauliflower puree, fava beans and Merlot sauce; fettuccine with chanterelle mushrooms, arugula and pine nuts with a Pecorino cheese sauce.
I chose the grouper, which was succulent and tasty.
Completely full and satisfied, I still managed to find the space for a cheese plate, chocolate cake and a glass of port. All were fantastic and the perfect way to round off the meal.
The galley was incredibly well-stocked with cookies, chocolates, fruit and wine throughout the flight. It all looked fresh and appealing. These snack stations can often look a little sad, so it was a joy to see this bountiful offering.
Breakfast was served an hour before landing, and consisted of a cold selection of breakfast bits with a hot sausage and goat-cheese frittata -- all of it was lovely.
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The crew and the service they provided on this flight really was exceptional. All encounters were just the right mix of warm, friendly and professional. Their inflight uniforms harkened back to the halcyon days of travel, and they all seemed to take genuine pride in the various SAS flourishes, like the craft cocktails and custom-designed menus.
I had great chats with the crew in the galley and was fascinated by the explanations of how the crew members were from all over Scandinavia but could speak their respective languages to each other and still be properly understood.
At one point, I accidentally pressed the call button, and the crew was at my seat in seconds.
All in all, this was a wonderful flight. The hard product was comfortable and a reflection of soothing Scandinavian design. The food was great and service exceptional. I wouldn’t hesitate to cross the Atlantic again with SAS.
I had an onward connection to London, and even this extra hop didn’t detract from the great experience I had. I would still be tempted to fly with SAS even if I needed to connect onto another European destination — should timing, and redemption availability necessitate this sort of route, of course.