Edelweiss Air, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Skopje

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Date: 02. August 2016.
Departure: 12:50.
Arrival: 14:26.
flight time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Seat: 11F, window on the starboard side.

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INTRODUCTION
In my gap year between finishing secondary school and starting university I briefly had a job as a flight attendant. Back then I used to fly to Skopje in Macedonia frequently, mostly with ethnic traffic.

I have rather fond memories of those flights. On the one hand, the passengers used to drive me nuts with the copious amounts of ‘hand luggage’ they would have with them. You could expect anything from vacuum cleaners to televisions – all being brought into the cabin. Most of the time the flights left late because it just took a while to get all the passengers settled. But it was also heart warming to watch. As soon as the aircraft would land in Skopje, the passengers would get excited at the prospect of finally being home. Usually before the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off, they would be helping each other taking things down from the overhead bins, quite as though they could not wait any longer to set foot again in their home country.

That was over twenty years ago. And now, today I find myself travelling yet again, to Skopje with a planeload of Macedonians. Only this time, I am a passenger.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Check-in 1 or 3. Check-in 1 is the SWISS and Star Alliance terminal.
Facilities: Web check-in, app check-in or check-in at the airport.

I arrive at the airport at 10:38, with a little under two hours before departure. It is the middle of the Swiss holiday season and the airport is packed. I head up to Check-in 1 to find a queue going all the way back to the SWISS ticketing counters. I’ve never seen anything quite like it at Zürich airport. It takes me 15 minutes just to reach the start of the queue and then another 20 minutes to reach the baggage drop counter.

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I think part of the problem is that SWISS has not properly signposted the process. As a result, like me, most passengers are unsure if they need to check-in at the self-service machines first or if they can do everything at the counter.

By the time I have checked in and changed some money, it is already 11h45 and my flight is about to board from the midfield Dock E. So I head straight for security, fearing that here too there will be long queues. But much to my surprise, the place is fairly deserted and security is swift.

From security I head two floors down into the basement of the terminal to catch the metro shuttle. On my way to the gate I briefly stop at the Deli to get myself a sandwich, because I am not entirely sure what or if they will be serving anything on this flight.

BOARDING
Boarding starts with a delay of about 15 minutes. There is a first call for families with children, before the general boarding process starts. Despite the fact that the flight is packed to the gills, boarding is completed in less than 15 minutes. These guys must be eager to get home! Most of the passengers appear to be Macedonians on their way home. And from what I can tell a lot of passengers are connecting from one of SWISS’ North American flights.

CABIN
Configuration:
3 + 3.
Seat: The Edelweiss Air Airbus A 320 comes in two different configurations, depending on whether it is an original Edelweiss Air bird or if it is one of the aircraft leased from SWISS, which retain the original cabin configuration. The height of the head rest is adjustable. On flights to Skopje, there is no Business Class and the aircraft operates in an Economy Class only configuration. I am on 11F, which is the first of the two emergency rows.
Pitch: 34 or 32 inches, which then gradually decreases to 31 inches towards the back of the bus.
Width:
17 inches.
Facilities:
Reading lamp and air vent. No power outlet.
Audio and Video: Moving map. The Edelweiss aircraft that are not leased from SWISS also allow you to stream the IFE on your mobile device. In order to do so though, you need to download the Edelweiss app in advance. The system works very well. The only grippe I have though, is that it would be good to also have power outlets at the seats then.

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SERVICE
There are four crew on this flight and all of them are very friendly and all smiles, pretty much like all the Edelweiss crews I have experienced recently. The flight time is announced as ninety-five minutes.

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THE MEAL
Type of meal:
Snack.
Meal:

  • Cheese sandwich.
  • Choice of hot and cold drinks.
  • A Kägi Fret, which is a typically Swiss biscuit that is basically a few layers of waffle with chocolate in between and then coated in chocolate.

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Once the service is done, there are still sandwiches left, so the crew pass through the cabin offering seconds to those who are still hungry. The sandwich is okay, with some tomato and pepper spread and cheese in it. The bread is a bit rubbery though.

