KLM, Business Class – Boeing B 737-900: Barcelona via Amsterdam to Basel

KL BCN

INTRODUCTION
I just arrived in Barcelona on the Singapore Airlines flight from Sao Paolo. We arrived in at 07h40, fifty minutes ahead of schedule. And I now have until 13h20 to make my connection to Amsterdam and then Basel on KLM.

CHECK-IN
I checked in for the flight yesterday evening in Sao Paolo before I left for the airport. I do not have any checked luggage so I am good to go.

LOUNGE
Location:
In the Schengen area, on the far right as you come down the escalators from security. The lounge is one floor up from the main airside area.
Type of Lounge:
Premium Traveller contractor lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers available in the lounge, workstations, dining area.
Catering: Limited selection of cold breakfast dishes, like bread with puréed raw tomato and olive oil.
Internet:
Free wifi is provided by the airport authority.

I need a shower to wake me up. For EUR10.- you can buy a set of one towel, shower gel and shampoo and a pair of slippers at reception. The shower is clean and spacious. However, there is no toilet in the shower room.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Available and enforce.

Boarding begins with the gate attendant announcing that the flight to Amsterdam will be rather full today. Therefore, oversized baggage will have to go into the hold. Fortunately, being a Platinum member I will not to hand in my suitcase, which is good because I only have a short connection in Amsterdam.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2, in Business Class the middle seat is kept empty.
Seat: Originally I am seated on 6A, but then I am upgraded to 1F in Business Class. However, once I board the plane, there is a girl sitting on 1D and her dad is on 1C. Apparently, the girl would like to sit next to the window. So I suggest swapping places with her dad so they can sit together on 1D and 1F, while I take 1C. Admittedly, my motives are not all together innocent. If you are seated on 1C on the B 737-900, you call fully stretch out your legs without getting in anybody’s way.
Pitch: 33 inches.
Width: 17 inches.
Facilities: 110V ac power port at every seat.

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SERVICE
The service is typically KLM. No more, no less. All of the cabin crew are female and there is a good mix of older and more experienced cabin crew and some fresh young ones too.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
No.
Towel before the meal: Hot towel served after take-off.
Pre-meal drink:
No.
Choice:
There is a choice of chicken or pasta.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  • Mixed salad.
  • Ricotta Tortellini with Zucchini, Bechamel and tomato sauce.
  • Selection from the breadbasket.
  • Something sweet with cherries.
  • Tea or coffee.

Strangely enough, the food on the tray is not entirely what is says on the menu that is distributed by the crew. Apparently, the salad should have been something with mozzarella balls. But it makes not difference, the salad is good enough as it is.

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Inevitably, one the meal is over I drop off to sleep immediately. I am just so tired.

ARRIVAL
Oh crap! As we approach Amsterdam the weather starts to deteriorate. In fact, it is so bad that spacing between arriving aircraft has to be increased. And indeed, it really is a very bumpy ride into Amsterdam. By the time we arrive and dock at the terminal it is 16h03 and we are parked at the C dock. My onward flight to Basel departs at 16h20 from the B dock and boarding is expected to close in two minutes. Run Forest, run…!

But I actually make it. Fortunately, the aircraft is parked at the gate and not on a remote stand. Otherwise I doubt it KLM would have left the bus waiting just for me. There has also been an aircraft change, and instead I shall by flying on an Embraer 190 instead of the usual Fokker F 70.

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I board the aircraft, take my seat and buckle up. And then I drop off to sleep again. I do not notice us taxiing out or taking off. Nothing. The next time I open my eyes, we are just turning off the runway after our arrival in Basel. It is so good to be home!

 

Singapore Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300ER: Sao Paolo to Barcelona

SQ S

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Hotel limo.
Journey time: Roughly one hour from the Morumbi area.

In Sao Paolo I am staying at the Hilton Morumbi. I chose this hotel because it is conveniently located near the site of the training course at the domestic airport in Congonhas. Other than that though, it is somewhat removed from the city centre and quite a long way away from Guarulhos airport. It does not really help either that the traffic in Sao Paolo is notoriously bad.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 3, first floor, check-in counters on row H.
Facilities: Airport check-in and web check-in.
Counters: There is one First Class counter, one Business Class counter, an internet check-in counter and one counter for passengers with special needs.

I arrive at Guarulhos airport at 16h20 after a horrible trip from the city. My driver is so busy WhatsApping while driving that he misses the turn off the motorway for the airport. As if that were not already bad enough, rather than continuing and taking the next exit, he decides to pull on to the emergency strip and then reverse all the way back to the turn off he missed…

Check-in is fairly swift. There are no passengers in line ahead of me. Strangely enough, there do not appear to be any dedicated Economy Class counters and I am left wondering if perhaps a) the flight is not really that full or b), check-in for Economy Class only starts later.

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There is no dedicated queue for security for Business Class and First Class passengers. Accordingly, there the line is huge. But fortunately, it is moving quickly.

Immediately behind security is immigration. A friendly officer stamps my passport, confesses that he has never before met a guy from Malta and wishes me a pleasant journey.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Behind passport control turn left. Eventually you will see an escalator and lifts going up one floor, off to the left. This is where all the airline lounges are located.
Type of Lounge:
Star Alliance Lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers are available in the lounge, workstations and rest area.
Catering: The lounge has quite an extensive buffet of cold items. There is a huge bowl of salad with a variety of garnishes, in addition to small dishes, like individual raviolis in a tomato salsa or stick crudités in a yoghurt dip. There is also a limited selection of warm dishes, with a choice of pasta, tomato soup or a selection of warm local pastries.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi provided by the airport, the password is given to you upon entering the lounge.

Much to my surprise, I rather like the décor of this lounge. I am not quite sure what I was expecting – probably another one of those awful Lufthansa branded lounges – but this is really nice. The lounge is fairly busy when I arrive. Even so, it is quite large so it does not feel crowded. The lounge offers a wide range of different seating option. Furthermore, it is on the same level as the huge windows commanding excellent views of the apron and departing aircraft.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yes.

