The flag carrier of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, SAS, began as a consortium that coordinated the airlines of these three Scandinavian countries in 1946. In 1948 they merged to form Scandinavian Airline System, abbreviated SAS. The airlines main hub is Copenhagen, while their head office is in Stockholm. An early innovator the airline offered passengers the first trans-polar flights in 1954 and in 1957 began round the world flights by adding Japan to their network, reached by crossing the North Pole. SAS operate a mixed fleet and were quick to buy the Boeing 747, adding it in 1971. In the 1980’s the airline began purchasing stakes in diverse rivals but has lost interest in owning slices of competitors in these more financially challenging times. SAS helped form Star Alliance in 1997. In 2007 SAS had three serious incidents involving Bombardier Dash 8’s within two months, forcing the airline to sell its fleet. In recent years the airline has faced tough competition from discount carriers and luxury Middle Eastern airlines.
SAS is a functional airline aiming to carry passengers from A to B. It is not a flying nightclub, cinema or restaurant. SAS are crewed by multilingual normal flight attendants who do their job without attitude or obvious joy. An SAS experience so amazingly underwhelmingh and is easy to forget; however the airline is also typically drama free. Pressing the call button on SAS actually results in a promote response.
SAS’s network really is targeted at providing links for their Scandinavian customers. Long distance flights are concentrated on Copenhagen while they have an extensive domestic network with links to closer European cities. Long distance journeys transiting through Copenhagen really aren't very convenient, as competitors often provide more direct (i.e. better) links. For example Stockholm to Bangkok is via Copenhagen with SAS, but is direct with Thai. While SAS’s global network is fine for Danes, it’s definitely inferior for Norwegians and Swedes.
SAS are never cheap. They are unwilling to compete with Europe’s numerous super discounters, such as Air Berlin or Norweigian Air which often compete on the same route at much cheaper prices. However SAS is a full service airline, they run punctually and if a drama occurs you’ll be relieved you booked them as they’ll look after you. On long leg flights, better priced, better service carriers beat SAS.
SAS catering is very bland in all classes and shows definite signs of economising. The airline goes for a contemporary indistinct European style which could just as well belong to any airline flying on either side of the Atlantic. There are few distinctly Scandinavian touches. Economy passengers receive unmistakable airline cuisine at set meal times. Flying outside these times will necessitate buying something from their CloudShop Cafe service. Business Class meals are just a better standard of unimaginative airline food. However passengers accustomed to nothing will be pleasantly surprised.
SAS have a modern entertainment system with individual seat back screens for passengers on newer larger aircraft, while commuters on smaller aircraft will have nothing more than the average inflight magazine or small dropdown screens. Their video channels include recent releases and some classics available in a variety of subtitles, together with Scandinavian sit-coms and entertaining documentaries. TV screens tend to be on the smaller size when compared to competitors.
As you would expect, Scandinavian baggage handlers are efficient and it is unlikely your luggage will miss your flight. However, outside Europe where the airline uses the services of contractors, things may not be so great. Ground staff are efficient rather than warm and friendly. SAS also keep strictly to their baggage allowances and will not turn a blind eye to excess luggage.
SAS lounges are very Scandinavian. Clean, modern, comfortable and practical. Every egalitarian, they lack a luxurious feel about them and are clearly aimed at business travellers rather than celebrities. Similarly the airlines premium cabins are comfortable and spacious but lack a feel of exclusivity that prestigious airlines have. If you want indulgence, SAS is not for you. If you want to arrive at your business conference refreshed then you’ll be satisfied.
SAS provides a very standard Economy service. Passengers get what they pay for and will rarely have their expectations exceeded. Cabins are standard, clean, service on the ground and in the air is efficient and the meals and entertainment are adequate. Unless you sit next to a fat man with BO, its likely your SAS Economy experience will be quickly forgotten.
SAS belongs to Star Alliance so the airlines EuroBonus frequent flyer scheme will be useful anywhere on the planet, however like all schemes each mile is worth practically nothing, so you’ll need to do a lot of travel to justify joining. As well as earning points from flights a EuroBonus card can also be used when booking rental cars and other travel service providers.
Aviation is an intensely competitive business and its extremely hard to make a profit from it, but SAS have handled the stress of competition better than many. While rival airlines have slashed pay rates to the bone and reduced standards SAS are not as guilty as others at doing this, however they have been involved in recent price fixing cartels in conjunction with many big names in aviation. Were any managers sacked for this? SAS’s profits and reputation suffered as a result of their fines.
SAS have not been the luckiest of airlines. They’ve had several fatal accidents, the most recent being in 2001. The involvement of three Canadian built Bombardier Dash-8’s in landing dramas forced the withdrawal of their fleet in 2007 due to passenger mistrust of this aircraft type. Investigators highlighted maintenance shortcuts but generally SAS have a good reputation for safety. Pilots are experienced and develop valuable skills in difficult Scandinavian winters.
Scandinavia’s average but reliable carrier that offers an ordinary travel experience with prices to match
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