SAS to charge for soft drinks in longhaul economy… sort of

In what has to be one of the more puzzling moves by an airline in recent memory, SAS will be charging for drinks in longhaul economy between meal services as of October 1, 2012. Interestingly the only article about it so far is in Norwegian, and can be found here. Per Google Translate, it roughly translates to English as follows:

It results when the airline is now changing its dining concept on long routes.

The new concept will be more efficient for the airline, and will involve a weight savings. But first and foremost it will be better for passengers, promises information manager Knut Morten Johansen of SAS to VG Nett.

He explains the concept of the economy as follows:

* Passengers will have three units with drinks at mealtimes on long routes, ie six units total.

* The units are twice as large, 0.33 liter instead of 0.15 liters.

* Passengers will also get free bottled water and free water refills. Also coffee and tea are free.

* Between meals the planes have a better selection of snacks for sale. Then, too soft cost savings, 20 million for a soft drink.

Thus he asks himself totally unable to understand NTBs version of news at the site takeoff.dk that soda will no longer be free. Also AP published this case.

– You will be able to get two bottles of wine with dinner and a cognac for drinks. Or one liter of soda or beer for every meal. Normally, passengers will be quite well equipped, says Johansen.

In the short routes will be no change.

The new guidelines for serving drinks is determined by the SAS headquarters in Stockholm, reports the Copenhagen newspaper Politiken.

So let me make sure I understand this. You’re serving passengers up to three drinks with each of their meals, and if they want anything except water, coffee, or tea between meals they’ll have to pay (~$3.50USD for soda)? And of course the most important thing we learned is that this “will be better for passengers.” Crickey, please tell me something is lost in translation there!

I could point out the ridiculousness of this all day long, though I’ll simply ask one question — how the heck are you going to keep track of how much of their three beverage allotment 195 passengers have used? Seems like a lot more trouble than it’s worth…

Comments

  1. SAS consider this to be an “insignificant change”, Therefore they have not communicated this proactively.
    They just sent a note to the travel agencies 4 days before the change was implemented. Website also change, without any proactive communication of change.
    The story on got to 5 different Danish news papers because an employee from a travel agency tip off the news papers.

    @AJ, yes drink chits will be handed out onboard to passengers.

    Was is even more noticable is that all media fuss is around the changes in Economy – However, Business Class is also seeing a lot of reduction in service.

  2. The way I read the example you can get 2 wines and cognac with first meal, followed by enjoying water/tea/coffee for other meals. Alternatively, one soda/juice drink for each of the three meals. Everything else is extra.

    At best this is… odd. Are in-between meal drink requests that much of a cost?

  3. I’m wondering how this will translate to a weight savings. After all, the amount a person drinks on a given flight is essentially constant for that person (though coffee, soda, and alcohol are dehydrating, so I guess that could make a difference; also milk, because metabolizing protein is dehydrating, and juice as the same is true for metabolizing sugars more complex than glucose). At best, it may reduce over-catering for certain kinds of drinks — instead of 48 x and 64 y, they can carry 32 x and 48 y and about half the difference in plain water.

  4. @deirde
    The elasticity of the soft drinks has to be fairly elastic. People are way more prone to request drinks they don’t really need if they are free. Make it far too expensive and people won’t go overboard as they may now, not having to cater for that will save weight/fuel/money and what few people buy more drinks will bring in even more revenue.

  5. “Lost in translation” between Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, is very likely with anything SK.

  6. Na-a-ah!

    Keeping track of drinks consumed will be simple. Each flight attendant will carry a marker pen. Each time you get one of your allotted drinks they will write a check mark on your forehead.

    Three checks and… No drink for you!!

    It’s all there in the Swedish version.

  7. This is so typical of SAS. In the early 2000’s they charged people 10kr/$2 for a pair of head phones on intercontinental flights.

    Are all their managers excel sheet monkeys that have no absolutely no business sense?

    Let’s see how long this lasts. Usually there things last a year or two before they realize they messed up.

  8. I fly mainly SAS – being Danish, it’s really the only option – especially domestic.

    On long-haul alcholic beverages has always been a chargable extra between meals, but free at meal-time. I almost never drink alcohol, so I don’t know the rules, but I do see people ordering wine, beer and a drink at meal time.

    Now, I completely agree this is a bad move. SAS is pushing as a “all-inclusive” air-line. Free checked-bags etc. A “cheap” return ticket from Denmark to NY, would cost 800USD, now we are discussing a few extra $ for a drink.

    People will just start ordering their full allowance at meal time, and actually not drink them.

    One thing I liked about SAS is free candy and drinks between meals – well, not something I knew I liked, you newer know what you love until it is gone.

  9. at .333 liters per serving, the easy answer that would save them the most money would be to give everyone a 1 liter drink at each meal.

  10. Nothing bugs me more than when businesses claim that something is done to benefit the customer, when it’s really done for the business’s benefit. A few weeks ago I was at a small restaurant in South Beach where there were signs on the wall that said “to better serve our customers, we only accept one credit card per table.”

  11. Not surprising. I often fly SAS on short flights around the Nordics. Its always very expensive and they even charge you for water on these short flights… not sure where all inclusive is coming from.

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