‘Life is a journey – not a destination’

So claimed Ralf Waldo Emerson, one of America’s greatest essayists (b. 1803 —d. 1882). Whilst I have always subscribed to that philosophical thought, it was brought home to me in a very tangible way recently when I travelled from Dublin to Stockholm for a short break. I was travelling with SAS who are the national airline of Sweden, Norway and Denmark and they have recently introduced an innovation in their fare structure which I think is quite brilliant and which more travellers need to know about. Air fares have always been the bane of most travellers with their complex rules and regulations and which — for the most part — have always been designed to maximise revenues for each carrier. Scandinavian Airlines have taken a much more honest, egalitarian and transparent approach to such matters such that they now just have a two-tier pricing structure on all their fares within Europe: Go and Plus. ‘Go’ fares represent the lower, ‘no frill’s option which a lot of people are happy to purchase as they tend to rationalise that they’re only going to be on the aircraft for a few hours so they can endure any inconveniences that the fare level bestows. ‘Plus’ fares on the other hand offer a lot of extras — some of which apply even before you get on the plane — such as Fast Track, generous baggage allowance, free access to the executive lounge etc. On the plane, you get to sit up front, and enjoy on-board catering and even a bottle or two of perfectly respectable red and white wines (or bubbly even, if you have something to celebrate!)

My holiday, in effect, began the moment I dropped off my bags at Dublin airport. Having already checked in on-line and had the boarding card emailed to my mobile, I didn’t even need to bother with pieces of paper! Like most people, I hate queueing and the queues at Security in Dublin are getting longer every time I pass through the airport so imagine my delight when I walked straight through Fast Track and was able to deposit my valuables in a basket and get through Security in less than two minutes! The hour I had to spare before the flight was now spent in the tranquillity of the executive lounge in Terminal 1 where I was able to read the day’s papers; enjoy speedy Wi-Fi and have a respectable lunch until a few minutes before the flight started boarding. Now you might think that such ‘extras’ cost me an arm and a leg but the truth of the matter is that the difference between ‘GO’ and ‘PLUS’ fare levels can often be as little as €50 or €60 per person on top of what is already an extremely competitive fare so to me it was a no-brainer.  I arrived at my destination relaxed, stress-free and looking forward to what the rest of the day had in store for me. It also meant that I had something positive to look forward to on my return journey home which only accentuated the sense of travelling first class!

Scandinavian Airlines are not a small company. They operate 139 aircraft to over 120 destinations worldwide and carried around 28 million passengers last year. To put those figures into some kind of perspective, Aer Lingus operate 50 aircraft to 80 destinations and carry 11 million passengers per annum. The reason I make the comparison is because travelling with SAS feels like travelling with a smaller airline where everything is so much more relaxed and where the staff are so much more personable (both on the ground and in the air) than one would expect of a company of this size. Clearly, we Irish don’t have a monopoly on warm, genuine hospitality!

So, the point of this week’s blog is the truism that states that you invariably get what you pay for and that sometimes, it is well worth paying a little more as it will invariably elevate your experience to the next level. As the afore-mentioned Mr Emerson also claimed: ‘For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness!

No truer words were ever spoken!

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