81 Hours In Europe: Copenhagen SAS And Contract Lounges, And A Surprise Upgrade

Apologies for the relative lack of posts the past few days.  After returning from Europe I was getting caught back up on my day job and getting ready for Frequent Traveler University.  Here’s the latest in the Europe trip.  Hoping to finish this up over the next few days.

Previous Posts:

Having performed my epic fail on grabbing an earlier flight, I now had 3 hours to kill at Copenhagen Airport.  Since this was my first time at CPH, I decided to do a bit of exploring.  CPH has a very big footprint which makes it feel like a much bigger airport in terms of traffic than it actually is.  I walked through most of it and covered a ton of real estate with crowds in most places that I walked.  My initial impression before arriving at CPH was that it would be a medium-sized airport in terms of traffic.  After walking it my impression had changed a bit, so I looked up the stats.  In 2011, Copenhagen was ranked 62nd amongst all airports worldwide based on traffic of 22 million passengers.  That may seem like a lot but it’s about the same size as BWI (Baltimore-Washington) airport and a far cry from the almost 100 million that flow through Atlanta annually.  You’d never know it by some of the big birds hanging around, though (that’s Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Qatar in case you were wondering).

81 Hours In Europe

The airport was a pretty active place when I got there at 5;30 in the morning and only got busier.  The airport was exceedingly clean and well maintained.  Hardwood floors covered much of the terminal and were all in great shape.  The terminals were very bright and inviting.  Security was a breeze to navigate through Fast Track and I was left to wander the expansive terminal.  Before heading to the lounges I found plenty of duty free and lots of upscale shops and eateries.  Again, most of the retail items were pricey.

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On the far end of Terminal 2 (near the A gates) I found some pretty cool architecture.  For those traveling with families and without access to lounges, there is a large kids play area located above the entrance to the A gates.  It’s not very well marked so you’ll need to look carefully.  Lots of space, a ton of stuff to play with, something very welcome to those with long layovers looking to entertain children.

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My spin through the lounges was definitely a tale of two cities.  There was the SAS lounge as well as a new contract lounge called “The Apartment”.  We’ll start at the bottom and go up!  The Apartment is a contract lounge run by a private company on behalf of a number of airlines.  It’s right beside a lounge run by Novia, the same company that handles ticketing and check-in for British Airways and a number of airlines at CPH.  I actually thought I’d be headed into the Novia lounge and found that there was a joint check-in desk that leads me to believe they are run by the same company.  If you don’t have a lounge membership you can access The Apartment for 169 Danish Kroner, or about $30 USD.

At first blush, I’d say this isn’t worth it.  The food offerings were quite basic in the lounge and there wasn’t a ton of space.  Some pastries, yogurt, fresh fruit and cheese for food as well as entry level wine along with coffee, tea and soda are the offerings.  There’s free wifi and newspapers as well.  I can’t imagine a family traveling together could get $100 in value out of a visit here but I think a single traveler using a few of these services and wanting a quiet place to hang out could probably get to $30 in value.  When I was there the lounge was virtually empty with plenty of areas of private seating.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a great value. But, on a long layover I could see being able to squeak out enough value. At any rate, it was covered by British Airways based on my status, so I spent a few minutes taking pictures and was on my way.

IMG_5164Nokia lounge food display.

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The SAS lounge, on the other hand, was expansive and welcoming.  I’m a United 1K member which grants me Star Alliance Gold status for lounge access overseas but only when traveling on a Star Alliance carrier.  That meant I had no real way to gain access to the SAS lounge during this trip.  But, it never hurts to try!  I fumbled with my United 1K card and my United Club membership card and handed them to the lounge attendant.  She asked for my boarding pass and told me I didn’t have access today.  I explained to her that I was trying to catch an early flight home but wasn’t successful in doing so and thus had a long wait.  She took pity on me and made an exception to allow me entry.

This lounge was much more expansive than the contract lounges.  There were numerous different seating areas for private conversations, a children’s play area and even a room in the far back to catch a snooze.  The chairs in this room looked uncomfortable but were actually quite the opposite.  I only spent a few minutes lounging but I could see falling asleep on a long layover here.

