Flying with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS review)

Flying with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS): San Francisco ⇄ London

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING I RECEIVE A COMMISSION FOR PURCHASES MADE THROUGH THESE LINKS AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

Last updated January 31, 2024.

If you’re looking for an honest review of what it’s like flying with Scandinavian Airlines, you’ve come to the right place. Let me guess—you recently bought a ticket (or you’re thinking of buying a ticket) and you’re wondering what you got yourself into. After all, the prices were super cheap, and possibly but hopefully not too good to be true, right?

That’s what got me flying with Scandinavian Airlines, or SAS as they’re also known as. I don’t usually check Google Flights on Travel Tuesday. That’s the day after Cyber Monday where travel customers can expect to see deals on flights, hotels, and travel essentials including gear, books, and more.

But, that’s exactly what I did, and I ended up finding a travel deal; roundtrip tickets with Scandinavian Airlines from San Francisco to London for $509 in their economy class. It wasn’t pre-pandemic cheap, but it was cheap enough for me to snag tickets without too much thought.

A brief intro to Scandinavian Airlines

Scandinavian Airlines, or SAS, is the largest airline in Scandinavia and the flag carrier for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The airline was created 77 years ago and is headquartered in Solna, Sweden with their main hub being Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen, Denmark. They fly to about 125 destinations including Scandinavia, other European countries, Asia, North America, and the Middle East.

Cabin classes for every traveler

SAS offers three travel class options to accommodate different types of travelers: SAS GO, SAS Plus, and SAS Business. SAS Business is only available on flights to and from Asia and North America. 

SAS Go

SAS Go is their economy class. Coffee and tea are pretty much unlimited, and you can pre-book your seat for a fee. If you’re traveling within Europe, you can pre-order a meal before you board, or buy snacks, light meals, and drinks during your flight. Be prepared to use your credit card if that’s the case as they didn’t take cash on any of my flights.

If you’re on an intercontinental flight to or from Asia and North America, meals are included, and you get to enjoy a power outlet and entertainment system with an HD screen on the seat in front of you.

WiFi is supposed to be available for most flights and costs about €4.90, or $5.31. My flights didn’t have WiFi, so I can’t speak to the purchase process or how well it worked.

SAS Plus

You get a little more comfort and service when you book an SAS Plus ticket, especially when you’re flying across continents. The seats are the same as SAS Go if you’re flying within Europe, but intercontinental travelers get wider seats with more legroom. This class is comparable to premium economy.

SAS Plus travelers get fast-tracked through security, lounge access, and priority boarding. If you’re flying intercontinentally, add footrests, reclining seats, adjustable headrests, and a bigger HD screen than SAS Go to your list of benefits. You’ll still have to pay for WiFi and the pre-booking fee for the seat though.

SAS Business

These are business class seats and they’re only available if you’re flying to and from Asia and North America. It’s the highest ticket class SAS offers, you can expect the best service and comfort here.

Traveling with an SAS Business ticket gets you free WiFi, a massage seat that fully reclines, plus a massive HD screen for entertainment. You’ll have four options to choose from for your three-course meal and it comes with a glass of champagne. You also get to enjoy a buffet of non-alcoholic drinks, wines, fruits, and snacks throughout your flight.

Each of the classes come with their own range of ticket types, and you can visit SAS’ website to learn more about what those offer. But they differ based on a few factors including luggage allowances, refundability, and “re-bookability” to name a few.

I was after low airfare even if I ended up using my points for this one, so I booked an SAS Go Light ticket. Because I was traveling between the United States and England, the ticket came with a personal bag and carry-on luggage included in the price.

How to book SAS tickets

Booking tickets with Scandinavian Airlines was easy. I was simply browsing for cheap airfare on Google Flights and landed on them. I wanted to use AMEX points for these, so I found the same flight in the AMEX travel portal and booked them there. And I’m glad I did because it ended up being around $36 less than what I saw on Google!

There’s an easier way to find SAS tickets than randomly checking Google Flights or your preferred booking platform. SAS is known for their lower fares, so you can find impressive deals right from their website. Just search some dates departing from your preferred airport, and be flexible with dates for your best chance at securing those irresistible fares.

SAS flies to and from seven cities in the United States:

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD)

Atlanta will be the 8th city to become an SAS destination in the U.S. beginning summer 2024.

