Scandinavian Air System , SAS Plus – Boeing B 737-700: Zürich to Oslo

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INTRODUCTION
A few years ago, I think it was somewhere around 2014, SAS took the decision to abolish its Business Class product on short-haul intra-European routes. Instead, it launched a new cabin concept comprising SAS Go, which is your classic Economy Class with buy on board set up, and SAS Plus, which replaced what used to be Business Class.

In SAS Plus you get more or less all the perks you can normally expect from a European Business Class product: fast track at security, lounge access, complimentary meals, etc. The only difference to other carriers appears to be that the middle seat is not left empty in SAS Plus.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I depart from the office at 12h17 to catch the 12h28 train to the airport. The worst of the summer is over here in Switzerland, and although it’s a lovely, bright and sunny day, you can already feel that the sun is losing its heat and the harshness of summer.

CHECK-IN
SAS checks in on row 2 of terminal 2 in Zürich. Their handling agent is DNATA. There are self-service machines available for check-in as well. One day before the flight, I receive a text message from SAS, informing me that online check-in for the flight is open. Strangely enough though, although I can check in, I can’t upload my boarding pass to passbook.

AIRSIDE
By the time I’m through security and airside, it’s already 12h55. My flight will be boarding from gate A72. So I decide to skip the SWISS lounge and head for my gate instead to watch the movements on the apron.

BOARDING
Boarding for the flight starts on time and it looks as though the flight is fairly full. Before the gate agent even manages to finish his announcement, there’s already a scrum for the automatic gate readers… You’d think they’re giving it away for free.

THE CABIN
There is no cabin divider, which I always find slightly awkward. Instead, there is a small sign attached to the aisle seat, indicating where SAS Plus ends and SAS Go begins. On today’s flight there is just the one row of SAS Plus. Leg space on row 1 is very good. I am seated on 1A. On the opposite side of the cabin, there is even more pitch between the seats and the bulkhead.

I also needn’t worry about having somebody sitting next to me, as I’m the only passenger in SAS Plus today and therefore have the whole row to myself.

The one thing that strikes me though, is that the cabin is really dirty. And it’s old dirty that has spent years maturing into grime.

SERVICE
There are three cabin crew. The service up front is conducted by a rather unhappy looking female just past her middle age, and a gentleman of roughly the same age who does not necessarily look happy but at least seems less unhappy than the female.

While the aircraft is on the ground, there is zero interaction between the crew and the passengers. There are no welcome drinks, no newspapers, nothing.

The flight time is announced as two hours and fifteen minutes.

THE MEAL
In SAS Go the service is buy on board, with the exception of tea and coffee. In contrast, in SAS Plus passengers are served the full range of complimentary food and drinks available from the snack menu.

The service begins with a partially wet towel, which should probably have been served warm. Shortly after that, the cold meal is served in a rather stylish but oddly shaped square cardboard box with cutlery that looks like something they nicked from a pre-schooler.

The box contains a salad of carrots with honey glazed chicken, a yoghurt dressing and pollen sprinkles, which I still hadn’t figured out by the time I’d finished the meal.

The quality of the meal is good and so are the flavours, at least they are if you like overdosing on carrots and beets. Otherwise, I think you may have a problem. Fortunately, in SAS Plus you can order anything you like from the buy on board for free. And so, in a bid to ward off a vitamin-induced coma of too healthy food (I hope the tall, blond M. ain’t reading this…), I ask for a packet of those delectable Larsson crisps I enjoyed so much on my last flight with SAS from Shanghai back to Copenhagen…

To drink with the meal, I have a Coke Zero.

After the meal, the male cabin attendant comes to clear my box away and brings me a cup of coffee and unceremoniously plonks a small box of not really very nice chocolates in front of me.

ARRIVAL
As we approach Oslo the weather starts to deteriorate. When I left Zürich, the temperature was a balmy 27 degrees Celsius. But here in Oslo they’re expecting rain showers and a maximum temperature of only 14 degrees…

Eventually, by the time we land it’s already 16h16. My connecting flight to Haugesund will already be departing at 16h55.

CONCLUSION
I’m not really sure what to make of my SAS Plus experience. All in all, the flight was okay, I guess. And it certainly helped that I had the first row all to myself. But even so, the entire experience was kind of underwhelming and unspectacular, from the dirty cabin to the rather lacklustre service.

I think next time, if I have an alternative on European short-haul, I’ll take it.

Luxair, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Luxembourg to Lisbon

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INTRODUCTION
I’m on my way to Lisbon for a meeting in the afternoon. Fortunately, the fairly large expat community of Portuguese in Luxembourg means that there are numerous flights between Luxembourg’s Findel airport and beautiful Lisbon.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
To get to the airport from the Novotel, I first catch a tram from ‘Europa Parlament’ towards ‘Luxexpo’, which is currently the tram’s terminus, until they eventually extend the line to the airport. At Luxexpo I transfer to the bus line 16, which runs from there to the airport, which is its last stop. The journey takes about forty minutes to complete.

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CHECK-IN
Check-in for the flight opens 24 hours before departure. I don’t know if there is a Luxair app but you can definitely check-in online and save the boarding pass to your wallet, if you’re using an iPhone.

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There are self-service machines and check-in counters at the airport. To be honest though, I’m not entirely sure what the procedure is here in Luxembourg with the check-in desks, because some flights appear to have their own designated counters, while others don’t. I don’t think it should make a difference though, seeing as Luxair is the only handling agent at the airport.

AIRSIDE
Luxembourg is nice little airport that is quickly reaching capacity, even though they only recently reopened the old B pier.  The really cool thing about the airport though, is that once you’re airside, you have some really good views of the apron and the runway beyond.

