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

 

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When SAS had a fare sale for travel during winter 2020, Dr. J and I had no option but to break out the credit cards and snap up some $250 tickets from Chicago to Helsinki, Finland. I am what you might call an Auroraphile (yup thats totally a made-up word). This means that I am fascinated by the Northern Lights, aka the Aurora Borealis. I was luckily enough to catch a glimpse of them a few years ago when my son and I went to Tromso in the north of Norway and see even more of them when a few years later we went to Iceland and Kiruna, Sweden. But it had been a few years since my last aurora sighting and a cheap fare to Scandinavia meant another chance for me to hunt those light down. This time around I convinced my brother to come with two of his children and I decided to bring our mom and my middle daughter. The next question was where to go? I had ticked Iceland, Norway, and Sweden off of the list so Finland seemed like the next place to check out. A bit of research and we opted for a little town in the north of Finland named Saariselka which meant flying to the city of Ivalo, the gateway to northern Finland. With our cheap SAS tickets to Helsinki in hand, we had decide between flying Norwegian or Finnair from Helsinki to Ivalo. Well, cheap was the trend of the trip so we decided to book with Norwegian. As an aerophile, this was the obvious choice because I’m not sure Norwegian will be around for the long-haul (yes, crappy pun intended!).

 

CHICAGO (O’HARE)-STOCKHOLM (ARLANDA):

  • Airline: SAS-Scandinavian Airlines
  • Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
  • Registration: LN-RKR
  • Flight distance: 4,398 miles
  • Flight duration: 7 hours and 46 minutes.
  • Class, seat: Economy, seat 30A
  • 746th flight overall
  •  5th flight on Scandinavian Airlines

 

Our flight path from O’Hare to Stockholm.

 

A 16:25 departure meant that we got to O’Hare’s terminal 5 a bit after 2 PM on this dreary winter afternoon.

 

These empty check-in desks didn’t bode well for the load factor on tonight’s flight to Stockholm.

 

Check-in was quick and with the earlier departure time, we largely missed the TSA rush. We got to gate M12 60-minutes before the scheduled departure time.

 

Yeah, I’m trying to get a bit fancy with my photography skill. You like? Our 2015 build Airbus A330-300 was waiting to speed us across the North Atlantic.

 

I took advantage of earlier boarding thanks to my Star Gold status. The SAS cabin design is clean if not a bit monotoned and boring.

 

Every Economy class seat had a pillow, blanket, and a bottle of water waiting on it. Nice touch SAS! I opted for row 30, the first row behind Premium Economy. This meant tons of legroom, check it out in my video trip report!

 

Deuces baby, next stop, the Finnish Lapland (well after Stockholm, and Helsinki, but you get the point).

 

The venerable Queen of the sky, a British Airways Boeing 747-400 bound for London Heathrow was at the adjacent gate.

 

Proof of life…definitely on a SAS Airbus A330-300.

 

Clearly Dr. J was ready for takeoff! I’ve got mad selfie..er…usie skills. Is usie even a term? Kids these days!

 

The dark pink mood lights were set as we pushed back from gate M12.

 

After a 10-minute taxi to the threshold of the runway, a powerful (well A330 powerful anyway) takeoff had us on our way to Stockholm!

 

Two of my favorite things. Wing-flex and my sweet hometown Chicago (well the Chicago suburbs)

 

Our journey started with us crossing Lake Michigan.

 

An afternoon departure flying east in February meant the sun was soon setting.

 

The mood lights were set to dusk as the diner service started.

 

I went for the chicken which came with wild rice, green beans, a salad, and a dinner roll. The meal was definitely above average for an Economy class airline meal.

 

After watching the movie Judy and finishing dinner, lights were out as we started our North Atlantic crossing.

 

With the decent legroom at seat 30A, I was able to stretch out and get a few hours of okay sleep. About 90-minutes before landing, the magenta mood lights meant it was time for “sunrise” and a continental breakfast.

 

SAS’s breakfast was more plentiful than what US carriers usually offer. Breakfast included a ham sandwich, chilled fruit, yogurt, and orange juice.

 

The “sunrise”, by way of the mood lighting, progressed as we descended towards Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.

 

Our early morning arrival meant that the sun wasn’t even up when we touched down at Arlanda airport.

 

After a long taxi, we parked next to the recently arrived A330 from Newark.

 

I checked out the Premium Economy product as we disembarked.