Flying with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)

Checking in and departing San Francisco

The check-in process for Scandinavian Airlines is straightforward and just like what you’d expect from any other airline. You get an email notification about 24 hours before your flight telling you it’s time to check in and reminding you of what’s included with your ticket. I downloaded the app soon after I purchased my ticket in November, so that’s what I used for check in and any changes I wanted to make including moving seats.

The app is fairly clear and easy to use, and I liked that there was a seat map available for all of my flights, including the return legs much later on. I made sure to choose seats with no one around so I can stretch and sleep comfortably throughout the flight. I thought I purchased seats earlier but forgot to, so I got my seats fairly close to check in and they were $19 and $45 in price. You’re welcome to skip this part and have your seats assigned when you’re at the airport, but I like the peace of mind that comes with knowing where I’ll be. 

To upgrade or not to upgrade

There were two upgrades available for my flight from San Francisco to Copenhagen; an upgrade to SAS Plus starting at $240, and an upgrade to SAS Business starting at $500. They also had point equivalences of about 12,000 points and 35,000 (give or take some), respectively, but two things stopped me.

  1. I didn’t realize that AMEX doesn’t have an SAS agreement for its U.S.-based based customers, so I couldn’t transfer my AMEX points to my SAS EuroBonus account to snag an upgrade.
  1. The seat map had a lot of empty seats, even up to the date of the trip. So, I would’ve been fine skipping the upgrade opportunities if it meant I had empty seats and plenty of overhead storage around me (this is what ended up happening for my flight).

So, I kept my SAS Go Light ticket for my trip to Europe. Most of the travelers in my section had empty seats around them or empty rows altogether, so I was happy with my choice. As were they.

There was also the option to buy SAS Lounge access for $30. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) doesn’t have an SAS lounge, plus I enjoy access at plenty of lounges thanks to my AMEX Platinum card, so I skipped this. I don’t have long layovers in Copenhagen to justify this upsell, but you can consider it if it’s right for you and your trip.

Boarding and in-flight experience

Boarding the flight was an interesting experience. No one at SAS ever looked at my passport or boarding ticket. We got to the gate and our faces were scanned–the gate agents pulled up our information that way and allowed us to board. It was a first-time thing for me and quite neat.

The cabin looks like any other cabin you’d expect to see with another airline. I’d even argue it’s better than some I’ve recently seen. The seats and entertainment consoles are modern and I thought there was enough room. My flight was empty though, so I was likely a lot more comfortable than I would’ve been if the flight was full.

You’re welcomed and directed to your seat just like any other airline, and they go up and down the aisles before take off to make sure luggage is loaded in the overhead storage correctly and folks are wearing seatbelts. All in all, I thought they were professional.

Amentities, entertainment, and comfort

Every passenger has a pillow and blanket waiting for them at their seat. I usually travel with my own but was using what the airline provided today since I traveled with a light load; just my backpack and carry on.

A comfy blanket, functional pillow, and complimentary bottle of water to start the trip.

The pillow they provided wasn’t the greatest but it got the job done for me. The blanket was large, soft, and kept me plenty warm, which was needed as the plane was on the colder side.

SAS offers free WiFi for travelers with SAS Plus and SAS Business tickets. Since I was flying on SAS Go, I was anticipating paying a fee so I could have WiFi for my trip. Unfortunately, it never worked on my San Francisco to Copenhagen leg. This was definitely a bummer given the length of the flight.

Flying with Scandinavian Airlines seat

There was the in-flight entertainment my fellow SAS travelers could look forward to at least. I’m not much of a movie person and don’t watch tv other than tennis and whatever top shows happen to be making the rounds on Netflix. But there were plenty of shows, movies, games, and music to choose from. I slept for most of the flight, though I did watch an episode and a half of Game of Thrones’ House of the Dragon as we got closer to Copenhagen.

All the seats come with a USB port so that you can charge mobile devices. Anything more than that, like a laptop for example, will have to wait till you’re off the plane as there isn’t anywhere to do that on SAS Go. Also, you’re in luck if you have wired headphones or an adaptor that connects to 3mm. You can opt to use your own headphones with your entertainment instead of the standard airline headphones SAS offers.

Food and drink

This was the part of the flight experience that reminded me I was flying with a low-fare airline. Some of the other airlines have flight attendants regularly walking the aisle, offering drinks, and all that, but that wasn’t the case with SAS. If anything, you get very little offered at all, even if you’re on a long-haul flight.

