Tagged: Star Alliance

Review: SAS Business Class Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Stockholm Arlanda Airport - Exteriors and ATC

Stockholm Arlanda Airport – Exteriors and ATC

Our flight from Stockholm Arlanda to Istanbul was scheduled to depart at 1145 hrs, so after having breakfast we decided to check out of Hilton Slussen at 0800 hrs to have enough time to experience SAS’s Business Class Lounge at Arlanda Terminal 5.

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

My family got a taxi from the hotel, while I preferred to catch the nearby metro to Stockholm CityTerminalen. We were hopping on the FlygBussarna to Stockholm Arlanda and the City Terminal was the nearest stop from the hotel. There’s a coach every 10 minutes, with “Free Wi-Fi” – useless for those who don’t know swedish language or have a local phone number. I thought that was a big let down and defeated the whole purpose of Free Wi-Fi for travellers. The website says no login is required but I can assure you of its lie. Nonetheless, the journey was otherwise comfortable and the bus dropped us in front of Terminal 5 in about 45 minutes. I had bought my tickets via Viator at 10% discount.

Flygbussarna Stockholm Airport Bus - at CityTerminalen

Flygbussarna Stockholm Airport Bus – at CityTerminalen

We quickly found the Turkish Airlines counter, and fortunately, the business class counter was free, while the economy counters had about 20 odd waiting passengers. Advantage of flying with business class passengers, even though I was traveling in economy I guess. Though I found it strange that I had inserted my Jet Privilege number already while checking-in online, it was somehow not showing up at the counter. Overall it was a quick and courteous check-in for us and we were off to security.

Call it the Sunday morning effect, but even security at Arlanda was efficient and quick. There were no preferred lanes for business class passengers, and in spite of that we were done in 5 minutes flat. The security folks were respectful, like most of the people we encountered throughout our Scandinavian trip.

Arlanda Airport seemed to be pretty well functioning. I thought it had pretty much all essentials for travellers. Sure, it wasn’t the Changi or the HKIA of the world, but for a mid-tier European airport, it ticked pretty much all boxes in my book.

Swiss Air A319 - View from the Loo at Arlanda Stockholm Airport

Swiss Air A319 – View from the Loo at Arlanda Stockholm Airport

Including great tarmac views from urinals. This is much better than those stupid little screens you see where they play useless commercials or try to be funny.

We searched for over 10 minutes trying to find the signage for Lounge and ultimately had to ask one of the airport employees. The SAS Business Class Lounge is located pretty far for non-Schengen gates, and it was almost a 12 minute walk to reach the lounge.

SAS Business Lounge Map - Stockholm Terminal 5

SAS Business Lounge Map – Stockholm Terminal 5 (Photo Courtesy: Official Website)

 

The SAS Business Lounge is open from 0530 hrs to 2300 hrs, Monday-Friday and Sunday. The Lounge timings are 0530 hrs to 2030 hrs on Saturdays.

SAS Business Lounge Entrance

SAS Business Lounge Entrance

The Access for the lounge is open to passengers holding Star Alliance Gold Status with same day flight on an Alliance carrier. Also to, SAS Gold card members with SAS or partner airline flights and Business/First Class ticket holders travelling on a Star Alliance carrier flight. As we were flying Turkish, a Star Alliance Member, the lounge reception staff warmly welcomed us.

 

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Entry and Staff

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Entry and Staff

Before I veer off to other points about my lounge experience I want to highlight and acknowledge SAS staff at the entrance. Both the ladies at the front desk (silly me forgot to take note of their names) were as warm and friendly as it gets, and it looked like they genuinely loved their job and interacting with people. Not just us, I was able to notice their conversations with other passengers as well, and they were simply fabulous. So SAS thank you for choosing such great ambassadors in your lounge. Kudos. (SAS Folks, the easiest way you can identify them would be to see who worked the morning shift on 27th July 2014)