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BOARDING
Boarding starts slightly behind schedule from gate A 20 in the Schengen part of the terminal. Gate A 20 is a bus gate, which of course has me doing a little happy dance right there in front of the gate because it means me taking pictures of my aircraft from up close.

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THE CABIN
I wonder if perhaps this is the first flight this aircraft will be doing today, because the cabin is stifling and very warm. The APU isn’t running and, because we’re on a remote stand, there’s no means of hooking us up to an external cooling system. Other than that though, I think the Luxair cabin on the Boeing B 737 looks quite nice. The seats are in light blue leather, while the headrests are white. The sides of the headrest can be folded up for extra comfort.

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On the downside, seat pitch on Luxair’s B 737s is among the worst I’ve ever experienced. The aircraft are mainly deployed on typical charter routes, where the main objective is quantity and not quality. Which is why today I’ve decided to splurge on a seat on the emergency exit on row 12.

The advanced seat reservation for 12A cost me EUR25 and was made online at the time of booking. I know EUR25 may seem like a lot, but given the prospect of spending two hours and half with my knees stuck under my chin, I think it’s money well invested.

Unfortunately though, despite the fact that I’m on the window seat, I only have a limited view of the outside, because the outer glass is severely scratched.

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Luxair does not have a cabin divider between Economy and Business Class, by the way.

SERVICE
The crew on this flight consists of three cabin crew, all of which are fluent in Letzebuergesch, French, English and of course Portuguese. The two younger cabin crew seem friendly enough but a bit reserved. The maître de however, is a really friendly guy and interacts well with the passengers, especially the fairly large number of elderly Portuguese travellers.

THE MEAL
Once we’re airborne, I immediately nod off… Luckily, I wake up just as the service trolley reaches the row in front of me, making me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge when he wakes up on Christmas morning to find that he hasn’t missed anything because the ghosts of Christmas passed, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come have taught him a lesson all within the scope of one night. Oh, you know what I mean (the tall, blond M. will probably have a field day with this…).

And much to my surprise, the meal isn’t half bad either. There is a complimentary full bar trolley service that even includes a Luxemburgish sparkling wine. To eat there is a choice between a chicken or a cheese sandwich. The sandwiches are a good size and look and taste as though they were freshly made. I choose the cheese sandwich.

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Unlike the pre-packaged rubbish you get on most European airlines that still offer a complimentary meal service, which usually ends up tasting like the plastic and cardboard it was packaged in, this sandwich is in fact very tasty. The bread is multigrain and inside the sandwich there’s not only the cheese but also a bread spread, cucumbers and a bit of salad.

To drink I have a Coke Zero and a coffee.

The service is well paced. The crew are unrushed but still don’t leave us waiting too long before passing through the cabin to remove the trash.

ARRIVAL
After the meal I sit back with the intention of reading in my Kindle. But instead, I end up going off to sleep again. What’s going on here…? By the time I wake up again, we’ve already started our initial descent and the crew are coming through the cabin with these small baskets filled with toffees and other sweets to help alleviate the pressure in the ears as we descend. I don’t quite know why, but I find there something nicely old-fashioned about this.

From what I can tell through the scratched window, the approach into Lisbon is gorgeous and takes us right over the city and then out to sea, before eventually coming around and turning on to the final approach. The landing however, is perhaps not so gorgeous… we actually bounce three times before eventually settling on the runway!

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Here in Lisbon we’ll be using a remote stand, which is hardly surprising given that the terminal building is literally bursting at the seams and has only very few contact stands. As we taxi in, we pass an Airbus A 330NEO in the colours of TAP Air Portugal but still in its French registration. And then eventually, we make a last right turn and come to a stop right next to an Airbus A 321NEO of Azores Airlines.

ABOUT LUXAIR…
I’m in two minds about Luxair. Their home market is highly affluent but also tragically small. As such, I think the airline does a good job in striking the right balance between offering a reliable air service from its hub in Luxembourg to the major business centres in Europe on the one hand, while at the same time also serving the leisure traffic market. Even so, one cannot help but wonder what the point is of small countries like Luxembourg trying to maintain their own airline.

Germania, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Zürich to Rostock

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INTRODUCTION
Admittedly, I know I’m an embarrassment to all self-respecting southern Europeans, given that I really don’t handle the heat very well. On the other hand, having said that, it really is unusually hot in Switzerland right now – with temperatures constantly in the mid-thirties.

But thank God, there are some places on the continent that have been spared the stifling heat. So that’s where I’m heading for the weekend.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I take the train from Winterthur at 11h58. I’m actually at the station early enough to catch the earlier train at 11h55. But as soon as that comes rumbling into the station, I figure I’m not is such a rush after all. The regular 11h55 train has been replaced with something that avid train spotters would probably lovingly refer to as vintage, which, Swiss Federal Railways lingo, is a euphemism for carriages with no air conditioning.

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CHECK-IN
My flight is at 13h50, but I already checked in at the airport this morning at 05h15, when I dropped off my dad at the airport on his way to Malta.

Germania does not have web check-in or self-service check-in. At Zürich airport they are handled by Swissport in Terminal 2.

When I return to the airport in the early afternoon, the place is a lot busier than it was in the morning. Even so, I manage to secure a nice spot on the A pier, with a good view of the apron and runway 28. Today 28 is in use for arrivals, with 32 and 34 in use for departures.

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BOARDING
Boarding for the flight starts about forty minutes late. The aircraft was already late arriving in Zürich by about thirty minutes.

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The heat in the glass airbridge is agony. For a moment I feel compelled to do my best ‘I’m melting, I’m melting…’ impression of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. But then I remember I forgot to put on my green makeup this morning so people might think I’m odd…

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Anyhow, once we board, the crew inform us about a further twenty minutes delay before we can finally start our engines due to ATC restrictions over Germany. Eventually we depart one hour behind our scheduled departure time.

