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Trip Report: SAS’ First Flight to Atlanta

SAS enters the busiest airport in the world and a key hub for its upcoming SkyTeam membership.

An SAS Airbus A330 arriving in Atlanta for the first time to a water cannon salute (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

SAS – Scandinavian Airlines. one of the largest airlines in the Scandinavian region, has expanded once again, and this time to a key hub for its future endeavors. Come September 2024, SAS will leave its long-standing membership with the Star Alliance for SkyTeam.

Dr. Joe Leader, the CEO of APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association), had some thoughts about the airline’s move to Sky Team; “In Star Alliance, unfortunately, SAS was treated a bit like a second-class citizen, this is an opportunity for them to really become the great airline that they have always been underneath.” This treatment does come as a surprise, especially since SAS was one of the five founding members of the airline alliance.

A Delta Airlines Boeing 767 in the special SkyTeam livery. (Photo: SkyTeam)

This new SAS route to Atlanta from Copenhagen is vital not only because it’s the busiest airport in the world, but also the headquarters and largest hub of Delta Air Lines, one of the founding airlines of SkyTeam. Passengers from SAS will be able to enjoy connections on Delta in and out of their hub.

During remarks at the inaugural ceremony, the President and CEO of SAS Anko van der Werff did have an interesting comment about their move over to SkyTeam; “Hopefully, all of those SkyTeam hubs will also be our home.”

Newark, for example, is one of SAS’ largest North American gateways with flights to three destinations. Newark and Chicago also hold the only SAS lounges outside of the Scandinavian region.

SAS currently only operates to four SkyTeam hubs in North America: Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York-JFK, and Boston. And each of those flights only operate once a day on either A330s or A350s, except for JFK which sees twice daily flights, but they are on the much smaller Airbus A321neo.

The Flight

I arrived at the airport from a connecting flight, so I was earlier than I needed to be. I went to the ticket counter around five hours before departure, and they were just starting to accept people to check in, I am glad I did given that I got the coveted Sequence 1 on my boarding pass, meaning I was the first person to check-in.

SAS Check-in area at Atlanta-Hartsfield (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Getting through security was super easy as the airline participates in the TSA PreCheck program and it took little to no time, relative to Atlanta’s normal security line. At the time of the inaugural, the airline used a gate in the F terminal, although with the SkyTeam partnership, its location may change.

Also, it would be worth pointing out that when traveling in SAS Business and SAS Plus, passengers do get access to the airline’s lounge, but that’s only if you are in a city that has an SAS lounge. For cities with no SAS lounge and only Star Alliance partner lounges, then only SAS Business passengers will be allowed access to them, which is a bit disappointing for those SAS Plus passengers thinking that they get the access. In Atlanta, the Star Alliance partner lounge is the United Club on the opposite side of the airport in the T Gates, but that will change once the SAS SkyTeam membership goes into effect later this year.

As soon as I got to the gate, I noticed they had started setting up for the celebration. I stepped back and waited until they finished. The setup included a long dessert table along with drinks, tea, and coffee. On the other end of the table were cupcakes with stickers commemorating the event.

The cupcake and cookie table for the inaugural (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Over the course of a couple of hours, but what felt like a couple of minutes, the passengers on board the flight slowly started to arrive at the gate, as well as the dignitaries, executives, and special guests making speeches during this event.

Passengers partaking in the celebration at the gate (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

The aircraft LN-RKS, an Airbus A330-300 that carries the name “Frithiof Viking,” arrived with a traditional water canon salute, which is typical for special flights like this and is always fun to watch.

Immediately following were speeches from the airport manager in Atlanta, the COO of the city of Atlanta, the airline’s CEO, and finally the Danish Ambassador to the United States. They all made speeches to commemorate this historic occasion for the airline and city. Following the speeches, there was a ribbon-cutting and a couple more photo ops with the executives.

Ribbon cutting from left to right; Ambassador of Denmark to the United States Jesper Møller Sørensen, City of Atlanta COO LaChandra Burks, General Manager of ATL Balram B. Bheodari; and SAS President & CEO Anko van der Werff (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Unfortunately for those going on the flight, the party had to end as we were nearing departure time, but before getting on board, all passengers were given a small bag of peach-flavored licorice to take with them. On board the airline’s Airbus A330–300, SAS Plus has 56 seats arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Forward of the blue curtain, the SAS Plus cabin on its A330-300 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

My seat for this flight was 24H, a window seat in this cabin. This row was just behind the leading edge of the wing so you had a good view of the SAS wingtip, but also the big orange engines of their A330s. Waiting at the SAS Plus seats upon boarding is a pillow, blanket, as well as a water bottle, and an amenity kit. The seat was super comfortable and was the perfect step between the main cabin and SAS Business section.