Two airbridges are connected to the aircraft. First and Business Class passengers board via the L1 door, while Economy Class passengers board via the L2. When I arrive at the gate at 18h10, boarding has already started.

I am greeted at the door by a gentleman and a young lady wearing the elegant Singapore Airlines Kebaya. As she escorts me to my seat I inquire about the load and she tells me there are 19 passengers in Business Class this evening and only 90 in Economy Class.

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CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 11A, window on the port side of the vessel.
Singapore Airlines operates the B 777-300ER in two configurations with three or four different cabin classes. On the route to Sao Paolo, the three-class configuration is used with a First, Business and Economy Class. There are 48 seats in total in Business Class. The first two rows are ahead of the L2 galley, with the remaining ten rows aft of the L2 galley. Row 11 is the first row of Business Class. The Singapore Airlines seat is definitely very wide and offers a lot of privacy for a Business Class seat. The upholstery is covered in leather or some other material.

The seat provides a lot of storage space. To the left of the screen there is a specific compartment to store spectacles and the compartment housing the earphones is large enough to place an iPhone 6+ and an Apple charger in it.
Pitch: 50 inches.
Width: 30 inches.
Facilities: Wifi provided by OnAir, USB port and 110 volt a/c power outlet.
Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat is equipped with a 15’4’’ LCD screen. The Krisworld entertainment system has more than 700 audio channels, 295 video on demand movies and 180 television programmes to choose from.

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SERVICE

As soon as I reach my seat, one of the flight attendants comes to take my jacket, while another inquires if I would like a newspaper or magazine. There is a selection of Brazilian, Spanish and English papers. I am also brought a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a hot towel.

Singapore Airlines does not offer vanity kits in Business Class. However, they do distribute eyeshades, socks and slippers. Dental and shaving kits are available in the lavatories. Earplugs are available on request.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Fresh orange juice. Still water and champagne are also available.
Towel before the meal: Warm, lightly scented towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero.
Choice:
There are four choices for the main course and two choices for dessert.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
Meal:

  • Chicken and mutton satay with cucumber, onion and spicy satay sauce.
  • Marinated prawns Niçoise salad with tomato, green beans, boiled egg, olives and balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Vegetarian noodles with lettuce, black mushroom and chilli sauce.
  • Macadamia ice cream with a mango coulis.
  • Tallegio, Gorgonzola and Camembert with crackers and garnish (I am too stuffed to actually try this one…).
  • Selection from the breadbasket.
  • Pralinés.
  • Tea or coffee.

The meal is very tasty. You can never really go wrong with the satay. My only grippe with that though, is that it is impossible to mop up the leftover sauce as the satay are served without cutlery. Such a waste…!

For the main course I choose the vegetarian noodles from the selection of inflight snacks. It is at moments like this that the professionalism of the Singapore Airlines crews shows. When the flight attendant comes to take my order, she does not bat an eyelid when I tell her I would prefer the noodles from the snack menu rather than something from the selection of main courses.

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After the meal I watch ‘The man from U.N.C.L.E’, which is quite entertaining and a nice homage to the original series. And then I decide to have a nap. One of the flight attendants comes to make up my bed while I change into my shorts in the bathroom.

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As soon as I hit the pillow I drop off to sleep and do not awake until two hours before the landing in Barcelona, when the crew come to wake me up for breakfast as I had requested them to do.

THE SECOND SERVICE
Hot towel before the meal:
Hot, lightly scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Apple juice.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Meal:

  • Selection of sliced fruit – strawberries, mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, orange and grapefruit.
  • Birchermüsli.
  • Griddled buttermilk pancakes with berries compote, orange mascarpone and honey.
  • Selection from the breadbasket.
  • Coffee or Tea.

Oh my God, those pancakes! Who ever dreams up stuff like this? The dish arrives with the sticky honey dripping down the sides of the stack of pancakes. The meal is as tasty as it looks. It is sinfully sweet but oh so good!

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ARRIVAL

Outside a new day is quickly dawning. One of the pilots comes on the loudspeaker to announce that we will be starting our decent into Barcelona shortly. And what a spectacular decent it is. We approach the city from the south, flying over the sea with the coast visible far off to the left. We fly past the airport and then execute a series of gentle left turns to line us up for an arrival in a southerly direction. By this time we are below the clouds. Even so, the rising sun can still be seen, glistening on surface of the Mediterranean.

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If, like me, you are connecting to another flight in Barcelona, follow the signs marked ‘transfer’, which will bring you to the security check. Once you have cleared security, you can either take the escalators one floor up if you are connecting to a non-Schengen flight. Otherwise, turn right to go through immigration and enter the Schengen area. From there take the escalators one floor down to the main airside area.

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ABOUT SINGAPORE AIRLINES

There are only few airlines that enjoy a reputation like that of Singapore Airlines. Even people who have never actually done a flight with them know what excellent service the passenger can expect from Singapore Airlines. To be honest, as far as the hardware and food is concerned, I do think there probably are quite a few airlines out there that can match and possibly even outshine Singapore Airlines – like Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways. However, the one thing none of those other carriers can rival, in my view, is the cabin crew. The professionalism and attention to detail that the crew on both the out- and inbound flights showed, is quite amazing. And that is probably what makes Singapore Airlines’ reputation so good. No matter where you are going, you always know what to expect.

Singapore Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300ER: Barcelona to Sao Paolo

SQ B

INTRODUCTION
I am on my way to Sao Paolo in Brazil to give a course. In fact, this will be the last training course for this year. Brazil is a country I have not visited before and quite frankly, what little I know of the place covers the full spectrum of stereotypes, from scantily clad carnival dancers, excellent steaks to an obscenely high crime rate.

