Guest Review: SAS Business Class – LAX to Stockholm
Hello, my name is Brad. I’m a friend of the Addict. We met in the Air Force when we were both spending some time in Frankfurt, Germany. That was my first time to Europe, but it wasn’t my last. I’m also a pilot and have had the privilege to travel the world. Though I haven’t made it to Antarctica…yet. I enjoy travel and try to get out as much as I can. This is a review of a quick trip to Paris with award travel.
I have a friend who is tired of me talking about Chamonix. He also has another buddy that has talked the French alpine resort up so much that he finally had enough. So the two of us came up with a grand plan to travel to Chamonix. But, in the end we decided not to drag our ski equipment across the world and rather to spend a week in Paris. So this is my adventure of how I got to Paris and why I went through Stockholm and Geneva to get there.
My friend works for a legacy air carrier and has travel benefits that I do not. This trip wasn’t exactly last-minute, but it wasn’t far enough out to get the best deal either. So, I opted to use my award miles to keep costs down and book a higher class of service than economy. Now, this story doesn’t include fascinating approaches to earn large amount of miles in a short period of time. The miles I used on my outbound leg were earn the old-fashioned way; flying over several years.
I had enough United MileagePlus miles to cover a business class ticket from the United States to Europe–a cost of 70,000 United miles for the one-way outbound flight. The bigger issue was finding the right itinerary. Like I said, this trip started off heading to Chamonix and the closest airport is Geneva, Switzerland. So I searched LAX to GVA award travel on the United website. The search results included Star Alliance partners, and in fact for my dates the only options available for business class were Star Alliance partners. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) restarted direct service between LAX and Stockholm Arlanda on March 14th; I departed on March 18th. My chosen itinerary departed LAX for Stockholm on SAS with a connection on Swiss International Air Lines (Swiss) to Geneva.
The total cost of the ticket: 70,000 United MileagePlus miles and $14.30 in taxes, fees, and surcharges. Sadly, after I purchased this ticket, and the 24 hour grace period was over, Scott decided we weren’t going to go to Chamonix. Train rides are fun though, right?
By the way, if you do not currently have enough United Mileage Plus miles for an itinerary like this–good new, they are relatively easy to get quickly. There are two good choices, either the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card by Chase, currently offering a 30,000 mile sign up bonus or the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which earns Ultimate Reward points, transferable at a 1:1 ratio to United. The Sapphire Preferred card is currently offering a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
The Day of Departure Arrives
I arrived at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal at 2 pm for my 3:15 pm departure. I had planned on arriving sooner, but parking the car and getting the shuttle took a little longer than anticipated. My business class ticket allowed me access to the Star Alliance Lounge. The lounge is located on level 6; the elevator is past security and to the right.
The Lounge. The lounge is operated by Air New Zealand but is open to Star Alliance partners. I would describe the design and feel of the lounge as modern, European. Others have said it has anew take on mid-century modern. Either way, it’s inviting and a nice place to relax before a flight.
Immediately inside to the right there are cubbies for luggage storage if you desire. The seating area is divided by some curtains to make it feel smaller and break up the size of the lounge. This feature also muffled some noise while making the seating area seem more private.
There is a full bar with a bartender as well as several self-service drink stations around the area. The self-service stations include soft drinks, tea, coffee, beer, wine, and some spirits. Behind the bar is the indoor balcony. The balcony overlooks the interior of the terminal.
I was impressed by the variety of food offered in the dining area. It was just after St Patrick’s Day, so they had corned beef and cabbage. Additionally, there was a selection of salads, fruit, sandwiches, and desserts. If those weren’t enough options, there is also a noodle bar.
The highlight of the lounge is likely to be the outdoor terrace. It’s a glass wall enclosed terrace that overlooks the airport and has the Hollywood Hills in the distance. There is a nice waterfall feature and the tables all have fire pits embedded in them.
After enjoying my time and light meal in the lounge, it was time to board the airplane.
The Plane. I was greeted at the plane door by a flight deck member (may have been the captain, I didn’t count the stripes on his sleeve) and a cabin crew member. I was quickly offered my choice of water, juice, or champagne after I found my seat.
The plane was a brand new Airbus A330 registration mark LN-RKT and named Bele Viking by SAS. A quick internet search shows that this airplane was delivered to SAS at the end of January 2016! Being that this is one of SAS’s newest airplanes, it had their new cabin installed. The business class seating arrangement is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration over 8 rows. I was seated in 7D. Each seat has direct access to the aisle. And though the seats aren’t the most private, I never felt like I was being intruded upon.
The seat itself is about 2 feet between arm rests. It also folds flat without any angle of elevation and has a massage function. The bedding (blankets, pillows & mattress) comes from Hästens, the oldest bed manufacturer in Sweden. I didn’t ask, nor did I see any of the flight attendants set up anyone else’s bed for sleep. The mattress simply lays over the flat seat. The pillow was softer than I would prefer, but was comfortable otherwise.
You have access to an on-demand entertainment system with 39 cm/15.4″ HD screens. I had 56 movies to choose from as well as a myriad of television shows. Most of the movies and shows were US produced with a few foreign options. The provided headset has a slight noise cancelling function which was welcomed, though the cabin was fairly quiet on its own.
The amenity kit was fairly standard for international business class. Whereas some airlines have partnered with name brand bag makers, this SAS kit comes in a simple, black, zippered pocket. Inside I found socks, sleep mask, tooth-brush and paste, ear plugs, and a sample of REN Clean Skincare hand lotion and lip balm.
The first food service started about an hour and a half into the flight. As you can see from the menu, I had a couple of options for my dinner. I started with the salmon and mixed salad. The salmon was lightly smoked and had a nice taste to it. The salad was a simple green salad with some extra vegetables along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I must have been hungry because I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the meal; I’m sorry. I selected the shrimp with blue cheese gnocchi for my main. It had good flavor but only 2 shrimp. For dessert I took the lemon tart with fruit and mascarpone cheese. It had bright lemon flavor without being overly sweet.
In-between the conclusion of dinner and the breakfast service I watched a few movies and tried to get some sleep.
If however, you find yourself hungry or thirsty, there is a small snack bar set up. It has a selection of tea and coffee, cold drinks, fruit, and sweat or savory snacks. The coffee served is Illy and it actually tastes like coffee. None of that weak, airplane coffee flavor.
Breakfast service began about an hour and a half before landing. The flight attendants asked at the beginning of the flight if you’d prefer to be woke for breakfast or allowed to sleep. I took the breakfast. It was more food than I could comfortably eat.
Arrival at Arlanda Airport. Though you can definitely tell that you are in Sweden. If the plane wasn’t Ikea enough, the airport sure was.
Because my connecting flight was still a Star Alliance partner and a business class seat I was able to use the SAS lounge. It is much smaller than the lounge in LAX, but it was clean and comfortable. The food was geared more towards the Scandinavian palate, but I don’t think it would turn off anyone. There was enough variety if fish wasn’t in your mood.
The journey from Los Angeles to Stockholm (Arlanda) was great. The service on board was wonderful. The cabin crew was very attentive and friendly. I would highly recommend SAS if you need to travel to northern Europe.
Stay tune for my return journey. I flew British Airways first class back to the States–again by redeeming miles!