Etihad Regional, Economy Class – Saab 2000: Lugano to Sion

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Date: 31 August 2016
Departure:
12:35
Arrival: 13:32
Flight time: 45 minutes
Seat: 16A

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Introduciton

The terminal at Lugano airport is so small that it will only take you about two minutes to walk from the exit of the aircraft, through the terminal to the taxi rink on the other side.

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Check-in

Location: Ground floor, exactly opposite the exit from customs.
Facilities: No web check-in or app check-in available.
Counters: There is one Business Class counter and three Economy Class counters, which are used by all airlines operating into Lugano (SWISS and Etihad).

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I still have a bit more than an hour before my flight starts boarding, so I decide to head outside and take a walk along the airport’s perimeter fence. Eventually I find myself a nice bench surrounded by lush greenery and start writing the trip report for my previous flight.

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Boarding

Lugano airport has all of two departure gates. The flight is going to be delayed. At 12h00, the actual departure time, we are still sitting in the terminal. The gate agent makes an announcement to inform us that the weather in Sion is really bad. So the flight is running late. He also informs us that there is a chance the flight will be diverted to Geneva instead, in which case we will be taken to Sion by coach. Eventually, the flight starts boarding at 12h20.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2.
Seat: I suspect these are still the same seats that were originally delivered to the aircraft. However, beige leather seat covers have replaced the traditional dark blue leather seat covers. The cabin looks rather nice actually. Only twenty of fifty seats are occupied on this short hop to Sion.
Pitch: No information available.
Width: No information available.

The Crew

The cabin crew if made up of the one regulation flight attendant. It is a young lady in her late twenties I would say. She seems somewhat irritable. What surprises me about Etihad Regional is that they only seem to make the on board announcements in Italian.

The Snack

Type of meal: Snack.

  1. Sweet or savoury biscuits.
  2. Still water (San Benedetto)

By the time the service begins I am really starving. And so I decide to go with the savoury snack, which consists of a packet of stale crackers and pretzels.

Diversion to Geneva

Just after the meal, the captain comes on to inform us that we will indeed be diverting to Geneva due to the bad weather in Sion. I suppose one might argue that this is a somewhat unusual situation. Even so, I cannot help thinking that Etihad Regional’s handling of this irregularity is rather poor. The crew obviously has not got the faintest idea about what is going on either. According to the captain, a bus will be organised to bring passengers to Sion. However, as we enter the terminal building there is nobody there expecting us. I am not even sure who the handling agent for this flight is. So I check my watch: it is now 13h34. According to the app of the Swiss Federal Railways there is a train to Sion at 13h51, which should get me there just before 16h00.

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Austrian Airlines, Economy Class – Bombardier Q400: Zürich to Lugano

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Date: 31. August 2016.
Departure:
09:35.
Arrival:
10:10.
Flight time:
35 minutes.
Seat:
15F, then 9A.

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Introduction

Lugano airport is located in a narrow valley, closed in by steep hills on three sides. In addition, the lake just south of the airport puts further limitations on the length of the runway. As a result, even SWISS’ Avro RJ100 is still too large and too heavy to operate safely in and out of Lugano. For a while, service to and from Lugano were operated by Darwin on behalf of SWISS. But then once Darwin was rebranded as Etihad regional, there was no way the relationship could continue and eventually, the route was taken over by Austrian Airlines who operate the Q400 on the route.

And so I find myself on my way to Zürich early on a Sunday morning to catch an Austrian Airlines flight from Zürich to Lugano.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Train.
Departure: 06h33 from Basel Main Station.
Arrival: 07h47 at Zürich Flughafen.
Journey time: 1 hour and 14 minutes, including the transfer at Zürich Main Station.

Check-in

Facilities: Web check-in via the SWISS app. Check-in for the flight opens 24 hours before departure. Advanced seat reservation is possible against payment on the SWISS website or web app.

The Passbook app does not really work well for SWISS. The whole point about Passbook should be that the boarding pass appears on your lock screen. So that you only need to swipe the screen to display the pass, rather than having to type your PIN code each time. But for some reason that never seems to work with SWISS.

