8 things I learned when I broke the business class at SAS


The next time you travel to Denmark, Sweden or Norway, you may find yourself flying on the region’s flagship airline, SAS. For a recent trip from the New York City area to Oslo, with connecting flights to Norway’s capital, I found great cash value thousands of dollars cheaper than my preferred airline, United.

I had never flown with SAS before, and since I was forever on the hunt for United MileagePlus Premier qualifying points, I was convinced to book directly with SAS and face the complicated revenue rules. (The airline’s bankruptcy filing this summer didn’t help, either.) But the price was too much to resist, and since SAS is a Star Alliance member, I knew I could still earn some points and classes toward MileagePlus in 2023 for Premier status.

But soon after booking the discounted economy class SAS Go Fair, I began to regret a seven-hour overnight flight without even a free seat assignment in economy. Fortunately, I was able to bid on an upgrade to SAS Business and enjoyed a lie-flat, business-class seat on my flight across the Atlantic. Here’s what I found out about the product – and the thrill of winning an upgrade bid.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

You can bid your way to an upgrade.

Many airlines allow you to bid on upgrades, although travelers are usually limited to upgrading to one class of service – you can’t always jump from economy to business or first class rather than premium economy. I first called SAS to ask about paying for an upgrade, and a friendly agent told me it would cost more than $5,000 to do so, in part because you can upgrade the entire four-class trip. What I really wanted was to sleep horizontally from New York to Norway, though.

This was not going to happen.

Instead, I decided to use the airline’s upgrade bid program. In the days leading up to a flight, travelers can bid on an upgrade to a premium cabin. You have up to 25 hours before departure to bid on domestic and European flights, but up to six hours before departure on US and Asian flights.

SAS

Bidding for business class on my flight started at 420 euros (about $410 in strong US dollars at the time – and in my opinion). I raised up to 450 euros (about $440 at the time) to improve my chances. A bit of research (read: Googling) led me to believe that many travelers get upgrades with only a minimal bid, and an Expert Flyer search confirmed that there was a wide opening in business class on my flight. About 24 hours before my flight, I received an email saying my upgrade was cleared.

Travelers can certainly wait until the last possible hour to ensure seat availability, although I’d recommend booking at least 25 hours in advance for US and Asian flights, which is when upgrades start to clear.

If you happen to be sitting on EuroBonus points (or American Express Membership Rewards points, which transfer to EuroBonus at a 1:1 ratio), you can use the points to bid on an upgrade.

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A winning bid does not change your fare class.

Even though a cash upgrade earns you more bonus Euro points, the fare class of your ticket remains the same, so United still considers it my ticket, so I can’t earn any more United PQPs than I could if I stayed with my coach seat. SAS Go fare.

You get business class benefits (regardless of how you book)

My business experience began at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Although my flight to Oslo Airport (OSL) took off from the rather disappointing Terminal B, which does not have a dedicated TSA PreCheck line or Clear kiosks, I was able to use lounge access. I was allowed to enter in Star Alliance Gold status, but for travelers with no other means of entry, your business class boarding pass will work.

The SAS lounge in Newark Terminal B near Gate 60 was perfect for short stays, but I wouldn’t count on getting enough food there. There were plenty of seats in the unique Scandinavian design-inspired space, but despite the late hour, the lounge was very busy.

There was a self-serve beverage bar and a disappointing cold buffet (fresh salads and raw vegetables, but sliced ​​turkey and American cheese) and no music. You forget how important a little background noise is until it’s completely gone.

Other perks include free on-board Wi-Fi, if available, and access to fast-track security lanes, if available.

The food was surprisingly good – even for business class

It’s been years since I last flew international first class on an international carrier, and I’d forgotten how much better the food is than economy — in general.

I was impressed with the service I received during my seven hour flight from the New York City area to Oslo. But what I loved most about the experience were the thoughtful details and the special touches I didn’t expect. Some of the staff had changed into crisp, double-breasted chef’s whites for dinner service (next week I knew this was true in Economy as well), which established a more formal dining atmosphere.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

My flight attendant “set the table” with crisp white linen napkins and a strong gin and tonic mixed to order and served with the leftover can of Ecobriguerite tonic.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

Although my colleagues have said that I should have flown international business class more often since then (no argument there), I was thrilled when Sweetie came out on a cart for passengers. I felt instantly transported to the Hogwarts Express – only instead of a trolley wizard selling boxes of chocolate frogs and unexpectedly flavored jelly beans, a flight attendant was dishing out seasonal fruit platters with vanilla yogurt, apple donuts and ice cream.

