Saturday, March 27, 2010

SAS, Arlanda, and Incompetence – A Match Made in Stockholm

And we’re back. I’ve been traveling. Decided it was a good idea to escape to the good old US of A for a while. He sun was shining, it was warm, and it took about half an hour before my poor Nordic skin was fried. The cul de sacs that once held hair have since turned a nice scaly consistency with bits of skin flaking off on a regular basis. And yes, I am still single. Weird, I know.

I even managed to be around for one of those historic moments what with the health care bill passing last Sunday. Followed by threats by various state lawmakers to sue the federal government. Lawsuits… it’s the American way.

But the trip was short lived and I returned to Sweden. Via Arlanda. The worst airport in the entire world. This time, I actually left the country without any issues and I avoided my arch nemesis Mikael, the infamous SAS employee. And I almost made it into the country without any issues. Almost.

Instead, I stood at the baggage claim carousel waiting for my bag to arrive. And I waited. And the bags kept coming. And mine did not. So I waited some more. And finally the bags stopped coming. And so I stopped waiting.

I headed over to SAS’s (of course it was SAS, the worst airline I have ever flown with out of the worst airport) claims desk. There was one person working the desk as I and five other people converged on the counter. There were four in the back room. Two of which I could see standing around drinking coffee. Eventually another woman joined the man working the counter.

We all dutifully, in that way that you learn to do in Sweden, grabbed our nummerlapp and immediately milled about waiting for the sign to light up with our number. Eventually mine lit up. I began filing my claim for missing luggage. Boarding pass. Full flight information. Description of suitcase. As I was describing the color of my bag, an Arlanda employee came up to the desk and explained that, oops, some of the luggage from Newark was mistakenly put on the carousel for the flight arriving from Chicago. Maybe my bags were there. Yes. Maybe.

He mounted his little scooter that they ride at Arlanda and drove away to get the bags. I waited patiently. After having traveled for about 18 hours and waited for luggage in over an hour, patiently is a euphemism for dead tired and unable to think straight.

Our friendly Arlanda employee arrived, my bag in tow. I was one of six lucky people on a flight where I could reach out and kick six people in my general vicinity from Newark to Stockholm to have their bags placed on the wrong carousel.

I know mistakes happen. There are hundreds of thousands of bags that go through the airport. Some are bound to be misplaced. But at some point, I just want to make it through a round trip ticket involving a stop in Arlanda without problems. One can only hope.

Welcome to Sweden. And the incompetence that is Arlanda airport.

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  1. Really, it's that bad?
    I went there a few days ago with easyjet. Had no problems whatsoever; I got my bag in a timely manner and the flight actually arrived earlier. And on the way back, I had no delays at all.
    The only thing I disliked is the train's price to get to the center of the town. It's more expensive than a cab, and you don't really save a lot of time.

  2. This is weird... I think Arlanda is the best airport. I can't stop comparing other airports to the greatness of Arlanda. Never had a problem there and I never had a problem with SAS either.

  3. Air France is worse than SAS - much worse.

  4. I've never had any problems either with SAS or Arlanda, everything has gone smoothly every time I'm there. Air France/KLM on the other hand is like a joke. They always keep forgetting bags in Amsterdam, like EVERYTIME. It's pretty amazing actually. One time my bag was even on it's way to Japan or something when I was heading to the US. That was fun...

  5. Arlanda is after all pretty decent most of the time. It isn't an exceptional airport, and service given is pretty cold (but efficient). What bugs me the most about the airport though is how long it takes to get one's luggage back. That's happened almost everytime I've flown in to ARN. But transport communications to and from the airport (into Stockholm) are excellent (with varied prices) even compared to many major airports in North America (incl. Toronto, LAX).

  6. Can't recall any specific Arlanda incidents but howling at your hairy sunburn :-)

  7. Haha, I feel ya. I flew in yesterday (coincidentally from Chicago) and everything went fine on my part, except that the SAS plane seats are EXTREMELY uncomfortable, but maybe that goes for all planes. It's my first time in Europe so I'm still a little culture shocked but I'm getting over it quickly. I marvel at how well dressed everyone here is and was very amused by the scooters the airport people had.

    Anyway, back to my Arlanda incident.

    So my cousin flew in from the American east coast and I'm pretty sure most of her flight lost their luggage. It was found earlier today, but it's still pretty bad. XD

  8. KLM is the worst of the bunch. When I went to Romania they lost my luggage in Amsterdam, twice. Once going to Romania and the second time going back to Sweden.

  9. many non european dislike arlanda
    but havnt heard many europeans complain to much about it if you compare to alot of other airports in europe/usa.

    can it bee that due to Americans customer care and that kind of things is handled differently in europe then in usa they easier dislike the place as soon as there is a problem?
    and the time is ticking away.

    i have never had any problem with customer care and i think arlanda are great and never had any problems with that airport in my life yet.

  10. I have long quit SAS because of this:

    ....and a friend of mine visited me from Finland with SAS. Her flights her and back to Finland were each delayed 3 hours, resulting her sleeping at the airport when she went back to Finland because she missed the last train home

  11. This is all just aprt of my one man crusade to bankrupt SAS and move Stockholms international hub from Arlanda to Skavsta.

    @Atlantean – yeah, me and Arlanda we don’t really get along.

    Im confused though, the train only costs 240 SEK for a one way adult ticket into town. A taxi costs 450 SEK. The train takes 20 minutes. A taxi takes at least 45 minutes.

    @Ewa – I can’t seem to fly out of Arlanda without having something go wrong. Delays. Bags. Ticket issues. And once, blatant lies by a SAS employee.

