Idries J. Abdur-Rahman, MD, FACOG
Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Travel Lover
TwinDoctorsTV

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Well, all good things must come to an end and the good thing that was our long weekend in the Finnish Lapland also had to come to an end. Our journey home was the reverse of our journey to Ivalo. We flew Norwegian from Ivalo to Helsinki, overnighted in Helsinki, and then flew SAS from Helsinki to Stockholm and onwards to sweet home Chicago.

 

Links for the flight videos will follow at the end.

FLIGHT #1: IVALO (IVL)-HELSINKI (VANTAA):

  • Airline: Norwegian Air Shuttle (Operated by SmartLynx)
  • Aircraft: Airbus A320
  • Registration: ES-SAP
  • Flight distance: 577 miles
  • Flight Duration: 1 hour and 29 minutes
  • Class, seat: Economy, seat 8A
  • 749th flight overall
  •  2nd flight on Norwegian Airlines (first on SmartLynx)

The route flown by our 2000 built Airbus A320. This aircraft spent time flying with BMI, SpanAir, SAS, TUI, EasyJet, VietJet, and Jet2 before landing with SmartLynx.

After exploring Saariselka one last time, we drove to Ivalo’s airport for a scheduled 7:20 PM departure to Helsinki.

Having already pre-paid for our luggage, check-in was quick and with boarding passes in hand, we made our way to gate 4 to wait for our tardy A320.

There just isn’t a lot of activity at Ivalo’s airport and what activity there is all seems to be headed towards Helsinki.

And speaking of heading to Helsinki, our A320 eventually showed up ready to jet us to Helsinki.

A Finnair Airbus A320 being de-iced before heading do to…you guessed it….Helsinki.

And here is out all-white Airbus operated by SmartLynx. Better late than never, huh?

The only thing I could think as we boarded was how impossible it would be to find this plane if it went down in the middle of the arctic nowhere!

SmartLynx Airbus A320s are arranged in an all-Coach layout. The seat pitch wasnt great but I didn’t expect much from an Estonian charter carrier.

Proof of life, welcome to SmartLynx!

An hour behind schedule, we were finally on our way to Helsinki. Bye-bye Ivalo!

The majority of the short 89-minute flight was through overcast skies but the moon did manage to peek out for a few seconds. Goodnight moon!

After a turbulent flight, we landed at Helsinki’s Vantaa airport a little after 10PM.

Welcome to Helsinki. The next stop was the Vantaa Hilton for a short night’s sleep.

Flight Review:

  • Experience/Total stars: 2.5 of 5 stars. Nothing special.
  • Check-in: 5/5- Checkin was quick, easy, and courteous.
  • Lounge: N/A-Didn’t visit the lounge on this leg.
  • Boarding: 1 out of 5- Despite paying for early boarding, we were boarded in the last group.
  • Seat: 2 out of 5- The seats were the typical firm, slimline seats and the legroom was subpar.
  • In-Flight Entertainment: 1 out of 5- The Norwegian inflight magazine and the window were the only forms of entertainment to be had.
  • Meals: 1 of 5- All snacks were buy-on-board. The selection was pretty good but everything was for purchase, even water.
  • Cabin Crew: 4 of 5- The crew was professional and courteous.
  • Cabin ambiance: 2 of 5- Boring seats, lack of color, or branding. Boring, boring, boring.
  • Cabin cleanliness: 5 of 5- Cabin was clean and presentable.
  • Price paid and value for money: 5 of 5- For $120 roundtrip, I have no complaints.
  • Thumbs up: Cheap price, unique airlines.
  • Thumbs down: Late departure and arrival.

 

FLIGHT #2: HELSINKI (VANTAA)-STOCKHOLM (ARLANDA):

  • Airline: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Aircraft: Airbus A320-neo
  • Registration: SE-ROR
  • Flight distance: 262 miles
  • Flight Duration: 42 minutes
  • Class, seat: Economy, seat 14A
  • 750th flight overall
  •  7th flight on Scandinavian Airlines

SE-ROR, a 2019 built Airbus A320-neo made the quick hop across the Gulf of Bothnia.

A butt-crack of dawn departure time (i.e. super early in the morning) meant no competition for checking in.

Our 7:30AM departure meant a 9:30 AM scheduled arrival in Stockholm.

Boarding was on time and my two little traveling companions were ready for take-off.

Hands down, the best mood lighting I’ve seen on an airplane.

We departed on-time and within minutes we were soaring high above the clouds greeting the morning sun!

Again, service was strictly buy-on-board with the exception of water. A bit chinsey but I guess I couldn’t complain for a 42-minute flight.