CABIN & SEAT
Germania’s Boeing 737-700 have a seating capacity of 148. Today’s load is a bit over one hundred passengers, I should say.

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Germania Doesn’t offer a Business Class as such. However, the first row are the so called XL seats, which are available for advanced seat reservation at a cost of EUR30 each. Included in the price is a bulkhead seat with slightly more pitch, earphones as well as complimentary alcoholic drinks and snacks from the buy on board menu.

The pitch is not bad on row 1. However, the lack of width of the seat is quite striking. The cabin feels a lot more crowded and tighter than for example on KLM. I suspect that maybe Germania went with a slightly narrower seat in favour of a wider aisle.

SERVICE & CREW
The crew are a friendly and interesting lot. Strangely enough though, the entire cabin crew is made up of Spaniards and an eastern European and none of them speak even a single word of German, which is a bit unusual for a German carrier, I find. 

THE MEAL
The meal service is confusing. There is a buy on board price list in the seat pocket, which contains drinks and snacks like crisps or chocolate. By at the same time, Germania will also serve you a complimentary snack. On today’s flight there is a choice of either a salami or a cheese sandwich.

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With the sandwich I have a coffee and a sparkling water, both of which are apparently free of charge. I also ask for a Kit Kat, which I haven’t had in ages!

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ARRIVAL
Rostock airport is a dinky little place with only two airbirdges. It is also home to a large Eurofighter base. Because there are so few flights up here, the bus into town is scheduled to coincide with the arriving flights. But seeing as our flight is more than an hour late by the time we land, the bus has already left. Instead, there is a replacement service for EUR9.80 per person.

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The journey from the airport into town will take you about thirty minutes.

CONCLUSION
The tall, blond M., himself triathlete extraordinaire, engineer and skeptic of all sciences that don’t involve numbers, has pointed out that I did give my candid opinion on Germania in the original post.

So here goes: all in all I very much doubt I would go out of my way to fly with Germania. By the same token though, I wouldn’t actively avoid them either. The service was okay but not outstanding, either in a positive or a negative way. I think EUR30 is a bit steep for a front row seat, the additional complimentary snack and complimentary earbuds, particularly given that the earbuds didn’t look as though they were any good and the flight time was only slightly more than an hour anyway.

KLM, Business Class – Boeing B 737-700: Zürich to Amsterdam and onward to Frankfurt

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INTRODUCTION
Finally, I really thought the moment would never come. But it has – at long last, it is finally time for my summer vacation. I normally tend to head East for my longer excursions. And of course it is always interesting and exciting to experience new cultures and exotic locations. But it is also very tiring. That is why this year, I did not really fancy straying too far afield. And so I find myself heading West instead for a change. Obviously, taking the most direct route to my destination would have been the most sensible thing to do. But where is the fun in that, I ask you?

And so my journey begins with a set of positioning flights from Zürich to Amsterdam and then from there on to Frankfurt, both on KLM. I already have quite a few posts about ‘my friends in blue’ – as my colleague the Flying Dutchman refers to KLM – so I think we can skip introductions and keep things short and simple.

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CABIN
There are three rows of Business Class on this flight, with a total of twelve seats. The middle seat is kept empty. Only seven seat are occupied this evening. I am on 1C, which is the aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft. Just a piece of advice: 1C sticks out quite far into the aisle, because the bulkhead is not quite as wide as the row of seats. While this certainly allows you to stretch you legs, it can also be slightly irritating after a while. Every time somebody walks past, you end up with the curtain brushing against your legs or in your face.

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SERVICE
There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin and they really are excellent. They are very attentive and address every passenger by name, which I always find rather a nice touch.

THE MEAL
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Light dinner.
Meal:

  • Carrot gazpacho with parsley and shaved almonds.
  • Spanish chickpea salad with beef bresoala, Kalamata olives and fresh herbs, served with a chilli and lime dressing.
  • Orange mousse and chocolate ganache.
  • Selection from the breadbasket, the crew make two rounds.
  • Diet Coke.

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I am not really all that partial to smoked meats. To be honest I find them rather off putting most of the time. But apart from that, the meal is nice enough. Especially the gazpacho is well seasoned. Throughout the meal, the crew are very attentive and make sure to keep drinks replenished at all times.

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TRANSFER IN AMSTERDAM
We approach the airport from the North, to make an approach for runway 18R. Amsterdam has three parallel runways with a North-South orientation and very often, like today, 18R and 18C are in use for simultaneous approaches, which always look really cool, I think.

I exit the aircraft into the C concourse. I do not think I have ever seen Amsterdam airport so deserted. Obviously, it is the holiday season and most people have already left on vacation. Even the Crown Lounge is pleasantly empty.

AND ONWARD TO FRANKFURT
The flight to Frankfurt departs at 20h45 and is operated by an Embraer 190 of KLM Cityhopper. There are still quite a few empty seats on the flight, despite a fairly large group of passengers who are obviously returning from a cruise in Scandinavia.

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The flight time is announced as 40 minutes. Even so, every passenger is given a small box with a container of still water and some BBQ flavoured crackers.

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In Frankfurt KLM uses Terminal 2, which is basically used for all the non-Star Alliance traffic. I will be staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is located above the railway station for the mainline trains adjacent to Terminal 1. Access to the railway station and hotel is via a footbridge from Terminal 1.

TRANSFER FROM FRANFURT TERMINAL 2 TO TERMINAL 1
There is a shuttle bus that takes passengers from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. The first thing the smokers do upon exiting the terminal building is light up. As a result, the waiting area for the shuttle bus is constantly shrouded in a veil of heavy smoke. So instead of milling about with the chain smokers, I decide to walk across to Terminal 1. It is not really that far to walk, but the path is not clearly marked. Even so, walking at a leisurely pace it should not take more than 10 minutes to reach Terminal 1.