We entered the lounge around 0940 hrs and the staff was in the process of setting up food items. The selection wasn’t fully served till 1010 hrs. The first impression of the lounge is quite fancy, and modern with its furnishings and decor.  On the immediate left, a big compartment of major world newspapers is available. Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, along with Time Magazine was some of the major ones.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Newspapers

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Newspapers

 

There are plenty of seating options across the lounge, with a mix of sofas, lounge chairs and bar stools.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Seating and Layout

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Seating and Layout

 

There are more seating options in the back with convenient access to power ports, overlooking the arrivals section of the terminal.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge - View towards landside

SAS Stockholm Lounge – View towards landside

 

There was a 40 inch television screen with local news on one side of the lounge. The breakfast cold buffet spread was middle-of-the-road in my book. Apart from a selection of breads, there was ham, condiments, biscuits, chips, greens and salad sauces.

SAS Stockholm Lounge -  Breakfast Breads

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Breakfast Breads

SAS Stockholm Lounge -  Breakfast Salad and Fruits

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Breakfast Salad and Fruits

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Snacks and Chips

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Snacks and Chips

 

For those interested, the lounge even had a menu on display, which displayed part of their selection.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Menu

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Menu

 

The drinks selection was slightly better for me. Apart from tons of Carlsberg, the lounge offered Apple and Orange juice (which kept running out), selection of tea, local beers on tap, couple of red & white wines on tap, along with the Coca-Cola family of soft drinks.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Beers and Juice

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Beers and Juice

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Beers on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Beers on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Wine on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Wine on Tap

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Soft Drinks

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Soft Drinks

 

The lounge also boasted of couple of coffee machines (which I never tried), one of them was dedicated to serving organic coffee.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Coffee Machines

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Coffee Machines

 

There were total of 5 macintosh computers with working Internet connections in the open business area of the lounge, along with printer/copy and fax facilities, which I thought was a pretty reasonable arrangement for those who still value such facilities. Needless to say, the lounge had a working wi-fi connection for private use as well. In my roughly 45 minute usage, I found it had decent download speeds, enough for a traveller/executive on-the-go. Though far from optimal if you are looking to stream HD content.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Business Center

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Business Center

 

One of the things, which stood out for me in the lounge was the small yet dedicated kids play area in the lounge. Apart from story books, it had plenty of soft toys to keep the little ones engaged. The walls also featured graffiti and drawings done by past occupants of the area, which I thought was a great touch. For families traveling together, play areas can be great comforting zones and I wish more airline and lounge operators incorporated it in their planning process.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Children Play Area

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Children Play Area

 

The lounge also had another zone, to the left of the reception, which featured more seating options and similar food/drink items. There was another large 40 inch TV, which had the local news channel turned on. I did encounter a half-functioning beer fridge and a second newspaper/magazine stand. The beer selection consisted of Tuborg Green, Tuborg Gold and non-alocholic Carlsberg (???). I went with the safe option of  Tuborg Green and chips 😉

SAS Stockholm Lounge - More Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge – More Seating

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Beer Fridge

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Beer Fridge

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Magazines and Newspapers

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Magazines and Newspapers

 

The rear portion of this side of the lounge featured a more private, cordoned-off area, which I guessed could be designated as a quiet zone or a meeting area, depending on the occupants.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Private Area

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Private Area

 

The lounge unfortunately had no tarmac area views, barring the entry area, which has partial and hindered views of the tarmac and the runway in the distance. I was able to snap a close-up picture of a LOT aircraft on our way out.

SAS Stockholm Lounge - Airside view

SAS Stockholm Lounge – Airside view

LOT Embraer 170 at Stockholm Arlanda

LOT Polish Airlines Embraer 170 at Stockholm Arlanda

Overall I would rate the lounge good mainly due to three reasons:

1) Great staff

2) Plenty of seating/Kids play area

3) Decent Wi-Fi

Although I would like the Lounge to improve its cold buffet selection, may be adding a hot item could do the trick or maybe that’s just the hot-breakfast-loving-Indian in me talking. We left the lounge around 1040 hrs for our flight at 1145 hrs. I thought we would make it comfortably to the gate, alas I never knew what was in store for us next at the Passport Control.

