Review: SAS Business – Stockholm – Hong Kong (Airbus A330-300)

Review: SAS Business – Stockholm – Hong Kong (Airbus A330-300)

This was originally the last remaining piece in the puzzle to qualify for SAS Eurobonus Gold for the first time, made possible by a recent work trip to Las Vegas.

Award auction upgrade

Originally booked in SAS Plus for around 6000 NOK (a little more than 750 USD), I utilized SAS’ upgrade auction system to bid for an upgrade to Business using Eurobonus points. A bid of 26000 points – 1000 points more than the minimum bid – secured me the upgrade, and I got the confirmation email around 40 hours ahead of departure. Such an upgrade at the gate would have cost 35000 points, so I found it a reasonably good deal, although I was pretty certain the offer would be accepted, as both the Plus and Business cabins seemed to have a light load, according to Expertflyer seatmaps.

Also worth noting is that the auctioned upgrades earn points based on the new service class, while upgrades at the gate earn points based on the original class. For this trip, that would mean 6000 points in Plus and 9000 in Business, so effectively 23000 points net for the upgrade. The difference in price if I should have paid in cash would have been around 6000 NOK one way, so at this price my points were worth almost 0,30 NOK each, a pretty decent value. 

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Meal service on SAS Plus from Oslo to Stockholm isn’t really all that impressive. I love the Ringi juice, though (and could have had alcoholic beverages too, if I had wanted). 

Check-in at my home base of Oslo was quick and I got a great start to the day by talking to the extremely friendly agent checking me in. After a quick breakfast in the SAS lounge and an uneventful flight to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, I found myself waiting at the gate around 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled boarding time.

I probably shouldn’t have listened to the call system warnings that passport control could take time, and instead waited at the lounge, located before passport control. At least the seats in the waiting area were comfortable.

A comfortable seat

Boarding started around 30 minutes before departure time, and SAS boarded groups A, B and C at the same time, meaning Eurobonus Gold/Diamond/Star Alliance Gold, Business and SAS Plus passengers. Boarding was smooth, and a friendly flight attendant guided me «around the corner» to find my seat 6H.

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SAS A330 Business Class seat. Notice the narrow opening between the table and the seat in front. 

The SAS Business cabin is configured in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, with every other seat closer to the aisle and the others closer to the window. If you value your privacy, I would suggest picking a seat closer to the window, as the other seats are completely open to the aisle.

The seat itself is 23 inches wide and stretches to a length of 77 inches in the fully flat position, and a notable difference from the seat in the Finnair A350 business class is that the footwell is much larger here, which makes it easier to find a good sleeping position.

The layout of the seat means that the opening towards the aisle is very narrow, so I can imagine it being a little difficult to get in and out for those who have mobility issues. They might wanna get a seat closer to the aisle. 

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SAS A330 Business class seat.

The SAS seat unfortunately doesn’t have a whole lot of storage options. Between the seat and the aisle is a little shelf where you can put small items, but other than that I could find nowhere to store my laptop or iPad, especially not during takeoff and landing.

In the seat I found a blanket from quality brand Hästens, noise-cancelling headphones that looked like they could come from Bose, along with a very thin mattress pad and a cheap-looking amenity kit.

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SAS Business Class storage and noise-cancelling headphones. A water bottle is hidden in the nook behind the seat controls. 

Champagne, champagne, champagne…

Only a few minutes after finding my seat, a friendly flight attendant came by, offering a hot towel and a welcome drink. I had the choice between water, orange juice or champagne, and chose the latter.

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SAS Business class pre-departure beverage: Charles Heidsieck champagne. 

SAS serves Charles Heidsieck Brut Reservé (440 NOK on the ground), which I find to be complex, nutty and overall very good (however, my experience in champagne is rather limited, so I suspect I might find most brands pleasing).

The amenity kit was only a small polyester zip bag which I don’t really imagine I will find much use for after the flight. The contents were about average, however: A pair of cotton socks, lip balm and hand/body cream from REN, toothbrush and toothpaste (mine even contained two tubes), an eye mask and ear plugs. I also really like the REN products, so I found that a nice surprise.

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SAS Business class amenity kit contents. 

For this flight, the 32-seat business class cabin turned out to be around 80 per cent full, meaning most window seats were taken, but there were a few available seats in the center section.

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SAS A330 Business class seat controls.

After settling in and fiddling with the seat for a bit (there’s in-seat massage!), we took off right around schedule, and soon after the seatbelt sign was switched off, the crew served another beverage along with some lovely warm nuts. Needless to say, I had another glass of champagne, plus some sparkling water. 

Be aware that meal service on SAS takes quite a bit of time to commence, so if you are planning on getting a lot of sleep, you might wanna stock up in the lounge beforehand. It wasn’t until around an hour and a half after takeoff that we were served appetizers.

Cart service

SAS serves all meals from a cart where you can see the options before you choose. See the full menu under. 

For this flight the appetizers were Swedish caviar (löjrom) or reindeer salami, and I chose the reindeer, which turned out to be a very tasty choice.