    @Louise – I don’t think Ive ever flown Air France

    @anonymous – Japan and the US are almost in the same direction from Amsterdam.

    @anonymous – the luggage problem might be because they put bags on the wrong carousel.

    @SwedishJenn – Im glad my pain can bring you joy.

    @anonymous – Ive never understood how so much luggage can be lost from one flight.

    @Linus – that’s rough…

    @anonymous – its not just the customer care, although it is horrible, it’s the delays, the loss of luggage in the first place. I just never seem to have a problem free flight through arlanda.

    @the writer – Im not far behind quitting SAS. Unfortunately, getting to the US, so many of the fights originate with SAS flying from Stockholm.

  12. I flew twice to Sweden and back on SAS and of the four legs of the journey, my luggage was lost 3 times! 3 TIMES out of 4! No oops wrong carousel, just lost we'll get it to you when we can.

  13. I was wondering if the reason for not liking Arlanda is because when you get back to the US, you get used to everything being so well organized, that when you get back to Sweden everything seems more lazy, badly organized, less service-minded, just because you're not used to it anymore?
    You see what I mean?

  14. Yeah, that's true, but since I don't usually travel alone, I share the taxi, so as long as you're at least 2, you pay 225 SEK vs 240 SEK. If you're 3, it gets even cheaper. It's also true that the train is faster, but I'm not usually in a hurry when I'm on vacation. :) So, the taxi ends up being worth it.

  15. @Katherine - clearly SAS hates you.

    @Anna-Lena - I dont think so actually. Two of my worst experiences have been when leaving Sweden. Once when going to the US and once when going to Spain. But the trip to Spain takes the cake.

    @Atlantean - true, if youre splitting it definitely helps. Im a little bummed because now that Im 26 I have to pay the full adult price on the train instead of the youth. the youth price is hard to beat.

  16. You must be kidding about Skavsta, surely? It's a shit-hole!! I've had numerous problems and delays flying in and out of there...yet none from Arlanda. Lol...maybe Arlanda just doesn't like you :-D

  17. well I am kind of kidding about Skavsta, but I have never been delayed flying in or out of skavsta, and Ive never lost a bag.

  18. you have never flown with Olympic Airways...

    thank your lucky stars.

    and Arlanda is a great airport, even has a Starbucks now too. Its small and when I got back on Sunday, my bag was 3rd or 4th. I was out in a jiffy....

  19. Well this is very interesting to me as I'm planning my trip to Sweden. What is SAS and how can I avoid it? :)
    I was thinking of using KLM as the prices are pretty good, but is there a better airline then? The train sounds good to me, why would someone take a taxi over the train? I was told by a friend that flying into Copenhagen is cheaper, any ideas if that may be true? I'm flexible where I start my trip.

  20. I've never been through Arlanda, but I maintain that no airport can be worse than Charles de Gaulle with Oslo a close second.

  21. Oh Hairy! :) I've been to Newark several times and know, yes KNOW, that Arlanda is sooooo far from being the world's worst airport. In fact, I think I've been to many more airports than you (really though, that's just a guess), and coming to Arlanda is a relief every time. To be greeted by those hard wooden floors and just the...emptiness of it all - bliss!

    (And yes, your singleness is totally weird - agreed).

  22. @rhubarb - if starbucks is part of the criteria for being a great airport, there isnt an airport in the us that doesnt make the list.

    @juni - SAS is one of the big airlines that flies into Scandinavia. I dont really get along with them which is unfortunate because, well, they are one of the big airlines that flies into Scandinavia.

    copenhagen works if you are ok with traveling through southern sweden on your way to stockholm.

    @stacy - oslo? I think you are the first person I have ever heard to bad mouth oslos airport.

    @terander - I seriously can not make it through arlanda without having trouble. its become a damn comedy of errors at this point. maybe they hate that I use my passports so willy nilly when I walk through and they are punishing me. I will not be convinced that any airport is worse than Arlanda.

    and by the way, lets not make fun.

  23. I don't really understand your dislike for Arlanda!? I can't see that this is a typical Arlanda thing? I've been to several US airports that provides by far more horrible service then Arlanda. BUT I do agree with you about the ghastly services that the airlines provide! With Continental being the worst ever!

  24. so many people have told me that but I have never had worse service and worse luck than at arlanda. it blows my mind.

  25. I am going to disagree with you on SAS. I can't speak for Arlanda, as I've never had to travel from/to there. But. We recently flew Seattle/Dulles/Copenhagen and back. The Satac-Dulles flight was with United and 5.5 hours. No free food, and the pay food was out when they got to the back of the plane. No entertainment system at all going out, one film going back. Cramped plane. No free drinks other than water. The Dulles-Copenhagen was 7.5 hours, with SAS and included two full meals plus snacks and free non-alcoholic drinks. Spacious plane, nice flight attendants, full entertainment system with 10 radio channels, a bunch of movies and tv shows and games. Oh, and going out, both SAS and Skyways (for our tiny last flight) allowed United to check us all the way, while going back to the US, United blocked them from checking us, so we had to panic-run in Dulles to check in to ourflight in time. Verdict? Never flying United again unless I absolutely have to (also, never through Dulles.)

  26. Youre not alone in that verdict. Unfortunately, my experience says otherwise. Way too many times. Its a damn shame becuase so many people do like SAS, but SAS and I just dont get along.

  27. SAS lost my baggage. It has been two days, but I have not received any information about location of the bags and they seem to be missing. Do you think there is any hope to get them back? I am just really worried, cus practically my whole property was in those bags.

    Has anyones bags went missing for several days and then just popped up? This happened in a flight from Oslo to Sweden.

  28. yeah, my parents waited over four days but eventually got them. just keep after them.