 

 

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Review: Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

You may want to read the introduction for this trip report, Tripping through Scandinavia.

Turkish Airlines A330-300 at Delhi International Airport. Photo Credit: JetPhotos.net

Turkish Airlines A330-300 at Delhi International Airport. Photo Credit: JetPhotos.net

We reached the Delhi Airport around 3:30 am, considering I was with my parents and did not want to rush them in the end. The economy counters had about 15-20 people waiting in queues whereas Business Class counters looked relatively empty. There were two counters and both of them had passenger’s checking-in. After about five minutes of wait we were attended at the counter. I requested the agent to credit our miles to JetPrivelege (Contributing to my target of next summer’s European holiday on award business class seats). Check-in process was smooth and we were all checked in to Zurich, through Istanbul. My folks were also handed their Plaza Premium lounge passes.

Security and Immigration took another 15 minutes, mainly because the Immigration officer decided to tell us the advantages of traveling to Andaman & Nicobar Islands over Switzerland for a holiday. I actually appreciated his passion for domestic tourism and promised him that we will certainly consider for the next family trip. I escorted my parents to the lounge upstairs and then came back down to the Delhi Daredevils Sports Bar. After all, where else would you get a full buffet meal and drinks for Rs.2? All thanks to my Visa Signature card.

 

Turkish Airlines 717

New Delhi (DEL) – Istanbul Ataturk (IST)

Saturday, July 12th

Departure: 0608 hrs (3 minutes late)

Arrival: 1003 hrs local time (22 minutes earlier)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Seat: 6D

We arrived the boarding gate around 5:15 am and boarded the aircraft pretty soon after that. Turkish, English and Financial papers were placed on a cart just before aircraft entry and I picked couple of them. The cabin crew greeted us warmly, my parents were shown to the left and I turned right for economy “cattle” class. I was sitting in 6D, the very first bulkhead middle row.

Turkish Airlines A330 Economy Seat

Turkish Airlines A330 Economy Seat

 

There was plenty of leg space, but I was wishing for an empty next seat, which eventually turned out to be exactly that. I absolutely love the 2-4-2 seating configuration, especially if sitting next to the window seat. Even though I was in the middle row for this flight,  I wasn’t complaining. The flight was 75-80% full in economy class. The view on the left looked something like this.

Turkmenistan Airlines Boeing 737-700

Turkmenistan Airlines Boeing 737-700

 

Besides the proximity to Lavatory and resulting commotion all the time, my other gripe with Bulkhead seats is placement of the IFE screen inside arm rests, which makes it inconvenient besides reducing the seat width slightly. I guess nobody has found a better solution yet so I’ll shut my rant now.

Our flight started pushing back from the gate at exactly 0600 hrs and we were up and away within the next 8 odd minutes. Climb was smooth and soon seat belts signs were off. I also got to know that Turkish Airlines CEO, Mr. Temel Kotil was on the flight. He was in New Delhi for Air India’s induction into Star Alliance the day before and was on his way back to Istanbul.

The first service was the delicious serving of Turkish Delight. Can one ever get enough of it?

Turkish Airlines - Turkish Delight

Turkish Airlines – Turkish Delight

The meal service started with pre-booked special requests. I had requested an Indian vegetarian meal for my parents and they weren’t impressed with their South Indian upma meal, as I got to know later. Economy passengers were given couple of menus for breakfast, which I thought was a nice touch by Turkish Airlines.

Turkish Airlines Breakfast Menu (Economy)

Turkish Airlines Breakfast Menu (Economy)

 

I went with Turkey and Kasar Cheese Toast along with “No.1 Mediterranean Beer” Efes. I loved the crunch of the Borek and thought it was well made. I pretty much skipped most of the other items as they just did not appeal to me.

