Air Europa, Economy Class – Embraer 195: Zürich to Madrid

Airline: Air Europa
Aircraft: Embraer 195
From: Zürich
To: Madrid Barajas
Departure: 18:51
Arrival:
20:36
Flight time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Seat:
14D, aisle seat on the emergency exit

Check-in

At 16:54 I catch the train back to Zürich airport and make my way to Check-In 2, row 3, which is where Swissport has its counters for the smaller airlines like Air Baltic, Air Malta and Air Europa.

There‘s nobody else checking-in right now, so I‘m seen to straight away. And then from there I head for security, which is just as quiet.

The Lounge

Air Europa uses the Dnata lounge in Zürich, located towards the end of the airside centre, near the B pier. The lounge is completely packed and there‘s hardly any room to sit.

Eventually, I find a place to settle and get myself some food. The selection in the lounge is good, with a choice of salads, soup and a pasta dish to choose from.

Boarding

Considering they‘re a handling agent, boarding an aircraft is something Swissport doesn‘t do very well at all. An announcement is made that boarding will be by zones, starting with zone 1. only, no further announcement is made, resulting in the inevitable scrum by passengers. In fact, boarding is utter chaos and the original two queues expand quickly into a riot-scale pushing and shoving extravaganza.

The Cabin

Eventually though, I make it onto the plane and settle into my seat on the emergency exit.

Again, the seat pitch on the exit row is great. I also think Air Euopa have better padding on their seats in the Embraer than KLM, Air France or Helvetic.

The Crew

There are three crew in the cabin. As I don‘t make any purchases from the inflight menu, my interaction with them is limited. But the safety briefing they give is professional.

The flight itself is very bumpy for most of the journey. To the extent that even the crew had to be seated. Which is good, because the rocking puts me right off to sleep!

Arrival

We land slightly head of schedule. In Madrid Air Europa operates out of Terminal 3, which has its own metro station. Public transport in Madrid is quite cheap. Although you need to purchase a supplement for journeys to and from the airport.

LOT Polish Airlines, Business Class – Embraer 195: Warsaw to Zürich

Transfer in Warsaw

It’s just coming up to 16h by the time I enter the terminal building. The airport is very busy, and there are people everywhere. I make my way to the LOT Business Class lounge, which is one floor up from the public airside area.

I think the place is probably cramped at the best of times, but right now it’s also completely full. It doesn’t look at all inviting. I don’t even bother to look for a place to sit, because I have a much better idea anyway…

So instead I head one floor down again to the foodcourt, which is where I spot just what I’m looking for: a Polish restaurant that also serves Pierogi. It’s basically just a fast food joint. But the Pierogi are just so good, covered in fried onion and served with a healthy dollop of sour cream!

Boarding

With that out of the way, I make my way to gate 32. There’s a slight delay for boarding. And the flight is completely full, the gate agent says.

The Cabin

There are seven rows of seats ahead of the cabin divider. This aircraft is clearly older than the one I had on my way to Warsaw on Sunday. But it’s still a nice looking cabin and the seat pitch is great.

Again there are no welcome drinks, but the crew hand out chocolate biscuits, followed by Polish and English language newspapers.

The Crew

The crew on this flight are a lot more pleasant and approachable. The purser is a portly, middle-aged gentlemen and he’s very friendly.

The flight time is announced as one 1 hour and 45 minutes, although in actual fact it later turns out to have been only 91 minutes.

The Meal

The service in Business Class is slightly different to Premium Economy, in that there is a drinks service ahead of the meal. I just have a glass of sparkling water, which is served with dried slices of veg in a cajun spice mix. Not a good combination…

Next, the tray with the food is served. It looks pretty much like the Premium Economy tray, except of course that the plates are not plastic.

The right dish is quinoa with aubergines, spinach and feta cheese. I think.

The left dish is roast beef with feta and broccoli and bell pepper. It’s good that I had the Pierogi.

With the meal the crew offer bread from a basket. It’s just a minor thing, but I’m quite sure it wouldn’t hurt to warm up the bread in the oven to upgrade it from recently defrosted to at least room temperature.

