Leaving Sweden and Schengen: SAS to Split

Departing from Arlanda to Split this morning, heading back to Croatia totally unexpectedly. I always appear to make last minute decisions but they’re usually backed up by some lengthy planning. This time however, extensive planning lead a careful weighting of options that were quickly wiped away as I booked in the moment.

For the past couple weeks I’ve again struggled to decide what and where next. Although it is comfortable to stay somewhere so familiar, the situation has complexities and it was time to leave Uppsala. The overarching plan was to go to eastern Europe to explore new places and it is rather more cost effective. In the past few days three choices dominated:

  1. Flying to Riga/Tallinn/Vilnius, with the goal to get to Vilnius then beyond
  2. Take a train to Malmö, maybe the night train or a last minute student special
  3. Fly to Düsseldorf and then train back to Utrecht. Air Berlin had cheap direct flights. I figured it was a new route because I would have noticed it previously – turns out they started it only a week ago!

Well between having bikes and some unsold items I was sort of stuck so figured the train would be better. Figured I could combine things, go to Malmo then head to Vilnius, Wizz Air had a direct flight from about €10 and 25% off through the phone app, so came close to booking that. But at the end everyone I was considering visiting is finishing a thesis or busy so not the best time to visit. So late last night I’m looking at flights to the Baltics, only Riga is cheap, and it’s today or not at all. Using Google Flights I’m looking at cheap fares on Air Baltic or SAS at similar times for the 45 minute flight. Air Baltic price is wildly wrong but SAS did have a huge discount on the morning flight including SAS Plus for an extra 300kr/€30, not bad for lounge access, an extra bag, onboard food and priority (they charge a similar amount for the lounge and much more for the bag separately). So I’m set, ready to book and weary of having to sleep very soon for the early wake up. But then a last look at the map and notice the SAS flight to Split is the exact same price. That’s like 4x further and puts me around several places I never got to visit. After weeks of planning it all changes in a minute, I’m booked and with a slightly later check-in am able to get at least a reasonable sleep.

Check-in

At the time of booking I was offered free seat selection which included an entire exit row. I was able to check-in immediately and had a few more seat choices but stuck with the exit row. In the morning at Arlanda, it’s all self-service so fairly efficient. Although personally I remain indifferent toward labelling your own bag. Being half lazy, half smart alec, I left the two priority tags (Star Alliance & oneworld) from the prior flights on. Not like they can hurt.

Because of the low booking class, it wouldn’t earn on Singapore Krisflyer. I initially put in my Turkish number in. Aegean was also going to be an option but figured I should send to Asiana this time. Although the digital boarding pass had OZ the airport printed one had TK on it… staff were too few and busy to be able to change it so shall see who it credits to. Update: it hit my OZ account. Both online and and self-serve check-in offered lounge access for 199 SEK (approximately €20), which is less than it’s meant to be (250 kr), maybe dynamically priced based on expected capacity. At this price it is a steal by itself, a meal will cost 100-150 alone. I arrived close to cut off so there was little chance to visit the SAS lounge anyway.

I can’t believe it’s not Schengen

When I checked the gate… I only just remembered Croatia is outside of Schengen… honestly I forget are and are not sometimes on the east side. So through passport control for yet another stamp. Had a brief conversation before he noticed my passport was full and told me politely to get a new one. Joy.

Non-Schengen Arlanda Corridor

Beyond passport control, Arlanda airport is pretty useless, there are a dozen or so gates along a narrow corridor with extremely few facilities. There is an airport managed lounge by most foreign airlines which I used previously when flying Emirates First Class to Dubai before onto LA. Otherwise there are just two small general shops and 3-4 bar/cafés.

Non-Schengen Arlanda Cafe

Non-Schengen Arlanda Bar

So general recommendation is not to go through until last minute. Although their marketing claims Stockholm to be the capital of Scandinavia flight routings suggest otherwise. Most traffic goes to Denmark and Stockholm remains very poorly connected which was often my complaint a couple years ago. Towards Asia, Thailand is your only choice. I certainly lamented missing out on the Kuala Lumpur – Stockholm – New York route dropped before I lived there.

I needed something to eat and without much choice tried the dumpling cart. Would be fair to say they were probably frozen supermarket ones. The soy sauce went into plastic shot glasses and the dipping sauces were all rather western: ingredients 1) water 2) sugar…

As Stockholm has few longhaul flights there was only one departing, directly opposite my gate. This was the month old direct SAS flight to LA. The difference couldn’t be greater, an entirely full gate with secondary security and very early boarding while mine was empty and unstaffed until 25-30 minutes prior. Mind you, we still beat them to departure…

SAS Flight to LA
SAS Flight to LA

Flight

Boarding was swift, the flight as expected was empty, approximately one third capacity. Like all their non-longhaul operations, SAS offer buy on board. It’s rather average admittedly this is why travel here is stupidly confusing. The SAS product is mostly the same, premium fares get free onboard food and priority, restricted fares pay extra for a checked bag. The low cost carrier Norwegian is often more expensive but has free wifi onboard. They both use narrow bodies just SAS use a mix of older and newer 737s. So low cost = better and more expensive *shrug*. Honestly if it wasn’t for their youth and student fares and alliance benefits I’d preference Norwegian.

SAS Split Pushback

So… Flight was comfortable, exit row to myself allowing me to write this up and stretch out a bit. Had a decent amount of change in the cash bag from when I visited Zagreb. Otherwise it was all completely forgettable yet again.

SAS Split Cabin

Arriving

It’s a small but sufficient airport, no aerobridges. Of all days to fly here from Sweden I have to pick the one where Sweden is sunny and warm and it’s a London grey with slight drizzle here.

SAS Split Lovely Weather

So the priority tags worked! My bag came out first. I’m laughing at this but it probably had no effect. They don’t help at all normally, at least on these narrow body flights where luggage is thrown into the hold and not container-ed.

As per online advice, the poorly scheduled shuttle bus departed some hour later but I was in no rush. The airport is quite far away from Split itself, but the bus takes you to the train/bus/ferry terminal. My first thought on arriving was thank goodness no more expensive food.

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