Review: SAS Business Class in the Airbus A350 (Los Angeles – Copenhagen)

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Kabine 2

In October 2021, Travel Dealz author Peer returned to Europe from Los Angeles. To do this, he chose a flight in SAS‘ business class, paid for with EuroBonus points. Read below how he liked the business class in the Airbus A350, where there is still room for improvement, and what surprises awaited him while flying over Greenland.

Before we start the review, first a few flight details:

  • Flight: SK932 Los AngelesLAX – KopenhagenCPH
  • Seat: 8H 9H
  • Plane: Airbus A350-900 SE-RSE
    (delivered in March 2021)
  • Scheduled time of departure: 11:00
  • Scheduled time of arrival: 07:10
  • Flight time: 11h 10min
  • Month: Oktober 2021

Booking

Some time ago I booked a cheap one-way ticket from Copenhagen to Toronto with LOT for around 130€. An inbound ticket was still missing to get back to Europe after a month-long journey through Canada and the USA.

Inexpensive one-way tickets in economy class could not be found. So I decided to redeem a few Membership Rewards points for a business class ticket. SAS was my choice for various reasons:

  • The SAS business class in the Airbus A350 makes a very comfortable impression in the pictures and reviews
  • The taxes & fees that SAS Eurobonus charges for award flights are extremely low
  • In fact, I had never flown SAS before
  • Cancellation and rebooking are possible free of charge up to 24 hours before departure

Around a month before departure, availability on the route from Los Angeles to Copenhagen was very good. However, this is an exception that was only possible due to the travel ban that was in place at the time. Normally such seats are very difficult to get. At the moment I can’t find any more availability in business class on the route.

So I transferred 75,000 points from my Membership Rewards account to SAS EuroBonus and within 24 hours 60,000 points went into my EuroBonus account. I was then able to book a ticket LAX - CPH - OSL - BER directly online for 60,000 points + €21.80.

The low fees make award flights with SAS very attractive

Since the ticket was fully flexible, I tried to rebook the connection to a day later than planned about 26 hours before departure. Theoretically, such a rebooking is possible directly online at EuroBonus. However, the attempt failed due to a price difference of -€3, because the new routing was now only LAX - CPH - BER. After a 30-minute queue on the EuroBonus hotline, the rebooking could be carried out over the phone. However, the price difference was not refunded.

Check-in

The online check-in at SAS opens 30 hours before the scheduled time of departure. In business class, the seat can also be reserved in advance free of charge. I chose the bulkhead 9H in the second, more private, business class cabin.

I took the hotel shuttle to the airport just under 3 hours before departure and arrived at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) 10 minutes later. Most international flights from Los Angeles don’t depart until midday to afternoon. So it was still very quiet in the entire terminal.

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Check in Priority
Business class check-in at Tom Bradley International Terminal, Los Angeles

It didn’t matter whether you were an economy passenger, a Star Gold customer or a business class guest: there wasn’t a queue at the SAS counter and everyone could check in immediately. Theoretically, there would still be the option of self-check-in at the machine, but no documents can be checked there. I presented my passport and was asked for proof of vaccination or test and the travel registration. I was then handed the boarding pass.

Interestingly, LAX-CPH and the connecting flight CPH-BER were printed together on one boarding pass:

SAS Boarding Pass doppelt
Two flights on one boarding pass – a novelty for me

The baggage allowance in SAS’ business class is 2 x 32 kg. As a frequent flyer with Star Alliance Gold status, even 3x 32 kg is allowed. Since my purchases in North America added up to around 30 kg, I made good use of the baggage allowance and checked in two heavy bags.

After checking in, I went straight to the security check. Fortunately, SAS takes part in the TSA Precheck program and there is now a corresponding checkpoint in the southern part of the terminal. As a member of the Global Entry program, liquids and laptops did not have to be taken out from the hand luggage. Alternatively, according to the boarding pass imprint, there would also have been a fast track for business class guests, but then without TSA Pre benefits.