The flight passes smoothly. The crew have kept the cabin lights dimmed, which makes for a nice, cosy atmosphere on board.

Arrival

Eventually, we land at 19h56. By 19h15 I’m already on the train on my way home.

Conclusion

And that brings to an end my first experience with LOT. All in all, the four flights I took were not unpleasant. And I think the hardware – things like seat comfort or the meal service – were fine. Bu the crews were a bit of a mixed bag. And as a result, the service delivery lacked consistency. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly LOT. But at least I wouldn’t actively avoid them either.

LOT Polish Airlines, Premium Economy – Embraer 195: Zürich to Warsaw

Introduction

The international phonetic alphabet was introduced specifically to be able to have a written representation of what a word sounds like, irrespective of the rules of orthography that abide in the language.

Which is, of course, a good thing because I’m on my way to Poland this evening to give a course, and the Poles seem to have quite an unhealthy obsession with impossible to pronounce consonant clusters.

I mention this here, because today I’m on my way to Rzeszow. And in case you’re wondering, it should be pronounced something like /ʒɛʃuf/ in the IPA, which sounds similar to ‘jeshoof’...

Getting to the Airport

I was intending to take the 17h07 train from Basel to Zürich. But that service is operated by a German ICE train that originates in Germany. And of course it’s been cancelled…

So instead I’m on the 16:43 service, which stops in Liestal, Sissach, Aarau and Lenzburg on the way. The journey is ten minutes longer than on the nonstop train.

In Zürich I change trains to the 18h05 for the airport. As my luck would have it, second class rolling stock is currently in short supply, apparently, which is why the train consists of plush, comfortable first class carriages operating as second class carriages.

Check-in

LOT is located in check-in 2 at Zürich airport and uses row 5, which is conveniently located on the mezzanine level, just as you come off the foot bridge connecting the shopping mall to the terminal. AAS is LOT’s handling agent.

By the time I change some Polish money and make my way through security, it’s 18h30. My flight should start boarding at 19h25. The lines for security are very light. And there are just three people ahead of me.

And the two lines open for Business Class passengers are deserted. So I ask one of the employees milling about if I could also use one of those two lines, considering they’re empty. To which she gives me her best disapproving look, or maybe she’s just constipated, and tells me that if I’m in that much of a hurry, I may use one of the empty lines.

This is just about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t know in what parallel universe there is anybody who greatly enjoys queueing for security at airports…

Boarding

My flight is departing from A86. The departure time comes and goes, but the gate staff are too busy bitching about what a sad airline LOT is to even bother making an announcement.

Eventually, boarding starts about 15 minutes behind schedule.

The Cabin

My first impression of the cabin is very good. I think this aircraft is either new or recently had a new cabin fitted. Seats are in a soft, beige coloured leather and the seat pitch on 3A is excellent.

What I don’t understand though, is that my seat on 3A is in front of the cabin divider, even though I’m travelling on a Premium Economy Class ticket. And the seat next to me is empty, although I don’t know if this is intentional or just that the flight is not entirely full.

By way of a welcome, passengers up front are handed a chocolate biscuit, but no drink.

The flight time is one hour and 35 minutes.

The Meal

Once the meal service begins, the small differences between Premium Economy and Business Class start to become clear. But they seem fairly minor to me. Rows 1 and 2 have proper linen table cloths, whereas row 3 does not. Furthermore, my meal is served on reusable plastic, and not on proper porcelain.

The meal consists of two dishes. One is a pasta salad, and the other is cold beef with cucumber and a cream cheese.

Bread is offered with the meal. And there is also a small chocolate on the tray.

To drink I have sparkling water, and after the meal some tea. The meal concludes with a chocolate wafer.

All in all, I think the food is rather good and the meal tasty. But the service seems unnecessarily rushed. By the time the crew come through with the second bread service, I haven’t even started on the first piece. They don’t smile much either!

