Scandinavian business class to HKG



A few days ago, I returned home from a most wonderful 8-day trip to Hong Kong and Thailand. As usual, there are a lot of great moments to sort through and to remember. As with every other trip in the past, there is a great number of photos and other impressions to sort through. 


I have to admit that I do love Hong Kong. One of the most densely populated places in the world has become really dear to my heart over the past years. I love just walking around the city, looking at buildings, street life and people. 


During my early years sailing on world cruises on board the Royal Viking Sun, this city was perhaps the most exotic destination I could imagine at that time. My few memories of Hong Kong from around the 1990’s was the night-time sail away, the cruise ship dock with a giant advertisement sign and the city scape from the ship. I don’t have any exact memories from walking around the streets of Hong Kong other than crossing Victoria Harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island on board a Star ferry. The Star ferries remain in operation, and while the large advertisement sign on the dock is gone, the frames that held it up are still there. 


I tried finding some image from that time in my digital files, but could not find it. It might have to be in one of the albums or in one of the many shoeboxes as a printed picture. I have made a note of it for a later post, and will  have to post it when I find any of those images. Guess you need to come back here again in the future! 


Back to this trip. This was going to be my first Scandinavian Airlines long-haul flight for several decades. I can’t remember when I flew SAS long-haul but it’s been a long time for sure. I used to fly SAS long-haul a lot in the past when they had a Scandinavia (Stockholm or Copenhagen?) - Bangkok - Singapore flight. Living in Thailand, there was always great deals on the Bangkok - Singapore leg of this SAS flight, because most people from Scandinavia left or came in Bangkok. The round-trip leg to Singapore often had a very light load, hence great deals. At some point, SAS pulled the plug on this route and gave the slot to their Star Alliance partner Thai Airways. 


At the end of January 2015, SAS re-opened their booking for SAS's “new" destination to Hong Kong. On September 10th 2015, SAS started flying 5 days a week from Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) to Hong Kong (HKG). SAS currently use one of their A330-300 and A340-300: a popular aircraft amongst many die-hard fans. 


On Monday, February 12th 2018, SK963 from ARN to HKG would be flown with their Airbus 330-300 carrying the name FRITHIOF VIKING, or the more official registration LN-RKS. As I like to know the details of all aircrafts I fly with, I found out through my sources that this particular aircraft had MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 1665 and was about 2,5 years old, delivered late in September 2015. Additionally, equally important details to me, Frithiof Viking is powered by two RR Trent 700 engines. The aircraft cabin is all completed in the latest branded “SAS-style”.


From Arlanda to Hong Kong this particular day, I was super-excited to be trying out their business class product. Amongst (us) aviation geeks, SAS is often known as the silent, unknown and humble kid that doesn’t brag too much about their stuff (as in their product). Over the past years, SAS has completely gone from “outdated” to having refurbished and modernised their style to become more “wholesome” and more in line with modern trends and styles.  While I still feel that SAS on their Scandinavian and European routes is lacking that extra “mmpff”, their long-haul product is something to be really proud of. 


The somewhat subdued and darker colour-selection in the interior actually works very well in my mind, and tells the tale of a modern Scandinavian product. I really felt asking the question why does everything has to be white or off-white? I really thought to myself, and felt that SAS had asked the exactly same question when they started thinking of the modernisation. The darker colours are soothing and lulls you into sensing a better flight (- is that actually possible?). Bright high-contrast colours are thankfully more common with low-cost carriers, I can’t stand aircrafts with those kinds of colours. The overall impression I get with SAS is that the many details throughout the cabin and the seats are well thought out and carefully chosen.  

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There is a lot of wool throughout the fabrics of the different cabins, in addition to extensive use of brown leather in the seat-details of the business class. Panels are done in ash-grey, as well as business class textile panels. The carpets are thicker in business class to ensure a more exclusive feeling, while they are thinner in economy+ and economy class. The carpets are also darker in business class. Naturally, all materials used throughout the aircraft is flammability tested to fit all current requirements. 


The welcome into the business class cabin was as good as I would have expected, but in particular, a Chinese air hostess was by far, the most welcoming of them all. She was the only one I saw at boarding which had a genuine and very warm, caring smile. It makes me wonder why doesn’t Scandinavians (in general) know how to provide consistently great passenger service like for example Asians? 

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Lining up at the end of the runway - ready to take off to an adventure.

The entertainment system in Business class is a 15” super-responsive and sharp screen with some 57 various films to choose from. Compared to my previous favourite airline, Thai, the selection is a little less but the sharp screen and fast responsiveness makes up for the lesser number of films. On my flight, there were also some 27 TV-shows as well: sadly there was only from one to three episodes from each TV-show available. 

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The beauty is in the details. 


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One very happy “camper”.


The business class seats on this Airbus 330-300 can be laid down flat as a bed with a length of about 196-202 centimetres, and all seats have direct aisle access with a 1-2-1 configuration. Other seat features include massage and several personalisation options to make the seat fit individual passengers. These seats when converted into a bed is adorn with a thin “mattress” to give passengers the feeling of a hotel bed, and with a truly luxurious duvet from Hästens. Even though I was too excited to sleep during the flight, I did get some hours with sleep. I can honestly confirm that the bed and duvet was perfect. 

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I can confirm that I did very much like the bed comforts on this flight. 


