Air Baltic, Business Class – Boeing B 737-500: Riga to Zürich

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Introduction

So here we are. This is it: my last flight of 2015 will be from Riga back to Zürich. From what little I manage to see this morning, I rather like Riga. It is very modern and looks like a perfect symbiosis of Vilnius and Tallinn.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Bus.
Fare: EUR2.- if you pay on the bus or EUR1.15 if you purchase the ticket in advance at a kiosk.
Journey time: There are two busses that serve the airport, the minibus line 222 and the normal bus line 22. The difference between the two being that the minibus does not serve all stops on the route and once it is full, it will just keep going. Thus, the journey time is between 20 and 30 minutes depending on which bus you take.
Frequency: Both bus lines run more or less every 20 minutes.
Departs from: You can pick up both busses from the stop near the main railway station. The bus stop goes by the name of 13 January.
Arrives at: Riga airport departures.

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Check-in

Location: Departures concourse on the first floor, counters 8 – 17.
Facilities: Web Check-in with passbook, self-service check-in machines and counter check-in.
Fast track: Dedicated Business Class counters and fast track for security.

Thank god for the fast track! As I enter the terminal building, there is a very long queue for security which reaches all the way back to the check-in counters. But fortunately, Business Class passengers can bypass the queue using the fast track, which is off to the right of the general security screening. The process here is much swifter. There are two young families travelling with very young kids in strollers, and getting everybody through security takes a moment. But other than that, it is a smooth process.

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Lounge

Location: Just follow the signs for the B gates. Eventually, you will reach the transfer desk for Air Baltic. The entrance to the lounge is to the right of the transfer desk.
Type of lounge: TAV Premium Class contractor lounge. From what I can tell, this is the only lounge at the airport.
Facilities: Toilets are available in the lounge, but there are no showers. There are Samsung laptops available as well.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available. Password required.
Catering: There is a small buffet with a good selection of salads and bread. There is also a pot of something that looks like rice pudding and some very tasty looking pancakes.

The lounge is nice and fairly quiet when I arrive, presumably it would be slightly different on weekdays. I rather like that the lounge is on two levels. The upper area is the quiet zone and indeed, I am the only person there. The views from the lounge are also very good, now if only there were also some traffic to watch…

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Boarding

Boarding is from B10, which is a bus gate. I would say there are about 70 passengers in total on the flight today. Seated on row 1 gives me a good excuse to keep back in the queue and take some pictures of the chariot carrying me away to Zürich.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2, in Business Class the middle seat on the row of three is kept empty.
Seat: 1C, aisle. There is a tray table on the middle seat to provide some additional storage space. There are three rows of Business Class for a total of twelve seats. Of those, eight are occupied.

Just one word of caution though, especially if you are sitting on row one on the port side of the aircraft: there is no bulkhead. In other words, there is no wall to protect passengers sitting on 1A and 1C from the wind and icy temperatures this time of the year. So I would recommend you keep your coat on until boarding is completed, unless you enjoy freezing. On the up side, the nonexistent bulkhead means you have unlimited leg space.

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The Crew

There are three cabin crew, two women and one man. All of them seem very young but they go about their job in a very professional and courteous way.

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The Meal

Drink before the meal: Yes, I have a Coke Zero.
Type of meal: Lunch.
Service: Individual tray service.
Meal:

  1. Roast beef with hummus and pickled cucumber.
  2. Chicken in a Garam Masala crust, with vegetables and potatoes.
  3. Mango cheesecake.
  4. A selection from the breadbasket.
  5. Tea or coffee with milk or cream.

As on the previous flight the day before, passengers are handed a menu while the aircraft is still on the ground. The meal is tasty enough, although the dessert on this flight is nowhere near as good as that on the flight from Stockholm.

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Arrival

Miraculously, I even manage to doze off for about an hour after the flight. When I awake, we are still forty minutes out of Zürich. Even so, the male flight attendant approaches me and asks me if I would like a cup of coffee before we land, explaining that I was already sleeping when he came round offering tea or coffee the first time.

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And then we land. Zürich airport is fairly quiet, the last departures of the midday bank can be seen queuing for departure from runway 16 as we glide past them to touch down on runway 14.

Twenty two minutes after the landing gear makes contact with runway 14, I am already sitting on the train back to Basel. Since the timetable change early in December, the airport train to Basel now also runs via Zürich Main Station, which only further increases the journey time and make the train even more inconvenient.

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And so another year of travel draws to an end.

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