The Crew

Having said that, once my tray is removed, one of the cabin crew brings me a pillow and blanket, without me even asking for them. The interesting thing about the crew is that they do everything right, because they’ve obviously been trained to do it. But they do it with absolutely no warmth or presonality.

Transfer in Warsaw

Eventually we land at 21h36, 14 minutes ahead of schedule. The terminal is surprisingly busy at this time of night and traffic seems to have picked up quite a bit since my last visit. My flight to Rzeszów will start boarding at 22h10.

This was my first flight with LOT and to be honest, I’d been expecting much, much worse. But so far so good…

TAP Air Portugal, Economy Class – Embraer 195: Porto to Lisbon

Introduction

Porto is a nice, modern city with a lot of tradition. It’s also very touristy. In Porto I stayed at the Intercontinental, but to be honest, I don’t think I’d stay there again.

Getting to the Airport

From the Intercontinental you can either walk ten minutes uphill to Trinidade, or you can take the metro line D for one stop and then change onto the E line from Trinidade to the airport. Which is what I do to save me some walking.

The metro in Porto is nice. It’s quiet, clean, easy to use and modern. The metro to the airport only runs every thirty minutes, although I’m not sure if perhaps that’s because it’s the weekend. The journey time to the airport is thirty minutes. And it’s a very nice journey too!

Check-in

TAP has a shuttle service between Porto and Lisbon. On weekdays, the first departure from Porto to Lisbon is at four in the morning, with subsequent flights running hourly during peak hours and every two hours for the rest of the day.

There are dedicated check-in counters for the Lisbon shuttle.

The Lounge

Luckily there is a fast track for security, which is much less busy than the queue for the general security checkpoint.

TAP does not operate its own lounge here in Porto. However, there is a lounge operated by Nav Portugal. I am entitled to use this lounge because although my flight to Lisbon is in Economy Class, it was booked on the same ticket at the Business Class fare from Zürich to Porto.

The lounge is nice and has a good selection of finger food and snacks. There’s even a freshly made fruit salad, which is just excellent!

The entrance to the lounge is right opposite gate 32, which is the dedicated gate for the Lisbon shuttle.

Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts at 17h30, although by the looks of it, it’s not going to be a full flight. The boarding process is the same as yesterday in Zürich, with a separate queue for premium passengers.

The Cabin

Much to my surprise, this aircraft has a different – and much nicer – cabin configuration than the dreadful old plane I arrived with from Zürich yesterday. This aircraft has different, more comfortable seats. The most prominent difference though, is that this aircraft appears to be equipped with an inflight entertainment system, because there is a screen in the back of each seat and a control panel in the arm rests.

I am seated on the emergency exit, which is row 14. The legroom, obviously, is very good on this row.

The Crew

There are three ladies working in the cabin this evening and again, they seem very nice and interact with the passengers in a relaxed and unpretentious way.

The flight time is announced as forty minutes.

The Meal

Much to my surprise, all passengers are served a snack and a drink on this flight, despite the short flight time. The snack box contains a packet with four crackers and another packet with a soft but tasty cheese. No cutlery is provided. Although it turns out it’s not really required, because the cheese is quite soft.

Arrival

About twenty minutes into the flight, the pilots ease back the throttles and we start our descent. I’m assuming here that the Porto shuttle probably gets preferential treatment for the landing, traffic permitting. So eventually, we touch down in Lisbon after a flight time a few minutes short of the announced forty minutes.

Air Europa, Business Class – Embraer E-195: Zürich to Madrid

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Date: 08 July 2016
Departure: 19:00
Arrival: 21:05
Flight time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Seat: 1D, aisle

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Check-in

Location: Check-in 2, row 3.
Facilities: Web check-in is possible. Via the app you can only check-in if you have a log-in. At Zürich airport check-in is only possible at the counter and not at the self-service machines.
Counters: Swissport does the check-in for Air Europa in Zürich. There are four common use counters for Economy Class passengers, one baggage drop counter and a Business Class counter.