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The Lounge

Location: Upper level of the airside terminal.
Type of Lounge:
SWISS and Star Alliance Business Class lounge operated by Swissport on behalf of SWISS.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers, computer workstations, newspaper rack.
Catering: For a change, there is a fairly decent breakfast spread, with different types of bread, cold cuts, Müsli and a fruit salad.
Internet:
Available in the lounge and in the terminal, courtesy of the airport authority.

At least for once the place is empty and looks fairly tidy. Two things strike me as I wolf down my croissant. First, the lounge is starting to look dated. SWISS’ branding has not really aged very well and what was once cool simplicity is starting to look worn and plain drab. And secondly, have the staff here actually received any training? None of them are actually doing anything. Instead, two of them are discussing a roster swap while the three Latinos are having a bit of an argument in Spanish about some guy who is, and they all agree here, a bit ‘tonto’ and a bit ‘loco’. Seriously? If it were not for them, the place would be nice and quiet…

Boarding

We are boarding from gate A55, which is a bus gate on the ground floor. I count 40 passengers on the bus, which is more than I had been expecting for such a flight on Sunday morning.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: The Q400 has a seating capacity of 76 in Austrian Airlines’ configuration.
Pitch: 30 inches.
Width: 17 inches.
Facilities: None to mention really, but there is a coat hook.

Originally, I am on 15F, which is a window seat. But the guy next to me seems to be needing a lot of space, which is kind of strange considering he is not really such a big guy. But fortunately for me, there are still a few rows left empty by the time boarding is completed. And so I move forward to 9A, which is also a window seat.

There is a Business Class cabin on the aircraft. Business Class seats have a headrest cover, which the Economy Class seats do not have.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

The Crew

There are two cabin crew working the flight today. The flight is operated with Austrian Airlines crew, which is why the two ladies are dressed in that carrier’s rather trashy red uniform.

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The Meal

Type of meal: Snack.
Meal:

  1. Still water (a Swiss brand)
  2. Small bar of chocolate.

To be honest, I am rather surprised they serve anything at all, given that the flight time is only 30 minutes. But in any case, the chocolate hits the spot nicely.

Arrival

We fly a circuitous route around the mountains on our descent into Lugano. Eventually, we fly into the valley from the south, coming in over the lake. We then make a wide left hand turn to line up with the runway and land in a southerly direction.

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‘Dinky’ is the best word I can think of to describe Lugano airport. It is just so small. It is probably one of the few airports I have ever been to where you can get the entire arrivals and departures areas in one shot.

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KLM Cityhopper, Economy Class – Fokker 70: Billund to Amsterdam

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Date: 17 July 2016
Departure: 14:40
Arrival: 15:40
Flight time: 1 hour
Seat: 5F, window on the starboard side

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Introduction

The city of Billund is best known as the location of Legoland. Apart from that though, Billund is definitely one of the stranger places I have ever visited. I am staying at the Refborg hotel, which is a nice hotel close to the bus stop for the bus to the airport – but otherwise stuck in the middle of nowhere. It is not until I make further investigations that what I thought originally was the middle of nowhere turns out to be the centre of downtown Billund…

And now it is Sunday morning. It really is peaceful here. Lying in bed I can hear the birds singing and the soft, gentle hush of drizzle against the windowpane.

Walking to the Airport

Journey time: 45 minutes
From: Refborg Hotel, central Billund
Arrives: Entrance to Departures
Cost: 240 calories
The distance from the Refborg Hotel to the airport terminal is only 3.84 kilometres, so I figure I might as well walk. The walk is pretty straightforward and takes you along country roads with very little traffic. I think this is the first time I have ever walked to the airport. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes for airplane geeks, walking at an average pace of 11:53 minutes per kilometre. Obviously this will be about five minutes or so shorter if you are not an airplane geek and hence do not stop to watch every time an aircraft takes off right above your head.

The walk from the city centre takes you around the grounds of Legoland and then in a straight line to the airport. On your way you will pass right under the threshold.

