Chicago-Stockholm on SAS in Business Class: the best possible experience on a transatlantic flight?

SAS’ long-haul business class is proving to be one of the best experiences on the market, at least for transatlantic flights.

I’d been wanting to take a long-haul flight on SAS Scandinavian Airlines for a long time. Firstly because I like to try out all the airlines and this one was missing from my list, at least for long-haul flights, and also because Olivier had flown them a few years ago and had come back delighted, which piqued my curiosity.

So I took advantage of this long weekend in Chicago to try it out, knowing that it’s one of the few cities served by the Scandinavian airline’s meagre network.

A small disappointment on my outbound flight from Copenhagen to Chicago, however: this summer, the route was operated by Hifly under wet lease. It was with real disappointment and a rather negative preconception that I embarked on this Copenhagen-Chicago SAS operated by Hifly. But after having tried to point out all the negative points with a certain amount of bad faith, I had to admit that even if the aircraft and crew weren’t SAS, the seat was more than correct and the service very good, obviously following SAS protocol to the letter. This only increased my desire to make a “real” SAS flight, which is the case on this return flight as I’ll be flying to Stockholm, this time with a Scandinavian Airlines aircraft and crew.

So, will my hopes be dashed or my expectations fulfilled? That’s what we’re going to find out.

As a reminder, here is the complete air routing for this trip

You’ll find at the bottom of the page a summary of the articles about this vacation in the USA.

Check-in and ground course

I arrive at the airport several hours before my flight, knowing how long and laborious the security checks can be.

There’s no waiting at the check-in counter and I’m met by a very friendly agent who even advises me to use the security checkpoint which, in her opinion, will be the least crowded at this time of day. Luckily, it’s the nearest one and the one that leads right to the SAS lounge.

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On the other hand, it’s rather poorly designed, since the control line that starts at the end of the hall extends so far that it blocks the aisle and the entrances to the hall.

In the end, however, things progress slowly but surely, and I end up passing immigration and police checks in the process, with very friendly agents, and quickly find myself at the Chicago SAS lounge. 1:20 from hotel to lounge: I’m pretty happy with my performance.

The lounge will be packed, but it’s better than nothing to wait the few hours before boarding.

Then I have to walk down a long corridor into a terminal that’s rather pretty for a US airport.

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Here I am, and I don’t have long to wait before boarding begins.

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Our aircraft is waiting for us, an A330 in the old SAS livery.

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Boarding

Families with young children and disabled passengers will board 5 minutes before the scheduled time.

Then it’s our turn, with, as always at SAS, a strict respect for priorities. No mercy for those who try to squeeze into the wrong line: they’re turned away at the gate and sent to the end of the queue.

And so I’m one of the first to enter the cabin.

SAS A330 business class cabin

So here we find the Tompson Vantage XL seat, which I really like.

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The cabin is in 1-2-1, “staggered” configuration. This means that on the window side of odd-numbered rows, the seat is close to the aisle and separated from the window by a sideboard, whereas the opposite is true for even-numbered rows, which are thus better isolated and more private.

I’m in 2H.

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It’s hard to do better in terms of insulation, except with a door.

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The tones are dark and neutral and very tasteful.

The screen is a good size and very, very bright. But that won’t be a problem.

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Legroom is more than comfortable for my 1m88.

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On the side is a small storage area for headphones (of average quality), a reading light and seat controls.

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Still, it lacks a bit of storage space.

Further down, another series of controls, more accessible when lying down.

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The blanket and pillow are already in place.

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It’s very pretty, comfortable, very Scandinavian in fact, and comes from DUX, an overpriced Swedish bedding brand.

The amenity kit is here too, in a DUX kit.

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On the outward journey, the contents of the comfort kit were in a shoe bag, now in a real kit. This is not an error or a change: the kit is delivered randomly with 3 types of container, allowing the passenger to collect them and have the complete set.

And the contents of the kit:

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Very premium VERSO products, wooden toothbrushes for durability and an appreciable Scandinavian touch.

All in all, a very nice product, sober, comfortable, a seat I really appreciate for the space it offers and the isolation it provides.

If I have to compare with the outbound flight (with a Hifly aircraft) it’s the same seat but overall everything is a notch up: better finished, more premium, more attention in small details etc.

The flight and the service

Right from the start of boarding, we’re offered a welcome drink: I’ll have a glass of Heidsieck champagne.

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We’re also given the menus we’ll talk about later.

We are also asked if we want to be woken for breakfast 1h30 before arrival or if we want to sleep. I’ll opt for the breakfast option, just to test the product to the end.

Boarding is completed in just under 30 minutes and we’re ready to go.

