Friday 23 February 2018

Not so happy new year for SAS business flyers as lounge closed

Some of Emirates ‘lounge wear’, which is on offer to first-class passengers
Some of Emirates ‘lounge wear’, which is on offer to first-class passengers
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

Lounge access and fast-track security are a thing of the past for Irish business travellers heading to Scandinavia with SAS. The airline told the Sunday Independent that it terminated the contract with third-party operators (ie Dublin Airport) as of yesterday.

It's concentrating on key routes (Ireland doesn't make the cut) and beefing up its fleet under its new business plan. Overall the move will cut access to 26 lounges and 24 fast-track programmes around Europe.

Business travellers using Dublin Airport will be among the first to bear the brunt, with others, including both airports in Milan, to be hit from February 1.

"Yes, that's correct, as of January 1... we have not continued with the lounges and fast-track agreement in Dublin among others," an SAS spokeswoman told this column. "The plan is we're investing in our own lounges, not only in Scandinavia but where we have the most traffic flow and passengers."

She also said that passengers on the airline's frequent-flyer programme, EuroBonus, would also be affected by the decision. "Your EuroBonus card won't help you as we're not prolonging this co-operation with the lounges."

SAS said recently that it's investing instead in "digital solutions", new aircraft, upgraded cabins, a better on board food and beverage offering, plus high-speed wifi on all aircraft. "To be able to continue and invest, expand and improve SAS Lounges and fast track offer, SAS will end our collaboration with some of our contracted lounges operated by third-parties," the carrier said in a statement.

"The result will be a continued improvement of SAS's own offer where it benefits most of our Plus/Business travellers, members and 29 million yearly passengers."

It said it will be pumping money into "new and bigger domestic lounges at Arlanda and Oslo Gardemoen as well as upgrading our international SAS Lounges in New York, Paris and Chicago".

Well regarded in aviation circles here, Scandinavian Airlines has been operating in Ireland for just over 50 years. But the business perks decision could be a boon for Ryanair - which operates on the Dublin-Copenhagen route - and offers fast track on its Business Plus fare. Other rivals in the Ireland-Scandinavian market include 'low cost' operator Norwegian and Aer Lingus.

Three carriers - British Airways, Virgin and EasyJet - face upheaval as London's Gatwick Airport enters the latest stage of its much-needed makeover.

Irish services on Aer Lingus and Ryanair won't be affected as the named airlines switch terminals at the city's second-biggest airport, but there will be changes for transiting passengers on to European and long haul services.

All EasyJet flights will depart from the North Terminal from January 24, but luckily the move won't affect Belfast-bound flights which already use that terminal.

A day later, all Virgin flights will switch to the North Terminal, but it's a little more complicated for British Airways. BA2273 to New York will depart from South Terminal from January 11 on, while BA2612 to Naples will switch there on January 19. Six days later, all other BA services will depart from the South Terminal.

Gatwick Airport told the Sunday Independent that Irish travellers should make sure of their correct terminal this month, bearing in mind car parking and that there's at least a 20-minute transfer between either terminal.

Another full-frills cabin bites the dust. British Airways is ending its free food and beverages service on European flights from this month. In this brave new world, it's boasting of serving Marks & Spencer food on its flights. With the one catch: you'll have to pay for it. "Like British Airways, Marks & Spencer is a well-known, premium British brand that is respected and trusted, so it's an ideal partnership, providing our customers with a choice of products they recognise and value. I firmly believe what we are delivering breaks the mould," BA boss Alex Cruz said.

The change will apply on all short-haul flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick from January 11 and on all London City and Stansted flights by summer 2017.

Congratulations to Sligo seaweed company VOYA on landing a contract to provide organic spa products to Emirates.

The exclusive line includes shower stuff (available First Class on A380s planes with showers) and hand and body cream for the lesser mortals in the Business cabin.

Emirates also a new range of ultra-fancy Bulgari kit bags, with the top-cabin ones being made of fine leather.

And much has been made of Emirates' other first: 'lounge wear' (ie, pyjamas) that use 'microcapsule technology' which is naturally moisturising to the skin of weary long haul travellers.

But there's a small catch: the jim-jams, with matching slippers and eye mask, pictured, are only on offer to first-class passengers.

To give you an idea, you can get from Dublin to Dubai return from €410 in Economy (flying out January 23, returning a week later). That rises to €2,809 in Business Flex; and a whopping €4,041 in First Class.

Readers on a budget might be advised to nip into Dunnes, grab some cheap nightwear and pick up a tub of moisturiser at the checkout.

Sunday Indo Business

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