 

Transavia, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Amsterdam to Palma

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Date: 18. June 2016.
From: Amsterdam.
To: Palma.
Departure: 06:30.
Arrival: 08:40.
Flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes.
Seat: 12A, window on the port side.

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INTRODUCTION
The meeting ends in the early afternoon on Friday. My friend, the wiry R. will be returning to Zürich by KLM this evening. So we still have a few hours to kill. So we spend the last few hours walking around Amsterdam. We even find the time to have an excellent afternoon tea at De Backerswinkel, an idyllic spot set among the dildo shops and gay leather bars of old Amsterdam.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
It is Saturday morning and I awake just after four o’clock. Last night I slept at the CitizenM at Amsterdam airport, which is located roughly five minutes away on foot from the terminal complex. Outside everything is still fairly quiet.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Departure concourse 1, rows 3 to 5.
Facilities: Check-in is available online, at the self-service machines at the airport or at the counter.

According to the Transavia website, the price to check-in a suitcase of up to 15 kilos is EUR21 if you pay in advance, or EUR32 if you pay at the airport – which is why I decided to pay the EUR21 at the time of booking. However, what the website does not tell you, is that if – like me – you are travelling with a slightly oversized carry-on, it will be taken from you at the gate and transported in the hold free of charge. If I had known, I think I would not have bothered.

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LOUNGE
Location:
On the upper level of the transit area, where the D concourse branches off from the main terminal complex.
Type of Lounge:
KLM Crown Lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There are also computer work stations available.
Catering: Catering in the lounge is fair and there is a good breakfast spread laid out with cheese, cold cuts, bread, cereals and fruit.
Internet:
Wifi is available throughout the lounge. You need to provide your family name to access the network.

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Flying Blue Gold and Platinum members are entitled to use the KLM Crown Lounge on all scheduled Transavia flights that are operated as a code-share with KLM. Charter flights are not eligible.

The lounge is pretty empty when I arrive. The television is on and CNN is blaring away in the background, with Amanpour giving us another rendition of the crap that is alleged to be investigative journalism.

BOARDING
Boarding is from gate D63. There is no priority boarding as such, except for families travelling with small children, of which there seem to be copious amounts on this morning’s flight.

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CABIN
Configuration:
3 + 3 in an Economy Class only configuration. The aircraft has a seating capacity of 149.
Seat: On Transavia’s Boeing B 737-700 the emergency exit is located on row twelve. The seat is fairly comfortable and has sufficient padding to make the flight pleasant enough on the rump. There does not appear to be any inflight entertainment system on board this aircraft and there are no power outlets either.

The price for the emergency exit row is EUR10 per person and can be reserved at the time of booking or later on. Personally, I think they are EUR10 wisely invested as the pitch on row 12 is excellent. I can even stretch out my legs comfortably for a trip to Noddy land.

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SERVICE & THE MEAL
There are three female cabin crew on this flight and all three of them are really excellent. They are very friendly, joking and fooling around with the little ones on the plane to keep them entertained.

Service on Transavia is buy on board. The selection is good and includes a fairly wide range of drinks and snacks, mostly sandwiches, muffins etc. The prices are also okay. I order a medium sized Nescafe Cappuccino and a Dutch biscuit with a tasty almond filling, which sets me back EUR4. I think that is quite good actually. The crew pass through the cabin with the food trolley once the seatbelt sign goes off, but you can purchase food and drinks throughout the flight.

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ARRIVAL
The flight time to Palma is two hours and ten minutes according to the cabin crew. But the time passes quickly, mainly due to the fact that I manage to get a solid hour’s sleep.

The weather en route is pretty bad and only clears up just before we reach the island. By the time we land, the temperature is already a balmy 19 degrees Celsius.

And once again, I am in luck and we deplane via the stairs and not an airbridge. What’s more, they have also attached stairs to the rear door, giving me loads of opportunities to take pictures of the Boeing 737’s rather sexy looking stabilizer.

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SHAME ON YOU, EUROPCAR!
The terminal is crawling with people and the aircraft just keep landing one after the other. My suitcase arrives pretty quickly though. But then I reach the Europcar counter and things start going south. They use a numbering system to queue. I have a ticket with the number 70, but they are still only just serving customer number 24. I figure to myself that surely it cannot possibly take that long to process the forty-six customers before me… So I wait. I go for a stroll around the arrivals and departure area. I read in my Kindle. I go to the loo – repeatedly – but no matter what happens, the Europcar queue is really moving so slowly it hurts. Eventually, it takes me three hours for my number finally to be called.

CONCLUSION
All in all, I rather liked Transavia. First of all, the crew was excellent. Secondly, they somehow lack the look and feel of a low cost carrier. My only complaint really, is the departure time. Something a bit more civilised would have been nice. But perhaps that has more to do with the destination and not the carrier.

KLM, Business Class – Boeing B 737-700: Zürich to Amsterdam

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Date: 15. June 2016.
From: Zürich.
To: Amsterdam.
Departure:
17:35.
Arrival: 19:00.
Flight time: 1 hour and 25 minutes.
Seat: 1A, window on the post side.

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INTRODUCTION

Today I am on my way to Amsterdam for a meeting on Thursday and Friday. This time, I am travelling with my colleague, the wiry R., who quite apparently does not at all share my passion for aeroplanes.

CHECK-IN
We have both checked in using the KLM app. When the new app was launched, there were a few teething problem, especially when it came to ‘printing’ the boarding pass for Passbook. But those seem to have been overcome and the app is very reliable these days.