Of course there are many different ways to fly from Europe to Sao Paolo. Without a doubt though, I think I can safely say I have chosen the most elegant way to do it, with an airline that hardly needs an introduction.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 1, second floor, check-in counters 551 to 558.
Facilities: Airport check-in only.
Counters: Check-in is handled by Swissport. There is one First Class counter, one Business Class counter, an internet check-in counter and five Economy Class check-in counters.

I have the Singapore Airlines app on my iPhone. However, as I am not a member of their frequent flyer programme, I was unable to check-in online.

The airline is quiet when I arrive. After all, this is Saturday morning. The security check is a swift but thorough affair. Just a quick word of caution for all the shopaholics out there: if you are departing from Barcelona from the non-Schengen area, I suggest you have yourself an extravaganza before you go through passport control. All there is at the D gates is a McDonalds and a fairly small duty free.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Behind passport control keep on walking straight ahead towards the McDonalds until you reach the lifts. Take the lift or escalator one floor down to access the lounge.
Type of Lounge:
Contractor lounge operated by Premium Air Lounges.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers are available in the lounge and in good, clean condition; workstations, a good selection of hot and cold beverages and a good selection of breakfast foods – such as yoghurts, bread, cereals.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi provided by the airport, but you need to register.

The lounge is rather nice and fairly quiet this morning. It is still rather early, and the few people in the lounge that are travelling together are talking in a subdued hush. With the warm light, wood floors and leather sofas there is something very cosy about the lounge.

I help myself to some breakfast and then decide to give my mum a call before I set out on my next journey.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yes.

I reach the gate just after 08h30, the boarding time indicated on my boarding pass, just as an announcement is made informing us that due to the very strong winds on the ground in Barcelona, loading the aircraft is taking longer than anticipated. As a result, our departure is delayed by about 45 minutes.

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CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 11A, window on the port side of the vessel. Singapore Airlines operates the B 777-300ER in two configurations with three or four different cabin classes. On the route to Sao Paolo, the three-class configuration is used with a First, Business and Economy Class. There are 48 seats in total in Business Class. The first two rows are ahead of the L2 galley, with the remaining ten rows aft of the L2 galley. Row 11 is the first row of Business Class. The Singapore Airlines seat is definitely very wide and offers a lot of privacy for a Business Class seat. Even so, I cannot really say that I like this seat. First of all, it is not possible to convert the seat into a bed while sitting in it. This is because the back of the seat needs to be folded forward to turn it into a bed. Furthermore, to be able to fully stretch, you need to lie in the seat at an angle. Obviously this should not really matter, but I think many people will have a tendency, when lying, to want to align themselves with the aisle or the cabin wall of the aircraft. I flew Singapore Airlines from Zürich to Brunei and back about two years ago and to be honest, on both of the long-haul flights I ended up with a back ache.

The upholstery is covered in leather or some other material intended to look and feel like leather, which inevitably makes you sweat after a while. Admittedly though, the seat and cabin do look rather nice.
Pitch: 50 inches.
Width: 30 inches.
Facilities: Wifi provided by OnAir, USB port and 110 volt a/c power outlet.
Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat is equipped with a 15’4’’ LCD screen. The Krisworld entertainment system has more than 700 audio channels, 295 video on demand movies and 180 television programmes to choose from.

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SERVICE
The service is excellent. The crew are friendly and very attentive. The Singapore Girl has often been accused of being slightly robotic in her behaviour, but is hardly the case with this crew.

As soon as I reach my seat, one of the flight attendants comes to take my jacket, while another inquires if I would like a English or Spanish speaking newspaper.

Singapore Airlines does not offer vanity kits in Business Class, which does not bother me seeing as I usually end up leaving them on the plane anyway. However, they will distribute eyeshades, socks and slippers. Dental and shaving kits are available in the lavatories. Ear plugs are available on request.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Fresh orange juice. Still water and champagne are also available.
Towel before the meal: Cold, lightly scented towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Orange juice
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Brunch.
Meal:

  • Selection of sliced fresh fruit.
  • Bircher Müsli with rolled oats soaked in milk, natural yoghurt, dried fruits and nuts.
  • Cheese Frittata with pan fried veal sausage, sautéed mushrooms and potatoes.
  • Cherry mousse.
  • Selection from the breadbasket with preserves or olive oil.
  • Coffee and tea.

The meal hits the spot nicely. Even though I did have something to eat in the lounge, I was starting to feel hungry. I think I like the Bircher Müsli most, it has a nice, rich, creamy texture and is full of flavour.

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Once the service is completed, the crew pass through the cabin regularly, asking passengers if there is anything they need. I barely last one hour after the brunch service is over, before I start to feel peckish again and order a bowl of vegetarian noodles with lettuce, black mushroom and chilli sauce. Outside, the vastness of Africa spreads out beneath us.

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An apple, four packets of nuts and three packets of speculatius biscuits later and it is time for the second service to begin. By this time we are just two hours and thirty minutes out of Sao Paolo.

THE SECOND SERVICE
Hot towel before the meal:
Yes, lightly scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero.
Choice:
There are four choices for the main course – beef, chicken, fish or lamb.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Meal:

  • Lamb and chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce, cucumber and onion.
  • A platter of Iberico ham, cured pork loin, chorizo sausage, mixed salad and balsamic dressing.
  • Seared Tournedos of beef with baby zucchini, crushed potato with garlic, vine cherry and thyme jus.
  • Panna Cotta Lemon.
  • Selection of cheese with garnishes – cured sheep cheeses, Viejo Maestro, Valdeon.
  • Selection from the breadbasket.
  • Tea or coffee.
  • Pralines and chocolates.

Much to my surprise and delight, the second service is another full meal. To be honest I do not particularly like the starter, there is just a bit too much meat on it for my liking. But apart from that, all the dishes taste very good and especially the mashed potato is creamy and has a very strong taste of garlic.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we land just a few minutes ahead of schedule, despite our delay departing from Barcelona. The nice thing about the Singapore Airlines flight is that it arrives long after most of the other European flights. We taxi in right behind the Springbok from Johannesburg, but even so, immigration is fairly quick.

