This is the fifth in a series covering my extended Labor Day weekend trip to Hamburg (and Lisbon). You can check out an overview here.
As explained in my intro post, to take advantage of a super-cheap business class fare home, I needed to make my way from Hamburg to Oslo, where I had a ticket on TAP from Oslo to Lisbon to New York. The flight from Oslo to Lisbon didn’t leave until nearly 7pm, but I needed to leave a cushion since I was traveling on separate tickets from Hamburg to Oslo and Oslo onward. So, I had a long travel day planned, with a short early afternoon flight from Hamburg on SAS, one of three carriers on the route (along with Norwegian and Eurowings); a 4-hour layover in Oslo; then a three-hour flight west to Lisbon, landing late in the evening. It was a long day, but fairly pleasant and uneventful.
It was pretty easy getting to the airport in Hamburg. I left the Fairmont at 10:50am, walked to the S-bahn, and was at the airport at 11:35am. The ride was 1,60 EUR, one of the cheapest rides I’ve ever had in a big city.
SAS operates out of Terminal 2 at Hamburg, along with most Star Alliance airlines and a few others. My experience inside Terminal 2 was a little weird. I hadn’t printed out my boarding pass after checking in on-line, and figured I could just print from a kiosk at the airport. Oddly, there was a kiosk for Lufthansa/Austrian/Swiss, and one for Eurowings/Germanwings, but none for SAS. And there was a long line for the SAS counter, as Oslo and Copenhagen flights both were leaving shortly. So, I pulled over to the side and figured I’d just download the SAS App and use a mobile boarding pass. As I did so, headphones in ears, a woman came over to me and asked me, in German, what I think was “Information?” I said, “I don’t know” and shook my head. She wasn’t satisfied and kept asking me questions, I kept saying “I don’t know” and she stormed off, calling me stupid and other things that I assume were not compliments.
Armed with the app and mobile boarding pass, I went through security, where I got stuck behind a Spanish couple who seemed never to have flown before, which of course can’t be the case if they were heading home. I had to wait while the woman tried to chug an entire bottle of Fanta. I got an extra groin pat down, aka a German goodbye, and was through to the main hall of Terminal 2.
There are only three lounges at HAM Terminal 2: Lufthansa, Emirates, and “Airport Lounge,” the contract lounge used by most carriers, and also a Priority Pass participant. Since I was traveling coach on this leg, my only access was Priority Pass to the Airport Lounge. It was perched two levels above the main hall, before the gates themselves, and is an open, sunny space (although dark at night I imagine) — not actually enclosed at all. As I checked in, a guest was turned away, with a gesture to a sign that said Airberlin and Niki guests were no longer being admitted. Womp womp.
The space wasn’t that big, but seating was maximized, with couches, bar tables, armchairs, and workstations. There were restrooms and showers in the lounge, as well as a smoking room. The lounge had its own wifi, which worked well, and an average amount of outlets.
Lunch food was already out, which consisted of savory pastries with fish, tomato, and ham (the tomato was the only good one), some pasta and other salad, chicken sausages, and a soup machine. Yay soup machine. There were also some rotting bananas, apples, gummi bears, and peanuts, plus a dessert display of cheesecake, loaf cakes, and cookies.
There was a full self-serve bar, tons of beer and fountain drinks—though off-brand soda. I knew that SAS wouldn’t have any complimentary food on board, so I had a glass of cava, tomato soup, and cheesecake. Excellent lunch.
The gate for my flight was one of the farthest gates, so I was glad I left plenty of time. Boarding was supposed to start at 12:40pm. At 12:55pm, there was an announcement that boarding would begin “later due to operations.” It turned out someone had been waiting for quite a while to disembark in a wheelchair. As soon as he came off, boarding began en masse at 1:05pm.
This was actually my first time on SAS since a Copenhagen to London flight in 2003. I had bought a “Go” fare on SAS, as opposed to the cheaper “Go Light,” fare. I don’t quite remember my thought process, but I know the flight was still only 60 EURs. Probably was only a small difference and if I decided I did want a bag it would be better? Or maybe mileage earning? I was crediting to Avianca as the flight would earn me 500 miles there. Who knows? On board the 737, I was in row 9, the 2nd row of SAS Go, behind SAS Plus, which is the SAS equivalent of economy plus. There’s no business class on the SAS 737. The seats were slimline, but decently padded. I was actually impressed by the amount of legroom. The plane was about 2/3 full in Go, and 1/3 full in Plus. The door shut at 1:15pm, and we pushed back at 1:20pm, and we were on our way for the short flight.
In the air, there was free coffee or tea, as well as a full buy-on-board. I dozed on and off until the captain announced our approach about an hour after take-off, and then we were on the ground in rainy Oslo. I was in the terminal at 2:40pm, with about four hours until my next departure.
