Interview with an SAS Purser: “I always return to Chicago…”

Have you ever wondered how it’s like to be a crew member? Or how your life would look like if you had to travel five days a week? To gain a bit more insight to the world of aviation, we met up with Nils Brynjulfsson, a Scandinavian Airlines Purser, who has dedicated his life to traveling and customer service. And we also learned a great deal about Chicago… read along if you’re curious too. 


How long have you worked as a Purser?

I have worked in the business for a total of 28 years and worked for SAS for almost 25 years. I knew since I was a kid that I wanted to be in this business! After a charter holiday with my parents I was completely captured and since then I basically haven’t looked back.

Why did you choose to work for SAS?

At some point I had to decide if I wanted to continue my job in the scheduled air service, but it didn’t take me long. In 1988 this was the safest way to travel, as more and more people turned their back to charter holidays and opted for private flights instead. Since I already knew that flying was my calling in life, I decided to secure my own future by choosing the scheduled air service - and then SAS was an obvious choice. We have a great professional pride and SAS is a strong brand that we are very proud of.

How many hours per week do you work?

I usually work on a 5-day-schedule; 5 days work followed by 3 days off, but next to my job as a purser I also run my own company within corporate culture. I really love working with people and communication; to teach and inspire people how to use their strengths in the right connections. This is something I’d like to work more on, so from Spring I’ll be working part-time in SAS. It’s completely new to me, so I’m quite excited about it.

SAS Stewardess in 1970’s. Courtesy of SAS.

Describe your job with 3 words…

Inspiring, developing….and demanding!

Why demanding? What does it take to be a purser in 2015?

There’s no doubt that working as Cabin Crew demands a whole lot of flexibility and willingness to adapt - especially compared to the old days. Today you have to follow the trends and development; new things are coming all the time. I also think it’s extremely important to hold on to the fascination of the job - always remember why you chose it and what makes it so interesting. Things have also become quite commercial today…we have to remember that we’re running a business that has to yield a profit through concepts and an amazing customer service. It has to be perfect - every time!
The demands are bigger and the working days longer, so you obviously have to take good care of yourself through regular exercise and healthy eating.

Describe one of your most memorable experiences as a Purser.

Once I was working on a flight from Beijing to Copenhagen. We had several adoption parents on board, and to me it was extremely intimate to experience how emotional they were. I felt like I was really taking part in their personal journeys and that made me very humble and proud to be a part of.

Do you have a favorite destination?

On the long hauls it has to be Chicago. I always feel like coming home when approaching O’Hare airport. When traveling with my family I prefer Dubai and Chicago.

Chicago skyline

What is your best recommendations for Chicago?

Chicago possesses a rich cultural and architectural history. If you ever find yourself in this amazing city you have to enter the lobby of the historical Palmer House Hilton Hotel. It’s beyond beautiful! If you have time, make sure to visit the spa at Hotel Intercontinental as well! It’s conducted as a Roman bath and it’s an experience just swimming in the pool here! Luckily, you don’t have to be staying at the hotel to use it.
For couples I’d definitely recommend climbing to the top of the John Hancock building at sunset - it’s the most romantic view in all of Chicago! And afterwards you can take a stroll down the beach at Lake Michigan.
As for restaurants there’s obviously plenty to choose from in Chicago, also a lot of good ones, but I have to recommend one certain place; Ed Debevic’s - a simple diner founded in 1984. Here guests can indulge in traditional diner specialties such as curly fries, large milk shakes and ‘hamburger heaven’ as they call it. This is a family restaurant, but the service is not what you’d expect! They have specialized in rude service, which sounds completely nuts, but once you’ve been there, you simply have to go back again! The waiters might be rude and even singing out loud from time to time, but it’s never uncomfortable.
Last, but not least I’d have to recommend a sail on Lake Michigan, where you have the chance to sail in between the skyscrapers. It’s sort of like Venice, but U.S style!

The Palmer House Hilton Hotel

Any recommendations for a good hotel in the area?

If you want a good hotel with a splendid view I’d say Michigan Avenue. This street is beautiful! From March till October it’s a riot of colours as the local gardeners are adorning every street corner with fresh flowers in all shapes and sizes.
Go to south side of Chicago if you want to feel the presence of history in the old city of gangsters. It might not be luxurious, but it’s so authentic that you can still almost feel the presence of Al Capone! It literally reminds you of past times.

What is your best piece of travel advice from your many years in the business?

Always remember the childish side of you - and your fascination of the world! Honestly, my jaw can still drop from a beautiful sunset during a flight, and I’m still as taken with Chicago as I was some 20 years ago. We should always be humbled by the experiences and opportunities which we’re granted - and by the people we meet. All this can actually be boiled down to one single statement, which is also written on my badge; Love, live, fly. This is how I see the world!