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Cheapo Flight Insider: A Tale of four airlines

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The view from here...photo by Alex Robertson Textor
The view from here...photo by Alex Robertson Textor

Two weeks in the Nordic countries visiting friends in familiar cities and discovering new territory required me to rely heavily on airplanes as well as trains to get around.

I took five flights during my trip: Stockholm to Helsinki; Helsinki to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to the Faroe Islands; Faroe Islands to Copenhagen; and Copenhagen to Stockholm. All but the final of these flights was unavoidable, scheduling-wise. During the last stretch I badly wanted to take the train, but logistics and pricing got in the way.

All in all, the packed itinerary yielded four airlines I’d never encountered before—one regional airline, two legacy airlines, and one low-cost airline. Here are my reviews.

Flight #1: Stockholm to Helsinki
Airline: Blue1

SAS subsidiary Blue1 is a regional airline with a dense route map covering Finland. The total experience is pretty humdrum. Notable dimensions of the experience included the offer of little candies from a basket at the close of the flight and a good in-flight magazine, which featured interesting articles on Helsinki allotment gardens and a  unique lighthouse accommodation along the Finnish coast. There was a free drink service but no snack is served on board.

Cost of one-way ticket: 739 SEK (about $95) purchased on the Swedish version of the SAS site.

On-time? No. 45-minute delay.

Flight rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Flight #2: Helsinki to Copenhagen
Airline: Finnair

This Finnish legacy carrier runs a seriously well-designed ship, which has earned kudos for its routes to Asia and its overall brand. Of note was the rack of free newspapers on offer to guests—I plumped for Helsinki’s Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet—and the plush blue seats. Snack service consisted of a cheese and cucumber sandwich, a small cup of concentrated orange juice, and a tiny Mars candy. The in-flight magazine contained thoughtful stories on the Finnish town of Rauma, the Japanese lust for vintage Finnish design, and Finland’s Valamo Monastery, the only Orthodox monastery in the Nordic countries.

Cost of one-way ticket: $111, purchased through Orbitz.com.

On-time? Yes.

Flight rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Flight #3: Copenhagen to the Faroe Islands (roundtrip)
Airline: Atlantic Airways

This air carrier faces no competition on its routes, which in high season connect the Faroe Islands’ Vagar international airport with Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and the UK. The airline, sadly, lacked personality. A snack was served in a big paper bag. It consisted of a bland ciabatta sandwich and a single wrapped Fazer mint. The in-flight magazine is very glossy. Perks of note: Danish and Faroese newspapers draped over seats and the drinks cart, which materializes with unexpected regularity and dispenses hard liquor free of charge. Bummer of note:  A stopped-up toilet on the Copenhagen-Faroes route.

Cost of roundtrip ticket: $404, purchased on the Atlantic Airways Web site.

On-time? Yes.

Flight rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Flight #4: Copenhagen to Stockholm
Airline: Norwegian Air

Norwegian Air Shuttle—these days more often referred to as “Norwegian”—is a quietly successful airline. Branded as a budget airline, Norwegian indeed offers some very reasonable advance fares. Norwegian doesn’t destroy passengers with arbitrary charges, either. With other European low-cost airlines charging for all sorts of things like checking in at the airport and checked baggage, Norwegian’s free 20 kg baggage allotment felt like a gift. Nothing on board is free, of course. The in-flight magazine is written in uneven English, though it contained a few items of note: a short article suggesting that passengers use their mobile telephones to check in for flights, DJ Rune Lindbaek’s tips for Oslo visits, and an overview of Swedish landscape architect Ulf Nordfjell’s oeuvre.

Cost of one-way ticket: €44 (about $62), purchased on wegolo.

On-time? Yes.

Flight rating: 3 out of 5 stars

About the author

Alex Robertson Textor

About the author: Alex Robertson Textor is a London-based travel writer and editor. He has written for Rough Guides, the New York Times, and Public Books, among other publications; he also guided the tablet magazine Travel by Handstand to two SATW Foundation Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards. With Pam Mandel, he writes copy and generates ideas as White Shoe Travel Content. He is on Twitter as @textorian and maintains his own blog, www.alexrobertsontextor.com.

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