While waiting for takeoff, I play with the IFE…

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It’s responsive and the interface sober but convenient. Not much more to say, as I prefer to use my iPad with my own selection of films when flying. Funnily enough, this one offers the full bar menu…quite extensive, as you can see.

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Here is the product sheet for this Swedish whisky, which I really enjoyed on the outbound flight…

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The selection of new releases for those who are interested:

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Here we are, ready to hit the runway after a relatively short (20min) taxi, and here are a few images of O’Hare from the air.

We quickly pass the shores of Lake Michigan….

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Tables are quickly laid with tablecloths…

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…and the aperitif service begins.

There’s plenty to choose from…a fine selection of spirits with a very Scandinavian flair.

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On Olivier’s advice, I’ll try a house cocktail: the Forrest Spring (Whisky, Ringi apple juice and Ekobryggeriet Ginger Ale).

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The cocktail was made in front of me (not a premix…) and turned out to be very good: fruity, fresh, with the taste of whisky still very perceptible. Serve with warm, melting walnuts.

Meanwhile, I’m testing out the wifi, which is free for business passengers and Diamond and Gold members of the Eurobonus loyalty program.

The crew returns to clear the tables. Then it’s back to serving drinks to start the meal.

The wine list is varied and of good quality.

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I’ll have a Malbec.

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You’ll notice that the butter is served in a real butter dish, not in a disposable aluminum container or in its own wrapping paper like some others…

And it’ll be back again to serve the appetizers! It’s time to tell you more about the menu…

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Yes, you’re not dreaming: you can choose between 3 starters and 4 main courses! Who offers that today? I really appreciate the variety and sophistication of the dishes, with their strong Scandinavian identity. Quite an ambitious menu, and I really like it.

While more and more airlines ensure that crews have a minimum number of passages to make and a minimum number of gestures to perform, at SAS it’s one passage to serve, one to clear, then another to serve the next, and so on. We can’t say they’re sparing with their efforts.

Entries are brought in on a cart, not a trolley, and displayed so that you can make an informed choice. And there are no trays on SAS: everything is served by the plate. This type of service has disappeared from business class on almost all airlines, especially on transatlantic flights, and is even becoming rarer in first class.

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Doesn’t it look more appealing?

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I’ll choose the salmon, which will be dressed right before my eyes. I’ll also be offered a salad, which will be made to order and seasoned before my very eyes to suit my taste.

And this is what it looks like:

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You’ll notice that there’s one set of cutlery for each dish, although I don’t understand why I’ve only got two this time as I had three on the outward journey…

But it’s still nicer than a tray with a compulsory starter and the cheese already on it, which will wait until the end of the meal, isn’t it?

Close-up on the starter...Balik-style smoked salmon with summer berries, grated fennel, heirloom tomatoes and beet and strawberry vinaigrette

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It’s pretty, fresh and very tasty. I like the sweet and salty combination.

The steward will clear the table and then return with his cart for the main course. Here too, dishes are prominently displayed for easy selection, and service is by the plate.

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I’ll have the “Yankee Pot Roast” short ribs, fingerling potatoes smashed with horseradish, summer vegetables and braised sauce.

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The ribs are melt-in-the-mouth, the vegetables a little crunchy, it’s tasty and it’s filling.

I take all the time I need to eat, comfortably settled

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Meanwhile, water and wine refills will be made regularly…

The steward passes again to clear…and returns shortly afterwards with the dessert cart.

He asks me what I want and I start to reply “I’m hesitating, everything looks appetizing”. He wouldn’t let me finish my sentence, stopping me at “everything”… so he served me everything. I’ll add tea and cognac.

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The plates are prepared in front of me before being placed on the table. The cake will be very mellow, the fruit will be just right, and the ice cream will be…ice cream. I’m surprised, however, that they would serve such strong cheeses and especially blue cheese on a flight from the USA… that’s a bold move.

I recline my seat a little for digestion and for once use the massage function, which I usually denigrate but appreciate this time….

Here’s my set-up for a while before finally switching to night mode.

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Then I’ll switch my seat to the bed position for a few hours of well-deserved sleep. The bedding on board is very comfortable…

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As planned, I’m woken up 1.5 hours before arrival, somewhere between Iceland and Norway. The cabin is initially mood-lit to avoid a rude awakening, then quickly turned back on completely. Breakfast is served quickly.

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As for the second service on the outbound flight, I found it a little light, and I wouldn’t have minded a warm dish. On the other hand, it was of excellent quality…

I’m still dozing in recluse mode, waiting for the descent to begin.

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Descent and arrival

We begin our descent over the mountains of northern Norway…

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The rest of the flight goes off without a hitch, and I follow the landing with the tail camera…

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And after a short drive we’ll park next to a little brother at the F gates…

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A final farewell to this pretty cabin before disembarking.