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Vueling, Airbus A 320 – Excellence Fare: Zürich to Barcelona

VY

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: Train.
Departs from: Winterthur.
Arrives at: Zürich Flughafen.
Frequency: There are four nonstop trains at 25, 28, 55 and 58 past the hour.
Journey time: 13 minutes.

So far autumn has been very mild and pleasant. So trust my luck that on the very day I am travelling to Barcelona, the weather starts changing. I leave my office just after 17h00 and the weather outside is positively unpleasant. It is raining and wind is so strong, the raindrops seem to be moving horizontally. Even the trains are running late, and that is saying something in a country like Switzerland.

CHECK-IN

Location: Check-in 2.
Facilities: Web check-in and airport check-in.
Counters: Swissport multi-purpose counters.

24 hours before departure, I receive an e-mail reminder from Vueling to let me know that my flight is open for check-in. Once I have checked in online, I receive no less than four e-mails from Vueling, each containing a pdf attachment with a boarding pass. It is not possible to save the boarding pass to Passbook.

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LOUNGE

Location: In the airside centre, one floor up from the duty free store on the upper level.
Type of Lounge:
DNATA contractor lounge.
Facilities:
Really none. There are no workstations, and from what I can tell there are not even any power sockets either, There are no toilets or showers in the lounge.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available throughout the airport facility. But you will need a Swiss mobile phone number to register for the service. The connection is limited to one hour.

Goodness, this is such an ugly, soulless lounge. It feels like a refurbished broom cupboard. There is a small bar with an average selection of alcoholic and soft drinks and two tables with food. There is a choice of two different soups, sandwiches, cheese, cold cuts and nibbles.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: No.

At 18h40 the flight shows up as ‘go to gate’, so I leave the lounge and head for A66, from where the flight will be leaving. I reach the gate and look out the window to get a look at the aircraft I shall be travelling with this evening. They are still disembarking the passengers. Even so, boarding has already started and passengers for the flight to Barcelona are invited to get in line. However, the door to the airbridge remains closed and so there is just a short wait while the last passengers from the inbound disembark, before we are finally let on to the plane. The whole process seems just slightly uncoordinated.

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CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: 1C, aisle on the port side of the vessel, front row. Vueling has the usual Recaro slimline seat that many European carriers have these days. The stowage area for magazines, the sick bag and safety on board instructions is located in the top third of the seatback, to give passengers a bit more legroom, or to allow the airline to configure the aircraft in a denser seating configuration – which ever way you want to look at it.

On row 1 though, there is ample leg space available. Furthermore, the middle seat remains empty to give you more elbow space. There is a headrest on the front row seats, but to be honest, it is very uncomfortable because it reaches too far down the seat. In order to rest your head on it, you need slouch down pretty far. Sitting up straight is very uncomfortable because you have the headrest pressing into your shoulder blades.

To obtain a seat on the front row, you must purchase a ticket at the ‘Excellence’ fare, which also gives you access to the lounge at some airports. There are four Excellence fare seats on this flight, so just the first row. Apart from myself, there is only one more passenger on the first row this evening.

The overhead bins at the front of the cabin are reserved for ‘Excellence’ fare passengers, so at least it is not a problem to find room to stow my luggage.

Pitch: No information.
Width: No information.
Facilities: Reading lamp overhead.
Audio and Video: Not available.

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SERVICE

The maître de on this flight is a young lady by the name Malgorzata. It turns out she is from Poland, but she speaks Spanish fluently and, from what I can tell, without any accent. In short, I suspect she may just be the best flight attendant I have ever encountered. She is truly excellent. In her interaction she courteous, friendly and displays a level of professionalism that is increasingly hard to come by these days. Throughout the flight she keeps passengers informed about our progress, informs us that we should expect a bumpy ride during the climb, while at the same time assuring passengers that there is nothing to worry about despite the turbulence.

Once boarding is completed, she offers me a cup of water, welcomes me aboard and wishes me a pleasant journey.

THE MEAL

Welcome drink on the ground: Still water.
Choice:
‘Excellence’ fare passengers are free to select whatever they like from the on board menu, which is quite extensive.
Type of meal:
I decide to go with a Pepsi Zero and a packet of Marina crisps.

The initial phase of the flight is indeed rather bumpy. The aircraft is being tossed around by gusts of wind, quite as though it were as light as a feather. Subsequently, it takes about forty minutes before the service is able to begin.

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ARRIVAL

Eventually, we begin our descent into Barcelona. The weather here is much better. The temperature is 16 degrees Celsius. It is also windy, but not near as bad as in Zürich.

Our aircraft parks on a remote stand. There is a bit of a hold up because we are early. And so we have to wait a few minutes before the gangway arrives and eventually the busses too. For a moment I think I may have lucked out and will be able to take some pictures of the aircraft. But alas, it is too dark and the light is no good.

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ACCOMMODATION

I am only spending one night in Barcelona. So I have decided to spend it at the airport. There is a business centre attached to Terminal 1 which also has rooms available. Bookings for the rooms can be made in advance and you can either book a room for the night or just for a few hours between 10:00 in the morning and 18:00 in the evening.

As you exit through customs, turn right and follow the signs marked Corredor Shuttle Barcelona-Madrid. Eventually signs will appear with directions to the business centre and AirRooms.

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The room is fairly small, but it is very clean. There are tea and coffee making facilities and all the drinks in the mini bar are complimentary. There is also a very well equipped gym at the business centre. However, there is no restaurant as such. Even so, it is possible to get a light breakfast at the business centre. Alternatively, there is a restaurant just outside the facility.