Turkish Airlines Economy Breakfast Meal

Turkish Airlines Economy Breakfast Meal

 

There was a round of Coffee/Tea and I politely declined the offer. After the meal, I thought of getting some shut eye and was about to press the call button for an eye patch when the attendant handed me an amenity kit pouch.

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

 

It had a pair of socks, an eye patch and some ear plugs. Not bad, TK! I treated that, as a sign that even god wanted me to have some rest. How wrong did that turn out to be? After 40 minutes of battling with various sleeping positions I gave up and thought of visiting my parents in the front, make them feel guilty how their son was cringing in the back while they lay comfortably on their flat beds, etc. Expectedly, the seat was actually quite nice and had a foot rest just below the IFE screen, which doubled up nicely as a temporary settee. While they were telling me how uninspiring their economy class upma vegetarian dish was, I started noticing the upkeep of business class cabin.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Torn Business Class Seat

Turkish Airlines A330 – Torn Business Class Seat

 

The fabric of the seat was completely torn from the seat and there were other elements of the seat, which were asking for attention. For an airline, which prides itself as Europe’s Best Airline, this was mighty underwhelming. While going back to my seat I requested the cabin attendant to please serve some vegetarian snacks to my parents, as they were quite hungry. I must add that all cabin attendants during this flight were warm, efficient and looked keen to help out. I was promised that she would look after them well. Later on I was told by my parents that they were served vegetable samosas by the In-Flight chef, which were quite delicious.

About eighty minutes before arrival, the second service of the flight was started, where economy passengers were given a choice between a cheese sandwich or a cherry cake.

Turkish Airlines Economy Snack Options

Turkish Airlines Economy Snack Options

 

If your answer was both, I’m happy to tell you, you were absolutely correct. The sandwich was just above average but I was happy with the cherry cake. It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy for me. I gulped both of them down with a small glass of Apple juice. Other options in beverages included tomato juice, orange juice, regular and diet sodas.

At no point during this flight I bothered with the IFE screen, and taking it out of the armrest. An initial overview told me it had enough content for a 6 hour flight, though definitely not for a 8-10 hour route. Usually I’m happy with the Live Route Map, and the big screen on Bulkhead exactly in front of me kept me busy.

On our final approach to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the captain activated the bottom fuselage camera and he was thoughtful enough to turn it to the nose camera for fantastic views as we descended on the runway.

Turkish Airlines A330 Nose Camera - Istanbul Airport

Turkish Airlines A330 Nose Camera – Istanbul Airport

 

The landing was smooth and after about 8 minutes of taxi we arrived at our gate. The first flight of my trip was comfortable and efficient. The cabin crew was nice (presence of CEO on the flight?) and the food options were reasonable for a medium haul flight. Now it was time for me to do a quick hop to the Turkish Lounge, before catching my connecting flight to Zurich in 100 minutes.

Have you flown with Turkish before to Istanbul? What has been your experience?

 

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

If your wondering what all this is about, then you should probably go here before proceeding further.

For the first profile of my most ambitious blog series yet, I wanted to have someone who straddles the aviation, travel as well as digital marketing aspects together and really sets the benchmark for this initiative. Luckily enough for me I did not have to look around hard as Shashank kindly agreed to be featured as a “GlobeTrotter on Twitter”.

Shashank Nigam in Cockpit

Cockpit access tips, Shashank?

Shashank Nigam of course is much more than just that. He is the Founder/CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s leading aviation marketing consultancies, which advises over 25 airlines. airports and even aircraft manufacturers on profitable customer engagement strategies. On top of that, SimpliFlying.com is one of the Top 2 blogs on aviation, and their Twitter handle (@simpliflying ) is also one of the Top 5 most influential on airlines.

Excerpts from my geek-out with him

  • Air Travel used to be a breeze back in the day but not anymore. What is your greatest motivation to travel?

Shashank – I love watching planes, being on planes, just being near them. And I realise that I, like many others, have jet-fuel running through my veins. I get excited each time I need to search for a new flight, go through the booking process, in anticipation of the flight itself. The joy of flying is greater than any hassles. And through all this, I’ve now been to 51 countries!

