Previously, LX180 left Zürich at around 22h45 to arrive in Bangkok early in the afternoon the next day. The aircraft would then stand around in Bangkok until the evening for a departure around midnight, to arrive in Zürich just in time for the night curfew to be lifted at 06h00 in the morning. Thus, the airline offered a schedule that was ideally suited to the business or premium traveller, who tends to prefer night flights.
With the beginning of the winter timetable of 2014 though, Swiss International Air Lines changed its schedule to and from Bangkok. The outbound now leaves Zürich in the late afternoon to arrive in Bangkok in the morning. As a result, the inbound flight – LX181 – now departs Bangkok at 12h45 as a day flight and arrives back in Zürich at 19h30. Of course, for SWISS the new schedule makes far more sense, because it means much less down time for the aircraft. However, it also shows just how insignificant the Thai market has become for SWISS, particularly in the premium segment, if the optimisation of the aircraft’s utilisation takes precedent over offering the customer an attractive schedule. But to be fair, SWISS is not the only carrier struggling on the route and in fact, recently Thai Airways switched its operation to Zürich to a Boeing B 777-300 which does not even offer a First Class product any more.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The Novotel Suvarnabhumi is connected to the airport’s railway station and terminal via a tunnel. Once you reach the terminal, you can either take the escalators or the lifts to the fourth floor, which is the departures level of the terminal.
Location: Row G.
Facilities: Airport check-in, web check-in. There are self-service check-in machines at Suvarnabhumi, but I am not sure if SWISS uses those as well.
Counters: There are three Economy Class counters, one Business Class counter, a counter for First Class, HON and Star Gold passengers and a baggage drop-off counter.
Check-in for the flight is swift, there is nobody ahead of me at the counter. While one agent is issuing my boarding pass, a young lady appears from behind me to escort me through security and immigration. To access the Premium Lane fast track for security, you will need a voucher which you should receive at check-in.
Immigration is right behind security. From there we head one floor down to the transit level, which is where the Thai Airways lounges are.
Location: Near the intersection of the D and C concourses.
Type of Lounge: Thai Airways First Class lounge.
Facilities: The lounge has a large open seating area. In addition, there are also semi-private rooms, all of which have their own large TV and a computer workstation. There is a separate dining area and a buffet area with a selection of sweet and savoury dishes. In addition, as soon as you are seated, one of the many lounge attendants will come to ask you if you would like to eat or drink anything. The food is served either at your seat or in the dinning room. Toilets and showers are available in the lounge, L’Occitane toiletries are provided by Thai Airways, although I am not sure if the ladies have the same toiletries.
Internet: Wifi is available, password required.
I only have about thirty minutes in the lounge. But it has already been at least two hours since my last meal and I am starting to feel a bit peckish. So I order a Coke Zero and a green curry with chicken, which is truly excellent. Which is also the reasons why I forgot to take a picture of the meal.
Priority Boarding: There is only one entrance to the holding area. However, both airbridges are in use; the one to the L1 door is for First Class passengers only.
Just after noon I make my way to the gate at C06. Much to my surprise, the flight is already in the final stages of boarding. So I can walk right up to the counter and then straight on to the aircraft.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 1K, window seat on the starboard side of the aircraft. There are eight seats in First Class. The SWISS First Class seat is more or less the same seat that was introduced by Swissair many moons ago before the carrier went bankrupt. The seat is inspired by the design of the famous Eames chair. The seat and the entire hardware are now getting a bit long in the tooth, quite frankly. In comparison to other First Class seats, this one here offers zero privacy. It has started to look dated and somewhat old fashioned.
Pitch: 83 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Facilities: 110 volt power port available in First and Business Class but not in Economy. That is about it, SWISS currently does not provide wifi on board any of its aircraft.
Length as a bed: 80 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand. The inflight entertainment system is quite simply a shambles. First of all, they have these really cheap no name earphones that have very bad quality. Secondly, the selection of films and music is quite limited, unless of course you do not mind watching Bridget Jones’ diary or Casino Royale – again. The controls of the IFE are also a far cry from what I would describe as state of the art. The system can only be operated by remote control that is now so old the buttons have stopped reacting unless you press on them very hard. And that of course, is if you are lucky and manage to get the screen out, which took me about five minutes, because even the button to release the screen from its holder no longer works properly either.
There are two gentlemen serving the First Class cabin on today’s flight. For some reason, the whole service seems very rushed from the very beginning. One of the two gentlemen in particular seems a bit flustered. Every time he addresses me, it is in High German, even though he is obviously Swiss. And every time I answer him in Swiss German. But that does not stop him from addressing me in High German the next time he comes around. It is not a big deal, but there is nothing really First Class about the experience either.
In any case, a cushion, the vanity kit, slippers and the earphones have already been placed at my seat. Shortly after I am seated, the cabin crew also brings me a pajama.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice, served with an amuse bouche of grilled shrimp on a papaya and chilli salsa.
- Balik salmon with crème fraîche and lemon.
- Crab salad with avocado purée and cocktail dressing.
- Tomato and mozzarella with Thai basil and pesto.
- Cream of carrot and ginger soup with croutons and parmesan shavings.
- Shredded veal Zürich style in a creamy white wine sauce, served with a mini Rösti and broccoli with almond flakes.
- Glattaler Mutschli.
- Gruyère AOC.
- Basil infused Baba Rhum with a minestrone of tropical fruit and apricot sorbet.
Over all, the meal is rather tasty. The starter looks very appealing and also tastes very nice. The soup is also good and creamy, although the taste of the ginger is too subtle for me to make out. The main is good. The sauce has a nice flavour but the mini Rösti is only so so.
The service comes to a somewhat abrupt end. I do not really know what is going on, but rather than asking passengers if they would like tea or coffee and offering them one of those delectable Sprüngli truffes – which is what normally happens in SWISS Fist Class – today, the flight attendant just dumps the truffes on the bar, clears the tables and vanishes for the rest of the flight. For those passengers willing to sleep, the crew will graciously make the seat up into a bed and will put down the mattress and duvet. However, if like myself, you are not planning on sleeping, then basically you are on your own. I even have to go scavenging for a blanket because the crew are obviously not interested.
During the entire flight, the crew does not do a single drinks run either.
There are about four choices for the second service. However, none of these are actually mentioned on the menu, and I forget what all the options are. In any case, I have:
- Vegetarian quiche, which was in fact more like a pie.
- With a small salad to accompany the pie.
- One bun.
- A piece of warm apple tart with slices of fresh apple, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
The second meal is adequate, even though the savoury item is placed on rather a small plate, which looks a bit forlorn on the large table.
We approach Switzerland from the east. Roughly forty minutes out of Zürich, we start our descent while we are still in Austrian airspace. It is a lovely, late summer’s evening and the landscape below is covered in a golden glow.