Helvetic Airways, Economy Class – Embraer 190: Oslo to Zürich

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Introduction

I just stepped off my flight from Haugesund. I now have three hours to make my connection to Zürich. The airline industry is a strange business. I’m flying on a ticket booked with SAS, on the code-share flight with SWISS, which is operated by Helvetic Airways. Or something like that…

Transfer in Oslo

Changing planes in Oslo is easy and straightforward, even if you’re connecting from a domestic flight to an international one. All gates are under one roof, so all you need to do is find the exit to leave Norwegian territory. And that’s it.

Airside

The terminal has a bright and airy feel. There are quite a few restaurants and there is ample space to walk or sit around. Not being quite sure what to expect on SWISS Economy Class on a flight of this length, I decide I better find something to eat. Of course it helps that most of the restaurants in the terminal offer some exceptionally good apron views…

Once that’s been taken care, I find myself a quiet corner and settle down with my Kindle.

Boarding

There is a bit of a hold up boarding the flight, because the aircraft previously occupying our gate is running late and only moved off stand after the SWISS flight had landed.

It looks like it’s going to be a full flight this evening. Even so, we still manage to complete boarding in time for a punctual departure.

The Cabin

Luckily, I was able to snag a seat on the emergency exit row. Helvetic Airways is one of the few airlines I know of that has a row 13 on its aircraft. As it happens, row 13 is the emergency exit on their Embraer 190.

On the exit row the seat pitch is really very good. There is ample space to spread out. Otherwise though, as I already commented on in one of my previous posts, seat pitch on the Helvetic Embraer is pretty tight.

Alas, the seat next to me is taken by a middle-aged woman. The two seats on the opposite side of the aisle are taken up by one of her daughters on the aisle seat, and the daughter’s husband on the window seat. The row behind me is taken up by her other daughter on the aisle seat and her son on the aisle seat opposite and a wannabe music producer on the window seat next to the son. And man, do they talk! They start yapping even before pushback. They totally miss the gorgeous sunset on climb out for all the talking and they don’t stop talking even when the crew make their announcements via loudspeaker.

The Crew

There are three cabin crew on this evening’s flight. Two females and one male with the rather unfortunate name Randy.

Anyway, the service is efficient. Randy and the maître d’ don’t seem too happy. But the other female crew member is really friendly. She’s all smiles during the service and generally seems quite content to be there.

The Meal

There’s a funny smell in the cabin as we board the plane. It’s an odd combination of the stench of old socks and something decomposing in the ventilation system. Once the cabin crew is released, it soon materialised what the source of the smell is: the Economy Class service consists of complimentary drinks and what the Swiss lovingly refer to as a ‘Chäschüechli’. It’s usually a popular term to try at a party if there are foreigners in the room… ‘go on, try saying Chäschüechli…’. In case you’re wondering, a Chäschüechli is basically a small cheese quiche.

I really wish they wouldn’t serve stuff like this on planes. The thing is served in a cardboard box. But by the time the crew reach row 13, the grease from the Chäschüechli has seeped into the cardboard box in which it is served and I start to get heart burn just from looking at it.

But at least the service is efficient and the thing is removed again fairly quickly, leaving behind an even stronger stench of eau de chaussettes.

The service concludes with the distribution of the chocolates, which is always a highlight.

Arrival

I can’t really say the rest of the flight passes peacefully. The mum next to me has gone to sleep. But one row back, here son has inadvertently struck a conversation with the young man next to him, who is a tremendously successful (his words) music producer and obviously loves talking about himself.

Eventually though, the flight draws to an end. Because it’s already late, the approach is made onto runway 28, which usually means that once we touch down, the crew have to break like something nasty to make the turn off in time. And today is no exception. I love it.

Conclusion

The flight with Helvetic Airways was okay. At least they try and the fact that you still get complimentary food and drinks in Economy Class sets SWISS apart from a lot of the competition. Although from what I understand, that may be about to change.

Eurowings, Economy Class – Airbus A 319: Köln to Zürich

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Introduction

The meeting at EASA goes as well as can be expected when EASA and ICAO meet. The European agency’s offices are located five minutes away from Köln Hauptbahnhof and the Kölner Dom, which is definitely worth visiting.

Getting to the Airport

The train journey from the city to the airport will take you fifteen minutes by train lines 13 and 19. A ticket costs EUR2.90 for a single, second class.

The railway station is located in the basement of the airport and from there it is a fairly long schlep to the Eurowings concourse in the C area of the terminal.

Check-in

I’ve checked in using the airline’s website. Rather conveniently, if you’re only travelling with hand luggage, you can also check in at the self-service machines which are located right in front of the entrance to the security checkpoint. There also appears to be a dedicated entrance to the checkpoint for Eurowing’s BizClass passengers.

Airside

I didn’t actually bother to check if they have a Lufthansa lounge. And even if there is, I’m not actually sure I’d be entitled to use it. So the tall, blond M. and I grab a coffee and park ourselves by the window. As it happens, the café is located right next to our departure gate at C70.

Boarding

Boarding starts with a delay of some thirty minutes due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Pisa. From what I’ve read on the net, this is something of a recurring theme with Eurowings… I hold back until the end and count about 100 passengers on the flight.

The aircraft is parked on a remote stand.