Although there were also numerous passengers without TSA Pre in the same queue, 15 minutes after check-in I was already in front of the Star Alliance Lounge.

Lounge

Normally, passengers with international business class tickets would be able to use the United Polaris lounge. This is located in United’s Terminal 7 and is about a 20-minute walk from TBIT. A walk that is usually worthwhile due to the a la carte service.

However, the Polaris Lounge in Los Angeles was closed in 2021, due to the pandemic. So the only choice was between the United Club, Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge or the Star Alliance Lounge. The latter is located directly in the international terminal, not far from the SAS gate. In addition to business class passengers, it is also open to all Star Alliance guests with Gold status.

At just before 9:00, I was the first guest in the lounge. Breakfast was freshly made and consisted of:

  • Waffles, bagels and toast
  • Fresh fruits
  • Scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage
  • Muesli with milk
  • Smoothies, juices, soft drinks and all kinds of alcoholic beverages

All these dishes were self-service, i.e. offered as a buffet. The quality was quite satisfactory and (apart from the watery orange juice) at least on the level of a mid-range hotel. Unfortunately, the ramen bar was not filled in the morning, so I focused on breakfast:

The lounge was opened in 2013, but it is still (or is now again) in good condition. There are showers, sufficient toilets and two nice terraces: the larger of the two offers a view into the terminal, and a smaller open-air terrace allows a view of the apron.

An hour before boarding, I took another look at the seat map via Expertflyer. Only a few seats were occupied in all travel classes (business, premium eco and economy). I was even supposed to be the only passenger in the second business class cabin (rows 9 and 10):

Boarding

When the public announcement system called my name as I was leaving the lounge (10 minutes before departure), I had a certain premonition of what to expect. This was confirmed upon arrival at the gate: the rear business class cabin had been closed and I had been assigned a new seat. The employee immediately tore up my boarding pass for 9H and issued a new one for seat 8H.

With the aircraft’s low load factor, there was still plenty of room for me in the front business class cabin. However, it is incomprehensible to me why the decision to close rows 9 and 10 was only made 10 minutes before boarding. If the seats had been blocked from the start (or at least at the start of online check-in), this unnecessary situation would not have arisen in the first place.

Airbus A350 SAS am Flughafen LAX

Boarding started 35 minutes before departure – five minutes earlier than announced on the boarding pass. Initially, business class passengers and frequent flyers with Gold status were allowed on board with priority boarding.

To my surprise, no boarding pass was required for boarding. At gate 154, where my flight departed from, the airport installed new gates for biometric boarding. After two error messages, it actually worked and I got on the plane without showing a passport or a boarding pass. Overall, the technology didn’t convince me. If the biometric boarding takes longer than the regular boarding process, you can forget the whole thing.

I also find it worrying that every passenger – whether they want to or not – is automatically registered for biometric boarding. The data will probably be compared with the American CBP (Customs and Border Protection). There was no indication anywhere as to whether or how passengers could object to biometric boarding. According to the press release, this option is only open to US citizens:

U.S. citizens have the option of opting out of the facial image capture and may be processed by airline agents with a passport and boarding pass.

When I got on board, I briefly pointed out to a flight attendant (after he asked) that I had reserved row 9 specifically for the wider footwell. He then explained to me that there were no differences between the seats in terms of legroom. But I think the pictures speak for themselves:

I was offered a middle seat in row 1 as an alternative, but not taking a window seat wasn’t an option for me. So I sat down in seat 8H. Except for the narrower leg room (and the fact that there is only one window), the seat was on par:

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Sitz 8H
My new seat, 8H

Luckily, all the seats around me remained free (see screenshot above). Later in the course of the flight, it turned out that the crew used the second part of the cabin as a rest room and therefore did not want any other passengers there.

Cabin

A total of 40 passengers can be seated in the business class of a SAS Airbus A350. 32 seats are located in the front business class cabin in rows 1-8, while the rear cabin consists of only two rows of four seats each. The seating arrangement is always 1-2-1.

