As some of the more regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not exactly a fan of Lufthansa and the Lufthansa group of airlines. But sometimes, circumstances change and we can either adapt to them or spend a lot of time not feeling sexy.
Late in 2017 it became clear that I would be spending a lot more time in Luxembourg. I think I should explain at this point that I don’t have a car, and a few years ago the direct train link between Basel, where I live, and Luxembourg was terminated, making it necessary to change trains at least once in Strassbourg and sometimes even a second time in Metz.
That’s why, so far, I have always chosen KLM for my trips to Luxembourg. First of all, because that allowed me to arrive and depart from Basel. And secondly, because I rather like KLM and their Flying Blue programme.
But of course, there are a few drawbacks in flying KLM. Mainly, over a distance of roughly 400 km it hardly makes sense to have to change aircraft in Amsterdam, which only makes the journey unnecessarily long and doesn’t really do anything to improve my carbon footprint either.
And so, more out of necessity than conviction, I have decided to shift back to SWISS – at least for the trips to Luxembourg. On the one hand, flying from Zürich will allow me to travel to and from Luxembourg without interfering too much with my work in Switzerland. On the other hand, it’s only a short 45 minute flight from Zürich to Luxembourg.
I have no status with the Miles and More programme and these days, achieving any sort of status is near impossible, unless you spend most of your waking hours on a plane or pay unreasonably high fares simply for a booking in an RBD that yields a higher mileage per segment. Both of which don’t strike me as exceptionally exciting right now.
Well, so be it. On European short-haul flights I think you can get by perfectly well without a lounge anyway. And for long-haul trips I would travel Business Class, which gives me lounge access anyway.
I won’t regale you with a post for every one of the planned flights between Zürich and Luxembourg. But I figured it would be good to post about my first experience under the new regime. After all, who knows what might happen. Perhaps I’ll be back to my old tricks with KLM in a month’s time…
I arrive at Zürich airport by train at 07h15. Much to my surprise, it looks as though the morning rush is already over and there aren’t that many people milling about.
I’ve already checked in online. The app works well and is easy enough to navigate, but still, for some reason the SWISS boarding passes don’t show up on my iPhone’s locked screen.
The SWISS Schengen lounge is currently closed for refurbishing. As a compromise – the Swiss are good at that – SWISS passengers have the option to use one of the other lounges in Zürich. With the understanding however, that the other carriers’ passengers are given preference. If the lounge is full when you arrive, you are given a voucher for a coffee in one of the public airside outlets.
I’m feeling rather hungry anyway, so instead I go directly one floor down to the Marché restaurant in the passage between the B pier and the A pier and have myself a rather tasty and quiet breakfast there.
Boarding starts on time at 08h35. The gate agent is new, I’m guessing. The announcements she makes are oozing with the embarrassment of a person not used to hearing the sound of their own voice.
Business Class passengers are invited to board first. But I’m sitting on 1A, so I figure I might as well wait so as not to get in everybody’s way.
As I step aboard the aircraft, I am greeted by the maître de – a German female – and a young man, also German.
As soon as I take my seat, the young man brings me a small bottle of water and a pre packed refreshing towel. He seems kind of shy, mostly avoiding having to interact with the passengers as much as he can, which seems a bit strange given that you do have quite a bit of interacting to do when you’re a flight attendant.
The maître de is polite, but otherwise, as we say in Maltese, a kaxxa silg, an ice box. Whenever she smiles you feel guilty for the pain it must be causing her…
The cabin on the CS100 is nice. The seats are a nice warm brown colour and the bulkhead and walls are white, which makes a refreshing change from that godawful and depressing Lufthansa grey.
The seating configuration is 2 + 3. In Business Class the seat next to you is always kept empty. On the downside, in the fully upright position the seatback is quite far forward, so you really have to sit very upright. Secondly, there is no cabin divider at all. Not even a curtain. It’s no big deal really, but I think a divider would be nice.
The windows on the CS100 are definitely are larger than on other aircraft. The inflight video screens, in contrast, are minute and I really wonder what on earth they were thinking installing those in the first place.
We take off and very soon after we find ourselves climbing above the clouds. The view of the snow peaked mountains is spectacular. And then the meal service begins. It consists of a thin, long plate which contains
- a brioche filled with smoked salmon and horseradish,
- a small ramekin of müsli,
- a bowl of fresh fruit.
To drink I have an orange juice.
Hot drinks are available from a thermos, and don’t look and smell too appealing. The guy one row behind me on the other side of the aisle orders a cup of coffee and I think you can actually hear his jaw hit the floor as the flight attendant serves him his drink in a cardboard cup. I mean, admittedly, it’s not the most elegant presentation but the flight time is only 45 minutes. So I think they can be forgiven for not bringing out the bells and whistles and the fine bone china cups.
We’re only in cruise flight for about twenty minutes before we start our descent again. Eventually the aircraft dives under the thick layer of clouds as we start our final approach into Luxembourg. Before we land, the cabin crew pass through the cabin with a basket full of Swiss chocolate and shortly after we touch down.
The SWISS flight quite reliably uses a contact stand at Luxembourg airport. And so, ten minutes after landing, I’m already on the bus line 16 on my way to Kirchberg.
So, I left Basel on the 06h07 train and I was in the office in Luxembourg at 10h30. I timed it. If I’d taken the train, I would have left Basel at 06h21 and would have arrived at Luxembourg station at 10h21 – which means I would have been in the office at around 10h45. So in summary, the flight is roughly the same duration as the train.
Other than that, what can I say about SWISS? Obviously the flight was hardly long enough for them to distinguish themselves. While I rather like the meal service and the table ware it is served on, I still found the whole experience a bit lacklustre.
I also thought the crews were subpar. On the one hand, they were obviously not interested in engaging with the passengers in any way, even though the flight was far from full and they would have had the time. On the other hand, I also noticed that their uniforms are evidently of very bad quality and quite frankly, they just looked shabby. They were okay, I guess. But that doesn’t make me a convert yet.