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Check-in

Location: Departures and arrivals are on the ground level. There is only one terminal.
Facilities: KLM web check-in, KLM app check-in, self-service check-in machines, dedicated counters.
Counters: Billund has common purpose self-service check-in machines and counters. Economy Class passengers check-in on the C row, while SkyPriority passengers may use counter D41.

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There is a LEGO store once you are airside of the terminal. They have a special set of Billund airport made out of LEGO, which was produced as a limited special edition of 10’000 and can only be purchased at this shop. Because it is a limited edition, customers are advised that the price per set will go up if they purchase more than three boxes. What’s more, the guy who actually designed the set still works at the shop and if you ask nicely, he will even sign the box for you!

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The King Amlet Lounge

Location: One floor up from the public transit area.
Type of Lounge:
Contractor lounge operated by Billund airport.
Facilities:
Toilets are available in the lounge but there are no shower, workstations.
Catering: The lounge has a decent selection of cold dishes and various breads. There is also a coffee available. Meals may be ordered for purchase in the lounge.
Internet:
There is complimentary wifi in the entire terminal. However, the lounge has its own network.

The stairs leading up to the lounge are guarded by a man-sized king in medieval costume – made entirely of LEGO of course.

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Boarding

Is there like some secret sign I missed or what? One moment I am just standing in the holding pen for my flight to Amsterdam minding my own business, the next moment all the passengers stand up and start walking towards the exit for the plane.

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The Cabin

The flight is only moderately full. Originally I am on seat 3C, which is the aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft. But once boarding is completed, I realise there is an entire row of three on the starboard side on row five, so I move to 5F before the fasten seatbelt sign comes on.

The Crew

There are two female cabin crew on the flight. They are friendly enough, but they seem a bit stressed, probably because the inbound flight was late and the turnaround had to be very quick.

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The Meal

Type of meal: Afternoon snack

  1. Wrap with hummus, mint and lemon
  2. Still water
  3. Any other hot or cold drinks from the trolley
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Much to my surprise, the food service on this short hop to Amsterdam is not the usual biscuits or crisps. Instead, we are each served a box containing a small wrap and a container with still water. Even so, the crew still pass through the cabin offering drinks from the trolley.

Arrival

The weather in Amsterdam is certainly much better than it was in Billund, with only scattered clouds and a temperature of 22 degrees Celsius. We land on runway 18C, which means that we only have about 5 minutes to taxi from the runway to the infamous Fokker farm, where all the Cityhopper aircraft normally park.

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There is a bus to bring us to the terminal. I arrive in the terminal building at 15h50. I now have ten minutes before boarding starts for my flight to Basel. As my friend the valiant M. would say, it’s as easy as cutting Swiss cheese.

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KLM Cityhopper, Business Class – Embraer 190: Amsterdam to Aalborg

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Introduction

The day after I return from Malta I am on my way to Aalborg in Denmark. For me the most convenient way to get there is, as usual, with KLM. As I have already covered KLM extensively in my blog, our story today starts just as yours truly steps off the escalators to the ground level of the B concourse at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

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Boarding

The first boarding call is for Business Class and SkyPriority passengers. Although in this particular case that only means that you are first to board the bus to take you to the aircraft.

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The gate agent scans my mobile boarding pass, only to discover – lo and behold – that the upgrade fairy has done her magic yet again and I have been shifted from 6A to 1A, the window seat on the bulkhead row.

The Cabin

The first thing that strikes me is that there is no cabin divider to separate the Business Class cabin from the Economy Class one. Furthermore, on the Embraers KLM does not keep the seat next to you empty in Business Class. So in other words, essentially you have exactly the same level of comfort, or lack thereof, as all the other passengers at the back of the bus.

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The Crew

There are two cabin crew on the flight today. A young man as the purser, and a young lady working the rear of the aircraft. Interaction is somewhat limited, given that the flight is full and the flight time is only one hour. Even so, the crew are friendly in the way I am used to from KLM. Before departure, passengers on the first row are asked if they would like a newspaper, so I figure this means there is just the one row of Business Class on the flight today.

