Air travel these days is really better than ever. You fly to Stockholm from the U.S. east coast in about 7-8 hours. In 1946, flying time from Stockholm to New York on a DC-4 “Skymaster” was 27 hours (via Copenhagen, Prestwick and Gander). The price is about the same as 50 years ago, so why do we sometimes feel air travel never’s been worse?
Well, for one, the security check lines, which seem to have grown since their inception in the early years of the new millennium—and for good reason—can be a bit of a hassle. Also, the seats in economy class might actually be smaller now, and are the cushions getting thinner? Of course everything costs extra: bags, food, sometimes even seat assignments and carry-on luggage. When will we start using coins to use the bathroom?
More comfortable travel comes at a price. We recently checked the premium cabin of the other Scandinavian airline, Norwegian, after realizing a return trip to Scandinavia via SAS business class, which in spite of massage seats that convert into fully flat beds, was not for us. (It would set us back almost three times more than the fellow Scandinavian airline’s new Boeing Dreamliner aircraft’s premium offer, and besides, who can sleep in an airplane anyway?)

The premium cabin ticket at the time (it was the slow season at the end of February), was a little under $700 one way since we flew economy class— with one stopover in Oslo on the way out. The premium Norwegian ticket, and treatment overall, became a pleasant surprise: from checking in at separate counters, being able to check two bags, more privacy, space and comfort in a quiet cabin with premium food and service during the trip.
Right from the start at the terminal, Norwegian doesn't have the really, really long line of tourists and budget travelers (which we had seen going the other direction), underscoring why Norwegian, recently voted Value Airline of the Year by Air Transport Magazine, is the budget choice for many, not seldom surpassing its older colleague's passenger volumes on a monthly basis. Instead I breezed through to a separate counter, checked my two bags and received an invite to the Eventyr Lounge—a place to relax, enjoy a buffet and drinks and high speed WiFi prior to boarding.
The Dreamliner is a brand new airplane and the wider seats with footrests of the premium cabin, while not equipped with massage, allowed me at 6'4" enough room to comfortably relax while enjoying a couple hours of work, a couple hours of in-flight entertainment and a (yes) nice tasting three-course meal.

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I’ll admit there are advantages with flying SAS, which flies from Newark instead of JFK and has a huge variety of classes from business over plus, plus saver to several price levels called go (a new term for economy class), but there’s something compelling about making things simple, economy or premium, flex or not. SAS also belongs to Star Alliance, which gives you a wide range of alternatives if flights have to be cancelled or delayed, but the premium choice with Norwegian became a comfortable, relaxing experience and proof that a premium service doesn't have to break the bank. Try it next time.

Ulf Barslund Martensson
Fly Scandinavian: www.norwegian.com, www.flysas.com