Stockholm - Helsinki
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
- Most of the perks of business class, but without the price tag
- Solid baggage allowance, especially for frequent flyers
- Seating is the same as regular economy
- Lounge access isn't available in all airports, although you're covered in Stockholm
- Have a proper lunch on the ground in the SAS lounge, before the quick flight
With business class not offered by SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) on short flights within Europe, the next-best option is 'SAS Plus' premium economy, which still provides many of the usual business class perks including airport fast-track, and even lounge access at some airports.
As with the 'EuroBusiness' service offered by many of SAS' competitors, SAS Plus passengers experience upgraded service on the ground and in the air, but still travel in what would otherwise be an economy seat for their short European hop.
Australian Business Traveller put SAS Plus to the test on a recent Bombardier CRJ900 CityJet flight from the airline's Swedish hub of Stockholm to Helsinki, Finland.
- Frequent flyer program: SAS EuroBonus, but as a Star Alliance member airline, you also have the option of crediting these flights to programs like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer or United MileagePlus.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x23kg bags, increased to 3x23kg for EuroBonus Silver and Star Alliance Gold members of all airlines, or to 4x23kg for EuroBonus Gold and Diamond members.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x118cm bag of up to 8kg, plus 1x85cm small laptop bag or handbag. If you're connecting to or from SAS flights to Asia or the USA, you can also bring an extra 118cm, 8kg bag into the cabin.
- Airport fast-track: Check-in was swift at dedicated priority counters with no queue to wait behind, and the same can be said of priority security screening at Arlanda Airport, which SAS Plus passengers can use.
However, there was no call or attempt at priority boarding, which wouldn't have achieved anything for this flight anyway, with all passengers boarding the same bus to be taken to the aircraft's remote stand. Priority baggage delivery worked as expected, and there's no passport control to worry about between Sweden and Finland.
In Stockholm, an SAS Plus ticket provides entry into the SAS Business Lounge, which was modern and inviting...
... and with a good selection of fresh food on offer, I tucked into a nice lunch ahead of my early afternoon flight:
There's also a separate, higher-tier lounge next door for Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers.
With plenty of competition on the Stockholm-Helsinki route from the likes of Finnair and Norwegian, SAS runs non-stop flights throughout the day, departing every 1-3 hours.
Some flights are served by the larger Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s, although the majority are run using these Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft: offering fewer seats per flight, but in turn, opening up a much wider choice of departure times for passengers.
The journey time on this route is just 55 minutes from gate to gate, or 60 during busier times.
As mentioned earlier, with no business class on these flights, the airline instead sells 'SAS Plus' premium economy, where travellers sit in exactly the same seat as economy (and with a neighbour), with other aspects of the experience elevated instead.
That means whether you're sitting in SAS Plus or regular economy, you'll find a 2-2 seating configuration aboard these CRJ900s, so it's a simple choice between an aisle or window:
SAS Plus passengers can select seats the first row of the cabin – where a bulkhead wall in front means some extra room around the knees – but as it's first-come, first-served, everybody else takes the rows behind. From my window seat in row 3, there was ample knee room, despite the seat not otherwise being particularly spacious:
There's a small pocket in front for personal storage...
... and a typical fold-down tray table – or fold-up from within the arm rest for those at the very front.
Being such a short journey, I didn't feel the need to use the seat's recline feature, and appreciated being able to raise the centre armrest after take-off for a little more space.
As an early afternoon flight with lunch available in the lounge before departure, this 55-minute hop offers a snack service.
Selections can be made from the menu in the seat pocket, and in SAS Plus, everything is complimentary: something the crew did a better job of explaining on this flight, compared to a previous SAS flight where this wasn't mentioned at all.
I opted for some potato chips and a glass of French white...
... and for the road, a little lolly bag:
Here's a look at the other menu options (excluding breakfast at lunchtime, obviously)...
... and while not applicable on this short route, if your SAS Plus flight is a little longer, you'll have other options, too:
The crew worked efficiently to get through the cabin, but without the service feeling rushed.
Entertainment & Service
Other than the magazine found in your seat pocket, there's no other inflight entertainment on these aircraft – so if you need help passing the time, bring something with you.
That said, I had plenty to look at from the window seat, and was enjoying my snack in the middle of the flight where the view was more limited above the clouds, so didn't find the need to get a gadget out.
Inflight WiFi is also complimentary for SAS Plus passengers, although it wasn't installed on this particular plane: not that there'd have been much time to use it, anyway.
Service on today's journey was friendly and prompt, with the cabin crew engaging passengers in brief conversation while completing their duties, without being too familiar.
Overall, on a 55-minute flight, it's not really 'necessary' to have a better-than-economy service as you step off the plane almost as soon as you board, but SAS Plus offers travellers without SAS or Star Alliance frequent flyer status the usual perks of business class, albeit in an economy seat.
It can also be more cost-effective than buying an economy ticket and paying extra for things like checked baggage and airport lounge access, especially if travelling during the European winter with two checked bags loaded with heavy coats and other winter wear.
However, keep in mind that lounge access for SAS Plus passengers is only offered at airports where SAS operates its own lounge, and priority security screening isn't available everywhere either, so when planning your own journey, do your research so that you'll know what to expect.
Chris Chamberlin travelled at his own expense.