Oslo Gardermoen is a beautiful airport- built only in 1999 in an open, airy Scandinavian style. Unlike my long layover in Boston, I couldn’t do lounge-hopping to kill the time. There are two lounges at OSL, the SAS one on the level above the terminal and a contract one, that does not accept Priority Pass, below. Flying a Star Alliance carrier in business, I had access to the SAS one. Although I hadn’t flown SAS in 13 years, I actually had been to SAS lounges- in Newark back in the days of Singapore’s EWR-SIN, and multiple times in Paris, as it’s used by Lufthansa there. I wasn’t expecting much – particularly since there were signs and ads in the in-flight magazine that a new lounge, with a fitness center and coffee baristas would be opening eight days after my visit (which I can’t find any information about online, months later, so who knows.)
The lounge was pretty nice, though, with a lot of varied seating and new furniture with a modern design. It did feel fairly small for an airline at one of its hubs, though. (Granted, SAS does very little long-haul flying out of OSL, only Newark and Miami; the bulk of its US and Asia flying is out of CPH and ARN.) The number of ads for the new Radisson Blu in Stavanger was weird. As with the Turkish lounge in IST, you just scan your boarding pass to enter at gates, and my TAP mobile pass worked fine. There’s a second set of gates for the Gold Lounge, which is open to SAS and Star elites, similar to the Lufthansa system. Perhaps it’s a little less cramped in there, as the main area just seemed a lot of seats in a not super large space.
There were two small buffets and a wall of beverages. There was classy white and red wine on tap, as well as beer, and some alcohol- free beer and wine – no hard stuff. Then there were fountain beverages of soda and juice.
In terms of food, there was salad, pesto pasta, smoked salmon, breads, and tomato soup (yes, the second lounge with tomato soup in one day!). On my second pass, there were waffles, not as yummy as the one I had atop Floyen. I found myself a corner to sit for a bit, with power access and a table to work at. The lounge got progressively more crowded as lots of businesspeople came for the end of day bank of flights; Stockholm and Copenhagen flights are basically shuttles at that hour (as are Stavenger and Bergen, but they leave from a different area).
I left the lounge a little early to try and spend 100 Norwegian kroner that I had forgotten to spend on my way out of Norway in July. Although that’s $12, there wasn’t much I could get but some food; I got a bottle of water and an egg and bacon sandwich I figured I could eat in the morning. Again, I was at the farthest gate, and arrived at 6:20pm—five minutes before scheduled boarding. The weather was still foggy and rainy, and the inbound aircraft was just arriving. Delayed boarding didn’t stop people from forming a huge line, though, and at 6:35 pm, priority boarding was announced. I had to push my way to the front, but ended up having to wait on the jet bridge for a full 20 minutes. The cleaners were still on board, but the gate agents were still sending people through. Bad. At 6:57, the cleaners came off and boarding began.
I wasn’t expecting much, but, you know what? TAP’s short-haul business class was pretty good. The A320 was an older plane, and a bit worn, but that meant that the seats were a lot more comfortable than that on many newer planes. Business class just had middle seats blocked – no power ports or anything fancy. Portuguese music was playing at boarding, and the flight attendants were wearing chic 1970s style outfits and hats. The cabin was pretty full, and somehow the door closed at 7:15, even though people were still taking their seats.
Oslo to Lisbon is actually a pretty long flight, nearly 4 hours (but a one-hour time zone change). It’s a long day for the flight attendants, who do a same-day turn, so I excuse some of the poor service. There were no pre-departure beverages or anything, and the crew was very loud and chatty in their jump seats. Once airborne, I was wordlessly handed a menu and a packaged wet towel. The menus were in Portuguese, English, and French weirdly, although they were specifically menus for CPH/OSL/ARN flights. The menu was pretty good for an intra-Europe flight, though I was a bit surprised that the only choice for mains was beef or fish.
Thirty minutes into the flight, a drink cart rolled down, and I had wine with a package of mini-crackers. Another thirty minutes later, the purser came out with my meal on a tray and a wine refill. The meal was fairly substantial, although it didn’t match the descriptions on the menu. The beef bresaola “soup” was not a soup at all, for example. It was tasty, though. The beef was like a peppery pot roast, and the “apple cake” was a yummy berry cake. Oh, well. More than edible. The crew remained not great, as I didn’t get any water or wine refills after dinner, and the empty glasses sat on the tray of the empty middle seat until our descent.
Four hours is a long flight with no in-flight entertainment, but I had my Kindle and laptop. We were on the ground in Lisbon at 10:20pm local time. There was a bus to the terminal, and then one of the longest walks I’ve ever had to the exit. I couldn’t figure out where Uber pickup was, but finally got into an Uber at 11pm local time. By the time I got to my hotel, it was a thirteen-hour travel day. Yawn. And there was a story there, which I’ll get to next, in my story about my half-day in Lisbon and Sintra and the Holiday Inn Lisbon.