The Cabin

This flight is operated by an aircraft of Germanwings. Upon entering, the first thing I notice is that the plane looks tidy, neat and incredibly dull. In fact, if it weren’t for the Germanwings logo on the cabin divider, you might easily think you’re aboard a Lufthansa bird.

The tall, blond M. has checked online and tells me this bird is already pushing 28 years, probably making it one of the oldest in the Lufthansa Group’s fleet.

We’re seated on the emergency exit again, on 12F and 12E. I’m on the window seat. Although I feel somewhat compelled to add that it’s not that I won’t let my colleague sit by the window because I’m a creep, he just doesn’t really seem all that interested. Which, personally, I find even stranger…

Boarding finishes and once again, the tall, blond M. shifts across to take the aisle seat.

The Crew

The crew are a bit of a mixed bag. There are four ladies working the cabin. The youngest one looks as though she really, really couldn’t give a shit and would love to be just about anywhere else but on this plane. Then there is one very senior lady who is clearly botoxed to within an inch of her life and probably started her flying career on the Vickers Viscount or so. And the other two are okay, I guess.

The Meal

The flight time is announced as 45 minutes. As soon as the seatbelt sign comes off, the service begins: I don’t get it. Honestly. On this flight, everybody gets a complimentary snack box and a drink. This time I go with the Kuchen instead of the Käsebrötchen. Which is okay, except for the fact that it has these odd, unidentifiable bits and pieces in it…

Arrival

And then very soon we start out descent. We do one holding circuit before we are eventually allowed to make the approach.

Conclusion

So I must admit, I am confused. This was a Eurowings flight that was operated by Germanwings. Why couldn’t they just keep the Germanwings brand? And what’s with the service concept? Why bother keeping the Lufthansa brand on short-haul at all? Wouldn’t it just make more sense to dump the Lufthansa short-haul brand and hand over everything to Eurowings/Germanwings/What-ever-brand-airline instead?

Eurowings, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-800: Zürich to Köln

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Getting to the Airport

I’m on my way to Cologne to attend a meeting with EASA and ICAO. I finish teaching at 15h20, return to my office to collect my bag and then I’m off to the railway station. The flight will be leaving at 17h30, so it should be enough for me to catch the 15h58 train from Winterthur to Zürich airport.

Check-in

I’ve already checked in online. I don’t have the Eurowings app installed, but I received a mail a few days ago with a link to the Eurowings check-in page. The process on the website could be smoother, but I manage to check-in fairly quickly.

I’m travelling with the tall, blond M. on this trip. So I’ve taken the precaution of booking the middle and window seats on the emergency row – seats 15E and F – to have enough space for the guy’s long legs.

Airside

Zürich airport is busy today. It’s the first week of the autumn vacation here in Switzerland, so half the nation is travelling this and next week. But despite all the people, security is a fairly smooth process.

The lady in the queue in front of me is travelling with her cat. To go through the security checkpoint, she has to remove the cat from his carrier bag. And he’s obviously not happy, judging by the expression on his face. Later on it turns out that the cat’s name is Bowie in honour of David Bowie. Clearly, his owner must have excellent taste…

Boarding

Boarding starts on time and it’s the usual scrum for the automatic scanners. You’d think they’re giving it away for free to watch them.

Much to my surprise, I look out the window at my gate to find that the flight today is being operated by a Boeing B 737-800 of TUIFly, which is operating the flight on behalf of Eurowings.

The Cabin

The cabin is in fairly decent condition. There is no cabin divider but the first few rows of seats have headrest covers marked as ‘Biz Class’. The seat pitch on the emergency exit is of course very good. The only down side is that there is no armrest on that side of the seat adjacent to the window.

Eventually, boarding is completed and the aisle seat on our row is still empty. So the tall, blond M. quickly shifts over one seat to give us a bit of extra space.

The Crew

The crew are friendly and seem a lot happier that I would have expected them to be. But perhaps that’s because they’re TUIFly and not Eurowings crews.

The flight time is announced as 45 minutes.

The Meal

Food and drinks are available for purchase in Economy Class, I think. Much to my surprise though, once the service starts and the crew pass through the cabin, the tall, blond M. is handed a small snack box containing a small container of still water and half a cheese sandwich. Very generously, he offers to share both with me. And when the crew pass through the cabin with the drinks trolley, we’re even offered something else to drink.  Which is kind of surprising, because I thought food and drinks were only available for purchase.

It only dawns on me later on that the reason the tall, blond M. received the snack box in the first place is that he’s changed seats to the aisle. In other words, the aisle seat remained empty because the passenger booked on that seat had no-showed.

For a moment I think of telling the crew about the misunderstanding. But given that I’ve already demolished half the sandwich by this time, I figure it no longer makes any difference…

Arrival

The flight passes quickly and shortly after the trash is cleared away, we’re already descending into Cologne. Which is kind of cool, because basically the pilot’s idea of ‘descent’ is just to deploy the speed breaks and pitch the aircraft in a steep dive. It’s certainly efficient…

And so we land in Cologne on time. And fortunately for me, we come to a stop on a remote stand, which means I get to take a few pictures of my aircraft as I disembark.

Conclusion

All in all, there isn’t anything much to say about this flight. It was completely unremarkable and I doubt I will remember it as an exceptional experience. But it was okay. They delivered me safely from A to B without delay. No more, no less.