It’s the Wednesday before Ascension, and I’ve decided to travel to Genoa in Northern Italy on the new Darwin Airlines service from Zürich. I leave the office at 14h40 and head for the airport by train.
Date: 16 May 2012
Aircraft: Saab 2000
Class: Economy Class
Seat: originally 6A, then moved to 7F
Let’s just see if I can trick the DCS check-in system. I select ‘Swiss’ on the self-service machine, knowing very well that my ticket has the F7 flight number and was issued by Darwin Airlines. But there is a code-share in place. And perhaps if I check-in as a Swiss passenger, that may give me access to the lounge. It works like a charm with Air Malta every time.
I manage to have a boarding pass printed with the Swiss logo on it, but no matter how hard I try, the Senator number cannot be inserted in the booking. They seem to be learning…I might as well make my way to security.
Later on I inquire at the lounge and it transpires that indeed, only passengers booked on a Swiss 724 ticket for the Genoa flight have access to the lounge. Not that the system Swissport uses is very sophisticated. Quite the contrary in fact. The staff manning the reception desk at the lounge have a print out of all passengers for the flight, with the names of those passengers entitled to use the lounge.
It’s not important, so I take a seat by the window, close to gate A63. The weather is indeed awful, I think it’s actually hailing. The positive effect of this, of course, is that it means aircraft are coming in on runway 28, which runs parallel to the terminal. I take a seat, unpack my Mac and in short sequence I have the pleasure of watching three Swiss Airbus A 340-300s battling the elements as they touch down right before my eyes. Welcome home!
At the announced boarding time of 16h25, I head down to gate A56, a bus gate, which is in a provisional building that was erected about ten years ago and then decided to become a permanent fixture.
We pull up by the side of our aircraft. I haven’t been on one of these for ages. Despite its age, the Saab still looks very modern and streamlined.
The flight is not entirely full, with only a few empty seats here and there. Talk about a trip down memory lane. From the inside you might easily think you’re sitting in a Crossair plane, you can see it in the seats and the fonts used to indicate the seat numbers. And even the service is reminiscent of the old Crossair.
Once the door closes, I observe the very young flight attendant as she walks through the cabin slowly. From the way she is moving I guess she is passing through the cabin holding something in her hands, which is concealed from my view by the passenger seats. I assume it’s a tray or basket of sweets, but I find it somewhat strange that so many people decline. It’s only when she reaches my row that I realise she is holding a basket in her hands but that it contains application forms for a Corner Card Visa or Mastercard. So no sweeties then.
We take off from runway 32. On our way there we stop before crossing runway 28 to allow an A 321 to land.
Take-off is powerful but not very steep.
As soon at the fasten seat belt sign is turned off, the sole flight attendant working the flight springs into action. Quite surprisingly, service consists of some rather tasty sandwiches. There are Silserli buns with Salami and salad, or otherwise a bun with cheese and tomato. I opt for the Salami and I have to say it really is very tasty. What’s more, even in Economy drinks are served in proper glass, not plastic. Now how quaint is that? Shortly after the flight attendant moves on to serve the row behind me, the pilot comes on the blower to inform us that we will already be landing in approximately 20 minutes. That was quick!
The approach into Genoa is truly magnificent and fortunately the weather here has decided to play along. Genoa is located on a thin strip of land between the mountains and the sea. Space is so limited that in fact the airport had to be built on reclaimed land. The approach takes you along the coast and offers excellent views of the city, the shore and the mountains behind.
I disembark and emerge into the beautiful sunshine. It’s quite amazing really that one hour ago I was watching the aircraft at Zurich being pelted with hail stones!
Getting into Town
I exit the airport building and catch the bus into town. The return ticket costs EUR12. The journey takes about 30 minutes to the railway station.
Darwin Airlines really was an eye opener. To be honest, I was not expecting anything at all. In hindsight though, I have to say that they were great. With their little airplanes they really celebrate an art of customer service and hospitality in air travel that has long gone in many other parts of the world. The Saab 2000 are kept in mint condition. But alas, it is of no avail and sadly, the route has since been discontinued.
As for Genoa, simply enchanting!