What do I mean? For starters, drinks aren’t included with your ticket. We did get a complimentary soft drink served with our first meal and there was a small cup of orange juice with breakfast, but anything other than water, tea, or coffee, you’ll have to pay for. And all alcoholic beverages must be purchased.

Because this was an intercontinental flight, we were served two meals. Well, SAS called it 2 meals. I say more like 1½.

Our first meal was dinner and that came about 90 minutes after we took off. We were served pasta with chicken marsala, grilled vegetables, potato salad, deli meat, bread, butter, cheese, and coffee cake. My soft drink of choice was a refreshing Fanta Orange.

Flying with Scandinavian Airlines - main meal
Flying with Scandinavian Airlines - potato salad
Flying with Scandinavian Airlines - chicken marsala
Flying with Scandinavian Airlines - coffee cake
Flying with Scandinavian Airlines - Fanta Orange

The flight attendants just hand you a tray by the way—there’s only one option, so everyone is served the same meal. If you have food allergies or meal preferences, those are things you need to handle, and pay for, before your flight.

I wasn’t expecting the food to be anything decent, so I ate a big dinner before boarding my flight; a yummy California-style burger with plenty of French fries and a glass of white wine to guarantee myself some sleep on the flight.

This was such a good call on my part. I wasn’t impressed with SAS’ dinner really. The potato salad, the bread, and the coffee cake were the best parts of the meal to me. And the Fanta. I couldn’t get myself to each too much of the chicken and pasta, and thanks to dinner, I was glad I didn’t have to.

About 60 minutes before we began our descent into Copenhagen, we were handed breakfast—again, you’re at the liberty of what they give you. Breakfast smelled good, it just happened to be on the small side, hence my 1½ comment from earlier. We were given a warm, ham and cheese croissant with a small container of orange juice. The juice was okay; I ended up not finishing my croissant sandwich as it was on the oily side for me and I barely eat ham as is.

There’s a menu on your entertainment screen that has everything they offer should you need more food or drinks, including their prices. SAS seemed to only take credit cards and mobile pay onboard.

Arrival, connecting flight, and post-trip experience

Even though we left a few minutes late for our flight, we made pretty good time and had a smooth landing in Copenhagen. I had less than an hour’s turnaround between my two flights and my connecting flight to London was on the opposite side of the airport. So, getting there was definitely going to take a while. At least I didn’t have any crowds to try and get through though.

Maybe it’s because of the time of year I traveled—the dead of winter, so everything is icy and cold outside with highs of 30°F. I found the airport to be just like the first leg of my flight: pretty much empty.

It was eerily quiet with just a handful of people within sight if that. It was going to be a long trek to the other side of the airport, but at least I didn’t have any crowds to get through. It took a brisk 5-8 minutes walk to get to where I needed to, and boarding started soon after.

Because this was just a flight within Europe, from Denmark to England, there wouldn’t be any in-flight entertainment or WiFi for this trip. With a flight duration of less than 100 minutes, there was hardly any time for that to matter. The sun was setting and the sky was a nice purple, pink, and orange with its hues bouncing off pillowy white clouds.

Before you knew it, we were landing at London’s Heathrow Airport, and me and my light, unchecked luggage were on our way to ride the tube into the heart of the city.

Flying with Scandinavian Airlines - London descent

A flight worth the bargain

I think I had an enjoyable flight experience with SAS because I read reviews and blog posts before my trip and planned ahead knowing it’s a low budget airline that might not come with all the comforts I’m used to. Eating a big meal with a glass of wine helped me not fret over what I considered not-so-good food offerings, but this could hold true for any airline as food 30,000+ feet in the air usually isn’t the best.

All in all, I’d rate my experience 6.5 out of 10. It got me where I needed to be efficiently and at a low cost. Would I fly with Scandinavian Airlines again? Yes, especially if the price is right and it’s another trip during travel’s offseason.

SAS is a good option particularly for solo travelers, budget travelers, and folks with flexible options. The layover and extra time that come with stopping in Copenhagen may stop some, especially if there are nonstop options available, but if you’re simply on your leisurely way, I don’t think SAS will disappoint. Just make sure to eat a good meal before you board.

Have you flown with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)? What was your experience like? Share below in the comments! 👇🏽

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