My SAS Plus seat, 24H (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Pushback and taxi to the runway were normal, just like every other flight, but with the addition of announcements from the crew commemorating the first flight out of Atlanta. We took to the skies on time and turned north to make our way across the northern portion of the Atlantic Ocean.

The seats also have a footrest that drops down from the seat in front, as well as a plug on the front side. The IFE on the seat back in front offered a headphone jack and USB port.

Departing from Atlanta on SAS’ inaugural flight from the city (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

As we continued to climb up to our cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, the crew came around with the drink cart along with a pack of nuts for us. Roughly an hour and 20 minutes after takeoff, they came out with the main meal cart, which for SAS Plus was a choice of either chicken or fish, and I decided to go with the chicken option.

Climbing up to cruise on SAS inaugural flight from Atlanta (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

My chicken came with mashed potatoes, beans, and carrots. There’s also a small salad that consists of cannellini beans, spinach, and prosciutto. On the side, there was bread and butter, as well as cheese and crackers. For dessert, there was a peach pie crust and a peach white chocolate cookie with a sticker on it for the inaugural flight. There were a considerable amount of peach items on this flight since it was the inaugural out of Atlanta, and Georgia is well known for its peaches.

The chicken option for SAS Plus passengers (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

The cup was true glass and the silverware was actually metal/silver, however, the plates, dishes, and tray were all plastic, which wasn’t a bad thing and it made the tray a lot less heavy and lopsided. It was nice having actual silverware versus the wooden stuff that doesn’t cut food very well. The sun continued to go down, and the sky began to turn pink which looked really beautiful in contrast with the blue wingtip and bright orange engine of the aircraft.

The sun continued to set as we went east over northern Canada (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

By the time we had gotten over Montréal, the sun had completely set and that is about when the crew asked us to close our shades, and then turned down the cabin lights so we would get sleep as Copenhagen is six hours ahead of Atlanta.

Now that a lot of people are leaning their seats back, you can clearly see just how much these seats recline in SAS Plus. They are not lie-flat seats like in business, but they definitely recline more than those in economy behind us.

I got around four hours of what I think was considered sleep, but I’m not 100% sure as I don’t usually sleep great on airplanes. When I woke up, there were about 1.5 hours left in the flight and we were somewhere over the Faroe Islands. Coincidentally it was right about when the crew was bringing around the breakfast, which was a lot lighter than dinner as is typical in Europe.

Breakfast consisted of cheese, fruit, vegetables, an egg, and prosciutto. There was also a side of yogurt with granola, bread, and a drink choice.

Breakfast came around 1.5 hours before landing (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

It wasn’t long after that they started cleaning up the cabin in preparation for landing in Copenhagen. The cabin lights also turned a variety of colors just before landing as well, which was nice and was similar to what Norse Atlantic does for their northern light display, but much more subtle.

It was really beautiful going into Copenhagen, and there were some clouds, but for the most part, I was able to see the ground below given where I was seated in the cabin. And I spent the rest of what was left of the flight, looking out the window at the views below.

Descending into Copenhagen (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

We came to the airport from the north so just before we turned final to the airport, I was able to see where we were about to land which is always a unique treat.

Copenhagen Airport in the distance just before turning final to the airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

We landed in Copenhagen, Denmark just before 10 a.m. after exactly 8.5 hours of flight time from Atlanta. Inaugural flights are always so much fun; the celebrations, the smiling faces, and the excitement of starting a new route, and even more so when it is a completely new city for an airline.

The airline has mentioned that the load factor for the new Atlanta route is already in the 80% range. It is expected that these numbers will get even better once the SkyTeam benefits kick in and passengers can connect on Delta flights.

A video trip report for this flight will be released in the coming weeks.

Editor’s Note: SAS provided AirlineGeeks with a seat on this flight, but this trip report is an objective portrayal of the events and is in no way swayed by that aspect.

Joey Gerardi
Latest posts by Joey Gerardi (see all)

Author

  • Joey Gerardi

    Joe has always been interested in planes, for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Central New York during the early 2000s when US Airways Express turboprops ruled the skies. Being from a non-aviation family made it harder for him to be around planes and would only spend about three hours a month at the airport. He was so excited when he could drive by himself and the first thing he did with the license was get ice cream and go plane spotting for the entire day. When he has the time (and money) he likes to take spotting trips to any location worth a visit. He’s currently enrolled at Western Michigan University earning a degree in Aviation Management and Operations.

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