SAS Airbus A321 Economy Class Review – A Glorified Ryanair?

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On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to fly with SAS between London and Frankfurt via Copenhagen. The flights were operated by an Airbus A320neo and an Airbus A321, however, the service onboard both was fairly similar. Here is my experience with the latter, and why I found it surprisingly like Ryanair.

SAS, Airbus A321, Copenhagen
Simple Flying got to experience an SAS Airbus A321 between Copenhagen and Frankfurt. Photo: Valentin Hintikka via Flickr

Booking

Booking the flight was fairly easy. The whole process was completed online and was as simple as following the on-screen prompts. This is the first point where I got the impression that SAS was slightly similar to Ryanair. Through the course of the booking process, SAS tried to sell me a bunch of extras including baggage, food, and a reserved seat.

SAS, Biofuel, Carbon Offset
SAS also offered me the option to buy biofuel during the booking process. Photo: SAS

I opted for none of the extras, and the total price for the two connecting flights came to only £89.75. One thing that I did find disappointing was the airline’s attitude to carbon offsetting. The airline is proud that it offsets nearly half of all journeys. However, SAS offers no opportunity to choose to offset your flight unless you are a member of its frequent flier club.

Check-in

The check-in process opened 22 hours prior to the supposed flight time. This was fairly simple, however, unlike Ryanair, SAS did not use the opportunity to sell me extra services. Additionally, the seat selection was free. As both flights were on the same booking, I was able to check-in for both flights simultaneously, and both provided me with a passbook boarding pass on my phone.

Boarding Pass
SAS provided me with a passbook boarding pass. Image: Simple Flying

Boarding

Making the flight seemed as though it would be a very stressful experience. My booking allowed for 1 hour and 20 minutes to connect in Copenhagen, however, before the first flight’s departure, ground staff at Stansted advised of a one hour delay. Thankfully, some time was made up during the flight, and I had around 30-40 minutes to change onto my connecting flight.

Transferring in Copenhagen was incredibly straight forward. I cleared passport control to enter the main terminal then proceeded to the relevant gate. The walk took around 10 minutes, and I reached the gate before boarding had begun.

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While SAS advised that the aircraft would be boarded in three groups, instead they boarded in two. Firstly, premium passengers and frequent fliers, then all of the remaining passengers were invited to board. However, rather than forming a queue, a huge mob formed at the two automatic boarding gates. As SAS allows two items of hand luggage, the overhead bins filled up fairly quickly, and the crew had to shuffle things around.

Service

The service was actually a pleasant surprise onboard the aircraft. While some airlines will charge for basics, such as British Airways, SAS proudly advertises that tea and coffee are always free on its flights. The flight was fairly full, so it took a little while to receive my cup of tea.

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SAS, Tea, Coffee, Refreshments
SAS still serves free tea and coffee as other airlines cut back. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Thanks to sod’s law, as soon as I got my hot drink, the flight began to encounter turbulence. The crew seemed very pleasant on the flight, and more than happy to help out with any passenger queries.

The seat

SAS’ Airbus A321 has 198 seats onboard. Interestingly, on its short-haul routes, SAS does not offer a business class cabin. Instead, it offers a sort of premium economy, still in the same 3-3 configuration of the rest of the cabin.

SAS, Economy, Legroom
SAS’ economy seat seemed a little cozy on legroom for my liking. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

I was seated in the regular economy section towards the back of the plane. During the free seat selection process at check-in, I opted for seat 29A: a window seat with an unobstructed view out of two windows. Despite 31 inches of pitch on the aircraft, as a 6ft 3in man, I found the legroom fairly tight compared to other carriers.

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However, SAS offers every single passenger with USB power at their seat. This was a very welcome addition as my phone, containing all my boarding passes, was starting to run low on battery. During the course of the flight, my iPhone battery was suitably recharged.

Airbus A321, USB Power
Every seat comes with USB power onboard the A321. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

WiFi

SAS offers WiFi onboard its flights. However, unlike most WiFi services that are activated above 10,000ft, SAS offers gate to gate WiFi. According to Get Connected, the internet can offer each passenger speeds of 12mbps.

While I didn’t run a speed test on the flight, the internet was more than enough for me to be able to write articles for Simple Flying, including uploading images. However, I also had no issues streaming music via Spotify.

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SAS, Airbus A321, WiFi
SAS offers WiFi “as soon as the doors close”. Image: SAS

Landing

The most interesting part of the flight was the landing. Frankfurt Airport was engulfed in fog, meaning that the pilots had to conduct an autoland. Something which Simple Flying trip reporter Paul Lucas said he has experienced twice in around 700 flights.

 

This procedure required everybody to turn all electronic devices off, with the crew repeatedly stating that flight mode was not enough. This was the first time I had experienced an autoland during a flight. However, upon landing at Frankfurt it was immediately clear why this was necessary.

Frankfurt, Fog, SAS
It was no wonder an auto-landing was needed. Try and spot the Boeing 747. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Overall

Overall I was left with a positive opinion of SAS. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the experience seemed very “Ryanair” with various additional bells and whistles. The flight was operated as an all-economy flight, with the airline trying to sell me everything from baggage to a seat and food at the time of booking.

SAS, Airbus A321, Frankfurt, Copenhagen
The flight lasted one hour and five minutes. Image: FlightRadar24.com

I would certainly choose to fly with SAS again if the opportunity presents itself, as the gate to gate WiFi and free tea and coffee were a huge benefit.

Have you flown short-haul with SAS? Let us know what you thought in the comments!

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