The Meal

Delivery: On KLM Cityhopper flights the Business Class meal is always served in a cardboard box.
Type of meal:
Light dinner

  1. Waldorf salad.
  2. Greek salad with honeyed goats cheese, tomato, onion, cucumber and olives.
  3. Two buns.
  4. Tropical mousse with lime topping.
  5. Tea or coffee.
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The meal is tasty enough and hits the spot nicely. One thing I have noticed with KLM though, is that they do not really seem to vary or change their menus that often. So if you fly with them a lot, you are going to end up having the same meal over and over again.

Arrival

Very soon after the meal is removed, the descent into Aalborg begins. It is a really nice evening for flying and the setting sun looks brilliant on the horizon.

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By the time we land it is already 22h30. So I shall be spending the night at the Aalborg airport hotel before heading into town in the morning.

10 Strait Street, Valletta

In Malta I usually stay at the Phoenicia. This time however, I had to make different arrangements because the hotel is currently under renovation, refurbishment and expansion. Of course there are plenty of hotels in Malta, but I wanted to stay in Valletta. First of all, because there are plenty of things to do and see in Valletta and there are many good restaurants. And secondly, because it is fairly easy to access any place on the island by bus from Valletta.

And so I stumbled upon 10 Strait Street via Air BnB. I was in flat 1, which is fairly large, and with two bedrooms each with a double bed. The location of 10 Strait Street could hardly be any better. Strada Stretta, as Strait Street used to be called, has a long history and is located just a stone’s throw away from all the interesting sights like the Upper Barrakka Gardens and St. John’s co-cathedral.

Especially if you are planning a long stay on the Maltese islands, I think 10 Strait Street may be a viable and far more pleasant option than a hotel.

And here’s the link to the website. Bookings must be made via Air BnB though.

Air Malta, Club Class – Airbus A 320: Malta to Zürich

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Date: 14. July 2016
Departure: 14:35
Arrival: 17:00
Flight time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Seat: 3A, window on the port side

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Introduction

Our stay in Malta has been a very relaxing and enjoyable one. The weather has held up beautifully, with temperatures in the range of 35 to 40 degrees Celsius. To be honest though, I really do not think I handle the heat very well, and I am looking forward to returning home to Switzerland, where the temperature should be cooler.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Rented car.
Journey time: 20 minutes.
Cost: EUR160 for three whole days, including fuel.

We leave Valletta just after noon. The easiest way to get around Malta is by rented car. However, if you are staying in Valletta, finding a place to park can be a problem. There is a large underground parking just outside city gate, and parking your car there will cost you EUR5 for 24 hours.

Check-in

Location: The departures concourse is to the left of the terminal when you are looking at it with the car park behind you.
Facilities: Web check-in, mobile check-in or check-in at the airport.
Counters: Dedicated Air Malta counters. There are separate counters for Club Class passengers and for baggage drop.

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The Lounge

Location: As you come up the escalators from security, you first pass through the duty free shop. The La Vallette lounge is on the right side of the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge:
La Vallette contractor lounge. If you have lounge access, you are also entitled to use the fast track for security.
Facilities:
Toilets but no showers, work stations with Mac computers, a selection of magazines.
Catering: A good selection of hot and cold dishes with a decidedly Maltese flavour – things like hobz biz-zejt, pastizzi, etc.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available in the lounge. The password is shown at various locations in the lounge and is hard to miss.

Boarding

There is a separate lane for Business Class passengers. Boarding starts on time. There is a short queue for Economy Class, but it is obvious that the flight is not going to be full today. There are no contact stands in Malta, so what ever happens, you will board the aircraft via the stairs, which gives you the opportunity to take some good pictures of the aircraft you are travelling on.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 configuration, the middle seat is kept empty.
Seat: There are four rows of Business Class on the flight today, which makes for a total of 16 seats all together. Nine of the seats are occupied today. Initially, I am on 3C, which is the aisle seat on the starboard side. But once it transpires that the Business Class cabin will not be full, I shift to 3A, the window seat on the port side. The aircraft has a maximum seating capacity of 180.
Pitch: –
Width:

Audio and Video: Overhead dropdown screens showing the safety on board video and the moving map.

