The Ultimate Frequent Flyer Experience
SAS MD80 FAREWELL CHARTER
When an old aircraft retires from the fleet, the only appropriate action is to charter it and take an old lady for one long, last flight, with good friends.
And that’s exactly what we did.
My friends at milepoint.com (where frequent flyers meet) with tommy777 as the head organizer, put together a great program for the NordicDO 2013. A “do” is, as the verb describes, doing something. In this case, chartering our own aircraft, and fly across Scandinavia.
The MD82 has been in service with SAS since 1985 but now it’s time for newer and more fuel efficient airplanes. As of May 2014, SAS will be operating a fleet of only Next Generation jets.
So let’s get to it!
The trip started Thursday, September 19, in the morning, when I took the train from Arendal to Oslo. It took me about 4 hours to get to Oslo, and it was a nice and comfortable ride.
I got off the train and headed for the Radisson Blu Plaza hotel which is conveniently located right next to the train station. I checked in to my room, located on the 17th floor, before it was time for a welcome reception on the 33rd floor of the hotel.
My Oslo-view from my room
The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel at night
The next morning I had a quick breakfast before I got on the airport express train (ticket sponsored by Club Carlson for this event) and after 20 minutes on the train, I arrived at Oslo Gardermoen Airport.
To be honest, you wouldn’t think we were a group of frequent flyers on tour. We had a dedicated check in counter for those of us with gold cards. Which meant everyone got in that line 😉
I have never seen such a long line for check in at Oslo before.
We checked in, and we also got our special name tags.
After check in, some of us proceeded to the SAS Scandinavian Lounge where we were granted access, despite that we were flying on a SAS charter, and not a regular scheduled flight. The Lounge Dragons were on our side this day! (But you needed a gold card from SAS to enter)
When the monitor in the lounge said “Go to gate” for SK7001, we walked over to Gate 44 where our beautiful MD82, SE-DMB waited for us.
As we got settled in to our seats (16E for me on the first leg to Stockholm), the party kicked off.
First, a passenger on our flight, took the safety demo. Turns out she’s an ex-Pan Am flight attendant 😉
But we also had regular crew onboard. Here, our air host Mattias shows us where the emergency exits are located.
The Air Purser, Karin, had purchased, out of her own pocket, Scandinavian flags and small bouquets of fresh flowers to decorate the interior of the aircraft. It really underlines the dedication of the SAS employees working with our flight. They are all so passionate about their company and their job, and it really shows.
Then we pushed back, and taxied to the runway for take off. Or so we thought.
The captain thought it’d be a good idea, to clean this old woman with some water before taking off, considering he had so many celebrities onboard (Captain Ola’s own words haha)
Water salute courtesy by the emergency response team at OSL!
All cleaned up, we could finally take off!
It was a beautiful take off, and the entire airplane started applauding when the wheels lifted off the ground. We were in an ecstatic mood. And that mood continued for the rest of the day.
The service on board this flight is something you will never experience onboard any SAS (or any other airline, for that matter) flight. Breakfast was served on the first leg, a 40-minute flight from Oslo to Stockholm. With alcohol. Free alcohol. When Norwegians are offered free alcohol, they never decline such a generous offer (keep in mind, a glass of beer at a bar here in Norway is 10-15USD)
The flight attendants had their hands full with serving a full MD80-flight breakfast and drinks. But they did an amazing job.
Air Hostesses Hanna and Natalie
The amazing Air Purser, Karin, with her vintage SAS wings on her uniform.
Karin has been employed with SAS since 1978!
Stockholm-Arlanda in sight, and we start the approach to RWY26.
Keep in mind this 40-minute flight had a full meal service + drink service. Thus, cleaning the cabin took a while.
The guy in the blue t-shirt in the aisle, is tommy777 himself. He is here seen running up the aisle with breakfast boxes, cleaning the cabin. We were well below 3000 ft at this point.
Here are some of the crew, cleaning up the last few items before announcing “cabin secure” to the flight deck.
But the “cabin secure” didn’t get to the pilots, so they had to discontinue the approach, while we were on final lol. So they made a left 360 to get everything ready for landing. The cabin crew seemed a little…stressed. 😉
Wheels down, we can land!
In Stockholm, SAS welcomed us into their SAS Business Lounge in Terminal 5, which they had closed down that afternoon, just for us. Vice President of Eurobonus, SAS’ frequent flyer program, gave a little speech. We could ask him some questions, most of which he really couldn’t answer, as it was mainly concerning a new tier coming to Eurobonus this fall, that will be revealed later on.
My friend Jennifer, a 787 flight engineer working with Norwegian and Qatar in Stockholm, joined us as well. Nice to see you again Jen!
The SK7001 crew!
SAS handed out goodie bags as we left the lounge, to go back to our airplane for the next flight.
SE-DMB parked by F-37.
For the next flight to Copenhagen, I got seat 17F. Before boarding, we were let loose on the tarmac to take photos of the aircraft.
Air Hostess Hanna and me
It was then time for boarding, which iconically happened through the back of the airplane.
We took off from RWY 19R and after some right and left turns for noise abatement, we were headed north.
Copenhagen is south of Stockholm, isn’t it?
Yes, it still is, no one blew up the city and moved it to Northern Sweden. But when we’re talking about frequent flyers, we never take the shortest route, do we?
Stockholm-Copenhagen is usually a 340 mile, 1 hour flight. Usually. But there is nothing usual about SK7001.
This was our flight. 3,5 hrs was the estimated flight time enroute.
When flying northbound, the captain announced he had to really convince the air traffic controllers that his plan was indeed to fly to CPH. Via BOO (Arctic Circle) and SVG.
So with the airplane in the air for the next 3,5 hours, service began.
With hot towels! I can really not recall the last time I was offered a hot towel in economy.
I had to take a photo, as evidence 😉
Sophie joined me, and got settled into her new favorite seat, 17E.
With Karin behind the wheels of the drink cart, the party started 😉 ROCK’n’ROLL!
What an amazing view to enjoy my dinner with.
Dinner, with HOT ROLLS!
I enjoyed a glass of champagne with my dinner. Life is good.
Speed brakes? Yes, we were going to do a low pass over Stavanger!
Since traffic at SVG was coming in from the south and taking off to the north, we couldn’t get a low pass over the airfield (we came in from the north, thus going against the traffic flow)
But we got down to 2,500 ft. And according to the crew, the aircraft started to depressurize, thinking it was going land. But with the flip of a switch, and applying power, we started a gentle climb up to cruise. During cruise we had a MD80-quiz and more fun before we unfortunately started the approach to Copenhagen.
I couldn’t stop smiling. This flight was beyond what I had ever imagined.
Before landing, we pushed ALL the cabin attendant call buttons, just to make sure they still worked, 22 years after the aircraft was built 😉
But all things must come to an end. That includes also SK7001. For the first time in my life, I wished, from deep within my heart, that the flight would never end.
Touch down on Runway 22L in Copenhagen. I have never heard this much applause on an airplane before.
A special flight was over, and as we taxied to gate I was reminiscing all the great memories I have had with the SAS MD80 fleet.
SE-DMB will be ferried to the US later this year, for a transformation to become a water bomber. Knowing that, makes it a little easier. It will still play an important role for many many people in the years to come.