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British Airways, Club World – Boeing B 747-400: Kuwait to London and Amsterdam

BA KWI

INTRODUCTION
The conference in Kuwait has gone well and our host, the Kuwaiti Directorate General of Civil Aviation has been very generous and hospitable. But now it is time for me to move on. I am not quite going home yet, but near enough. Today I am flying to Amsterdam via London’s Heathrow airport on British Airways, to attend a meeting in Amsterdam. On this occasion, British Airways offered the best schedule for my needs, mainly because they are one of the few airlines that depart Kuwait for Europe during the daylight hours of the morning and not at some ungodly hour, as for example KLM and Lufthansa do. Admittedly, the opportunity to get another flight on the mighty Boeing B 747-400 helped too.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Complimentary hotel shuttle.
Journey time: Roughly 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

My flight leaves Kuwait at 08h45, so I have arranged to have a car collect me at the Hilton at 06h00, which should be enough time to make the journey to the airport. The traffic in Kuwait can be rather bad, despite the very good and wide roads.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Check-in area 4 on the first floor.
Facilities: Online and web check-in are available.
Counters: There is one counter for First Class passengers, two counters for Business Class passengers and four counters for Economy Class.

The driver drops me off in front of check-in area 4, which apparently is where British Airways checks in, although from what I can tell there is no signage to enlighten you to the fact. The departure concourse is only accessible to passengers, although by the looks of it there is nobody checking to make sure that this policy is enforced.

The two Business Class counters are occupied when I arrive, so I am ushered to one of the free Economy Class counters instead. The agent labels my bags with a priority and short connection tag and then I am on my way.

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Behind check-in the bad signage continues. There is a dedicated security check for First and Business Class passengers, but it takes me a moment to locate where the entrance is. I am not sure what the point of this check is, given that the alarm goes off as I pass through the gate and nobody in particular seems to care. In fact, the guy doing the check is not even looking at the screen as my hand luggage goes through. I am hoping there will be a more thorough check before the gate.

Behind security is immigration and then, finally I am airside.

LOUNGE
Location:
As you exit from immigration, turn left.
Type of Lounge:
Pearl contractor lounge.
Facilities:
Hot and cold buffet, toilets are available but not shower.
Internet:
Free wifi is provided throughout the terminal.

The lounge is nothing special. It is large enough, but other than that the décor is rather bland and boring. The seats are covered is fake leather. There are a few waiters in the lounge, so you can either help yourself from the buffet or have them serve you at your table. Incidentally, the food in the lounge is absolutely atrocious.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yes.

About an hour before departure I have had enough of the boring lounge, and so I decide to head to the gate and hopefully take some pictures of the aircraft carrying me away to London. Kuwait airport has closed gates and I am happy to see that there is a proper security check at the entrance to the gate. The staff are polite but meticulous. There is a separate queue for Business Class and First Class passengers to enter the lounge.

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It is only just gone eight in the morning when boarding for the flight already starts. I am still collecting my stuff after the security check. So I attempt to take a few decent pictures of the aircraft, which is not an easy task given the general grubbiness of the windows. And then I step aboard the mighty Boeing 747-400 and head for my seat on the upper deck.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 on the upper deck, 2 + 4 + 2 on the main deck, there are 72 seats in total in Business Class.
Seat: 63J, aisle seat. The British Airways cabin configuration in Business Class has seats arranged in pairs, with the aisle seats on the upper deck facing forward and the window seats facing towards the rear. There is a privacy screen which can be raised after take-off, so you will not have to look at your seat companion’s face for the duration of the flight.

If you are seated by the window, keep in mind that you will have to climb over the person sitting on the aisle seat, which can be a tad awkward given that the space is really tight and you have to be quite agile to get a leg over. The nice thing about 63J, is that it is an emergency exit, which provides extra leg space and means you will not have a complete stranger clambering over you during the flight.

To be honest, the BA seat has never truly convinced me. Obviously the idea with this seat had been to recreate the feeling of being at home in your own comfortable armchair. And if that was the objective, then I think it is safe to say it was met. However, the seat is fairly low above the ground and there are quite a few elderly passengers on my flight who struggle getting in and out of the seat. It is also a bit inconvenient for eating in the seat.
Pitch: 72 inches.
Width: 20 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand, touch screen.
Facilities: A 110 ac power outlet is available at every seat.

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SERVICE
There are two cabin crew serving the upper deck. The service begins with a choice of still water or orange juice.

After take-off, the crew distribute the menus, vanity kits and a flimsy scented hot towel. The vanity kit contains the usual creams by Elemis. There are also eyeshades, socks, a pen and a toothbrush with Colgate toothpaste.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes.
Pre-meal drink:
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter and four choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Meal:

  1. Strawberry and mango smoothie.
  2. Seasonal fruit.
  3. Bircher Müsli with strawberries, kiwi and walnuts.
  4. Selection from the breadbasket.
  5. Omelette, turkey bacon, Swiss cheese, vegetables, Rösti, and oven roasted tomato.
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The meal is delivered at a good tempo. There is no rush, but there are no long waits in between the courses either. Once everything has been cleared away, the lights go out and passengers are expected to pretend it is night time, despite the fact that the flight left Kuwait just before nine in the morning.

SECOND SERVICE
About fifty minutes out of Heathrow, the second service begins, which is a kind of slimmed down afternoon tea.
Choice: None.
Delivery: Trolley service.
Type of meal: Snack.
Meal:

  1. Turkey pastrami with Dijon mustard and gherkin sandwich.
  2. Gherkin and roasted vegetables sandwich with cream cheese.
  3. A hot leek and potato twist.
  4. Trio of mango cheesecake, cherry Bakewell and chocolate and black cherry roulade.
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TRANSFER IN HEATHROW
Eventually the mighty Jumbo dips its nose and we start on our descent into Heathrow. We are running twenty minutes early, and no delays are foreseen for our arrival. We disembark at the C satellite of Terminal 5.