Generally speaking, advanced seat selection is possible on all KLM flights, even in Economy Class, and the website works very well, providing a good and detailed seatmap. Some seats on the seatmap are marked in orange or yellow. Orange marks the Economy Comfort seats with greater pitch, while yellow marks the extra legroom seats such as the emergency exit row. Flying Blue Platinum members can select any seat they like free of charge. Gold members pay a reduced rate to obtain an orange or yellow seat. All other passengers must pay the full price, which may vary, for one of these seats.

Once that is done and we are airside, we decide to forfeit the questionable luxury of the Aspire lounge for a visit to the Sprüngli airside café. In case you have not heard the name before, Sprüngli is a Swiss chocolatier. The stuff they produce is really excellent but very rich. Just one of their pralines is enough to make you put on 5 kilos just from looking at it and will probably send some people into a sugar coma – but what a way to go!

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The Sprüngli café is located on the upper level of the Airside Centre, just after security and the obligatory duty free shop. If you want to try out what Sprüngli has on offer without breaking the bank, I can highly recommend a café au lait and a Truffe du jour.

BOARDING
Oh happy day, the mighty airline geek Gods look upon me with favouring eyes today! Yes, we are boarding from gate B08. Okay, admittedly B08 is definitely in the remotest possible corner to the terminal complex, but it is a bus gate. I find it so much more exciting to board the aircraft via stairs because it brings you face to face with the beast you will be flying in. Sorry, I think I’m dribbling…

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CABIN
Configuration: 2 + 2, with an empty middle seat.
Seat:
Obviously, the bulkhead row offers the greatest leg space. If you prefer an aisle seat, you should definitely go with 1D on the starboard side instead of 1C on the port side. The latter partially protrudes into the aisle, which means you are more likely to have people brushing against you on their way to the loo or galley.
Pitch: 33 inches in Business Class and Economy Comfort (rows 1 to 6), 30 inches in Economy Class (from row 7 on).
Width: 17 inches.
Facilities: 110 AC power outlet at every seat.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
No.
Towel before the meal: No.
Pre-meal drink:
No.
Choice:
No.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Early light dinner.
Meal:

  • Honeyed goat cheese balls with a greek salad.
  • Waldorf salad.
  • Pina Colada cream with crumble and lime.
  • Selection form the bread basket.

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Either there have been cost cuts at KLM or the cabin attendant working the Business Class cabin really could not give a shit – if you’ll pardon my French. He is definitely friendly and chatty, so I kind of suspect the former is the case.

If I am not mistaken, previously you used to get a hot towel before the meal, which was always nice and helped get rid of the grime on your hands from travelling. This is no longer the case. Furthermore, I ask for sparkling water with the meal. Where previously KLM used to give you a whole can of Perrier, this time I am only given a glass just the one glass and I have no idea what brand of water it is. And finally, after the meal I ask for a coffee which quickly arrives – but without those really tasty Punselies caramel biscuits.

ARRIVAL
The flight passes surprisingly quickly. Our approach into Amsterdam is rather bumpy, but I am just glad they have brought us in on runway 18C, which is the central one of the three parallel runways and within a reasonable taxiing distance to the terminal.

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KLM, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700 & Fokker F 70: Zürich to Luxembourg via Amsterdam

Folie1

INTRODUCTION

This way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper.

– T. S. Eliot

Don’t worry. I’m not feeling suicidal. It’s just that this shall be my last trip for this year and after that I will not have a single PNR open. No future reservations. For the time being at least. Of course, I am aware of the fact that this series of trip reports on my last trip of 2015 should be something spectacular, something flashy and fancy. But it’s not quite like that.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Train.
Departs from: Winterthur Station.
Arrives: Zürich Flughafen.
Journey time: 13 minutes.
Frequency: Every 20 minutes, the nonstop trains run at 25, 28, 55 and 58 past the hour.

My flight will be leaving at 17h30, with boarding scheduled for 17h00. So I leave the office at 15h40 to catch the direct train 15h55. I like this time of year, when the sun remains low above the horizon all day and casts melancholy shadows.

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Surprisingly, when I arrive at Zürich airport, the place if fairly quiet. I have already checked in online, using the KLM App. But before I go through security, I have an errand to run. I want to get some pralines for my business partners in Luxembourg.

Personally, I think Läderach make the best chocolate out there. Forget about Cailler, Lindt or Belgian chocolate. Läderach makes them all look like amateurs. At Zürich airport their shop is in Terminal A, opposite the entrance to the centralised security check facility.

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BOARDING
Priority boarding: Available.

By the time I get the chocolate and I am past security, it is already gone 16h30. My flight will start boarding in less than half an hour from gate A 83, which is at the far end of the A concourse. Also, in my old age I find that I am increasingly bored by airlines lounge. It is much more fun to sit in the public area, watching the world go by. So from security I head straight for A 83 and park myself in a good place for some serious people watching.

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Boarding for the flights starts five minutes ahead of schedule. The flight is not full and the captain is eager for us to get away as quickly as possible to avoid a bank of fog that is rolling in from the north.

CABIN
Configuration: 3 + 3 in Economy Class. There are 132 seats in total.
Seat: 6A, window. The first four rows of the cabin are Business Class, although on today’s flight there are only three passengers sitting in the forward cabin.
Pitch: 33 inches.
Width: 17 inches.
Inflight entertainment: There is a console in the armrests to select channels and regulate the volume. However, I am not even sure the aircraft has video screens.

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The flight this evening is not full, so the maître de comes on to make an announcement that for weight and balance reasons, all passengers are required to take the seat they were assigned at check-in, despite the many empty seats. Quite frankly I think this is a load of bull. I can imagine that the distribution of passengers may make a difference on a small aircraft like the ATR-42 or the Saab 2000, but I hardly think it matters on an aircraft the size of the B 737-700.