 

Check out our flight video from Chicago to Stockholm right here!  Don’t worry, we have another link for all of the flight videos at the end of this blog, so feel free to keep on reading.

 

STOCKHOLM (ARLANDA)-HELSINKI (VANTAA):

  • Airline: SAS-Scandinavian Airlines
  • Aircraft: Canadair CRJ-900
  • Registration: EI-FPJ
  • Flight distance: 273 miles
  • Flight duration: 44 minutes.
  • Class, seat: Economy, seat 9A
  • 747th flight overall
  •  6th flight on Scandinavian Airlines

The route taken by our CRJ-900 for the short hop from Stockholm to Helsinki.

 

I really liked the aesthetic of Arlanda airport. It felt wide open, clean, and modern.

 

We had a long layover in Stockholm (5 1/2 hours) before our flight to Helsinki. The time went by just as quickly as you would imagine with three kids whose bodies thought it was the middle of the night. But eventually, we headed over to gate F34 where our CRJ-900 was waiting for the quick hop to Helsinki.

 

Our CRJ-900 had a pretty quick turn after arriving from Riga.

 

Boarding started about 30-minutes before departure and no gate meant that we had a walk down the stairs and across the apron. Legroom was typical CRJ meh but for a 40-minute flight, who cares?

 

We pushed off the gate right on time and made our way to the runway.

 

We took off into a clear sky and made a quick hop over the Gulf of Bothnia.

 

In-flight service was quick and…

 

in Economy class meant a glass of still water.

 

After 44-minutes aloft, we had a smooth touchdown at Helsinki’s Vantaa airport.

 

Check out our flight video for SK708 from Stockholm to Helsinki. We have included links to all three flight videos at the end of this blog so just keep on reading!

HELSINKI (VANTAA)-IVALO:

  • Airline: Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
  • Registration: EI-FJZ
  • Flight distance: 592 miles
  • Flight Duration: 1 hour and 32 minutes.
  • Class, seat: Economy, seat 7F
  • 747th flight overall
  •  1st flight on Norwegian Airlines

Route taken by our Norwegian 737-800 for the last leg north up to Ivalo.

 

We made our way from terminal 1 to terminal 2 where Norwegian Airlines operates at Vantaa airport. Norwegian Airlines was completely self-service from check-in (at common-use kiosks) to boarding pass printing, to bag tagging.

 

Our flight operated from gate 23B which in a dungeon. Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic but you had to reach this gate area by going downstairs from the main level and the waiting space was crowded and tiny. Our last flight boarded about 45-minutes late and after a bus ride and a walk across the apron, we were greeted by….

 

this beautiful Norwegian 737-800 and this night sky.

 

Not a fan of carrying luggage up and down stairs but c’mon, who doesn’t like boarding a plan using airstairs?

 

The legroom on Norwegian’s 737-800 was sufficient for a short-haul flight but the thought of flying these for a flight over 3-hours would definitely give my inner claustrophobe an anxiety attack.

 

Proof of life, we were definitely on board a Norwegian 737-800.

 

We pushed off of the gate an hour behind schedule and had a long taxi to the active runway.

 

The mood was definitely set by the blue lighting, next stop the arctic north of the Finnish Lapland.

 

Chau Helsinki! Rocketing up north!!

 

The Norwegian 737 cabin feels nice and modern. In-flight service consisted strictly of a buy onboard service.

 

I didn’t give the wifi a whirl but it is nice that it is offered on a low-cost carrier.

 

No competing traffic meant that we had a quick descent and landing. Ivalo airport kind of felt like it was on the edge of the earth. Just black sky and white snow.

 

My first Norwegian flight was actually pretty good and I wouldn/t hesitate to give Norwegian a try in the future. Yup, we are in the arctic north.

 

Welcome to Ivalo, Finland!

 

Here’s the crew after our 22-hour journey. Northern Lights, here we come!!

 

Check out our video blog for our flight from Helsinki to Ivalo.

Check out our video blog for our flight from Stockholm to Helsinki RIGHT HERE!

Check out our video blog for our flight from Chicago to Stockholm RIGHT HERE!

Hunt the Northern Lights with us in the Finnish Lapland.

Check out the unique Finnish town of Saariselka

Be sure to check out our website www.TwinDoctorsTV.com and please connect with us on all of our social media outlets at TwinDoctorsTV.

 

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