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Transferring in Heathrow can be rather cumbersome. From the C satellite I head downstairs into the basement to catch the automated people mover to satellite B and the terminal. At the terminal you have to go through a passport check and then through security again. The process is very efficient. But with all the passengers currently using Terminal 5, it will still take you about fifteen minutes to get processed.

Once I am through security, I check the departure screen, only to find that my flight to Amsterdam will be departing from the B satellite. Which means I shall have to go down into the basement again to catch another train taking me back in the direction which I originally came from.

LOUNGE
Location:
One floor up from the departures concourse, the stairs are near the Harrods store.
Type of Lounge:
British Airways Galleries lounge.
Facilities:
Hot and cold buffet with a large selection of food items, bar, toilets and showers, workstations, newspapers.
Internet:
Wifi is available, the password is indicated on the screens.

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CONNECTION TO AMSTERDAM
I only have a short stay in the lounge before my flight shows up on the departure screen as ‘boarding’. It is going to be a full flight today. There are five rows of Business Class with a total of twenty seats, all of which are occupied.

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I will spare you all the details of the flight to Amsterdam, and will limit myself to the meal service.

THE MEAL
Hot towel before the meal:
Yes.
Choice:
No.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Afternoon tea.
Meal:

  1. Selection of finger sandwiches: egg, cheddar and chicken.
  2. A selection of plain scones and lemon and date scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve.
  3. Orange and hazelnut cake.
  4. Tea
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I just love BA’s European afternoon tea service, honestly. It is just so refined, especially when you are enjoying it above the clouds. And I must say, I really am impressed that Ba will even offer such a service, given that the flight time today is only 45 minutes.

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Eventually we land at 16h39 and my long journey comes to an end, at least for the time being.

CONCLUSION
British Airways is an airline I tend to forget about. I suspect a lot of that has to do with their hub at Heathrow airport. Heathrow is always fun and impressive to see, but the number of passengers moving through Terminal 5 is just too much. The facility is crowded, and moving from the main concourse to the satellites takes seemingly forever.

But apart from all that, the on board experience was rather nice. The food on both flights was very good and the crews were very professional. The only thing I think I really will never get used to, is the Business Class seat.

KLM, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Basel via Amsterdam to Kuwait

KL KWI

INTRODUCTION
Please don’t tell me it’s going to be another one of those trips… I am on my way to Kuwait to attend an ICAO meeting/workshop on the implementation of the language proficiency requirements. I am one of the speakers on Monday morning, so it is kind of important that I actually make it on to the flight to Kuwait this afternoon, it is just that I only notice on my way to the gate that I have left all my credit cards in my jeans, which are lying in the wash basket at home. But I think it it should be okay, I still have my bank card.

The flight to Amsterdam starts out all right. We line up on runway 15 for a departure in a southerly direction. The pilot pushes the throttle forward and for a moment we go rolling down the runway, before the aircraft starts to slow down again a moment later – rejected take-off! Apparently the auto throttle is not working properly. Eventually though, the system is rebooted (What ever happened to hands on flying…?!??!), we line up for departure a second time, and succeed in getting airborne.

TRANSFERRING AT AMSTERDAM AIRPORT
Despite the delay, we still manage to arrive at the gate in Amsterdam on time, at 12h35. The KLM City Hopper flights all use the B concourse. My onward flight will be at 14h25 from the E concourse in the non-Schengen part of the terminal. My first stop though, is at the TravelEx counter where the B and C concourses join up. I have ordered some Kuwaiti Dinar for collection at the airport.

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There is a bit of a hold up, because the money was accidentally deposited for me to collect at the landside counter in the Schiphol Plaza. Fortunately though, the staff are very accommodating and send somebody to bring me the money.

From there I pass through immigration and then on to the E concourse.

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LOUNGE
By this time it is already 13h22 and my flight to Kuwait is scheduled to start boarding at 13h40. So I figure there is hardly any point in me making the trek to the Crown Lounge above the F concourse. Besides, I am still way off from my target of daily steps. So instead I just walk to the end of the E concourse and then back. Occasionally stopping to take pictures of the aircraft parked at the gate.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yes.
There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers, which essentially includes Business Class passengers as well as gold and platinum members.

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There is a trolley in the airbridge with a selection of Dutch and English language newspapers for passengers to help themselves.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 + 2. There are 30 seats in total in Business Class, with three rows forward of the L2 door and two rows aft of it.
Seat: KLM currently offers four different Business Class products on its wide-body fleet. There is the new fully horizontal life-flat which is installed on the Boeing B 747-400 and is now being introduced on the B 777-300. Then there is the angled lie-flat seat installed on the Airbus A 330-300. If I am not mistaken, this is pretty much the same seat Air France has too. The new B 787 will have the same seat as Cathay Pacific in Business Class. And finally of course, there is the old angled seat on the Airbus A 330-200, which is what I shall be travelling in today. This seat is really passed it. It is comfortable enough to lounge in but it can be a tad difficult to sleep in unless you really are completely exhausted. And there is next to no storage space.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width: 20.5 inches.
Length as a bed: 75 inches, 30 degrees angled.
Facilities: The seat has a reading lamp in the overhead panel, in addition to a reading lamp installed in the seat itself. In addition, there is what KLM refers to as the ‘privacy hood’, which opens up from the top of the seat back to protect the guy sitting behind you from scrutinising your scalp too closely when the seat is in the fully extended position. A pillow and blanket have already been placed at every seat before the passengers board the aircraft. There is also a power port at every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: Noise cancelling earphones, 16 audio channels, audio and video on demand.
Screen size: 10.4 inches.

The flights is full in Business Class but rather empty in Economy Class. The purser even makes an announcement to this effect, asking passengers to refrain from moving until after we are airborne.

