SAS is running a very efficient ‘machine’ and is battling hard against the uber-successful Norwegian in its backyard. What surprised me the most is how low fares are in the area. SAS often has basic economy seats on sale for just EUR 19 incl. all fees for the one-way, which is exactly what I had booked. As a Star Alliance Gold I can still get lounge access and a checked bag (though I only had a carry-on) even on the basic fares.
Neither of my flights (to Riga or from Vilnius) was operated by the SAS mainline, but instead by subsidiaries. The flight to Riga was pretty empty while the flight Vilnius was completely full. I had paid the same low fare for both flights.
Despite its growing importance, Stockholm Airport is still a small hub and both Riga and Vilnius are the kind of airports where you walk from your plane right into the terminal. The small planes – a Bombardier Q400 and a CRJ9 – are both the perfect fit for this environment.
There wasn’t much excitement to report on either plane. They aren’t my favorite and I always have to crouch down to actually walk into the cabin. There is no food on offer (of course) and drinks are on a paid-for basis. I had asked for water to make some tea before take-off and was given a large bottle of cold mineral water for free since no hot water was available.
Both flights were under one hour and seemed to have been done hundreds of times before. Both sets of pilots and cabin attendants did not talk much (unlike the passengers on my second flight).
There was no detailed carry-on check for either of these flights and at both times it was OK to ‘gate-check’ the bag and receive it before walking into the terminal; it was that small an operation for both flights.
Everyone seemed exceedingly professional (if not bored out of their minds). Scandinavia (namely SAS and Norwegian) has managed to do away with all the drama that usually encompasses flying in America. Unfortunately, though, this also takes away much of the excitement.