The Lounge

I do not have time for a visit to the lounge today. By the time I have retrieved my rucksack from the locker, collected my boarding pass and gone through security, I only have about fifteen minutes left before boarding starts.

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My previous ride on the right and me next ride on the left.
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Boarding

The first call is for Business Class passengers and Air Europa and SkyTeam status card holders.

Apparently the flight is completely sold out this evening. The last few passengers to board the aircraft are out of luck. There is no more space left in the overhead bins and they are asked – if not to say ordered – to relinquish their bags and have them put in the hold instead.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2. Seating capacity on the Embraer 195 is 120 (12 + 108).
Seat: The aircraft is operated by a company called Aeronova on behalf of Air Europa under the Air Europa Express brand. Business Class seating is the same as in Economy Class, so the seat next to you is not kept empty. There are three rows in Business Class with a total of twelve seats. The forward cabin is fully booked as well this evening, although only four are revenue passengers, the other eight are all commercial upgrades.
Pitch: 30 inches.
Width: 18 inches.
Facilities: There are no power outlets.
Audio and Video: No.

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The Crew

There are three female cabin crew on the flight. Funnily enough, the purser is the young lady I had on the inaugural flight a few weeks back.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Choice of orange juice or still water.
Towel before the meal: Pre-packed, scented cold towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero with a packet of almonds.
Choice:
None.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
Meal:

  1. Watercress, rocket and spinach salad with grilled citrus marinated vegetables and parmesan shavings.
  2. Crudités with artichoke cream and olives.
  3. Potato and fennel salad with Dijon mustard, beef pastrami, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, rocket and sesame.
  4. Yoghurt mousse with a crunchy crumble, strawberries and strawberry sauce.
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Arrival

The flight passes quickly, and before long we are already on the approach into Madrid. We land in a north-westerly direction and then taxi for a good ten minutes to our parking stand at Terminal 2.

Air Europa, Business Class – Embraer 195: Madrid to Zürich

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Date: 20 June 2016
From: Madrid
To: Zürich
Departure: 08:00
Arrival: 10:10
Seat:
1D, aisle on the starboard side

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Introduction

I am rather looking forward to this flight, mainly because I am curious to see what will happen. Today’s flight is special because it is the inaugural flight of Air Europa from Madrid to Zürich. I am kind of hoping for a water cannon salute, but I am not entirely sure how realistic that is…

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Complimentary shuttle service.
Journey time: 6 to 8 minutes.
Departs from: Right outside the hotel lobby.
Arrives: Departures level. The shuttle stops at Terminals 1, 2 and 4.

The first shuttle from the Hilton leaves at 05h30 and requires an advance reservation because it tends to be busy. For all later services though, no reservation is required.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 2.
Facilities: Self-service check-in or counter check-in.
Counters: All of Air Europa’s domestic and Schengen flights operate out of Terminal 2. Accordingly, the airline has quite a presence at the facility. There are thirty Economy Class counters, all of which are open this morning. And then there are two separate counters for Business Class passengers.

To the left of the Business Class counter is the Fast Track security lane. There is only one passenger ahead of me and I am quickly processed.

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The Lounge

Location: E concourse, near gate E76.
Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge operated by AENA.
Facilities: Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There is also a quiet area towards the back of the lounge. Computer workstations are also available and all seats are equipped with electric power sockets.
Catering: They have Nespresso machines! Other than that, the selection is good, with a wide range of typical breakfast items like fresh fruit, yoghurt, breads, etc.
Internet: Wifi is available throughout the lounge. The code is displayed on the information screens in the lounge.

Since my last visit to Madrid last year, the lounge has been updated and looks a lot more attractive, fresh and new. Of course, as far as I am concerned, the lounge’s best feature remains the fantastic view of the apron.

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Boarding

Unlike the other SkyTeam Alliance partners like Air France or KLM, which require you to push and shove your way to the front if you want priority boarding, Air Europa has a dedicated queue for passengers with priority and makes sure to board that queue first.

