GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Salad with black olives and grilled artichoke hearts with slices of chicken breast and tomato.
- Cheese platter.
- Chocolate fudge cake.
- Bread and butter
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…
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.
GETTING INTO TOWN
Departs from: Outside the arrivals hall.
Journey time: About 25 minutes.
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.