Date: 02. August 2016.
flight time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Seat: 11F, window on the starboard side.
In my gap year between finishing secondary school and starting university I briefly had a job as a flight attendant. Back then I used to fly to Skopje in Macedonia frequently, mostly with ethnic traffic.
I have rather fond memories of those flights. On the one hand, the passengers used to drive me nuts with the copious amounts of ‘hand luggage’ they would have with them. You could expect anything from vacuum cleaners to televisions – all being brought into the cabin. Most of the time the flights left late because it just took a while to get all the passengers settled. But it was also heart warming to watch. As soon as the aircraft would land in Skopje, the passengers would get excited at the prospect of finally being home. Usually before the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off, they would be helping each other taking things down from the overhead bins, quite as though they could not wait any longer to set foot again in their home country.
That was over twenty years ago. And now, today I find myself travelling yet again, to Skopje with a planeload of Macedonians. Only this time, I am a passenger.
Location: Check-in 1 or 3. Check-in 1 is the SWISS and Star Alliance terminal.
Facilities: Web check-in, app check-in or check-in at the airport.
I arrive at the airport at 10:38, with a little under two hours before departure. It is the middle of the Swiss holiday season and the airport is packed. I head up to Check-in 1 to find a queue going all the way back to the SWISS ticketing counters. I’ve never seen anything quite like it at Zürich airport. It takes me 15 minutes just to reach the start of the queue and then another 20 minutes to reach the baggage drop counter.
I think part of the problem is that SWISS has not properly signposted the process. As a result, like me, most passengers are unsure if they need to check-in at the self-service machines first or if they can do everything at the counter.
By the time I have checked in and changed some money, it is already 11h45 and my flight is about to board from the midfield Dock E. So I head straight for security, fearing that here too there will be long queues. But much to my surprise, the place is fairly deserted and security is swift.
From security I head two floors down into the basement of the terminal to catch the metro shuttle. On my way to the gate I briefly stop at the Deli to get myself a sandwich, because I am not entirely sure what or if they will be serving anything on this flight.
Boarding starts with a delay of about 15 minutes. There is a first call for families with children, before the general boarding process starts. Despite the fact that the flight is packed to the gills, boarding is completed in less than 15 minutes. These guys must be eager to get home! Most of the passengers appear to be Macedonians on their way home. And from what I can tell a lot of passengers are connecting from one of SWISS’ North American flights.
Configuration: 3 + 3.
Seat: The Edelweiss Air Airbus 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. On flights to Skopje, there is no Business Class and the aircraft operates in an Economy Class only configuration. I am on 11F, which is the first of the two emergency rows.
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.
There are four crew on this flight and all of them are very friendly and all smiles, pretty much like all the Edelweiss crews I have experienced recently. The flight time is announced as ninety-five minutes.
Type of meal: Snack.
- Cheese sandwich.
- Choice of hot and cold drinks.
- A Kägi Fret, which is a typically Swiss biscuit that is basically a few layers of waffle with chocolate in between and then coated in chocolate.
Once the service is done, there are still sandwiches left, so the crew pass through the cabin offering seconds to those who are still hungry. The sandwich is okay, with some tomato and pepper spread and cheese in it. The bread is a bit rubbery though.
Eventually, after an uneventful flight we start our descent into Skopje. The airport is located in a scenic landscape of hills. It looks hot outside.
As the aircraft slows to taxing speed I get another blast from the past. No sooner have we turned off the runway that you can hear seatbelts unclickling and the passengers start getting up to take their belongings from the overhead bins. Well some things obviously never change.
The terminal in Skopje looks fairly new and is a far cry from the run down, rickety old facility there used to be when I flew here all those years back. Immigration is swift. There is a bit of a hold up waiting for the luggage, what with the Air Serbia flight arriving right behind us.
GETTING INTO TOWN
In Skopje I will be staying at the Marriott, which only opened a few weeks ago. The journey to from the airport will take roughly 25 minutes in good traffic and will cost you EUR20 or 1250 Macedonia Dinars.