  • 51 countries is impressive indeed. But tell me do you enjoy the flying part of your travel more or the city sightseeing? Of all the thousands of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you recount?

Shashank – I cherish the flying part of travel as much as sightseeing, and meeting people from different cultures. There are a few in-flight memories that have left an impact. My first flight – it was on an Aeroflot Illyushin in 1994, from Delhi to Singapore. Everyone was drinking, playing cards and I smelled like an ashtray when I stepped out. But my first flight, nevertheless. My first ultra-long haul flight was on Thai Airways, from Bangkok to New York, non-stop, over 17 hours! The first time I flew Business Class – it was on Cathay Pacific, from New York to Singapore, via Hong Kong. Loved the experience and service. The first time I flew the 787 Dreamliner, on a private invite-only flight at the Singapore Airshow was unforgettable. And as recently as last week, when I flew from Dar-e-salam to Zanzibar on a 17-seater, and the Captain was kind enough to let me sit in the cockpit, next to him for the full flight!

  • Which is your favourite airport and which is your favourite airline? and tell us why?

Shashank – Favourite airport has to be Singapore Changi Airport – there’s so much to do, and if you want to get out, you go from plane to taxi in 10 mins.

Favorite airline differs depending on the class. My favourite First Class experiences has been on Emirates – the Suites are very private and luxurious and you get treated like a king. Their lounges in Dubai are superb too. The best Business Class experience has been on Turkish Airlines, long haul – where you get your own butler in-flight, and their lounge in Istanbul is possibly the best Star Alliance lounge in the world. The best Economy Class is on Singapore Airlines – true value for the premium you pay. Among LCCs, I love Virgin America, jetBlue and Volaris, for treating us like real people and offering a differentiated service!

  • Alright, that makes me ask you your favourite aircraft?

Shashank – To look at – A340-600 – I think it’s the best looking aircraft out there. Beautiful silhouette. To fly, A380 – it’s the quietest and most comfortable aircraft I’ve flown.

  • Couldn’t agree more with you there. In fact A340 is my favourite aircraft as well. Pity its not as popular among airlines now. Which city you’re particularly fond of?

Shashank – Istanbul is my favourite city – the perfect mix of culture and modernity. Though, from an #avgeek perspective, I love London and Los Angeles, with the huge variety of aircraft flying low, throughout the day, prior to landing.

  • Leaving aside wifi, what would you like to see airports world over to adopt?

Shashank – “Quiet zones” will be welcome, where travellers with longer lay overs can just relax.

  • Which website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Shashank – I always check seatguru.com to select the best seat before I check-in, Tripadvisor is a must for the hotels and Hipmunk for flight bookings. Most of my research on a city is last minute – a tweet or Facebook message to friends before I take off ensures I have 2-3 solid recommendations of things to do in a city.

  • You run a successful consultancy and of course have jet-fuel running through your veins 😉 but what would you to tell the average guy who wants to travel but is afraid of the expenses associated with it?

Shashank – With the advent of LCCs, anyone can fly. So look out for those cheap deals and book a ticket. You might score one that’s cheaper than the train or the bus too. It’s never too late to fly!

  • and finally, what role do you think twitter has played in encouraging people to travel? Also, as this is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?

Shashank – I love to meet my Twitter friends at airports while I’m in transit, or in the city that I’m visiting. Social media, especially Facebook and Pinterest are great for seeking inspiration on where to go next too!

My top 3 favourite Twitter users –

@ApexMary – she is the girlgeek of travel, who knows everything there is to know inside the cabin.

@airlinetrends/@capa_aviation keep me updated with the latest industry analysis.

And fellow avgeeks like @arun4, @airlinereporter and yourself (@vishal1mehra) are great company online!

Thanks Shashank, That’s little more than 3 but because you mentioned one certain Vishal Mehra, we would let that pass.