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Note the state of cleanliness in which Scandinavians leave a plane after a 9-hour flight…not everyone can say the same.

I made my way quietly through the deserted corridors to go through immigration, and what a surprise… I’m used to fast controls in Copenhagen (and Scandinavia in general), but there was a real jam. In my opinion, this is caused by the Thai flight from Bangkok to Stockholm, which I’ve already taken and which arrives 25 minutes earlier.

An agent looks at my passport and directs me to a slightly less congested queue, and in the end I get through fairly quickly.

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But that’s not the end of my troubles: I have to go back airside to catch a flight to Gothenburg, which means going through security checks. I remember doing it last year on my way back from Bangkok and finding them a little undersized, but since we were the first flight in and I was one of the first, everything went very quickly.

Well, today we’re arriving just after another flight, and it’s not the same at all…

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It’s going to take a long, long time, especially as there are lots of families with children. Ahead of me, two Australian tourists arriving from Sydney via Bangkok are clearly fed up and in a hurry to get it over with.

The queue moves along slowly, and at last it’s our turn. Once you’re at the check point, everything goes quickly and smoothly, and the agents are always very friendly.

I’m also thinking that I wasn’t smart… I’d probably have been faster if I’d left the connection circuit, left the arrival area and joined the departure level like any person departing from Stockholm to go throught the security checks.

As I make my way to the SAS lounge to wait for my flight to Gothenburg, I notice the impressive queue at the border police in the departure direction. I’ve never seen anything like it here!

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The crew

Very nice and kind. I could have said that the service could have been faster, but that’s not their fault, it’s the protocol.

Bottom line

It’s funny to see the two sides SAS can show: very average and frugal on medium-haul and really very good on long-haul.

If the cabin is fairly classic, it’s a very pleasant, comfortable seat that really lets you feel calm and isolated. The bedding and amenity kit are also of excellent quality.

But what I remember most is the food and the service protocol, which I would describe as premium and very ambitious. Even though I’d heard great things about it, I wasn’t expecting this at all.

A choice of 3 starters and 4 main courses. Service with cart and by the plate, without a tray. Each dish is served and then cleared away one by one, the cheese isn’t brought to you with the starter to avoid an extra service, and the staff aren’t thrifty with their efforts, that’s for sure.

Finally, if I have to compare with things I know, I’ve had very few experiences of superior quality on flights of this type, and even fewer on transatlantic flights.

But does that mean SAS offers the best business class service between Europe and North America? Well, we’re not far from thinking so.

At 2,200 euros return (departure from Gothenburg), in any case, the value for money is unbeatable these days.

What about you? What do you think of this service? Have you ever taken SAS long-haul? Does this article make you want to give it a try?

Tell us in the comments.

The articles about this vacation in the USA

#TypePost
1DiaryPlanning summer vacation 2023 in the USA
2HotelFairfield Inn by Marriott, North Conway (New-Hampshire)
3HotelAC Hotel by Marriott, Portland (Maine)
4FlightParis-Copenhaguen – SAS – SAS plus
5LoungeSAS Gold Lounge Copenhagen
6FlightCopenhagen-Gothenburg – SAS – SAS Plus
7HotelAvalon Hotel – Gothenburg
8RestaurantCarbon, Gothenburg
9LoungeSAS Lounge – Gothenburg
10FlightGothenburg-Copenhagen – SAS – SAS plus
11LoungeAmerican Airlines Admirals Club lounge, Boston Logan
12FlightBoston – Chicago O’Hare – American Airlines – Domestic First
13LoungeEventyr lounge, Copenhagen
14FlightCopenhagen-Chicago – SAS (operated par Hifly) – Business Class
15HotelThe St. Regis, Chicago
16HotelW Chicago Lakeshore
17RestaurantSignature Room at the John Hancock Center, Chicago
18RestaurantThe Purple Pig, Chicago
19RestaurantObelix, Chicago
20RestaurantCabra, Chicago
21RestaurantMiru, Chicago
22DiaryVisiting Chicago
23LoungeAmerican Airlines Flagship Lounge, Chicago O’Hare
24FlightChicago O’Hare – Indianapolis – American Airlines Domestic First
25FlightIndianapolis – Boston – American Airlines Domestic First
26LoungeSAS Lounge – Chicago O’Hare
27FlightChicago O’Hare-Stockholm – SAS – Business Class
28LoungeSAS Gold Lounge, Stockholm
29FlightStockholm-Gothenburg – SAS – SAS Plus
30HotelScandic Rubinen – Gothenburg
31RestaurantProject, Gothenburg
32FlightGothenburg-Copenhagen – SAS – SAS Plus
33FlightCopenhagen-Paris – SAS (Operated by Jet Time) – SAS Plus
34DiaryDebriefing summer vacations in the USA
Today’s itinerary

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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