The Crew

There are four cabin crew on the flight today and they all seem rather friendly. As we take our seats, one of the cabin crew passes through the cabin offering passengers the Times of Malta to read. The purser is an elderly gentleman, and I am somewhat surprised to hear him making the welcome on board announcement in rather good German.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice or water.
Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Selection from the bar, I have Kinnie of course.
Choice:
No.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Meal:

  1. Antipasti plate with feta cheese rolled in zucchini, smoked meat, shrimps and smoked salmon with aubergine, peppers, olive, fennel and salad.
  2. A selection of cheese.
  3. Apple pie.
  4. Two rolls with butter.
  5. Tea or coffee.
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The meal is light and tasty, especially the salmon is very good and does not taste at all fishy. The apple pie for dessert is fruity and makes an interesting change to the usual creamy desserts they normally serve on planes.

Arrival

As we approach our destination, the weather outside starts to deteriorate. The captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us that the expected temperature on arrival in Zürich will be 14 degrees Celsius, 20 degrees colder than it was when we left Malta earlier this afternoon. And it is raining.

There is a bit of a hold up as we fly around a number of nasty looking build ups along the way. Eventually we land with a delay of about twenty minutes. I step off the plane and I must admit, it really is quite chilly. But I am not complaining…

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Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Malta

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Date: 11. July 2016
Departure: 12:00
Arrival: 14:15
Flight time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Seat: 1F

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Introduction

Well that was quick. Yesterday late afternoon I arrived back in Zürich from Lanzarote. It is now ten o’clock on Monday morning and I am back at the airport. This time, I am on my way to Malta.

I am travelling with two guys from work – the tall, blond M, with whom I previously travelled to Singapore, and the silent, broody S. The latter will be leaving in summer to start a new job in the autumn. So in a way, this trip to Malta is a kind of last farewell.

Check-in

Location: Check-in 3 above the railway tracks, or Check-in 1, which is the dedicated Star Alliance terminal in Zürich.
Facilities: Online and app check-in, self-service ticketing machines or counters.
Counters: There are separate counters for Business Class passengers in both check-in areas and there is a separate queue to speed things up.

We catch the 10h25 train from Winterthur, which arrives at Zürich airport at 10h38. The summer holidays have only just started, so the queues for check-in are something nasty. Fortunately, there are next to no passenger queuing up for Business Class and I am seen to right away. The check-in agent tags my suitcase with a priority sticker and sends me on my way.

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The SWISS Business Class Lounge

Location: SWISS Business Class lounge on the upper level of the airside centre.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers, workstations with computers, a selection of newspapers.
Catering: A limited selection of rather hot and cold snacks.
Internet:
Available in the lounge. The password is available at reception but there is complimentary wifi available throughout the terminal.

Much to my surprise, the lounge is not at all full. It is still a mess though, and I really think they need to have a word with their cleaning staff.

Boarding

Priority Boarding: Good question.

When we arrive at the gate, there is already a long queue forming for our flight, even though boarding will only start in about ten minutes. Eventually, when boarding does start, no boarding call is made. The gates just open and boarding starts. Given that the three of us are sitting on row 1, we figure we might as well wait until all the other passengers have boarded.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 in a mixed Business/Economy Class configuration with the middle seat left empty in Business Class.
Seat: SWISS has recently completed reconfiguring its narrow body fleet. As a result, they have managed to squeeze a staggering 182 seats into the Airbus A 320, which is only four seats short of the maximum.
Pitch: 32 inches on the first row, which gradually degreases to 31 inches towards the back of the bus.
Width: 17 inches.
Facilities: Reading lamp and air vent.
Audio and Video: There are overhead screens showing a lot of SWISS ads, short films and the route map.

