Reader Question: SAS Plane Swap To Charter Aircraft?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader dropped me an email about situation with SAS. The airline advertises that all their aircraft are in “refreshed business class”.

Reader Question SAS Old Cabin

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Here’s the email from the reader:

I wondered if you could share some advice on a recent SAS flight. The SAS website is covered in the new upgraded fleet of herringbone Business class and the services that match it. This was one of the reasons I decided to book this to Chicago. I reserved my seat and even until boarding the seats was still honoured (and showing the herringbone layout) according to the app.

When I entered the aircraft I quickly realised this was an old plane with a 2-2-2 configuration for business. I asked the staff why the change and they stated it was a charter aircraft last minute due to a technical issue. As a result we did not have lie flat beds, I had no privacy as instead of a single seat I had a guest next to me and moreover, he has been upgraded as the cabin did not offer premium economy so they had all been upgraded!

In addition to the seats, there was no bar offering due to the layout, the toilets were shared and basic and other items could not be offered such a bean to cup coffee (due to the aircraft not having the equipment).

Can you advise if I have chance of any compensation? I know the regulations under EU261; however, I am coming this more from an angle of what is advertised and what I purchased Vs what I received. The SAS website clearly states all aircraft have been upgraded so I feel they changed the offering significantly and did not give customers a chance to review their booking. There were quite a few business ticket holders upset (and to be honest the staff were not happy with the aircraft either!).

I received the featured email the day after the reader had sent me the email above. It is clear that SAS advertises that ALL of their aircraft are equipped with the refreshed business class seats.

Seems that, although all their aircraft are equipped with these new seats, those don’t always operate the flights. SAS here states that due to technical issues they had decided to use charter aircraft.

It is obvious that SAS in is breach of contact here. The issue is how to get them to pony up some Eurobonus points or cash as a compensation.

The reader should contact SAS customer relations and ask fair amount of Eurobonus as a compensation. The reader’s name suggests that he may live in the US. Then the small claims court could be the correct avenue in case he wishes to get cash instead.


Airlines tend to keep the right to substitute the aircraft the best way they see fit regardless of the marketing promise made.

It is truly annoying to choose something that is 1-2-1 configured (each has direct aisle access) to 2-2-2 configuration that are still prevalent.

British Airways used to offer set compensation for those that had to endure their old first class. Perhaps SAS some compensation scheme in place as well? Never hurts to ask.

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  • Matt

    I had a similar experience last year with SAS from Newark. I was however flying on a bonus ticket and had some other issues with poor service. I received a full refund of all the bonus points for myself and my travel companion so definitely worth contacting SAS.

  • Jon Veel

    Different airline but similar issue with Finnair at christmas when our flight HEL-JFK and back was substituted with a HiFly (?) A340 sporting an elderly SriLankan airlines interior. Managed to get 100Euro per pax voucher to offset on future flight. More of a grudging gesture rather than any real compensation but still better than nothing and at least no harm in asking….

    • Did Finnair inform you about this change before? You actually had a right to cancel the ticket if the operating airline changed per laws in the EU.

      They have had these substitutes especially to the US. You could have asked them to rebook you on non direct services as well.

      • Jon Veel

        Yes they informed us in advance. I did look at changing flights but at the end of the day, a direct flight was still preferable to us than the extra time and tedium of a transit…

  • Fred

    As far as I know there is no set amount of “compensation by law”. I think the first step would be to write to SAS Customer Care and let them know what would be a fair compensation in your opinion.
    They are usually pretty good and also very responsive and I am confident they would give you something, which in my opinion would also be just fair.

  • BatSheva

    The advice given is honestly just the basic 1, 2, 3 of what to do. Be interested to see SAS response. Shame there is no “Freedom of Information” provision with airlines to see how often they do this. Sounds a little strange that there was a charter aircraft instantly available with no pre-planning. A voucher to use on future travel is certainly not a fair resolution in a case like this.