This is not a reverse herringbone configuration, but the seats are staggered. In my opinion, such a configuration (if it is well executed) combines the advantages of two worlds: no passenger has to climb over their neighbour to get up – but there is still a natural sitting position (in the direction of flight) from which you can comfortably look out of the window.

Between both business class cabins, i.e. between rows 8 and 9, there are two toilets and the galley. Even though I sat right next to it, I didn’t hear much noise. If you’re a light sleeper, you might want to avoid the two adjacent rows. Likewise row 1, because according to Seatguru there is a small galley and another toilet (possibly only for the crew?).

There are luggage compartments at SAS both above the windows and in the middle. Unlike other airlines, SAS has therefore not started to eliminate the overhead compartments in the middle. Therefore, there is still enough space for the hand luggage of all passengers – presumably, even if every business class passenger were to use the entire free allowance (2 x 8 kg + personal item).

Still, the cabin doesn’t feel cramped at all. Especially not when only a quarter of the seats are occupied, like on my flight. I also really like the combination of dark tones with a few orange accents. Modern Scandinavian – that’s the way it should be.

Best Seats

Seats 2A, 2H, 4A, 4H, 6A, 6H, 8A, 8H, 10A and 10H offer extra privacy for solo travelers. These are located far from the aisle, right by the window. The odd-numbered seats, on the other hand, are directly on the aisle and therefore not quite as private. Looking out of the window is also difficult there.

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Sitz 6H
For maximum privacy, choose an even-numbered window seat. Like 6H

Personally, I would still prefer 1A, 1H, 9A and 9H for more leg room, but I guess that’s a personal choice. Rows 9 and 10 basically have the advantage of the quieter location in the smaller business class cabin (provided it is not closed spontaneously).

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Sitze 9H 10H
View of the rear cabin, consisting of rows 9 – 10.

The choice is more difficult for those who are travelling in pairs. There is no optimal choice there because the partition between the middle seats makes private conversations difficult. However, rows 1 and 9 also offer extra legroom in the middle, so I would prefer 1D + 1F and 9D + 9F respectively.

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Sitze Bulkhead
Under normal circumstances, 9D + 9H (seen here) is a good choice for couples

Seats

SAS installs Thompson Vantage XL business class seats in the Airbus A350. The same seats are also used in the Airbus A350 operated by Delta and Philippine Airlines, and by SAS in the A330.

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Sitz 6H Weitwinkel
Individual seats 6H, 7H and 8H in wide-angle

The A350 is a comparatively wide aircraft, leaving enough room for a comfortable 1-2-1 configuration. The seat not only offers enough shoulder room but also hardly narrows towards the bottom. Although the leg room is limited, it is still significantly more generous than, for example, with Swiss or the typical reverse herringbone seats.

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Leselampe
Electronic seat adjustment with various functions

All passengers must wear a shoulder belt during take-off and landing. Not a perfect solution, but definitely better than a thick belt with an airbag that constantly presses into the groin region.

The seat adjustment works electronically and also includes adjustable lumbar support. There is also the usual choice between sitting, relaxing and sleeping mode. The table is big enough to use a computer mouse in addition to the laptop. If it is not needed in its entirety, it can also be folded up and used in half size.

I could now explain each function of the seat, including the reading lamp, individually, but that would unnecessarily lengthen the review. Overall, I was very satisfied with the seating comfort. Of course, privacy isn’t as good as, say, in the United Polaris business class or the Delta One Suite (which uses the same seat with a door). The seat feels very spacious and offers space for tall people.

However, there is also one point of criticism that I do not want to hide: the storage space. It is almost non-existent. The only options are:

  1. A small pocket on the seat, which, according to the label, may only be used for (non-existent) literature
  2. An additional pocket underneath. By default, it is equipped with the Safety Card, but it can still hold an iPad or something similar
  3. The shelf on the seat between the headphones and the water bottle. Here you can at least stow a small bag and the charger for a laptop or something of similar size. However, this is not sufficient – especially since the space cannot be used during take-off and landing
  4. At the window seat, there is still a small gap between the seat and the wall covering. I stowed my laptop there during meals. In sleep mode that would be too risky for me.
SAS Business Class LAX CPH Stauraum2 1
The only storage space of the seat – and I packed it accordingly

Anything larger than a tablet goes in the overhead bins. Accordingly, it is good that there is enough space there for all business passengers.

