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SAS A321 – smaller aircraft, same high service level

Although the new A321LR is smaller than SAS’ other long-haul aircraft, the SAS product team have managed to fit all the key components of the SAS long-haul service offering on board. This means that passengers will experience the same high SAS service level that they are used to, no matter which aircraft they are on.

A few years ago, the SAS product team created a new high standard of service for the A350  long-haul aircraft. With a food and beverage offering tailored to passengers’ individual needs and a focus on sustainable, locally sourced and seasonal products, the modern service has been very well received. The offering even includes an onboard buffet area. But nobody knew then that a few years later they would need to replicate that same service offering on a much smaller aircraft, a task that has now been achieved through much close collaboration.  

“Our ambition has been that for whichever international SAS flight they book, our passengers can trust that they will experience the same consistent high level of service, in all classes,” says Gustaf Öholm, SAS’ Head of Onboard Product & Services. “So, the service will not be any different if you travel on one of our familiar wide-body, long-haul aircraft or this new unique narrow-body aircraft.”

Comfort and sustainability

The Airbus A321LR is the first narrow-body long haul aircraft in the SAS fleet. Having entered into service on March 27, 2022, it enables SAS to flexibly meet changing Scandinavian travel patterns while also contributing to SAS’ ongoing climate-impacting emissions’ reduction.

As well as being the first SAS narrow-body aircraft to be used for long-haul flights, the A321LR is also the first SAS single aisle aircraft to have a three-class configuration, with Business, SAS Plus and SAS Go seats. “Managing to implement our high level of different service ingredients into a three-class configuration on a narrow-body aircraft is, in some sense, unique” adds Öholm. “And in some areas, finding the solutions has been challenging.”

The key challenge has been space, in terms of logistics, packaging, loading plans, galley planning and simply fitting everything on board. “A tremendous amount of work has been done to make our existing service concept fit the new smaller aircraft and to fit everything on board, such as food, beverages, glasses and trays,” says Öholm. “The key to our success has been close collaboration.”

Teamwork

As Head of Onboard Product and Services, Öholm has separate teams working with food, beverage, packing plans, loading and logistics. His teams work closely with each other and with the SAS interior design teams that are also part of the Product and Service department, as well as cabin crew operations.

“We have overcome the logistical challenges through a very good collaboration between all these different, but very important areas,” he explains. “You have to work very closely and understand the different challenges and needs from the different departments. And by doing this we have been able to make the necessary adjustments needed, to present the high level of service and comfort that that we have set as a standard for our international flights.”  

New procedures

One of the adjustments that has been made for the A321LR is the service procedure. “There is one aisle instead of two, so we need to establish a new way of presenting and delivering the experience to the customer,” says Öholm. “And it is super important to make a really good work area for the staff on board to be able to deliver a good service. We also don’t have a big space for the buffet area on the A321LR, but by locating it in a different place and decorating it differently, we’ve managed to retain the buffet with the same products.”

Presenting a hot sandwich instead of a cold one for the second serving in Go is another adjustment that has been made to ensure that the original service concept that was implemented some years ago and optimized towards the needs of customers is retained. But most of the adjustments are in terms of procedure and packaging. “If you fly the wide-body or the narrow-body version you will have a first serving, and a second serving,” Öholm says. “The overall feeling and the overall content of the service presented to the customer will be the same.”

Through their work over the years on other SAS aircraft, Öholm says that they have fine-tuned the process. “This is something we have being doing now for a long time,” he adds. “But this project has been fun as well as challenging. It has been a unique experience to deliver three service classes on this type of single aisle aircraft. And we are very proud that from an interior design side, and a customer experience side, in terms of the service that we will provide, we have achieved the same high service level ambition that our customers are used to. I think we really managed to implement what we successfully did for the A350.”

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