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The food area was bright and inviting.  There wasn’t a ton of selection but what was there represented a much better quality of goods than the contract lounge.  Fresh juice, large blocks of cheese, beer and wine along with fresh pastries and bread all looked inviting and served as a good mid-morning snack.  It turns out Foursquare can be a helpful way to find friends, since I was knee deep in work on my laptop in the back of the club with headphones on when a bunch of friends from the NordicDO showed up in the lounge.  We definitely would have missed each other if not for them seeing my check-in and seeking me out.  I’m sure they had only gotten a couple hours sleep and most were on their way to Munich for Oktoberfest.  I’m sure I won’t remember the whole group but it was good to joke around a bit with Michael, Ben, Boris, Igor, Angelina and others.

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The lounge would be my final stop before heading to the gate at CPH.  On my way there I ran into another friend from the NordicDO, a guy who’s been on many of the previous MegaDOs.  We were chatting while he waited for a different flight and I learned that he travels about 900,000 miles a year.

Nine

Hundred

Thousand

Miles per year.  Yeesh.  I thought my 200K was a lot.  Anyways, I headed to the gate for my flight to LHR. I was in coach for this leg on British Airways.  I had booked a coach ticket but used SWUs (systemwide upgrades) I received for being an Executive Platinum member of the American Airlines AAdvantage program to upgrade the flights over the Atlantic.  However, with no status on British Airways I was to be stuck in coach for the two relatively short flights.  Not a biggie.  Except……

I wasn’t.  When I got to the gate my boarding pass got a loud set of beeps and a red light when it was scanned.  Usually an indication in the US that you’re in an exit row and the gate agent needs to ask if you feel up to the responsibility of exit row duties.  In this case, it was the much more palatable, “Oh, Mr. Pizza.  We’ve upgraded you to Business Class.”  They didn’t have a meal for me, which was a bit of a surprise and not a bit of surprise to me.

Since it was a last-minute upgrade, I’m certain they didn’t have the whole Business Class cabin catered because they didn’t expect it to be full.  My guess is that coach was full and they picked someone randomly (though maybe my oneworld status played a role) to get an upgrade.  I did confirm that coach was mostly full (either one or two empty seats), so my guess was that the flight was full, they upgraded me to sell another coach seat and then had a no-show.  In that respect, the upgrade does not come as a surprise.

It does come as a bit of surprise since I was refused boarding on a flight from Europe to the US on last year’s MegaDO going from London to Houston on United/Continental (iirc, it was a Continental flight) because they didn’t have any meals catered for me and thus weren’t allowed to board me.  I don’t profess to know the answer, but it’s possible that’s not an issue on a short intra-European flight.

I gladly took my seat with nobody sitting in the middle seat and promptly went off to sleep.  I woke up shortly before landing and had one of the cheeriest pursers I can remember in some time.  He offered me a meal, assumedly some other passenger was sleeping and passed on theirs.  I politely declined and he offered me a snack and a drink, which I also politely declined.  He finally wouldn’t let me say no to some cookies that he said were wonderful (and he was right).  He also made sure I had a Fast Track pass just in case I decided to clear security at arrivals and wander around outside for a bit.  Just a great customer service experience.

A short time later I was on the ground in Heathrow with just about 5 hours to kill assuming I couldn’t catch an earlier flight.  More on that soon….

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. It looks like you went in and turned right in that Novia lounge, not left. The part to the right is MUCH nicer and IME not so easy to get access to. Priority Pass definitely only allows access to the part on the left.

    And, yes, The SAS lounge is significantly better than either of them.

    1. I did turn right, but only after being directed by the gate keeper. I thought for sure they would tell me to turn left, which looked noticeably less appealing than the somewhat unappealing choice behind the door on the right.

  2. The right hand side of the Novia lounge is actually one of the nicer contract lounges in Europe used by BA… quiet, nice Tarmac views and a quite decent spread (mmmm meatballs and potato salad). Were you on a 767 for the return Ed? As I discovered on the way back that aircraft is prime for upgrades since they can’t position the divider south of row 7 in zone A – which means if they need to go to row 8 for Business Class this automatically means a minimum of just under three rows of upgrades if they can sell the Y space.

    1. Alex, I was on the new 777-300ER and pre-cleared a SWU a few days earlier. I agree the right-hand side of the Novia lounge is one of the nicest contract lounges I’ve ever been in. It’s fine, but certainly shouldn’t be a standard setter! Great seeing you!

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