The celery remoulade gave the dish a lot of flavour. I chose the Peter Yealands pinot noir for the reindeer, and found it to be very forgettable, almost to the point of bland. 

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SAS Business class appetizer: Reindeer salami. 

For my main course I had the choice between chicken, oxtail, catfish and a vegetarian dish, and on a friend’s recommendation, I chose the oxtail. Unfortunately it was overcooked to a state where it was all grey, and the mushroom sauce was very oily.

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SAS Business class entrée options. 

Not a great meal, but it was passable. With the oxtail I chose the «guest wine» for this flight, namely an Australian shiraz. It was completely on the other end of the spectrum from the pinot I had earlier: Extremely powerful and spicy, and just a little too much for me, so I only had about half a glass.

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SAS Business class entrée: Oxtail. 

For dessert, I had a small slice of the red berries cake, along with a raspberry sorbet from the Swedish manufacturer Gute Glass. Both were good, but I would definitely say that the sorbet was a notch above the cake. I could have also had cheeses and/or fresh figs, if I had been so inclined.

As I was hoping to get some sleep, I declined on the coffee or tea.

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SAS Business class dessert cart.

Trying to sleep

My track record with these longhaul flights isn’t great, especially when it comes to older aircraft like the A330. I was starting to feel the headache already around this time, and therefore I decided to put down the seat and try to get some sleep. The seat itself is really firm and not that easy to sleep on, but the mattress pad at least helps a bit (which was one of my main gripes with the Finnair biz seat).

Unfortunately the SAS A330 does not have individual air vents, so controlling the temperature is hard, and I found the cabin to be a little on the warm side to sleep comfortably. Needless to say, I didn’t feel the need for the supplied blanket, but I would definitely have liked a more firm pillow. I really don’t understand why SAS cannot offer a more substantial pillow in business class. 

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SAS Business class seat made up for sleeping. You have to do it yourself, however. 

I think I got less than half an hour of sleep from laying down for about two and a half hours, so I then decided to watch some offline content from Netflix on my iPad for a while. The SAS entertainment system itself contains 65 movies, and I felt that I had watched everything I was interested in during my return flight to San Francisco last month.

That said, the 15-inch screen is large, bright and high-res, so if I actually found something I wanted to watch, the SAS screen would be a great place to do it. You can control it either by using the touchscreen itself or by the remote lodged under the shelf next to you, but the touchscreen is very responsive, so I guess that is the best option.

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SAS in-flight entertainment system. Notice the USB port and headphone jack on the right, meaning you can use your own headphones if you prefer.

 

 

 

SAS offers inflight wifi, which is complimentary for Business Class and Plus passengers, along with SAS Eurobonus Gold members and higher. Others have to pay $19 (or 3000 Eurobonus points) for the privilege, which has a capacity of 12 Mbit/sec shared between all users.

Up until this point, I hadn’t been able to connect, as the system didn’t seem to accept my credentials as valid for free wifi. I asked a flight attendant, who happily supplied me with her voucher code, which worked nicely. It sure isn’t fast, but at least it’s usable for chatting and the like.

Now around halfway through the 10-hour flight, I once again wanted to try to get some sleep, and I was a little bit more successful this time, with another hour or two of successful rest. 

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If you are hungry or thirsty in between meals, you can choose from a decent self-serve spread in the business class cabin. The Valrhona chocolates were lovely.

Running late?

The flight attendants had previously announced breakfast would be served around 1 hour and 45 minutes before landing, and also asked passengers whether they wanted to be awoken for this. For this flight they seemed to be running very late, as breakfast service didn’t really start until 1 hour before landing. Like the other meal, this one is also served from a cart, and you can choose what you wanna have.

At this point I had a severe headache and also felt quite nauseous, so I couldn’t really have much breakfast. I also found it strange that they served cold bread this time around, since dinner came with hot and much better bread. The breakfast roll was both stone cold and dry, and the only plus was that you could choose apple juice from the fantastic Norwegian Ringi brand.

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SAS Business class breakfast. Fairly standard, but why not at least heat the dry bread and croissants?

Service on this flight was as you would expect from SAS. They don’t address you by name, but address your requests in a prompt and efficient manner. A side note is that the crew serving us in business class on this flight were mostly Scandinavian (Swedish), with a few guest appearances from the Chinese crew onboard.

We touched down at Hong Kong International exactly at our scheduled time, after what had been a perfectly fine business class flight. Now if only SAS would replace those aging A330s, so I can get off without a raging headache next time.

Before that happens I’m not sure I would actually pay the premium in cash for this.

All kinds of travel rates SAS Business Stockholm – Hong Kong: 3,5 out of 5

I liked: Comfortable seat, large footwell, cart-service meals, good champagne, REN products in the amenity kit, nice IFE screen, large business class bathrooms, landed on time

I disliked: A330 is tiring to fly longhaul, red wines were not impressive, catering in general was no more than average, slightly limited IFE if you fly SAS a lot, cheap-looking amenity kit, no pajamas

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3 thoughts on “Review: SAS Business – Stockholm – Hong Kong (Airbus A330-300)

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