The cabin looks very neat and clean. Especially the SWISS logo on the bulkhead makes a sharp contrast and adds a bit of colour.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

The Crew

The crew are all Germans from what I can tell. This is something that creeps up regularly in various aviation forums. The lack of Swiss staff apparently tarnishes the airline’s Swissness. To be honest though, I am not quite sure what the big deal is. The four young ladies working the flight today are friendly, charming and attentive. What do I care if they are not Swiss? After all, if you take an airline like Emirates, it may well happen that you have as many different nationalities in the crew as there are crew members. And nobody seems to have an issue with that either.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Small bottle of still water.
Towel before the meal: Scented, pre-packed towel served with the bottle of water.
Pre-meal drink:
No.
Choice:
There are two choices for the main course, one is vegetarian.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.

  1. Salad with balsamico dressing.
  2. Vegetable ravioli with a creamy tomato sauce.
  3. A plate with two different cheeses.
  4. A lemon tiramisu.
  5. Selection of bread from the breadbasket.
  6. Tea or coffee.
  7. Chocolate
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The meal is tasty enough and the crew even appear to respect passengers’ status in taking orders for the main course. However, the whole experience does seem a bit lacklustre. I mean, with a flight time of 1 hour and 50 minutes and only 12 passengers in the cabin, surely it would not have been too much to ask to offer a drink before the meal.

Arrival

Our routing takes us from Zürich to Genova and then from there more or less in a straight line across the water to Palermo. Just as we hit Sicily’s southern coast, the descent into Malta begins.

Edelweiss Air, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Lanzarote to Zürich

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Date: 10 July 2016
Departure: 12:00
Arrival: 16:45
Flight time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side

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Introduction

Okay, next attempt to get home. It is now Sunday morning just after 10 as I check out of the hotel to make my way back to the airport. I checked on flightradar earlier this morning. Apparently, the aircraft I was originally booked on yesterday eventually arrived in Barcelona at 01h40… So I think I have definitely opted for the more pleasant solution.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Taxi.
Journey time: 10 minutes, the distance is 7.5 kilometres but Spanish taxi drivers normally drive like a bat out of hell. It seems to be their modus operandi.
Cost: EUR11.65.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 1, departure concourse.
Facilities: Airport check-in, web check-in or app check-in using the SWISS app. At the airport there are dedicated counters for each individual flight.

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Airside

There is no lounge available for Edelweiss passengers in Lanzarote. However, I can highly recommend the Coffee Republic café near gate 2. They have good coffee and the views of the apron are brilliant. Alternatively, the PANS do a great tortilla sandwich and the view is not bad either.

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Boarding

The boarding ‘announcement’ is interesting. Basically the lady behind the desk looks up at the first person who catches her eye and then very quietly says ‘Zurich?’. That it is, and boarding starts.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2, typical European Business Class configuration with the middle seat left empty.
Seat: The Edelweiss Air A 320 comes in two different configurations, depending on whether it is an original Edelweiss Air bird or if it is one of the aircraft leased from SWISS, which retain the original cabin configuration. The height of the head rest is adjustable. There are three rows of Business Class with capacity for twelve passengers. On today’s flight only seven of the seats are occupied.
Pitch: 34 or 32 inches, which then gradually decreases to 31 inches towards the back of the bus.
Width:
17 inches.
Facilities:
Reading lamp and air vent. No power outlet.
Audio and Video: Moving map. The Edelweiss aircraft that are not leased from SWISS also allow you to stream the IFE on your mobile device. In order to do so though, you need to download the Edelweiss app in advance. The system works very well. The only grippe I have though, is that it would be good to also have power outlets at the seats then.

The one thing that always strikes me about Edelweiss, is the cleanliness of their aircraft. This Airbus is no exception. It is spotlessly clean and the windows look as though they were only recently done.

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The Crew

There are four crew on the aircraft today, three females and one gentleman in his thirties, I should guess. They are very friendly and obviously determined to make the last few hours of the passengers’ vacation memorable.

Newspapers are available for all passengers as you board the aircraft. Pillows and pre-packed scented towels have been placed in between every pair of seats.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Still water or sparkling wine.
Towel before the meal: No.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero with a packet of crackers.
Choice:
There are two options for the main course, one of which is vegetarian.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.