Upon boarding, there was the traditional serving choice of orange juice, water or champagne. Naturally, the last choice was my first choice. I would have loved being asked if I wanted a refill though. After take-off, drinks were served from a cart, and I ordered a perfectly executed Vodka Maritini. I would have loved a more personal one-on-one service of drinks, and the Martini shaken on “location”. Perhaps that is more a first-class thing, but the serving from a cart feels in-personal. The drink came with a portion of warm peanuts - I loved that they had been warmed before serving. 

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Pre-departure champagne.


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The Vodka Martini would have made a much more exclusive impact by mixing seat-side. 


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The Vodka Maritini was however mixed to perfection. 


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The business class comfort kit. 


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Contents of the comfort kit. 


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I loved the cute design of the SAS on-board menu. 


The first meal - the “main event” according to the menu, was very well put together in my taste. The starter included a mixed salad with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, a generous cup of caviar of Kalix “Löjrom” served with crème fraiche, chives and Västerbotten cheese flavoured crisp bread as well as reindeer salami with blackberries, celery remoulade lingonberries and malt crumble. I loved the starter very much - the caviar was delicious. 

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The main course had four selections: catfish fillet rucola ravioli, sautéed rucola and onions, grilled Espelette pepper, seafood sauce with chilli and orange, or chicken with potato puree, green beans, carrots, pickled gooseberries and jus liè, or oxtail balloting with rosemary and thyme potatoes, parsnips, cherry and apple compote, mushroom sauce and gremolata, or finally, a vegetarian option, bean and yellow pea ragout with tomatoes, baked beetroot, goat cheese and caramelised walnuts. I chose the chicken. The portion was really generous, but the presentation was a bit on the sloppy side and even worse, the chicken was undercooked, and the sauce felt too “fatty”. 

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Main course of the main event. 


The time elapsed between each dish was way too long - almost as slow as in economy. Here, SAS has something to learn from Thai Royal Silk class. It was so long that when she came to take the main course away, and I told her the chicken was undercooked, I was no longer interested in the replacement-meal she offered. Drinks could also have been replenished during the meal - this is elementary even in economy class of Thai. 

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The dessert included selection of cheeses, a delicious red fruit tart, tasty rasberry yogurt ice cream from Gute Glass and halves of fresh figs. Bread-rolls and croissants served during the meal were heated too much from frozen condition, and hence partly too hard. Slices of delicious bread was however perfect, and could have been available more a plenty.   

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Deserts and sweets round of the meal.

Despite Scandinavian being absolutely excellent in this longhaul product, there is some polishing needed to be done to get closer to a truly first class product. Excellence is in all the small details they do and present. 


During the whole flight, there was a business class buffet available with snacks such as Haribo jelly bears, Cup-O’Noodles, an illy coffee machine, a selection of various tea’s, red and white wines, Imsdal water bottles, exotic confectionary chocolates and danish marzipan bars.   

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Mid-flight red wine and grapes. 


For business class passengers and Eurobonus Gold class members, there was free WiFi available during the flight, over a 12MB connection. It was great for text messages and quite satisfactory for uploading images to for example social media platform Instagram.


Cleanliness on board this flight felt outstanding, cabin and restrooms alike. There was absolutely no left-overs on the floor from the previous flight, and the presentation of the seat was absolutely without any discrepancies. 


With departure from Stockholm early afternoon, and an early arrival at Hong Kong, you are flying towards the sun and most of the flight eastwards is at night time and in darkness. At some point in the flight, I looked out and saw a big town beneath us. It was almost completely surreal: the city lights beneath us glimmered like a thousand pearls. It’s a moment very similar to those fully lit cruise ships sailing by my step-fathers house during my childhood, coming from and sailing to exotic ports. The fascination is similar. These are moments during a flight which I think is the absolutely best and most memorable moments. I truly love looking out the window during flights, and probably could never have survived in a seat without window access. 

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The one moment I will truly always remember from this flight to Hong Kong: credits to the one who can identify the town below. 

Breakfast pre-landing brought the hard breads back, together with organic yogurt, muesli, assorted charcuterie and cheese, Morten Heiberg marmalade, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, radish, leek and cheese pie, and seasonal fruits. I didn’t think the breakfast had any “mpff” at all, it was a standard morning-domestic-flight product. I would instead have loved an on-board prepared fresh mushroom-omelette with selected spices, ham and some vegetables instead.

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The business class breakfast was a true disappointment to be really honest. 

 

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In conclusion, I feel that SAS is “the” travellers airline and excellent at execution of their long-haul product. With some additional polishing and attention to detail, I might actually have found myself a new favourite airline. This was indeed a flight that I didn’t want to see end. Different airlines have different goals, for example, Emirates are placing a lot of focus on their world’s apparently best economy class (as well as business and first class), while Scandinavian went a different way with an excellent business class product, and an economy+ "middle class". After this flight, I feel that what SAS actually now have, is an unpolished first class and a slightly better choice to economy, in their economy+ class. 

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"Nice to have you on board with us”, the Captain announced as we were preparing to descent to Hong Kong. Really? Was it really nice to have us on board, did you really notice any difference to previous flights? As dawn was breaking, we touched down on time in Hong Kong after just a 9 hour and 55 minutes long (short) flight. However, what is more perfect than landing in such an amazing place at the break of dawn, with Scandinavian, leaving you the entire rest of the day for you to do what you came for. 


Do you have any comments on Scandinavian Airlines? 


Do you have any comments on my observations, do  you have your own good memories from a SAS-flight? 






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