With great fanfare, SAS opened a new route from CPH to JFK and I was able to snag a seat in business class on their opening night. This route is part of SAS’ new strategy of flying more point-to-point routes to the US with their smaller A321LR (Long Range). They use this plane on routes from Gothenburg and Aalborg to Newark as well as on several routes from the Nordics to Washington DC and Toronto. The aircraft offers a full 3 class configuration even though it’s a relatively small single aisle aircraft. This has some pros and cons as you will see in this review.
Seat & Cabin
The seat is more or less the same as in the regular SAS business cabin which you might be familiar with if you’ve read my review of that cabin or if you’ve flown on any of their A330, A340 or A350 aircraft. The only difference I could see is that the softness setting for the seat is gone, so you are stuck with the default (Which is still quite soft), however the massage and adjustable lumbar support are still there. There is however a major difference and that’s in the cabin layout. Instead of the regular 1-2-1 layout they use on their wide-body aircraft this one uses a 1-1/2-2 configuration which means the even numbered rows have a throne seat with the same amount of space as two seats on the rows in front and behind! This is an amazing upgrade from the regular cabin, which is good already. The amount of storage space offered is incredible, even better than most of the first class cabins I’ve been in. There are two large “armrests” on either side of the seat, however they are large enough to serve as tables on their own. Finally there is a place to store all the bedding that always comes with the SAS business seat! I’ve always struggled to find a place that’s not dirty to store this before I go to bed.
A small details that I really appreciate as a person with glasses is the dedicated hook for them.
The few drawbacks I could see of this seat configuration is that the foot well becomes very tight. I had trouble finding a good way to rest my feet as they were a bit too long to fit in any comfortable way. There is also no toilet for the premium economy passengers which means many of them end up using the business class toilet at the front and as a result there was a line forming near the front, keep this in mind when selecting seats if you’re easily disturbed.
Food & Drink Service
On the outbound leg the food was amazing! The food served was very Nordic in its theme. I picked a flame-torched salmon as the starter and a sous-vide duck breast as the main course, all of which was delicious. The wine and spirit selection is good as usual with some nice made-to-order cocktails, gone are the premixed canned cocktails that I mentioned in my previous review, thank goodness!
However the SAS attention to detail is one of the most inconsistent I’ve seen. The food is all very good as mentioned, the presentation of the dishes is great - worthy of a premium restaurant - even small things like the dressing being served in glass bottles reinforces the premium feeling, but as a contrast to this all the food is served at once on a single tray (Except for the bread) which is more reminiscent of economy class. It’s very strange that SAS choses this combination but I imagine it’s to reduce the workload on the crew and in order to be able to serve all passengers faster.
On the topic of serving faster, the flight home was a very interesting experience. The departure hour is quite late (23:00 local time, more on that later) which means they don’t actually serve dinner but rather what they call a “midnight snack”. This was a bit of a shock to me, since the terminal doesn’t have any lounge access (More on that later as well) I hadn’t had anything else to eat since my late lunch. In addition to the very light meal, the service was extremely rushed. The meal service started as soon as possible (Which was great, because I was hungry) but it continued to be fast after serving. Within 5 minutes of the serving I had been served a pre-dinner cocktail, nuts, the whole tray of “dinner”, two servings of bread, offered coffee as well as a refill of the coffee cup. I imagine the crew was in a rush to be able to close down the cabin for those who wanted to sleep, but this was not at all a premium experience especially since I was trying to stay awake slightly longer in order to alleviate the jet lag.
Airport & Lounge
I still argue that CPH is one of the best airports in the world. The selection of restaurants and shops are great, the security wait time is seldom long and the airport overall feels fresh and modern. The SAS lounge is also great, if a bit overcrowded at times. The one drawback (Which is true for all SAS home airports) is that there’s no lounge after the passport control. Priority Pass does give you access to the Eventyr lounge though which is highly recommended. However in this case the flight departed from the new E gates which turned out to be a quite long 15 minute walk from the passport checkpoint even though I walk quite fast.
The homebound flight offered a strong contrast to how amazing CPH is, JFK Terminal 7 might rival Paris Charles de Gaulle as the worst airport in the world. There is no lounge offered for SAS passengers,although the check in agent did say it “might come soon” and considering BA recently left this terminal one can always hope that there will be a new lounge in the ex-Concorde Room. Since LOT and ANA also flies from this terminal it would be great with a shared Star Alliance lounge, however SAS doesn’t really have a good track record of offering lounges on their outstations so I wouldn’t hold my breath. The selection of restaurants is non-existing with most of them being closed and of the ones that are open none of them have over 1.5 stars on Google Maps. Overall this terminal feels more like a low cost carrier terminal frequented by airlines like Spirit or Ryanair. The terminal is due for demolition in 2026 to make way for the expanding Terminal 6 so hopefully SAS will relocate to a different terminal after that.
The IFE is exactly the same as the one described in my other review. However there is a big downgrade, the 3.5mm headphone jack has been removed! This means you’re stuck using SAS’ own headphones (Or an adapter if you have that) if you want to watch something on the IFE and while they are good as headphones they get quite uncomfortable after a few hours. There’s also a few of the older movies (Such as Ocean’s 13) which have had their aspect ration changed in a very strange way. I ended up mostly watching content on my own laptop instead.
Sleeping in the SAS business seats is easy, apart from my minor gripe that I had trouble finding a good position for my feet. However on my return leg this didn’t stop me from getting a solid 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep, leaving me mostly well rested when arriving back in Copenhagen. On the outbound leg I didn’t sleep more than a short nap, but this was intentional considering the arrival time and trying to minimize the jet lag for my short stay in New York.
SAS business class continues to be a great product, albeit with a few minor details that hold it back from being a truly excellent premium offering. The food is always good, however the service is inconsistent, the hardware is great, seats are comfortable and the cabins are fresh and modern, but the choice of terminals at outstation airports are consistently poor, often more similar to low cost carriers.
I think the biggest point of contention when it comes to this route will not be the airport (SAS also flies to EWR from a few different Scandinavian airports) but rather the departure times. The west bound flight departs at 18:25 and arrives at 21:30. If you stay awake the entire flight (As I did) you will arrive extremely tired and hopefully get a good first night’s sleep, aiding with minimizing the jet lag. This might be great if you have a meeting in the morning the day after for instance, or want to do a shorter vacation in New York. The return leg however is more awkward as a result, it departs at 23:00 and arrives at 12:55. This means it’s departing too late for a dinner and around the time where most people would go to bed local time, additionally it arrives not in the morning as many other eastbound transatlantic flights often do, the result being that even if you get a good night’s sleep your’re not in Copenhagen early enough to get a full work day in. To me this is the worst of both worlds, compared to the SAS flight to Newark which departs at 17:30, perfect dinner time after take-off and climb, and arrives at 07:05, giving you a full day to work with.