Fortunately, the Platinum fairy has worked her magic again at check-in and the seat beside me stays empty. If you are interested in airplanes like me – you may have guessed – 6A is a good seat. You have an aligned window which provides some good views of the engine and wing.

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In any case, we push back on time and then make the short taxi to runway 28. We are number five for departure and the mist is coming in pretty thick by this time.

THE MEAL & SERVICE
Type of meal: Dinner snack

As this is an evening flight, KLM has the decency to serve a small cheese sandwich as a snack. What I like in particular, is that it is always a Dutch cheese they use for the sandwich and there is usually a brief explanation about what kind of cheese it is in the box in which the sandwich is served. Today’s cheese is a Beemster.

To drink with that I have a coffee and a glass of still water. Note that KLM will only provide sparkling water in Business Class, but not in Economy.

The meal hits the spot nicely and just a short while after I finish, it is already time for us to start our descent into Amsterdam.

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TRANSFER IN AMSTERDAM
We land on the famous Polderbaan that is runway 18R. It is the runway that is farthest away from the terminal area and the apron. After landing on the Polderbann it is another fifteen minutes of taxiing before eventually we arrive on our parking position at the C gates.

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By the time I disembark I have a bit more than one hour before boarding for the flight to Luxembourg begins. I am also hungry. So once more I decide to ignore the lounge and instead head up one floor from the central airside plaza to the food court.

Just in case you are interested, there is a central check-out area for the entire food court, where you pay for your purchase. I could really murder a hamburger right now, so I make my way over to Burger King. The queue is long but at least it moves quickly. There is also a Sbarro’s serving Italian food as well as a restaurant serving Asian and Dutch specialties.

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THE FLIGHT TO LUXEMBOURG
There is not really anything much to say about the flight to Amsterdam, except that it is very short, with a block time of only forty minutes. Boarding is from a remote stand and the flight is not overly full.

As a Platinum member I can select the emergency exit at no additional cost, so I am seated on 11A, which is the window seat on the emergency exit on the row of two seats. The seat next to me stays empty.

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Despite the very short flying time, KLM provide a snack on this service, which consists of a small packet of English crisps and pre-packed Turkish still water.

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ARRIVAL
We arrive on time. I only have hand luggage with me on this trip. So as soon as the bus drops us off at the terminal, I head upstairs, through arrivals and then head one floor up to take a taxi to the Doubletree in Domeldange.

Just so you know, in case you are contemplating taking public transport. First of all, the airport bus runs to the centre of town. So if you are staying at the Doubletree, you would first need to grab a bus to Hamilus and then from there catch the bus line 5 to take you to the Doubletree, which will take for ever. Secondly, you can purchase tickets on board most public transport in Luxembourg, except  the airport bus, and there is no machine for you to purchase tickets at the airport either. Which is just all sorts of awkward.

Oman Air, Business Class – B 737-700: Dubai to Muscat

Folie1

INTRODUCTION
This has been an interesting stay in the United Arab Emirates. On Friday we completed a course in Al Ain, which is in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and lies about ninety minutes by car due east of Dubai, close to the boarder with the Sultanate of Oman.

Al Ain is very different from the hustle and bustle of hectic Dubai. The entire region is much greener, it is less densely populated and the sand dunes have a spectacular red hue that the sand is the area around Dubai does not have. Al Ain is not really a tourist destination, mainly due to the fact that it is nowhere near the sea and there are not really that many things to do.

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In Al Ain I stayed at the Hilton. It is not a bad place to stay, although it is somewhat disconcerting how empty the place is. The hotel also functions as the city’s local recreational facility, and thus boasts a fully equipped gym and a lap pool of 25 metres.

On Saturday morning, my colleague – the valiant and intrepid M. – and I decide to head for Dubai. Our flight will be leaving from Dubai on Sunday morning at 10h00. Originally we had planned to stay in Al Ain until Sunday and leave the hotel at around 05h30 in the morning to be at the airport with enough time to spare to bring back the car. But then the course participants told us all sorts of stories about the horrific traffic in the Dubai area, until eventually we decided to spend our last night a bit closer to Dubai airport.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Rented car.
Journey time: 30 minutes.
First we need to fill the tank before we return the car. We pay AED75 for 43 litres, which is roughly CHF20. Just in case you were wondering, in Switzerland you would have to pay something to the tune of CHF68 for the same amount of petrol…

The journey to the airport is pleasant enough. The traffic is still light, but I suspect it will be picking up shortly. We drop off the rented car at Parking A2, on the departures level opposite the terminal.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Oman Air operates out of Terminal 1 at Dubai airport, which is the facility most carriers use. Terminal 2 is used by Flydubai and a few others.
Counters: The Oman Air counters are located on row E. There are four Economy Class counters and two Business Class counters.
Check-in for all flights opens three hours before departure, which means we are still a few minutes early, thanks to the expert driving skills of the valiant M (Let me just say it was one of those moments when you see your entire life flashing by….).

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At 07h00 sharp two young ladies appear to start check-in for the flight. I am quickly issued my boarding passes and an invitation to the Gulf Air lounge. My suitcase has been tagged all the way to Zürich.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Just past gate C22.
Type of Lounge: Gulf Air lounge.
Facilities: Toilets and showers in the lounge.
Internet: Free wifi available in the lounge. The password is signposted throughout the lounge.

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BOARDING
Dubai airport uses a closed gate system. Subsequently, my boarding pass states that boarding for the flight will begin at 09h00, one hour before departure. But in actual fact, 09h00 is just the time the gate opens.

