SAS Plus London-Stockholm – First day at London Heathrow terminal 2
On 10th September it was time for SAS to move into the new Star Alliance terminal, terminal 2, at London Heathrow Airport. BusinessClass.co.uk was at the opening ceremony at 6 o’clock in the morning and later flew to Scandinavia at 1.50pm, on SAS’s 9th ever flight from terminal 2.
At the Airport
I was at Heathrow’s terminal 2 nice and early, at 5.30am, to attend the opening ceremony of speeches, ribbon cutting and SAS’s premiere departures. After the ceremony, I had breakfast and checked out of my airport hotel and was again back at terminal 2, shortly after 10am, for my own departure.
Almost regardless of how you get to Heathrow, your trip ends with an elevator ride up to the 5th floor, which is the check-in floor of terminal 2. If you travel with SAS, you take the footbridge on the far right which goes to check-in areas C and D, where SAS have their check-in. On the way there you will pass the Slipstream on your left-hand side, Europe’s largest permanent sculpture which is 70 feet long and weighs 77 tons. It’s intention is to remind you of an aircraft.
SAS had two check-in counters open for premium passengers that I could use as I was travelling in SAS Plus and with an SAS EuroBonus diamond card. As I travelled with only hand luggage, it was just as easy to check-in via an automated machine. All machines in the terminal can handle all airlines, however, if you have checked luggage you have to go to the desk as stated on the departure screens.
With my boarding pass printed, I went through to security where there was a separate fast-track channel for gold members and passengers of SAS Plus. The channel was very easy to use, with minimal queuing and was completely shielded from the rest of the security checkpoint. It was a very calm and totally stress free experience. One checkpoint was open this morning, but there are a total of four that can be opened in the fast track section.
After the security check, you come out on a balcony with a pleasant view over the transit hall, a concept not unlike that in terminal 5 at Heathrow. The transit hall is actually very stylish and the ceiling has a nice lighting effect that can create different moods and atmospheres. For example, it glows red at Christmas.
When the Lufthansa lounge opens in October, one will find the lounge directly right after the security control on the same balcony. At present, you have to take the escalator down one floor in order to find the lounges that are currently available. I managed to visit 3 lounges during the morning – United Club Lounge, Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and Plaza Premium Lounge. The latter offers access to SAS passengers until 1st October when Lufthansa will open their lounge, the lounge SAS will formally use and will be the main lounge for most SAS departures. If you travel in SAS Plus or have a gold card, however, according to the rules you have access to a total of four different lounges.
Overall, all the lounges in terminal 2 are of a very high standard. Of the three I tested, none were even close to a disappointment and all offered a good selection of food and beverages, including hot food in all three and a wide range of drinks. In United’s lounge there was free champagne, and in Air Canada’s lounge there were four different beers on tap.
Boarding and First Impressions
Boarding started 30 minutes before departure at gate A16, a gate in the central terminal building, T2A, situated right in the middle of the transit hall. During the opening day, all SAS flights departed from four dedicated gates where there was aslo some festivities and activities taking place throughout the day. In the future, SAS expects that 60 percent of their flights will depart from the main terminal building, T2A, and 40 percent from the satellite building, T2B. When flying from the latter, you gain access via a tunnel that connects the two buildings. Just as previously in terminal 3, gate information will be displayed on the screens approximately 45 minutes before departure.
A very positive aspect was layout at the gate. priority boarding was well organised and was clearly displayed on the electronic signs. Passengers in economy class/SAS Go used the queue to the left while passengers in SAS Plus and Star Alliance Gold Card members were referred to the queue on the right.
Newspapers were available from the galley onboard the aircraft. All passengers also received a certificate at the gate which stated that they had travelled from terminal 2 during SAS’s first day in the terminal.
We had a punctual pushback at 1.50pm, but with a rather long queue to the runway, we finally took off almost half an hour later. Flight time to Stockholm had been estimated at 2 hours and 15 minutes.
It was a Boeing 737 that took us to Stockholm this afternoon. SAS Plus took up seven rows in a 3-3- configuration, of which the first line only had seats on the right side. Some 20 passengers travelled in SAS Plus to Stockholm
In SAS Plus, there is no guarantee of getting a vacant seat next to you, however, I managed to get the entire first row myself, which was much appreciated.
With departure a time of 1:50pm, there was no option of a substantial evening meal. Three course meals are served on departures after 4pm, however, I was content with the choice available on the food cart. I chose a salad and a slice of pizza, a replacement for the wrap which used to be served. The salad that day was roast beef with potatoes and a mushroom sauce. It was very tasty and also filling. The pizza had a mushroom and cheddar filling. Pizza is seldom a success when served on an aircraft, perhaps due to the fact it must be re-heated during the flight. In my opinion, however, it was certainly better than the previously served wrap, which was somewhat soggy.
I ordered a small bottle of white wine, from two to choose from, to go with my meal. Lastly, coffee and tea were served along with a small piece of chocolate. A real glass was used for the wine, but SAS continue to use plastic glasses for water and paper cups for coffee. Later during the flight, additional drinks were offered and ordering anything extra was a simple press of a button away.
Three people worked on board, a female purser who took care of the catering in SAS Plus, and another man and one woman. The service was friendly, proper and courteous but without anything in particular standing out during the flight.
The weather was beautiful during much of the flight meaning the Great Belt Fixed Link in Denmark was clearly seen from 10,000 feet. There was a very beautiful view of a dusk lit downtown Stockholm during the approach.
We landed ten minutes after schedule at 5.30pm. There was quite a lot of people at passport control as a flight from Air China had arrived a few minutes earlier, but all went smoothy.
Terminal 2 is well functioning as a Star Alliance terminal, everything is fresh and modern and the lounges are to high standard. Priority boarding is also well managed. Otherwise, it was a standard SAS Plus flight within Europe. I would, however, like to see an evening meal offered earlier in the day in SAS Plus.