Whilst British Airways has become a little paranoid about Norwegian’s low cost long haul operation from Gatwick – which has led to BA launching ‘spoiler’ routes to Oakland and Fort Lauderdale – it is Scandinavian airline SAS which has taken the brunt of the pain from Norwegian’s growth.
Like BA, SAS has been attempting to take layers of cost out of their operations. Like BA, they will probably find that all this does is drive away the sticky corporate traffic which is happy to pay higher fares until it seems pointless due to service dilution.
If you were unhappy with some of the recent BA changes, take note of what SAS has just announced.
Third party lounge access and fast track security will no longer be provided on Plus short-haul fares or to Gold card holders.
SAS, technically, does not have short haul Business Class. Plus is as near as it gets – added ticket flexibility, free food, extra luggage allowance, lounge access and fast track security.
SAS will still allow Plus ticket holders and Gold card card holders to use SAS or other Star Alliance lounges if they exist. However, at airports without a lounge run by a Star Alliance member, you will no longer be getting in, irrespective of how much your ticket cost or how shiny your status card.
This clearly saves SAS some money. Third party lounges will be charging €10 – €15 for access, and airports charge a small sum for letting passengers use Fast Track security lanes. In the context of a £700 Plus ticket from Heathrow to Stockholm, however, it is hardly a lot.
(I found Plus fares from Heathrow as “low” as £436, to be fair, but they did go as high as £700.)
The interesting point is that this is NOT being done to allow the airline to offer lower fares at the bottom end. Plus is the most expensive ticket type sold by SAS on short haul. On the face of it this seems to be a slightly crazy move which will save a very small amount of money but risks losing the high paying corporate customers that the airline relies on.
For customers flying SAS from London, the impact is minor but there will be changes. SAS customers will no longer be able to use the Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 2A. They will be able to use the Lufthansa lounge in 2A – which is not as nice in my view – or the various Star lounges in 2B. 2B is a long trot if your flight departs from 2A, however.