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SERVICE
Once most of the passengers are seated, the crew distribute the vanity kits and welcome drinks. The menus are handed out after take-off. The crew are very attentive and make a point of addressing every passenger by their family name.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Fresh orange juice. There is a choice of still water, orange juice, sparkling wine and Heineken.
Hot towel before the meal: Slightly scented hot towels are handed out, they are nice and thick and in much better quality than the ones on British Airways or Swiss.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero. There is a choice of warm nuts or small cubes of Dutch cheese to go with the drinks.
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter, three for the main dish and four for dessert.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Meal:

  • Marinated salmon and salmon mousse with pickled cucumber, turnip and basil cream with a dill vinaigrette.
  • Mixed salad with roast pumpkin seeds.
  • Beef and beetroot meatballs with a herbed veal jus, smoked potato mousseline, , cauliflower poached in a parmesan broth and leeks.
  • Bread and butter or oil.
  • Cheese plate with St. Bernardus and Moulin bleu with a fig and cardamom chutney.

The meal is very tasty, especially the salmon starter is excellent, and the portions are of a good size. By the time the meal ends, I am feeling decidedly full.

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SECOND SERVICE
About an hour out of Kuwait, a small snack is served. There is a choice of either a hummus wrap, croquettes or a warm almond cake/biscuit type thing. I decide to go with the latter and a cup of coffee to keep me going until I get to the hotel.

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ARRIVAL
We land at 21h45, roughly twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Surprisingly, most of the passengers are continuing their journey to Dammam, with only a handful leaving the aircraft in Kuwait.

The visa and immigration process in Kuwait is not quite straightforward: first of all, as you exit the plane, do not follow the signs for immigration and arrival. Instead, follow the signs marked ‘visa collection’. The visa bureau is in the far corner of the terminal, hidden at the very back of the food court. The very first thing you must do, is pick a number for your turn in the queue. Do this before you do anything else. The process is slow and you will have more than enough time to prepare all your documents. To the left of the machine dispensing the tickets with your number in the queue are the vending machines for the stamps you will need to validate your visa. For most countries eligible for a visa on arrival, the fee is 5 Kuwaiti Dinar. The machine accepts most notes, but does not give any change. If you do not have any Kuwaiti currency on you, there is an exchange office near the visa bureau.

You will also need to complete an immigration card with your passport details and contact info for Kuwait. When your number is finally up, the visa is issued on an A4 size piece of paper and the officer will stick the stamps on the visa. Once that is done, go to the counter on the far right to have the visa validated. And then from there, finally, you can head downstairs to immigration. You will not have to queue again and can simply walk through the gate to the baggage reclaim area.

GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Airport shuttle.
Departs from: Hotel booth right outside arrivals.
Journey time: 30 minutes.
Fare: 9 Dinar
As you exit arrivals, there are booths for all the big hotel chains. In most cases, the hotel will pick you up, just as long as you inform them well enough in advance.

Air Malta, Business Class – A 319: Malta to Zürich

KM to ZRH

INTRODUCTION
Those of you living in central Europe, for example in a place like Switzerland, will be quite familiar with those long stretched of bleak autumn grey. Weeks of endless, cold misty grey and rain. There are days when it will just rain perpetually – a light, gentle drizzle.

But Malta is not like that. Definitely not. The air cools down to a more balmy, temperate sensation and there may be occasional bouts of rain. But when that happens, when it rains… My God, how it rains. Short outbursts of just a few minutes, but with such a force and in such copious amounts have the island submerged in water in no time.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Taxi.
Journey time: 35 minutes.
Fare: EUR21.-

My flight back to Zürich is leaving at 14h20. Normally I would have taken the X2 bus, which runs directly from St. Julian’s to the airport. But there another vicious downpour happening outside and so I decide to take a taxi instead.

By car the journey should normally only take about 20 minutes from St. Julian’s to the airport. But not today. With the heavy rain there has been during the night, a wall somewhere along the main artery that connects the south and the north has collapsed, and so we have to make a slight detour.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Check-in is on the first floor.
Facilities: Online check-in and airport check-in. There is no Air Malta app.
Counters: The airport is very busy when I arrive. Alitalia, Lufthansa and Emirates are all check-in their flights and there are quite a few Air Malta flights departing around the same time as well. Fortunately, there are two dedicated Club Class and Diamond member check-in counters.

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The check-in agent labels my suitcase, and hands me my boarding pass. He also writes up an invitation to the La Valette Business Class lounge. The lounge invitation will also give you access to the priority lane at security.

LOUNGE
Location:
Airside, behind the duty-fee shop.
Type of Lounge:
La Valette contractor lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets but no showers, four work stations with Mac Computers, newspapers, buffet with hot and cold snacks and drinks.
Internet:
Free wifi is available in the lounge.

This is the only lounge facility in the terminal. As a result, the place has a fairly good occupancy when I arrive. What I like about this lounge is that it is very well kept. There is enough cleaning staff at hand to ensure that tables are cleared and cleaned. It is also a nice place to grab a last taste of Malta and have a glass of Kinnie, Hobz biz-Zejt or Ftira filled with tuna.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yes.

Boarding for the flight starts on time. There is a separate queue for Business Class passengers, but seeing as we will be taking a bus to the aircraft anyway, I figure there is not much point in using the priority lane.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 (European Business Class configuration with the middle seat left empty)
Seat: On Air Malta, there is a tray in the back of the middle seat, which is folded down in the Business Class configuration. The idea is that you can then raise the armrest on that side of your own seat to give you a bit more width. The height of the headrest is adjustable. The recline is good.
Audio and Video: Available, but only used for the safety briefing on this flight.

There are two rows of Business Class, for a total of eight seats. Seven of the seats are occupied on today’s flight.

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SERVICE
The service begins with a choice of orange juice or water as a welcome drink. This is followed by the newspaper service. There is a choice of two Maltese dailies, including the Time of Malta.

