Date: 20. June 2016.
Seat: 1D, aisle on the starboard side.
I am rather looking forward to this flight, mainly because I am curious to see what will happen. Today’s flight is special because it is the inaugural flight of Air Europa from Madrid to Zürich. I am kind of hoping for a water cannon salute, but I am not entirely sure how realistic that is…
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Complimentary shuttle service.
Journey time: 6 to 8 minutes.
Departs from: Right outside the hotel lobby.
Arrives: Departures level. The shuttle stops at Terminals 1, 2 and 4.
The first shuttle from the Hilton leaves at 05h30 and requires an advance reservation because it tends to be busy. For all later services though, no reservation is required.
Location: Terminal 2.
Facilities: Self-service check-in or counter check-in.
Counters: All of Air Europa’s domestic and Schengen flights operate out of Terminal 2. Accordingly, the airline has quite a presence at the facility. There are thirty Economy Class counters, all of which are open this morning. And then there are two separate counters for Business Class passengers.
To the left of the Business Class counter is the Fast Track security lane. There is only one passenger ahead of me and I am quickly processed.
Location: E concourse, near gate E76.
Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge operated by AENA.
Facilities: Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There is also a quiet area towards the back of the lounge. Computer workstations are also available and all seats are equipped with electric power sockets.
Catering: They have Nespresso machines! Other than that, the selection is good, with a wide range of typical breakfast items like fresh fruit, yoghurt, breads, etc.
Internet: Wifi is available throughout the lounge. The code is displayed on the information screens in the lounge.
Since my last visit to Madrid last year, the lounge has been updated and looks a lot more attractive, fresh and new. Of course, as far as I am concerned, the lounge’s best feature remains the fantastic view of the apron.
Priority Boarding: Available and strictly enforced.
Unlike the other SkyTeam Alliance partners like Air France or KLM, which require you to push and shove your way to the front if you want priority boarding, Air Europa has a dedicated queue for passengers with priority and makes sure to board that queue first.
Initially, every looks pretty normal. But then suddenly a whole armada of journalist appear on board with Air Europa press folder, followed by three camera men, a photographer and a hairy, scruffy dude who must be the sound engineer. Apparently, the company’s CEO Juan José Hidalgo is also on board. The whole thing is rather interesting to watch and obviously Air Europa intends on making a big show of this inauguration. Even so, I am quite impressed how they manage to keep the general chaos surrounding the CEO’s appearance away from the passengers.
Configuration: 2 + 2. Seating capacity on the Embraer 195 is 120 (12 + 108).
Seat: The aircraft is operated a company called Aeronova on behalf of Air Europa under the Air Europa Express brand. Business Class seating is the same as in Economy Class, so the seat next to you is not kept empty. On this morning’s flight this is not really a problem though, seeing as only seven of the twelve seats in Business Class are occupied.
Pitch: 30 inches.
Width: 18 inches.
Facilities: There are no power outlets.
Audio and Video: No.
There are three cabin crew on the flight today. I really do not envy the three young ladies though. There are camera men and journalists all over the place, trying to get a word in with the CEO and there is hardly any room to move around up front.
Eventually though, the doors close and the cabin finally settles down. The crew offer newspapers and a selection of still water or orange juice as a welcome drink. Note that only Spanish language papers are on offer.
After take-off Mr Hidalgo gives a few more interviews and prepares what must obviously be the speech he will be giving upon arrival in Zürich, which makes me hopeful for that water cannon salute.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal: Packed and scented cold towel.
Pre-meal drink: No.
Delivery: Individual tray service.
Type of meal: Breakfast, hot meal.
- Fruit (Kiwi, pineapple, grape).
- Crème brûlée with apple compote.
- Scrambled eggs with grilled vegetables (aubergine, zucchini, pepper and mushroom).
- A croissant and a bun, served warm.
- Tea or coffee.
I really like the presentation of the meal. The eggs and grilled vegetables are served in a small ovenproof pan with the lid still on. The bread items are served in a small brown paper bag, which looks good and makes a change from the usual breadbasket that is usually handed round for all passengers to stick their grubby mitts in. It all tastes very nice too.
The young lady working the Business Class cabin does an excellent job to serve all passengers quickly. Throughout the service she makes sure that drinks are replenished. Once the meal is over the trays are removed without delay to give passengers more time to relax and spread out. By this time we are only one hour out of Zürich.
I am not quite sure what the exact route of our flight is. At some point the Alps come into view on the right side of the aircraft. It takes me a while to realise that we are approaching Switzerland from the West, coming in over the Jura mountains and entering into Swiss airspace above Basel, my hometown. The city easy to spot every since Hofmann-La Roche erected that incredibly ugly building they now call HQ.
From Basel we continue on an Easterly track until eventually we make a right turn to line up for a straight in approach to runway 14. Zürich airport is fairly busy and there is a whole queue of aircraft waiting to take-off from runway 16 as we land.
We taxi off the runway and that is when I spot them up ahead – the fire engines! Woohoo! I’m so excited! This is just so cool! I have only had to wait 42 years for this but finally, at long last it has happened and I am treated to my very first ever water cannon salute.
Eventually we come to a stop on one of the stands at the B dock. The doors open and there is a whole welcoming committee expecting us in the airbridge. As we disembark, passengers are given a small box of typically Swiss biscuits – it is a kind of waffle filled with chocolate cream.
I head downstairs to retrieve my luggage and then from there to the railway station to take me to the office in Winterthur.
I think chasing water cannon salutes is my new hobby! Seriously, I know it may sound shallow, but I think it was a really cool experience that gives you back that sense of arrival that air transport used to have many moons ago but that has since gone missing in a haze of cost costs and deteriorating yields. The wiry R., with whom I started out on this trip to Amsterdam, has often said that he simply cannot understand where in the fascination lies for me to like spending hours on planes. But I think it is just that, flying is not just a means of transport like any other. It is something special to me, and I’d like to keep it that way.