  1. Mixed salad with a home made Italian dressing.
  2. Parma ham with small balls of melon, mozzarella and olive oil.
  3. Angus beef in a rich brown sauce, served with mushrooms, white and green asparagus and Pretzel dumplings.
  4. A selection of cheese with pickled onions and a dried apricot.
  5. A selection of desserts – I go with the peach in a thyme crust.
  6. Sprüngli chocolates.
  7. Selection from the bread basked.
  8. Tea or coffee.
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The meal is very tasty and I am quite amazed by the amount of food that is provided. During the meal service, the crew make two bread rounds. Moreover, once the main course is over, another bread round is made for passengers who would like some bread to accompany the cheese.

Arrival

After the meal the cabin quietens down and I even manage to nod off to sleep at some point. Eventually we start our descent, and shortly after we enter into Swiss airspace. As we descend, the crew pass through with hot towels and a Biberli.

Our routing takes us past the city of Geneva and Montreux towards the capital Berne. From there we turn in a northerly direction and head into German. Before doing a 180 degree turn back towards Switzerland and an approach for runway 14. It really is nice to be back!

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Epilogue

And so the story of my failed attempt to bag another flight with the Boeing B 747-400 comes to an end. I am not annoyed it did not work out. After all, the only reason Vueling leased the B 747-400 in the first place was because their operation is a shambles. So I guess it was rather likely it wouldn’t work out.

What really irritates me though, is the behaviour of the Swissport staff in Lanzarote and the way they handled the situation – from the rampers who see no problem in smoking next to an aircraft being refuelled , to the gate agents who did not provide any information about the status of the delayed flight unless you asked them.

Wamos Air, Economy Class – Boeing B 747-400: Arrecife to Zürich

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Date: 09. July 2016
Departure:
Arrival:
Flight time:
Seat:

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Chronicle of chaos foretold…
Over the last few weeks Vueling has received a lot of negative press about flight cancellations and severe delays in the run up to the busy summer holiday period. As usual, rumours and accusations were many – with the Spanish newspapers allegedly knowing that in fact the Vueling staff were on strike and that this was the real cause for the many irregularities. The airline’s new management of course, blames everything on the old management, which was pushing hard for expansion at all costs.

The upshot of it all is that when the time came for Vueling to station an Airbus A 320 in Zürich for the summer, they realised that in fact they did not have an aircraft available to do so. But rather than cancelling the flights, Vueling decided to lease a Boeing B 747-400 from Wamos Air, just for the month of July. Of course, I simply couldn’t resist…

And so I find myself in Lanzarote on a sunny Saturday morning. It is just coming up 11 in the morning and I have just stepped off an Air Europa flight from Madrid. I now have four hours before my flight back to Zürich at 15h30, hopefully on the mighty Queen of the Skies.

But then at around 11h30 the messages and e-mails from Vueling start arriving, informing me that there are a few operational issues that will probably see my flight leaving with a delay. To be honest, I don’t really mind. Like this I can spend more time relaxing in the sun.

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The flight is first moved from 15h30 to 16h40. Then a bit later the departure is moved back further to 17h40. I check on the web and I think I can actually hear the crack as my heart breaks – there has been an aircraft change and instead of the 747 they are sending a Greek registered puny little Airbus A 319.

The flight time to Zürich is four hours and Lanzarote is one hour behind Zürich. Zürich airport has a curfew in place from 23h00 to 06h03. Now you do the maths. This is going to be tight. Eventually, boarding starts at 17h30 and I figure if we manage to get airborne by 18h00, we might just manage to squeeze in before the curfew. So all the passengers board the bus to take us to the aircraft – and nothing happens.

After waiting for about ten minutes for seemingly no reason at all and nobody on the ground bothering to tell us anything, a group of passengers disembark the bus and decide it is a really great idea to have a smoke, right there on the apron in front of all the pretty airplanes being refuelled. I tell the bus driver that smoking really is not permitted, to which he simply replies that he is just the bus driver from Swissport. By this time I’ve definitely had enough. I take my bag and walk back into the terminal. Much to me surprise, the gate agents don’t seem at all surprised to see me and instead they just hand me a pink transfer card.