Sleeping Comfort

In my opinion, sleeping comfort is one of the most important aspects of an 11-hour redeye flight. It is good to know that the Vantage XL seat is very suitable for redeyes. Since the seat is not restricted by walls, I could even bend my legs a bit as a side sleeper. The lowerable armrest creates additional space.

However, there is definitely still a need to catch up when it comes to bedding. Of course, each seat has a pillow, a blanket and a small sheet for the seat. But everything was more on the level of a premium economy. Admittedly, I might be a bit spoiled by the excellent bedding on United’s Polaris business class. Nevertheless, the blanket was simply too thin and the pillow too small and airy.

Luckily I was able to help myself a lot from the 24 free seats and thus snuggle up under several blankets. So I managed to get at least four hours of sleep. If I hadn’t spent the night trying to photograph the northern lights, I’m sure it would have been a little longer.

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Bett3
Bedtime. But not without a second blanket!

Food & Drinks

Many airlines have now restored full service in business class. Unfortunately, this was not yet the case at SAS. On my flight there were:

  • No menus
  • No pre-departure drink
  • Only three instead of four main courses to choose from
  • No desserts

A water bottle (depending on the seat 0.5 or 0.33 litres) is already at each seat upon boarding. The actual service began shortly after the seat belt sign turned off with a small bag of salted cashews:

Shortly thereafter, the first round of drinks arrived. Unfortunately, there is no drinks menu. However, an overview of all available drinks, each with a brief description, can be called up on the touchscreen of the in-flight entertainment system:

The selection was quite extensive with a total of 29 options (plus soft drinks). I especially liked the delicious apple cider. I can’t comment on the alcoholic drinks, but there should be something for everyone.

Lunch

Unfortunately, this digital menu only shows the drinks, main dishes are not listed there. Since there was no printed menu for the dishes either (“due to Covid“), SAS came up with a strange solution: The crew came through the aisles with an iPad showing photos of the three options:

  • Beef with garlic and mashed potatoes
  • Chicken breast with corn
  • Dumplings (I forgot the details. There was no menu)

I opted for the chicken. Shortly thereafter, it was served on a tray along with all the other “courses”. I had already removed the plastic or aluminium covers for the photos:

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Essen
Main course (chicken with polenta and corn) with side dishes

Of all the dishes shown, I liked the salmon starter the best. The main course was okay overall, but the chicken was rather rubbery. Nothing that will be remembered – but at least enjoyable.

A minus point was definitely the packaged bread. I think it’s inedible even in economy class – but it has no place in a long-haul business class. So I skipped the bread and waited for dessert.

And waited. And waited…

But no dessert came. The crew brought over a small box of three chocolates and that was it:

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Pralinenbox
I was looking forward to a cheese platter and ice cream – and got a box of chocolates

When asked, it was said that desserts were not available on this flight. At least I received a small load of pre-packaged snacks from the snack basket to satisfy my hunger:

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Nachschub
Emergency rations for the next few hours: two more boxes of chocolates, more cashews and a small piece of marabou chocolate

A good hour after takeoff in Los Angeles, I was already done eating. With the low utilization, however, it is not a big surprise.

Midnight Snacks

I managed to sleep for a few hours before feeling hungry again somewhere over Nunavut. The crew then handed me a turkey sandwich and a bag of chips when I asked:

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Midnight Snack
Chips and sandwiches as a midnight snack

The sandwich gave no cause for criticism, and neither did the chips. Later I also found a small selection of snacks in the galley, including more sandwiches. When they eventually ran out (not just my fault) they weren’t refilled either:

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Snacks Galley
Snacks, wine and soft drinks were available in the galley

I was a little surprised that the flight attendant was able to conjure up more snacks an hour and a half later. I could have used the muffin as a dessert for lunch – but I was also happy to receive it across the Atlantic:

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Extra Desserts
Muffin, Swedish chocolate ball and another chocolate stick

As for the food, the salted caramel muffin was indeed the highlight. In any case, I was able to survive the few hours until breakfast.