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CABIN & SEAT
Configuration:
2 x 2.
Pitch:
40 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities:
None.
Audio and Video: Not available.
Seat: There are twelve seats on three rows in Business Class on the Boeing B 737-700. It is nice to travel on a narrow-body with a dedicated Business Class cabin and seat, even if the flight time from Dubai to Muscat is only a short forty minutes.

The seats are in leather, or probably plastic that looks and feels like leather. Given the hot temperatures in this part of the world, this is not necessarily the best idea, seeing as leather does not really ‘breathe’ and has a tendency to leave you hot and sticky.

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SERVICE
There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin today. Their manner is what I would call business friendly. But in a way, you cannot really blame them for that. With a flight time of only 45 minutes, they are all too busy trying to serve a full cabin of twelve passengers in time.

It is very hazy here in Dubai today. In fact, the visibility already started deteriorating the previous evening. As a result, there is a bit of a queue for departure and we are number nine in line. It is really interesting to see how ATC sets up the aircraft for departure in Dubai. Aircraft are lined up simultaneously on four taxiways in parallel on both sides of the active runway.

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Eventually, after waiting in queue for about twenty minutes, we take-off in an easterly direction with a delay of one hour.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink:

  • A selection of water and juices. I have the lemon and mint juice, which is very refreshing.
  • Once the doors close, the crew pass through the cabin offering fresh dates and Arabic coffee.

Hot Towel:

  • There is a choice of hot or cold towels. Both of which are very lightly scented.

Choice:

  • There is a choice of two main dishes.

Delivery:

  • Individual tray service.

Type of meal:

  • Lunch.

Meal:

  • Mixed salad with feta, cucumber and bell peppers.
  • Tortellini filled with meat on a cheese sauce with tomatoes, broccoli and pumpkin.
  • Cheesecake for dessert.

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The meal is very tasty. More than anything though, I am amazed that Oman Air not only provide a choice of main course on a sector of only 45 minutes, but that they also offer a hot meal as one of the choices!

Halfway into demolishing the cheesecake, the seatbelt sign goes on again and the pilots informs us that we have started out initial descent into Muscat.

The weather in Muscat is pretty much the same as in Dubai. It is a balmy 25 degrees Celsius with low visibility due to the haze. In Muscat, the new terminal infrastructure is quickly taking shape. The construction of the terminal appears to be finished, it is now only a question of putting in the fittings. We land on the newly built runway, which runs in parallel to the existing one but on the other side of the newly built apron. Out taxi time to the old apron, which is still in use is about 5 minutes.

 

TRANSFER IN MUSCAT
In Muscat there are no air bridges, so all passengers have to be transported to the terminal by bus. There is a dedicated shuttle bus for Business Class passengers only. I always find it a tad uncomfortable on Oman Air to watch one of the flight attendants rush to block the Economy Class passengers from disembarking before all the Business Class passengers have left the aircraft.

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Luxair, Business Class – B 737-700: Vienna to Luxembourg

Folie1

INTRODUCTION

The flight from Bangkok arrives at 05:45, we’re on time. I now have nearly four hours to make my connection to Luxembourg at 09:30. I’m rather curious to see if the transfer will be easier this time.

TRANSFER AT VIENNA AIRPORT, part I – The phantom menace…

Our aircraft has parked at the very beginning of the G concourse. So after I exit the airbridge and turn left, it’s only a short walk to the immigration counters. My flight to Luxembourg will be leaving from the B concourse in the old terminal. But I’m not really sure if there is a lounge facility there and I do still have quite a wait. So instead I follow the signs to the F concourse, which is the Schengen area of the new terminal. To access the Schengen area I have to go through a security check, as I’m arriving from overseas. So far so good.

When I checked in at Bangkok airport I was issued my boarding pass for the onward connection to Luxembourg. While the boarding pass for the first leg from Bangkok to Vienna showed my Senator status, the boarding pass for the onward leg only shows that I am a Miles and More member. Presumably this has something to do with Luxair’s somewhat odd status as a Miles and More airline that is not part of the Star Alliance.

LOUNGE

Location: on the F concourse
Type of Lounge: Austrian Airlines Senator lounge, there is one reception area that serves the HON lounge, Senator lounge and Business Class lounge
Facilities:
hot and cold food and drink, workstations, showers (for HONs and Senators only)
Internet:
wifi provided by Vienna Airport, no password required

The lounge is fairly busy when I arrive just after six in the morning. After a short while though, the place empties rather quickly until eventually there’s barely anybody there except me.

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TRANSFER AT VIENNA AIRPORT, part II –  You’ve got to be kidding me…

Priority Boarding: no

What a labyrinth! About 40 minutes before departure I decide to venture out in search of my gate on the B concourse. With the experience of the outbound journey still fresh in my mind I figure it might take me a while to find my way. And indeed, the route to the B concourse is complicated and entirely counter intuitive and sees me first going up one escalator, around a few corners and then down another escalator before eventually, without really knowing how, I’m landside again. I keep on walking until I finally arrive in the old terminal. I scan my boarding pass and I am airside once more. I even manage to find the B concourse, where of course I have to go through security again. I ask some young chap in an Austrian Airlines uniform if there’s a lounge anywhere, and he informs me that there is, but I’ll have to go back through security again to get there.

BOARDING

Boarding is via a bus gate. As usual it pays to be patient. 64 passengers squeeze into the first, hot bus. It leaves for the aircraft and another bus duly arrives to pick up the remaining four passengers…

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CABIN

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: staggered rows, European standard Business Class with the middle seat left empty
Facilities: none
Audio and Video: audio and video available, only the moving map are in use on today’s flight.