Eventually, all the other passengers walk back into the terminal as well. There is no information provided by Swissport and quite evidently, they really couldn’t care less. By this time it is already past six in the evening, seven in Switzerland, so what ever happens, we will not be returning to Zürich tonight. I inquire with the gate attendant about the delay and she explains that the aircraft is overweight and they are trying to figure out what to do next.

In any case, to cut a long story short, by 19h30 it becomes perfectly apparent to everyone that the aircraft will not be flying to Zürich this evening. So instead, the flight will be rerouted to Barcelona. The passengers will be sent home the next day either via Rome or Barcelona. By this time though, I think it is sufficiently clear just how unreliable and unorganised Vueling is and I am not prepared any more to take my chances with them. I have another flight coming up on Monday from Zürich, which I don’t plan on missing because of somebody else’s bad planning. And so I make other arrangements.

Air Europa, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Madrid to Lanzarote

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Date: 09 July 2016
Departure: 09:25
Arrival: 10:50
Flight time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Seat: 1A, window seat

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Complimentary hotel shuttle.
Journey time: 10 minutes.
Departs from: Outside the hotel lobby.
Arrives: Departures level of Terminal 2.
Frequency: Every 20 minutes.
The shuttle for Terminal 2 leaves at 07h00 in the morning. There are only two other passengers in the bus with me and both of them are heading for Terminal 2 as well.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 2.
Facilities: Self-service check-in machines 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. And then there are two separate counters for Business Class passengers.

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To the left of the Business Class counter is the Fast Track security lane.

The Lounge

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.

Boarding

There is a separate queue for SkyPriority passengers, families and passengers requiring assistance. Much to my surprise, once the boarding call is made, the passengers queuing in the Economy Class do not immediately push and shove to the head of the counter but actually wait until the passengers in the SkyPriority queue have boarded.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: Air Europa has the typical European style Business Class configuration, where the middle seat on a row of three is kept empty. The armrest on the inner side of the seat is turned inwards and a small tray table is set up between the aisle and the window seat to give passengers more space. There are twelve seats in Business Class and 168 seats in Economy Class – for a total of 180 seat. Eight of the seats are occupied in Business Class this morning.
Pitch: 33 inches in Business Class and 31 inches in Economy.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities: There are no power plugs.
Audio and Video: Overhead drop-down screens.

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The Crew

There are four cabin crew on the flight. A friendly young man and friendly but certainly no nonsense female purser are working the Business Class cabin. Initially, I am on 1D, which is an aisle seat. However, once boarding is completed I move over to 1A, the window seat.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: A choice of either orange juice or still water. In contrast to the flights operated by the Embraer, on the Boeing 737-800 the welcome drink is served out of a real glass – not plastic.
Towel before the meal: Pre-packed, scented cold towel.
Pre-meal drink:
No.
Choice:
No.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Meal:

  1. Omelette with turkey ham, aubergine and zucchini.
  2. Natural yoghurt.
  3. Croissant and a roll with butter and strawberry jam.
  4. Coffee and sparkling water.
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The meal hits the spot nicely. All in all though, I think I prefer the food and the presentation on Air Europa Express, which seems more innovative. This breakfast is good but there is something very old school about it.

The crew are friendly and make a series of coffee rounds. From what I can tell, there is no tea available. Or perhaps only on request.

The trays are removed as soon as passengers finish their meals. Which is a nice touch and shows how attentive the crew are. It is always a bit frustrating when you finish the meal and cannot get out of your seat because you are trapped by the tray table.

About an hour out of Lanzarote the crew make another drinks run, which are served with a packet of salty almonds.

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Arrival

After about an hour over the empty immensity of the Atlantic Ocean, our aircraft gently dips its nose and we begin our descent into Lanzarote. Our routing takes us due east of the isles, so make sure you get yourself a seat on the starboard side of the aircraft. Otherwise, you will only see land about three minutes before touchdown, once the aircraft comes out of a 180 degree turn to line up with the runway.

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