We live in Iceland and several of our family members live near Melbourne, Australia, so we decided to spend Christmas there. The two airports - Keflavík and Melbourne - are not exactly close to each other, the distance being 10,539 miles (about 17,000 kms). If there was a direct flight it would overfly Svalbard, Eastern Siberia, North-East China and Eastern Indonesia and it would take about 21 hours. But there's of course no direct flight. So how should we get there?
We knew we didn't want to fly economy and we didn't have the budget for most business class flights, so we had to look for an exceptionally good deal in business class. Connecting flights from Iceland to Africa, Asia or Australia are never good value. London, Copenhagen, Frankfurt or Germany are usually among the more expensive departure airports. Amsterdam or Paris can have better deals but none was available at that time.
We checked premium economy as well, and although Singapore Airlines' great premium economy was bookable at a reasonable price from Stockholm to Melbourne via Moscow and Singapore, we still hoped for a good price in business.
We considered for a long time, and we even held a booking for some time, to fly from Cairo. A CAI-MCT-KUL-MEL in business class was offered by Oman Air and Malaysia Airlines at a price similar to many economy class flights from Europe to Australia. But direct flights from Europe to Cairo are overpriced even in economy and connecting flights can have unfavorable schedules.
So what was the solution? Oslo is usually, maybe surprisingly for some of you, the cheapest airport for long-haul business class flights from Europe. And there came a promotional offer: Oslo to Perth with Qatar Airways and Auckland to Oslo with China Southern. Yes, we wanted to fly to Melbourne but why not to visit Western Australia for a few days? And yes, the return leg was from New Zealand but we could finally visit NZ as well - and the flight was even slightly cheaper than a return from Australia.
So our long-haul booking was from Oslo. There are two options to get from Iceland to Oslo: Icelandair in the morning and SAS in the early afternoon. We opted for the latter so we didn't have to wake up too early.
SAS offers two fare types on this route, SAS Go and SAS Plus, but no real business class. We choose SAS Plus as it was not much more expensive, it had check-in luggage included and offered lounge access which looked very interesting for a departure at lunch time. Or we thought so: SAS discontinued to offer lounge access for its SAS Plus customers in Keflavík before we flew. SAS Plus sits you in the front of the aircraft on normal economy seats (the middle seat is not blocked) and you have a meal included, so it can be categorized as premium economy.
Iceland is a secondary market for SAS. I've never seen any Iceland-specific promotion from SAS. Iceland can't be chosen as a country on the website. If you choose Norway the two language options are Norwegian and Unspecified. Seats were shown only partially, and luggage information was shown dozens of times etc. While Scandinavia is usually developed for the use of Internet, this website would have been unacceptable even 15 years ago.
We checked in at the airport. There was a separate desk for SAS Plus but there was nobody waiting anyway.
We had no lounge access so we had to buy food. The best shop is landside, on the ground floor, near the arrivals gate.
Keflavík airport has many departures in the morning between 6.00 and 8.00 (Wow Air and Icelandair flights to Europe) but only a handful flights around this time.
We passed the automated boarding pass control and security quickly. Some shops airside:
A friendly fellow passenger
Boarding was through bridge
Our aircraft today was a B737-700, registration number LN-RNN, delivered in January 2000, so almost 19 years ago
Upon boarding the aircraft I felt I was in an aviation museum. The cabin looked old, worn, not very well maintained but OK.Configuration was the standard 3+3. Only a small sign separated the eight rows of SAS Plus seats from the main (SAS Go) cabin (no curtain or movable divider) but the seats were otherwise the same. This aircraft had two lavatories at the end of the cabin, so no separate ones for SAS Plus passengers. There was a total of only 59 passengers on board.
The cabin seen from the back
Legroom was good
A flight time of two hours and 44 minutes was announced. A real, so very good wet towel was offered.
Push-back was at 12.47 and take off at 13.00 from runway 10, so we were on time for a scheduled departure of 12.45.
The menu card for SAS Go (economy) passengers was in the seat pocket and was not clean. Here are your choices if you fly SAS Go:
SAS Plus passengers get a good quality cold meal. A towel was offered again
A box was brought
What's in it?
This is how it looked like:
A big plus for SAS: the meals served on-board were far more creative and original than what you'd get on most other short-haul flights.
Nice chocolate served at the end of the meal
I spent the remaining time reading. Sunset was after we reached the coast and before we landed. Note the lack of winglet.
We landed at 16.25 exactly according to schedule.
Reykjavík - KEF
Oslo - OSL
SAS Plus is a premium economy service as SAS does not offer business class for its intra-European flights. The website was a disaster and the plane was old and worn. On the other hand legroom was good, there was plenty of space around as there were not many other passengers, the meal was original and the flight was on time, so it was altogether a pleasant way to travel.
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I admire your style in putting together both an affordable and interesting routing to Australia. I didn’t know about Oslo’s secret status as bargain basement flight capital of Europe. I wonder why that is?
“SAS discontinued to offer lounge access for its SAS Plus customers in Keflavík before we flew.”
- Boo, SAS. I assume it was only contract lounge options, if SAS doesn’t even bother bringing business class in. Or do they have flights with J going to other Scandanavian gateways?
“While Scandinavia is usually developed for the use of Internet, this website would have been unacceptable even 15 years ago.”
- Yuck. Sounds like someone needs an IT upgrade. Okay, so most airlines do. But SAS more than most.
“Upon boarding the aircraft I felt I was in an aviation museum. The cabin looked old, worn, not very well maintained”
- Well, there’s a positive first impression for you.
Catering does look attractive and interesting — good job of being creative to help get past the fact that it’s a cold dish.
They seem to have done a very nice job of offering a half-decent premium soft product on short flights like this, even if the cabin itself leaves a lot to desire.
Thanks for sharing, and looking forward to seeing your thoughts on Qatar!
thank you for your detailed comment. I rarely buy "normal" return tickets, I almost always book complicated open-jaws or a combination of one-way tickets :)
I have no idea why Oslo is so much cheaper than let's say Copenhagen. Maybe not many companies in Norway allow their employees to book business class tickets?
SAS normally offers lounge access for its premium economy passengers. There's only one lounge at KEF, the Icelandair Saga Lounge which is a very good one. But no access for SAS Plus guests. SAS only has a proper business class on its long-haul flights.
There were actually quite a few positive things about the flight, such as the good legroom, the two-third empty cabin and the originality of the catering.
The flight reports on Qatar has already been published, please have a look!
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