In the end, the service offered by SAS in SAS Plus between Paris and Copenhagen was better than I had expected, with a quality meal, albeit light.
So this is the beginning of my short stay in Chicago. For the reasons explained in the article on the organization of this trip, I was traveling under constraint: I was very late in maintaining my Diamond status with SAS (and therefore my Star Alliance Gold), so my primary concern was earning points. That’s why I chose to fly SAS, because when you’re a member of their loyalty program and fly with them you earn a 25% bonus on both award and status points if you’re Gold or Diamond.
That’s why I decided to fly SAS, even though if their long-haul product is of excellent quality, their medium-haul product is, to put it politely, rather frugal. And, still to maximize my miles, I’ll be flying SAS Plus, which is a kind of premium economy, as the Scandinavian airline doesn’t offer a real business class on medium-haul routes (and economy is a low-cost option).
Here’s a reminder of the itinerary for this trip.
I booked my ticket to Gothenburg just over a month before departure, in SAS Plus, for 440 euros. This will be via Copenhagen, as only Air France offers direct flights between Paris and Sweden’s second-largest city.
A fair price in business class for a summer period, and which includes the “bio” option chosen at the time of booking, which finances the purchase of sustainable fuel. It increases the price of the ticket but grants an additional points bonus. When your back’s against the wall, you take everything you can get…
In the end, this will earn me 11.69 points/euro on the loyalty program (or 3.42 points per mile flown)…it may mean nothing to you but that’s a huge gain. There are plenty of other airlines and booking classes which don’t give you much more for a Paris-New York business class trip…. That’s 5,240 points which will boost my status (by way of comparison, I would have earned 3,000 miles on Lufthansa or 2,400 on Swiss for the same price).
Check-in and ground course
I arrive at Roissy by Uber and the last few hundred meters before the drop-off zone are a living hell because it’s so jammed. I could have been dropped off at Roissypole and ended up at CDGVal, which would certainly have saved me some time.
I checked-in online but as I had to check a bag I still had to go to the counter…
Very long queue at the SAS counter…
But as I approach, an agent checks my ticket and opens a priority lane for me. There’s only one person ahead of me.
Unfortunately, there’s only one counter for this lane, and it’s occupied by a family for whom the check-in process is going to be long and arduous, what’s more with children screaming their heads off. It must have been hell for the agent.
It’s finally my turn and everything’s sorted in 2 minutes.
Heading for the security checks…
I’m still a fan of the T1’s architecture, even if it’s not at all functional…
I go through the priority lane, which makes me pass a long queue, but once I arrive at the checkpoints it’s really very slow. At this time of year, there are plenty of people unaccustomed to traveling and unaware of the regulations governing electronic devices and liquids. What’s more, there’s very little space, which makes the experience rather painful when it comes to retrieving your belongings. I think that with “normal” passengers ahead of me it would have taken me 2 minutes instead of 10.
I’m finally in the terminal.
Heading for the lounge….and well no. SAS has permanently closed its lounge in Paris since the COVID, and given the service it offered at the time, that’s no great loss.
So I waited in this terminal, not at all designed for long waits while waiting to board.
Boarding will start on time.
Two gates will be used: one for priority passengers and one for others. Both feed from the same jetway, but at least this ensures that priorities are strictly respected and avoids chaos.
I’m first in line…
We wait a bit and it begins to get crowded behind me. And I don’t need to tell you about the temperature: an oven.
We’re finally released and can board our Embraer 195.
It’s typical SAS: fabric seats, tasteful gray tones. Embraer means a 2-2 configuration, and unfortunately SAS does not neutralize adjacent SAS Plus seats.
However, these seats offer better lateral support than the airline’s Airbus A320s.
I’m in the front row, so if the knee room is good I can’t extend my legs as much as if I had a seat ahead of me.
A very nice detail: the SAS application shows you the boarding progress. Useful if you’re on the plane and want to know how much longer you’ll have to wait before leaving, but also if you’re used to hanging around the lounge until the last minute…when there is one.
I see my suitcase being loaded on board…one less thing to worry about, as I’ve had many problems with delayed or even stolen luggage recently. With a SAS, an Air France and a British Airways tag, it’s not hard to identify at first glance.
The flight will be full, with 6 rows of SAS Plus.
We’ll leave on time.
The flight and the service
Given the way Roissy T1 is built with its satellites, there’s no need to push back, and we’ll go ahead and go around the satellite to reach the runway.
A Cathay is disembarking next door…
We say goodbye to T1.
We take off on the north doublet, facing east, and can see terminals 2E-L and M before breaking through the clouds.
The service begins and in SAS Plus we’re offered a lunchbox (in economy just a glass of water or a coffee, otherwise it’s buy on board). In all honesty I don’t expect anything and just hope it’s presentable and eatable.
And here is the result.
Cold-smoked salmon served with a salad of carrots, broccoli and beans in a yuzu and lime leaf vinaigrette, cabbage kimchi and gochujang mayonnaise. Garnished with toasted sesame seeds.
Well, it’s fresh, it’s very tasty, and for a medium-haul flight it’s even very good. I’m more than pleasantly surprised.
Some will find that the service could be more substantial, but I expected so much worse that I’ll be very satisfied with this meal.
I’ll finish with a coffee (not bad for filter coffee…which doesn’t mean it’s good…) and chocolates.
I’ll manage to wedge my iPad in the pocket in front of me and watch the latest season of Succession all the way to the arrival.
I notice that my seatmate is watching Air Crash Investigation on his iPhone…
As the time of clearing came, I said to him “ah it’s the Air China that crashed while flying too low, that’s it….”.
He replies, “Yes, that’s right, don’t confuse it with the Air China that had an engine failure….It’s a pleasure to travel with connoisseurs…“.
I’m offered several refills of coffee until the end of the flight.
Eventually, we begin the descent as the Swedish coastline appears before the final turn towards Denmark and Copenhagen.
Landing and arrival
The descent and approach maneuvers are smooth over the Baltic, and we land under a much less blue sky than in Paris.
We disembark in an almost empty terminal (the E terminal for those who know….), followed by a long walk through empty corridors to the lounge.
Very pleasant and smiling.
I expected so little from SAS on medium-haul flights that, in the end, I’m very happy. A comfortable plane, a pleasant crew, a quality meal…
At most, I would have preferred the adjacent seat to be blocked in SAS Plus, but as I had a seatmate with excellent taste, I forgive anything…