SAS Plus Stockholm-London – With the new evening meal
It has been a little over a year since SAS abolished their old cabin structure in Europe, with Business Class and Economy Flex being replaced with a new cabin class, SAS Plus. After a few months of tests and assessments, it was announced this spring, that an adjustment would be made in the SAS Plus concept. Perhaps the most interesting change is the introduction of an evening meal on flights to destinations outside Scandinavia which have a departure time after 4:00pm.
We headed to London, with an evening departure of 6:20pm, to evaluate the new food concept.
At the Airport
I checked-in two hours before departure at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Two counters were open at the SAS premium check-in area in Terminal 5, a counter for business class and SAS Plus, and a counter for gold card travellers. I was immediately summoned to the latter.
A very polite and helpful young woman took care of my check-in. My bag was tagged to London with a red tag priority, and she printed out the boarding pass with my pre-booked seat, 01F. However, I would continue travelling intercontinentally the next day, which she noted in the system as these flights were apparently open for check-in. She used APIS to save my details for the flights, and also offered to check me in on my connecting flight in order to minimise formalities the next day. This was extremely nice, and probably significantly more than she was obliged to do.
With no queue at the fast track, I was through security in two minutes. This afternoon, the SAS Gold Lounge was offering broccoli salad with chicken, and hot dogs, as well as the usual range of drinks.
Boarding and First Impressions
The departure to London was from Gate F60, in the F-pier, a fair walk from the lounge. At passport control, just under 25 before departure, the crew arrived walking at a brisk pace. They had apparently been delayed in Umeå, in northern Sweden, and were noticeably stressed, yet still in surprisingly good spirits considering the situation, and happily greeted all the passengers in the queue.
Despite the tight schedule, boarding began ten minutes before the scheduled departure, at 6:10pm, with priority for EuroBonus Diamond, Gold, Star Alliance Gold and SAS Plus. At the gate there was a stand with international newspapers. The staff barely had time to get the cabin ready when the first passengers came aboard.
Pushback took place at 6.30pm, ten minutes behind schedule, which, given the earlier delay, was impressive. The flight time to London was estimated at 2 hours and 15 minutes.
It was a Boeing 737-600 that took us to London this evening. SAS Plus occupied two rows in a 3-3- configuration, of which the first row was only on the right side. This meant a total of nine seats, of which three were occupied. Economy and SAS Go, however, were quite full, maybe not so surprising since it was July and middle of the holiday season.
There was no guarantee of a free middle seat in SAS Plus. However, with only three passengers on board, we all got three seats each.
On some of the SAS Boeing 737 aircraft the seat is rather narrow, and this happened to be one of those aircraft. It does not tend to be a problem for those of an average size, but there is certainly no extra room to speak of.
The advantage of sitting in the front row, on the right side, is that there is a cavity in the floor where you can stretch out your legs. The downside is that you have to stow away all hand luggage in the overhead compartment during takeoff and landing, and that the table is in the armrest, and is therefore a smaller and slightly more unstable table than those found in other rows.
Once in the air, the food cart was wheeled out and we in SAS Plus were first to be served. The choices available for the new evening meal (which is only offered in SAS Plus) were, a salad with salmon, and two sandwiches. Additionally, there was the usual range of café goods, like chocolates and muffins. I opted for the evening meal, a simple cold three-course meal served in a paper box.
The starter was a small bowl of olives and vegetables. The main course was pork with a shopska salad, a traditional Bulgarian salad. And finally, the dessert was a chocolate and orange brownie and a small chocolate bite. Along with the meal, bread was also offered from a basket.
Evidently, there was neither cutlery nor a napkin in the box, which, for example, is the case with breakfast boxes and also with boxes in the old Economy Flex class, which SAS had previously. The flight attendant had apparently forgotten, but eventually resolved this voluntarily without out my need to raise the alarm.
I ordered a bottle of sparkling wine as well a glass of water. The sparkling wine being served was of the Bernard Massard variety. A real glass accompanied the wine bottle. It is nice to see that the old glasses are now back in use in SAS Plus, a much favourable option than plastic. A real glass really enhances the whole experience. Coffee was still served, however, in a paper cup, and for most other drinks, like water, liqueurs and cocktails, it seems that plastic glasses will continue to be used, even in SAS Plus.
Overall, the food tasted good, nothing whatsoever to complain about. Of course, it was not up to the standard of the hot food which was previously served in business class, but clearly better than just being able to choose from the ordinary range of salad, sandwiches and wraps.
After the food, coffee and tea were served, and along with this I took a glass of Amarula (which replaced Baileys on board). The orange and chocolate brownie was a great addition to the coffee.
The crew consisted of a male purser and two female flight attendants, one of which was in charge of us in SAS Plus. Despite the scarcity of time at the airport, and a nearly full aircraft, they were cheerful and pleasant.
However, it did take a while before I was offered coffee after dinner as all three were busy in economy. This is one of the major differences between SAS Plus and the previous concept, there was almost always a person dedicated to the front cabins. This certainly affects the level of service when it comes the filling of glasses, serving of coffee/tea and clearing the tables. Now this is dependant on how much work there is to do in the economy.
Otherwise, it was no trouble to just ring the bell if you were in need, and more often than not you received a quick response.
With no circling over London for a change, we landed five minutes before the scheduled time, at 7:50pm.
SAS currently uses terminal 3, but this will change, probably in September 2014, as SAS are moving to new Star Alliance terminal, terminal 2. This will mean more modern facilities and an easy transfer to other airlines in the Star Alliance. But otherwise, there is still a certain charm within terminal 3, there are probably few places in the world which offer such a large mix of airlines and nationalities.
At passport control, I was able, thanks to my biometric passport, to use an automatic gate, which I proceeded through quickly. I had some trouble, however, at baggage collection. It took some time before my luggage actually showed up, the priority tag failing quite miserably. My bag was the 50th to appear.
It is certainly a positive that SAS have revised the SAS Plus concept, the new evening meal was actually really good. But, of course, I do miss the hot food. Otherwise an okay flight with a friendly and dependable crew.