Even before dessert, I was impressed with the variety and execution of the food that night. Choice of pre-dinner bread, mixed green salad and choice of starters (beef carpaccio or Maine lobster in pickled tomato vinaigrette with corn salsa).

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

Entrees include four choices that cater to almost every dietary preference (grilled chicken with lemon sauce and garlic, mustard and pepper short ribs with truffle gruyere gratin, grilled sea bass on fennel and tomato ragout, porcini and caciocavallo ravioli with mushroom ragout).

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

I ordered the sea bass which was perfectly prepared; It was moist and crumbly with no sign of reheating in the galley microwave.

The service was attentive and frequent

Before a flight attendant came to offer me a drink (water, red wine, or sparkling white), I must have settled into my seat. And the drinks didn’t stop coming after that, the flight attendants kept asking if I wanted another gin and tonic.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

I’ve been on international first and business class flights before where you count down the hours between drinks, or have to get up and ask for one (which I always feel a little uncomfortable doing). If you can have a full drink between flight attendant checks, I wonder how many drinks you can have on a SAS flight.

Although I usually sleep on overnight flights, the flight attendants politely wake me up for breakfast and help me with my luggage whenever I need it. It wasn’t the first time I found the overhead bins too high to reach, but these somehow seemed taller.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

You can massage on your seat

The best part of a strip mall pedicure is, I’m sure we can all agree, the massage chairs. And the pseudo-flat seats on board SAS are equipped with the same technology, which I wouldn’t say made for a more restful sleep, but it was a lot of fun while I waited for my food to arrive.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

You can increase the firmness of the seat to five levels, and the easy massage feature gives a gentle rolling massage.

Although not sky-wide business-class seats, the Hestons’ bedding is furnished (a seat topper, a thick check pattern blanket, and a comfortable pillow) that puts even United’s Polaris Saks Fifth Avenue bed to shame.

The Scandinavian bedding brand is famous for its craftsmanship, and if you want your own double at home, it can easily set you back between $800 and $5,000. (Travelers may recognize the brand from the $11,000-a-night Regent Seven Seas Cruises suite, which costs around $200,000 for a handmade Hastons mattress.)

Seats are competitive – especially for the price

Business class cabins on the SAS A330 are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, with window seats that switch between the seat itself or the console.

Although every seat in the cabin allowed every passenger in the cabin to enjoy direct aisle access, the actual Thompson Vantage XL seats were comfortable and roomy, with easy-to-use controls despite the tight squeeze when getting in and out of the plane with a seat against the plane’s wall (like mine, 2H). .

Board seats are 23 to 24 inches wide, and when flat they can be converted into 77 inch beds. When in a full-flat bed, the footwell is a bit cramped.

It’s a great introduction to Scandinavia.

I loved rummaging through the amenity kit on board to check out the Scandinavian brands (including lip balm and skincare from Stockholm-based Verso) represented in the mini bag. And the aforementioned Hestons bedding made my night more restful than I expected; Comfortable and heavy enough to transport to a mattress store away from the cold skies in Sweden.

The menu features a variety of Swedish, Danish and Norwegian brands and ingredients – apples from Norway’s Upper Ringe farm; Marmalade, a port wine made in Malmö, Sweden; and Danish IPA and Pilsner – and they’ve gone to great lengths to celebrate the region. My only disappointing seafood entree was sea bass, not Norway’s iconic pink salmon.

at last

My business class flight on SAS was far from perfect. As I settled into my seat, I quickly realized I had a non-functioning tray table and was leaning on the armrest to eat for the duration of the flight.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

And the boarding process was no different than watching the Best Buy doors open on Black Friday: Either everyone on that plane had priority boarding, or the gate agents did nothing to maintain order.

There wasn’t a ton of room for my belongings on the seat; There was no enclosed storage like a small cabin like you would find on a United Polaris seat. But SAS still places great value on its core service.

Melanie Lieberman / The Points Guy

Now, if only I could convince them to calculate my total ticket price with an upgrade bid so I could get more United PQPs.



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