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There’s been another last minute aircraft change, and instead of the scheduled Dash-8-400 it’s now a Boeing B737-700 that will be operating the flight. I’m not quite sure why though, as I overhear the purser telling the captain that the headcount is correct at 69 + 2, which should fit into a Dash-8. As it happens, it’s even exactly the same aircraft I had on the outbound.

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SERVICE

The crew on this service are much friendlier and warmer than their colleagues on the outbound. Maybe I was just unlucky that time. But this lot is much better.

THE MEAL

Pre departure drinks: no
Pre meal drinks: no
Delivery:
individually served trays
Type of meal:
brunch
Menu:
there is a menu for the drinks and food
Meal:

  • sliced orange
  • müsli
  • butter, strawberry jam and apricot jam
  • bread basket
  • cottage cheese
  • grilled tomato slices
  • Emmental cheese
  • smoked ham

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The meal is a big surprise and a vast improvement over what was served on the outbound. I like the breadbasket in particular. It’s rather a substantial meal, especially given that the flight time is only slightly more than one hour.

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ARRIVAL

We arrive in Luxembourg slightly ahead of schedule. For a change we make our approach right over the city, coming in fairly low. I don’t have long to wait for my suitcase.

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I shall be staying at the Doubletree again. There’s a shuttle available and if you call enough in advance, they’ll even come and pick you up from the airport.

CONCLUSION

This flight was a vast improvement over my previous experience in Luxair Business Class. Given the short duration of the flight you’d think there could hardly be any differences, which makes this flight all the more surprising. It’s probably a combination of things. First of all, the food was much more to my liking than on the outbound. Secondly, the crew simply seemed more genuine in the way they welcomed the passengers aboard. And that makes a huge difference.

Luxair, Business Class – Boeing B737-700: Luxembourg to Vienna

Folie1

INTRODUCTION

I’m in Luxembourg. It’s Friday afternoon and I just finished giving a course. This weekend is Pentecost, which means Monday is a public holiday. And then on Wednesday I’ll be giving another course in Luxembourg. So instead of going home for the weekend, I’ve decided to do something else and visit an old friend of mine. But first I must catch a flight to Vienna.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: bus line 747
Departs from: main railway station in the city centre of Luxembourg
Frequency: depends on the traffic, which can be quite bad in Luxembourg
Journey time: 25 minutes
Fare: I don’t know. Normally you can buy tickets for public transport as you board the vehicle. This does not apply to the airport bus though. I have no idea where to purchase the tickets. But if you play dumb, normally the driver will simply let you on anyway.

Today I shall be taking the taxi to the airport anyway, because I’m travelling with a large suitcase which I don’t fancy carting to the bus stop.

CHECK-IN

Location:      ground level, the bus stops right in front of the terminal
Facilities:      self-service machines
Counters:     dedicated Luxair Business Class counters

The taxi drops me off in front of the departures hall, which is at ground level. The airport is fairly busy this afternoon. There are the business travellers, probably on their way home after a busy week’s work in one of the many offices of the EU in Luxembourg. And then there are also the leisure travellers, presumably because there’s a long weekend ahead.

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LOUNGE

Location: one floor down from the departures level
Type of Lounge:
Luxair lounge
Facilities:

Internet: –

There is a Luxair lounge in Luxembourg, which is very nice. In the evenings though, it does tend to become rather busy as it’s not very big and it’s also the only lounge there is in Luxembourg, so in fact it’s available to the premium passengers of most of the airlines operating out of Luxembourg.

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: No

Boarding is via gate A16, which is a bus gate.

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CABIN

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: standard European-style Business Class with the middle seat left empty
Facilities: coat hook
Audio and Video: audio and video are installed, only video available on this particular flight.

Originally, when I booked this flight it should have been operated by a Dash-8-400. However, much to my surprise we eventually pull up next to a Boeing B 737-700. Needless to say I’m delighted with the aircraft change!

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The cabin looks very neat, with blue seats and cream coloured, adjustable headrests and seatbelts. The seat pitch is rather tight though. There is no cabin divider to separate Business and Economy Class.

I also notice that the seat rows on the left and on the right side are not aligned, although I’m not quite sure wherein the benefit of this should lie.

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SERVICE

The crew appear to be all from Luxembourg. They’re rather a nondescript bunch really. There’s nothing wrong with the way they go about their job and they’re not in any way rude. But it’s nearly as though they’re not really there. In fact you get the distinct impression they aren’t interested even in the faintest in their passengers.

Later on during the flight, as soon as the service is over, they vanish into the galley and remain there until it is time for them to secure the cabin for landing.

THE MEAL

Choice: none
Delivery:
traditional tray service
Type of meal:
light snack
Menu:
there is a small printed menu
Meal:

  • duck and vegetable millefeuille in a tangy sauce
  • raspberry, melon and pineapple
  • lemon tart, brownie and white chocolate bavarois cake
  • bread roll
  • orange juice
  • coffee

The presentation of the meal is nice. I quite like it for the simple reason that it’s unusual and makes a difference from what you normally see on planes in Europe today. But I can’t really say I enjoyed the meal. I’ve never been partial to duck because I find it too fatty. And when it comes packed in between layers of gelatine, then I think I’d rather pass.

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The desserts are alright, although the brown thing described as a ‘brownie’ in the menu is more like a mini piece of Black Forest gateau.

The meal is quickly removed, I barely touched it. I spend the rest of the flight gazing out the window. My favourite pastime.

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ARRIVAL

After we land, we taxi on seemingly endlessly. It appears that we’re got more or less the remotest possible stand on the whole apron. A bus is expecting us to bring the passengers to the terminal.

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CONCLUSION

So what about Luxair Business Class? To be honest, it’s really quite hard to say. There wasn’t really anything to complain about, but I don’t think there was anything about the experience that would make me seek them out for my next trip either.