Breakfast

There was no choice for breakfast. I would have expected at least one hot and one cold option, but without comment a cold breakfast plate was served. It consisted of:

  • Bowl with yoghurt and fruit + muesli
  • Brioche buns and Ritz crackers
  • Lots of cold cuts
  • Small jar of jam
SAS Business Class LAX CPH Fruehstueck

A small brioche bun for the jam, two pieces of cheese, two slices of turkey breast and four slices of salami? Somehow it doesn’t quite work. But overall I liked the composition – and in an emergency, the cuts are known to taste good even without bread.

Service

Some employees seemed rather distant, while others were very friendly. But there are such discrepancies with every airline and, to be honest, I prefer it to a too obviously fake smile.

Shortly after departure, one of the crew members asked if I would like to be woken up at breakfast or not. The drinks were also carefully refilled during the night.

In-Flight Entertainment

The screen is around 15 inches big and, according to SAS, has an HD resolution. This is neither oversized nor particularly high-resolution but sufficient in every respect.

What is missing is the content. I’m really not one to value the 1,000 films in the Emirates entertainment system. But with just 38 films to choose from (even I’ve seen quite a few of them), it’s obvious that something isn’t quite right. The series didn’t look any better either, especially since there was often only a single episode to choose from.

SAS Business Class LAX CPH Filme
Filtering Off. With only 38 films, it’s better that way, otherwise, there would be nothing left

I also found it a bit strange that only English, Japanese and Chinese were offered as the menu languages of the IFE. Not that I have a problem with it – but I’ve never come across such a small selection.

My main content in the entertainment system is the FlightMap. This worked perfectly but is also very limited in terms of functionality. There is only an automatic slide show and no option to change the view or section manually.

There is a remote control next to the seat so you don’t always have to stretch your arms out to the screen. Due to a lack of interesting content, I didn’t use it and just ran the flight map. The same applies to the headphones at each seat, but they don’t do particularly well in other reviews. Luckily I had my iPad with me as a game console.

WiFi

One area where SAS can stand out from the competition is the wifi. It is completely free in business class (and also in SAS Plus). Entering the booking number and surname is sufficient.

Unfortunately, free access is limited to one device. However, it is possible to decouple a device (e.g. the smartphone) from access and to log in with the laptop. Otherwise, access credentials for the 2nd device could of course be purchased regularly. But that didn’t work for me, so I can’t say anything about the price structure.

There is no data limit. The speed was okay at around 4 MBit/s down and 1 MBit/s up. It is sufficient for browsing and reading e-mails. Theoretically, streaming videos should also be possible at this speed. However, all the services I tried (including Netflix and Prime Video) were blocked.

Usual high ping, but sufficient WiFi connection speed

Extras

Below are a few more comments that cannot be accommodated in the other sections.

Hygiene Measures

While masks were no longer required on flights within Scandinavia, they were still mandatory on all other routes. When entering the aircraft, everyone was given a hygiene kit consisting of a disinfectant wipe and a surgical mask.

The mask could of course be removed for drinking and eating. As far as I could see, sleeping passengers were also not checked.

No Air Vents

Unfortunately, SAS does not have air vents in business class. It is therefore not possible to regulate the temperature for the seat individually. I find that completely incomprehensible because there would definitely be room for it.

Amenity Kit

An amenity kit was on the seat. I was surprised by the comparatively high-quality socks and the bamboo toothbrush. Otherwise, the content is nothing special:

Northern Lights

Unfortunately, Airbus missed the opportunity to install windows of the same size as Boeing on the A350. But they (currently still) offer a decisive advantage: physical window shades that can be pushed up and down in a classic way. So it doesn’t get too hot during the day and at night everyone can decide for themselves whether they want to look out or not.