My ugly face only got water but my niece’s cute face got a free Coke. I should have taken it in the name of keeping her healthy and hydrated!!

Such a short flight time meant I really had to savor these beautiful views before…

we descended into a soupy, overcast Stockholm.

We landed an hour before our scheduled departure time for Chicago…

this meant we had to make haste once we got to the gate.

Flight Review:

  • Experience/Total stars: 2.5 of 5 stars. Average flight. Passable but not remarkable.
  • Check-in: 5/5- Checkin was quick, easy, and our bags were checked through to Chicago
  • Lounge: 4/5- Nice Scandinavian decor with a decent buffet selection.
  • Boarding: 5 out of 5- Boarded first thanks to Star Gold status.
  • Seat: 2 out of 5- Slimline, hard. What more to say?
  • In-Flight Entertainment: 1 out of 5- Nothing but the inflight magazine and the views at 35,000 feet.
  • Meals: 1 of 5- All snacks were buy-on-board. At least the water was free
  • Cabin Crew: 5 of 5- The crew was enthusiastic and efficient on this quick flight.
  • Cabin ambiance: 4 of 5- Some call it Scandinavian sheik but I like the bland SAS pallate.
  • Cabin cleanliness: 5 of 5- Cabin was clean and presentable.
  • Price paid and value for money: 5 of 5- We paid under $300 for the transatlantic roundtrip!
  • Thumbs up: Great price, ontime flight.
  • Thumbs down: No in-flight entertainment or complimentary service (except water)

 

FLIGHT #3: STOCKHOLM (ARLANDA)-CHICAGO (O’HARE):

  • Airline: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
  • Registration: LN-RKR
  • Flight distance: 4436 miles
  • Flight Duration: 8 hours and 36 minutes
  • Class, seat: Economy, seat 30A
  • 751st flight overall
  •  8th flight on Scandinavian Airlines

LN-RKR, the same A333 that brought us to Stockholm, took us back home to sweet home Chicago. I’m guessing strong headwinds forced us to take this northerly routing.

After going through the usual US pre-clearance, it was off to gate F58.

Cousin love, ready for the long journey home.

We pushed off of the gate five minutes early and were soon rocketing into the cloud covered skies above Stockholm.

Lunch was served once we reached our cruising altitude…

Free beverages were only offered with the first meal service. I went for a Coke (hard to find Pepsi’s on an airplane).

Not bad for an economy class meal…

Chicken, couscous, vegetables, salad, crackers, a roll, and a pre-packaged desert. Definitely above average for airplane food.

After lunch, most folks settled in for movies. Knowing that I had to take hospital call two hours after landing, I decided to cathc some ZZZ’s.

When I awoke we were about 75-minutes out of Chicago and a snack was being served.

No free beverages this time around, only a small apple juice.

I don’t know what exactly you would call this but it was actually pretty good. The bread reminded me of pita bread and it was filled with cheese.

We started our descent over Michigan and a few minutes after noon…

we touched down at O’Hare airport on a beautiful February afternoon.

The international rush hadn’t started at terminal 5 yet but…

I still managed to spy this beautiful Air India 777-300 preparing to head to Delhi.

Flight Review:

  • Experience/Total stars: 4.25 of 5 stars. Really good flight for Economy class.
  • Check-in: 5/5- Checkin was quick, easy, and our bags were checked through to Chicago
  • Lounge: N/A.
  • Boarding: 4 out of 5- Priority boarding was offered to those with Star Gold status but thanks to secondary screening, we were still late to board.
  • Seat: 5 out of 5- Row 30 is without a doubt the best Economy row on the SAS A330. Literally unlimited legroom.
  • In-Flight Entertainment: 3 out of 5- Seatback entertainment with an average selection.
  • Meals: 4 of 5- The quality and quantity was better than most international Economy class flights. WOuld have been 5 out of 5 if the second meal service had complimentary beverages on offer.
  • Cabin Crew: 4 of 5- The crew was efficient and courteous. Would have been 5 of 5 if the bathrooms remained clean during the flight.
  • Cabin ambiance: 3 of 5- Somehow the bland SAS palate doesn’t translate as well to widebodies.
  • Cabin cleanliness: 3 of 5- Cabin was clean, bathrooms were not.
  • Price paid and value for money: 5 of 5- We paid under $300 for the transatlantic roundtrip!
  • Thumbs up: Great price, on-time flight, good food.
  • Thumbs down: Dirty bathrooms and limited beverage service during the second meal.

 

Norwegian Air Shuttle (Operated by SmartLynx) Ivalo-Helsinki:

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) Helsinki-Stockholm:

 

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