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Initially, every looks pretty normal. But then suddenly a whole armada of journalist appear on board with Air Europa press folder, followed by three camera men, a photographer and a hairy, scruffy dude who must be the sound engineer. Apparently, the company’s CEO Juan José Hidalgo is also on board. The whole thing is rather interesting to watch and obviously Air Europa intends on making a big show of this inauguration. Even so, I am quite impressed how they manage to keep the general chaos surrounding the CEO’s appearance away from the passengers.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2. Seating capacity on the Embraer 195 is 120 (12 + 108).
Seat: The aircraft is operated a company called Aeronova on behalf of Air Europa under the Air Europa Express brand. Business Class seating is the same as in Economy Class, so the seat next to you is not kept empty. On this morning’s flight this is not really a problem though, seeing as only seven of the twelve seats in Business Class are occupied.
Pitch: 30 inches.
Width: 18 inches.
Facilities: There are no power outlets.
Audio and Video: No.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

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The Crew

There are three cabin crew on the flight today. I really do not envy the three young ladies though. There are camera men and journalists all over the place, trying to get a word in with the CEO and there is hardly any room to move around up front.

Eventually though, the doors close and the cabin finally settles down. The crew offer newspapers and a selection of still water or orange juice as a welcome drink. Note that only Spanish language papers are on offer.

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After take-off Mr Hidalgo gives a few more interviews and prepares what must obviously be the speech he will be giving upon arrival in Zürich, which makes me hopeful for that water cannon salute.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal: Packed and scented cold towel.
Pre-meal drink: No.
Choice: No.
Delivery: Individual tray service.
Type of meal: Breakfast, hot meal.
Meal:

  1. Fruit (Kiwi, pineapple, grape).
  2. Crème brûlée with apple compote.
  3. Scrambled eggs with grilled vegetables (aubergine, zucchini, pepper and mushroom).
  4. A croissant and a bun, served warm.
  5. Tea or coffee.
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I really like the presentation of the meal. The eggs and grilled vegetables are served in a small ovenproof pan with the lid still on. The bread items are served in a small brown paper bag, which looks good and makes a change from the usual breadbasket that is usually handed round for all passengers to stick their grubby mitts in. It all tastes very nice too.

The young lady working the Business Class cabin does an excellent job to serve all passengers quickly. Throughout the service she makes sure that drinks are replenished. Once the meal is over the trays are removed without delay to give passengers more time to relax and spread out. By this time we are only one hour out of Zürich.

Arrival

I am not quite sure what the exact route of our flight is. At some point the Alps come into view on the right side of the aircraft. It takes me a while to realise that we are approaching Switzerland from the West, coming in over the Jura mountains and entering into Swiss airspace above Basel, my hometown. The city easy to spot every since Hofmann-La Roche erected that incredibly ugly building they now call HQ.

From Basel we continue on an Easterly track until eventually we make a right turn to line up for a straight in approach to runway 14. Zürich airport is fairly busy and there is a whole queue of aircraft waiting to take-off from runway 16 as we land.

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We taxi off the runway and that is when I spot them up ahead – the fire engines! Woohoo! I’m so excited! This is just so cool! I have only had to wait 42 years for this but finally, at long last it has happened and I am treated to my very first ever water cannon salute.

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Eventually we come to a stop on one of the stands at the B dock. The doors open and there is a whole welcoming committee expecting us in the airbridge. As we disembark, passengers are given a small box of typically Swiss biscuits – it is a kind of waffle filled with chocolate cream.

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I head downstairs to retrieve my luggage and then from there to the railway station to take me to the office in Winterthur.

Conclusion

I think chasing water cannon salutes is my new hobby! Seriously, I know it may sound shallow, but I think it was a really cool experience that gives you back that sense of arrival that air transport used to have many moons ago but that has since gone missing in a haze of cost cuts and deteriorating yields. The wiry R., with whom I started out on this trip to Amsterdam, has often said that he simply cannot understand where in the fascination lies for me to like spending hours on planes. But I think it is just that, flying is not just a means of transport like any other. It is something special to me, and I’d like to keep it that way.