On my flight, it would have been highly unfortunate if the flight attendants could lock the window electronically. Having just missed the northern lights in Canada, I sensed new hope with a look at the US Meteorological Service’s Aurora Forecast:

Nordlichtprognose NOAA
Green = Northern lights chances

When we reached Greenland, there wasn’t much to see from the window, but a green line could already be guessed from the photos. Instead of going back to sleep straight away, I decided to check on the snacks and keep an eye on the situation.

The further east we flew, the better the view actually got. A view of the glaciers was denied by the cloud cover, but in the sky, a dancing, green veil could now be seen. After I got the hang of it (preventing annoying reflections with a blanket), I managed to get reasonably usable shots of the Aurora Borealis with my smartphone:

As soon as we left Greenland behind us, the spook was over. And I used the remaining flight time to catch up on some sleep.

Connecting Flight to Berlin in SAS Plus

After arriving in Copenhagen, my trip continued on to Berlin. Within Europe, SAS no longer has a true business class. Instead, they only have a premium economy called SAS Plus. This usually includes lounge access, snacks & drinks, front row seats and baggage allowance.

Unfortunately SAS Plus was a huge disappointment on the Copenhagen to Berlin flight (on board a CRJ900 operated by Cityjet). Only tea and coffee were offered. Only on request did I get a bottle of water. The promised snack? There wasn’t one. The flight time would have easily been enough for a small snack box, as is apparently standard on other flights through Scandinavia.

The seat pitch also did not differ from the economy class. However, I was lucky and the next seat remained free – not guaranteed in SAS Plus. Overall, the connecting flight would not have earned more than two out of five stars – but it is not included in the overall rating of the long-haul route.

Impressions from Dennis on CPH-LAX

Travel-Dealz author Dennis also flew the flight, but in the opposite direction. Below are his impressions:

Overall, I agree with Peers’ assessment. Overall, I liked the catering a little better. I had excellent salmon as the main course and a very tasty smørrebrød as a second meal (see photo). Unfortunately, I also missed a pre-departure drink and dessert. I really liked seat 1H.

SAS CPH LAX Smorrebrod
Very tasty smørrebrød from Copenhagen to Los Angeles

The WiFi was very slow and the blocking of YouTube and Instagram really annoyed me personally. But after I switched on my VPN Unlimited, all pages worked and, strangely enough, it was even faster than before.

I didn’t like the service. But that was also because all the flight attendants repeatedly addressed me in Danish. At some point you should remember it, I think.

SAS Business Class Airbus A350 Los Angeles – Copenhagen
  • Check-in & Boarding
  • Lounge
  • Comfort & Cabin
  • Food & Drinks
  • Service
  • In-Flight Entertainment
  • WiFi
  • Extras
3.76
Conclusion

There is only one aspect of SAS’ business class that really won me over: the seat. However, this is also the most important aspect when it comes to weighing up travel classes. I had never dealt with the Thompson Vantage XL before and was particularly impressed by the generous amount of space. Unfortunately, the storage space fell victim to this – a compromise that I am happy to accept.

Catering was always hailed as one of SAS’ strengths before the pandemic. Unfortunately, SAS was not able to meet my correspondingly high expectations. The main course was ok. However, I find it intolerable that no dessert is offered on an 11-hour flight. Nobody has to tell me that a piece of cake or a pre-packaged sundae is a problem because of Covid-19. Due to the extensive selection of snacks, I was full, but this is not an adequate alternative. As a business class guest, I also expect a printed menu.

Hopefully, SAS’ business class can regain its former strength after the pandemic. It is currently an average product with (in my opinion) a very comfortable seat.

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Comment (1)

  1. Daniel says:

    Thanks for the great report! Takeaway for me is to try to always fly European airlines going west and American airlines going east, since catering seems to be best when loaded from the airlines hub.

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