Today I’m on my way to Riga. And just in case you’re wondering what on earth I’m doing right now, travelling from one country to another, I should explain that this is all part of the research I am doing for my thesis.
Luckily, once I’ve been to Riga, I’ll only to make one more trip to Slovenia and then I’m done with the data collection.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I leave the office just after four in the afternoon. The plan is to catch the 16h25 train from Winterthur, to arrive at Zürich airport at 16h38. For some reason or other, the trains to and from Winterthur are all running with a delay of about four minutes, which, admittedly, does not even qualify as a delay in some countries but in Switzerland means that words will be had…
And so I arrive at Zürich airport way behind what I’d anticipated, at 16h41. I’ve already checked in on the Air Baltic website, which works nicely. I save the boarding pass to my iPhone wallet. And contrary to SWISS, with Air Baltic the pass appears on your lock screen, so all you have to do is swipe it for it to appear.
THE LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
Yeah, about that… In my previous post I may have mentioned that the SWISS Schengen lounge is still not open. The upshot of this, of course, is that the Aspire Lounge and also the DNATA lounge, which Air Baltic uses, have to absorb some of the SWISS passenger. As a result, more often than not, both lounges tend to be very crowded and not at all that pleasant.
Besides, departures are on runway 10 this afternoon, so I’m better off sitting somewhere on the A concourse by the window.
Boarding starts just slightly behind schedule. The first call is for Business Class passengers. It turns out that I’m the only passenger in Business Class today. Behind me, the next call is for passengers with children ‘and other disabilities’. I always find that such a funny phrase…
THE CABIN & SEAT
As far as commercial airliners go, by no means is the Boeing B 737-300 a spring chicken. Even so, it looks as though Air Baltic has taken very good care of this aircraft, which is fitted with the usual thin, modern seats. The configuration is 2 + 2, with the middle seat left empty in Business Class. In addition, the armrests can be folded outwards towards the middle seat, to make the aisle and the window seats a bit wider. There is a small tray table in the middle for extra storage and underneath it there are two pillows and blankets on every row in Business Class.
I am seats on the window in 1F.
The service begins on the ground when the purser comes to welcome me aboard and offers me a welcome drink and newspapers. I order an apple juice but decline the paper, even though they have quite a selection of English language papers to choose from.
The crew on this flight are really excellent. They’re very charming and quite funny in the way they interaction with me. They’re definitely courteous but they haven’t lost their sense of humour over it.
As we push back, the purser hands me the menu for today’s flight.
Once the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the service begins. The purser asks me what I’d like to drink and then brings me the glass of water I requested, together with a scented hot towel. She then brings out the tray with the meal, which today consists of:
- a soft cream cheese with cumin and a strawberry salsa,
- grilled chicken breast in a saffron sauce, served with roasted vegetables and a creamy barley risotto,
- a rhubarb tarte tatin,
- a selection from the breadbasket all to myself, served with butter.
To drink I have water.
After the meal, the cabin attendant brings me a cappuccino and a piece of chocolate cake from a pre-ordered meal, the passenger of which apparently no-showed. Once that is removed, she brings me a bottle of still water and leaves me to work.
A bit later, the purser sees me working on my laptop and promptly closes the sun blinds on the opposite side of the cabin, which is in the sun, so that I can see better what’s on my screen.
The fasten seatbelt sign remains on for most of the flight, and it’s quite bumpy all the way. Latvia looks like a lovely country from above and very different from Switzerland in that it’s very flat.
We land at 22h10, slightly behind schedule, in the middle of what appears to be Air Baltic’s evening bank of arrivals.
I exit the building within ten minutes of landing, and the bus 22 into the city is already standing outside the terminal.
The journey into town will take about 25 minutes and costs EUR2. The bus stop isn’t right in front of the building, but across the road to your right as you exit arrivals.
The bus will take you to Riga’s main railway station in the centre of the city.
I think Air Baltic are a brilliant airline. Their service in Business Class is definitely superior to that of many of the legacy carriers, including SWISS or KLM. What’s more though, the crew on today’s flight were absolutely charming. I very much enjoyed this flight!