After departure, a hot towel is served ahead of the start of the meal service.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes, not scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Kinnie with lemon and ice.
Choice:
There is no choice for the main meal. However, snacks are available for purchase after the main meal service is over.
Delivery:
Individual tray service, no trolleys.
Type of meal:
Light dinner.
Meal:

  1. Tomato and Mozzarella salad with a pesto sauce
  2. A few slices of some smoked meet with salad leaves.
  3. A plate of fresh cheese with melon and mint.
  4. Cream caramel.
  5. Bread and butter
  6. Coffee

The meal is tasty enough, although I do not touch the smoked meat. As I get older I find I am eating less meat. The flight passes quickly and quietly, and there is a very comfortable and lazy atmosphere in the cabin.

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ARRIVAL
We are lucky today. It is a beautiful day here in Switzerland, and so we are treated to a magnificent view of the Alps as we start our descent into Zürich. The airport is fairly busy, and so there is a bit of a hold up for our luggage to arrive, despite the fact that is was priority tagged in Malta.

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Train.
Departs from: Railway station in the basement of the airport.
Journey time: Roughly every 30 minutes.
Fare: CHF38.- for a one-way ticket.
With my suitcase arriving so late, I just manage to miss the airport train to Basel, which runs every hour and departs from Zürich airport at four minutes past the hour. So instead I take a train to Zürich main station, from where there are four trains to Basel every hour.

Air Malta, Business Class – A 319: Zürich to Malta

KM to MLA

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Train.
Departs from: Winterthur main railway station.
Frequency: Nonstop trains run every thirty minutes.
Journey time: 13 minutes.

I leave the office at 15h45 to catch the train at 15h55. My flight to Malta will be leaving at 17h40, which should give me enough time. There is another train at 15h58, which is a good thing because on this particular occasion I actually manage to miss the earlier train.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Check-in 2, row 3.
Facilities: Online check-in and airport check-in. There is no Air Malta app.
Counters: Air Malta checks in on row 3, which is where the multipurpose counters of handling agent Swissport are located. There is a dedicated Business Class counter, At this time of day the whole place is pretty deserted and there are no other passengers checking in.

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While the agent is tagging my suitcase, another Swissport agent walks up to the counter and asks him what the seat load for the Air Malta flight is. Apparently, the flight was originally overbooked. However, there are quite a few no-shows and so, only 128 of the 141 seats are occupied. Still, considering that it is the end of October and the holiday season is over, it is not a bad load.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Airside, turn right as you exit from the duty-free shop.
Type of Lounge:
Swiss International Air Lines Business Class lounge.
Facilities:
Limited seating area, toilets and showers on the premises, two buffets.
Internet:
Free wifi is available throughout the terminal.

Crap! Of all the lounges at Zürich airport, Air Malta had to choose the SWISS one for its Business Class passengers. What a rat hole! The place is completely packed when I arrive and it is standing room only. The buffet looks as though a bomb just went off and there are empty glasses, dishes and bottles everywhere. But it is not just that the place is far from being tidy, it is also starting to look shabby and I think most of that has to do with the fact that the lounge is a) way too small for all the passengers it is supposed to hold, and b) I think SWISS’ branding is starting to look tired and worn.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
No.

Boarding for the flight starts on time. There is a bit of a scrum once the boarding announcement is made, so I wait for the mad rush to subside before I make my way on board the aircraft.

I am greeted at the door by a charming young lady who is all smiles, and an older gentleman who later turns out to be the purser. He seems to be in a good mood, chatting and joking with the passengers as they board the aircraft. He takes a look at my boarding pass and makes a point of addressing me in Maltese.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 (European Business Class configuration with the middle seat left empty).
Seat: 1F, window on the right side of the aircraft. On Air Malta, there is a tray in the back of the middle seat, which is folded down in the Business Class configuration. The idea is that you can then raise the armrest on that side of your own seat to give you a bit more width. The height of the headrest is adjustable. The recline is good.
Audio and Video: Available, but only used for the safety briefing on this flight.

There are two rows of Business Class, for a total of eight seats. Five of the seats are occupied on tonight’s flight.

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SERVICE
The service begins with a choice of orange juice or water as a welcome drink. This is followed by the newspaper service. There is a choice of two Maltese dailies, including the Time of Malta.

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After departure, a hot towel is served ahead of the start of the meal service.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes, not scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Kinnie with lemon and ice.
Choice:
There is no choice for the main meal. However, snacks are available for purchase after the main meal service is over.
Delivery:
Individual tray service, no trolleys.
Type of meal:
Light dinner.
Meal:

  1. Salad with black olives and grilled artichoke hearts with slices of chicken breast and tomato.
  2. Cheese platter.
  3. Chocolate fudge cake.
  4. Bread and butter
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It is just a light meal that Air Malta serves and it is perfectly adequate given the duration of the flight. Especially the chocolate fudge cake is very tasty. My only complaint about the food in Air Malta Business Class is that it tends to be slightly repetitive and they do not seem to change the menus very often.

After the meal I order a packet of Twistees from the on board menu. Twistees are Malta’s answer to Pringles. It is rather difficult to describe the taste of Twistees, and to be honest, I am not even entirely sure what they are made of…

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ARRIVAL
The airport is fairly quiet when we arrive. Nothing much has changed since my last visit over a year ago. And it is just so nice to be able to deplane without a jacket and not feel cold, when back in Zürich is was decidedly chilly when we departed.

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Taxi.
Departs from: Outside the arrivals hall.
Journey time: About 25 minutes.
Fare: EUR21.

Maltese taxi drivers are notorious for ripping off innocent, unsuspecting tourist. That is why they introduced an interesting system at the airport a few years back. In order to get an official taxi, you have to proceed to the official taxi counter first, where there is a price list with most towns and hotels on it. You tell the agent at the counter where you are heading and pay the fare at the counter. You are then given a ticket, which is then assigned to a specific driver.

On this trip, I shall be staying at the Hilton in St. Julian’s, mainly because the Phoenicia, where I normally stay, is currently under renovation. The Hilton is ideally located right on the rocks, overlooking the seat. It was still warm enough to sleep with the balcony door open. There is something very soothing about falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks.

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