In this review, we will take a look at the only business class lounge at Stavanger Airport: the North Sea Lounge.
Back in the air again
Finally! Today would mark the real start of the trip as I would fly the first segment of the amazing flight ticket deal which would eventually bring me all the way to places as far away as Siberia and Azerbaijan.
I had pondered for a while whether or not to book the early morning KLM flight from Stavanger at 6am to arrive early in the Netherlands to maximise my time in the country, but I figured that the 2nd KLM flight of the day at 11.40am is a much more humane hour of the day to fly.
After a good breakfast and a quick swim at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, it was time to head to the bus station, which is conveniently located right next to the train station and a short walking distance away from most city centre hotels. There are frequent departures from the bus station to the airport with tickets costing 117 NOK (12 EUR).
The bus tickets are easy to book online, although they can also be bought on the bus itself. It is a comfortable way to reach the airport and much cheaper than a taxi which would otherwise be around 40 to 50 EUR. Judging by the gorgeous blue colours of the skies when I walked towards the bus station at dawn, I was in for a lovely day of flying.
Boarding the bus
After waiting for 10 minutes at the bus station my airport bus arrived on the dot. Apart from about five or so other passengers I was the only one taking the bus, and I managed to snatch a front row seat.
The bus stopped at 2-3 other locations in town to pick up passengers. Afterwards it continued straight to the airport, driving through the pretty Norwegian countryside.
From outside, Stavanger Sola Airport as it is officially called looks like your average regional airport. I was however surprised how big it felt inside. There are airports of certain European capitals that are much smaller in size and stature!
Clearly, Stavanger is an important business destination (it especially sees a lot of traffic thanks to the offshore oil industry) and you can see this back in the airport which is overall a pleasant place to await your flight.
Even though I checked in online for my flight, I picked up a paper boarding pass from one of the check-in machines in the main hall. I then took the escalator up towards the departures area, which in true Scandinavian style was in impeccable condition. There were no queues at all for security this morning and I was through in minutes.
For those passengers without access to the business lounge, there are plenty of cafes and shops to keep you entertained for an hour or so while waiting for your departure. As I was flying KLM in business class to Amsterdam, I however had complimentary access to the only lounge at the airport: the North Sea Lounge.
North Sea Lounge access rules
I arrived at T-2.5 at the lounge entrance. The lounge attendant, a friendly girl in her early 20s, was surprised to see someone arrive this early as there were no flights departing in the next two hours. That said, she gladly let me into the otherwise completely empty lounge.
I got access to the lounge courtesy of my KLM business class ticket, although of course any Sky Team elite passenger flying economy class on KLM could have also accessed this lounge. Some passengers on Widerøe, Loganair and SAS having elite airline status or a ticket in a certain booking class can also access the lounge for free.
You can also get access through Dragon Pass and Lounge Pass, although do note that the lounge is currently not part of Priority Pass. The holders of some premium credit cards issued by Scandinavian banks can also access the lounge for free. The same counts for AMEX Centurion or Platinum card holders.
For the full access requirements, it is best to check the official airport page. If you do not have any airline elite status, the right ticket or certain credit card, you can also buy entrance into the lounge for 300 NOK (30 EUR).
At first sights the lounge surely did not disappoint. When it comes to pure aesthetics, I think it is one of the more appealing lounges in Europe I have ever set foot in until now. Especially when you consider this is a contract lounge at a minor European airport it all looked very impressive.
I loved the modern yet cosy design, the great views over the apron, the bright light shining in from the windows and the smart layout creating several semi-private seating corners.
The seating options range from comfy sofas to dining tables to long kitchen worktops seating multiple people at the same time. Plugs were readily available in almost every corner of the lounge, the internet was fast, and did I already mention the great views over the tarmac?
Even when the lounge filled up with fifteen or so other passengers shortly before the departure time of the KLM flight it still felt like I was about the only one in the lounge, it being as calm and serene as before when I was just the sole passenger. You can hand it to the Scandinavians to ace interior designing!
North Sea Lounge buffet
The North Sea Lounge has a fairly decent selection of drinks, including hard alcohol, draught beer and even some sparkling wine (a not-so-really-great Francois Montand Brut which retails for 12 euro, although I am sure you won’t get it in Norway for less than 50 EUR given how ridiculous expensive the country is for booze).
At this hour of the day, there was also decent breakfast spread with cold cuts, bread and pastries, pancakes, French cheese plates, salads, peanuts and crisps. It was much better than I expected, although probably most hotel breakfasts will have better quality and quantity food.
Closer to departure I saw the lounge attendant putting out a giant pot of soup – so I am not sure if there will be any hot food options besides the soup available at any time in the rest of the day.
Still, it is really nothing to complain about when you consider this is a contract lounge at a regional airport. The fish pancake and cheese which I tried as second breakfast were both good quality!
In my opinion one of the greatest aspects of the lounge are the panoramic views over the tarmac, which allowed for some good old-fashioned plane spotting. For most of the time, I just sat happily in front of the window looking out over the apron with some booze in my hand.
As my plan was to head straight to the famous carnival parties of the southern Netherlands after my arrival at Amsterdam, I decided it would not do any harm to start with a bit of drinking at the lounge as my old friends were likely already doing the exact same thing it being the morning of Carnival Sunday.
Even though I consider Heineken among the worst quality beers in the world, it did the trick.
About fifteen minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin, I got up and decided to go for a short walk around the airport and the boarding area after a fun and relaxing lounge visit.
The North Sea lounge is one of the nicer contract lounges I’ve ever seen at a regional airport in Europe. The food and beverage options are good, but I was most impressed with the quality seating and calm and serene atmosphere in the lounge.
The lounge is quiet, has great views over the apron and makes an excellent place to relax or get some work done. It is certainly not a punishment if you find yourself arriving early at Stavanger airport having to spend some time in this lounge!
Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.
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