ARRIVAL
Eventually, after an uneventful flight we start our descent into Skopje. The airport is located in a scenic landscape of hills. It looks hot outside.

As the aircraft slows to taxing speed I get another blast from the past. No sooner have we turned off the runway that you can hear seatbelts unclickling and the passengers start getting up to take their belongings from the overhead bins. Well some things obviously never change.

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The terminal in Skopje looks fairly new and is a far cry from the run down, rickety old facility there used to be when I flew here all those years back. Immigration is swift. There is a bit of a hold up waiting for the luggage, what with the Air Serbia flight arriving right behind us.

GETTING INTO TOWN
In Skopje I will be staying at the Marriott, which only opened a few weeks ago. The journey to from the airport will take roughly 25 minutes in good traffic and will cost you EUR20 or 1250 Macedonia Dinars.

Edelweiss Air, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Lanzarote to Zürich

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Date: 10. July 2016.
Departure: 12:00.
Arrival: 16:45.
Flight time: 3 hours 45 minutes.
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side.

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INTRODUCTION
Okay, next attempt to get home. It is now Sunday morning just after 10 as I check out of the hotel to make my way back to the airport. I checked on flightradar earlier this morning. Apparently, the aircraft I was originally booked on yesterday eventually arrived in Barcelona at 01h40… So I think I have definitely opted for the more pleasant solution.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Taxi.
Journey time: 10 minutes, the distance is 7.5 kilometres but Spanish taxi drivers normally drive like a bat out of hell. It seems to be their modus operandi.
Cost: EUR11.65.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 1, departure concourse.
Facilities: Airport check-in, web check-in or app check-in using the SWISS app. At the airport there are dedicated counters for each individual flight.

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LOUNGE
There is no lounge available for Edelweiss passengers in Lanzarote. However, I can highly recommend the Coffee Republic café near gate 2. They have good coffee and the views of the apron are brilliant. Alternatively, the PANS do a great tortilla sandwich and the view is not bad either.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
No.
The boarding ‘announcement’ is interesting. Basically the lady behind the desk looks up at the first person who catches her eye and then very quietly says ‘Zurich?’. That it is, and boarding starts.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2, typical European Business Class configuration with the middle seat left empty.
Seat: The Edelweiss Air A 320 comes in two different configurations, depending on whether it is an original Edelweiss Air bird or if it is one of the aircraft leased from SWISS, which retain the original cabin configuration. The height of the head rest is adjustable. There are three rows of Business Class with capacity for twelve passengers. On today’s flight only seven of the seats are occupied.
Pitch: 34 or 32 inches, which then gradually decreases to 31 inches towards the back of the bus.
Width:
17 inches.
Facilities:
Reading lamp and air vent. No power outlet.
Audio and Video: Moving map. The Edelweiss aircraft that are not leased from SWISS also allow you to stream the IFE on your mobile device. In order to do so though, you need to download the Edelweiss app in advance. The system works very well. The only grippe I have though, is that it would be good to also have power outlets at the seats then.

The one thing that always strikes me about Edelweiss, is the cleanliness of their aircraft. This Airbus is no exception. It is spotlessly clean and the windows look as though they were only recently done.

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SERVICE
There are four crew on the aircraft today, three females and one gentleman in his thirties, I should guess. They are very friendly and obviously determined to make the last few hours of the passengers’ vacation memorable.

Newspapers are available for all passengers as you board the aircraft. Pillows and pre-packed scented towels have been placed in between every pair of seats.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Still water or sparkling wine.
Towel before the meal: No.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero with a packet of crackers.
Choice:
There are two options for the main course, one of which is vegetarian.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  • Mixed salad with a home made Italian dressing.
  • Parma ham with small balls of melon, mozzarella and olive oil.
  • Angus beef in a rich brown sauce, served with mushrooms, white and green asparagus and Pretzel dumplings.
  • A selection of cheese with pickled onions and a dried apricot.
  • A selection of desserts – I go with the peach in a thyme crust.
  • Sprüngli chocolates.
  • Selection from the bread basked.
  • Tea or coffee.

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The meal is very tasty and I am quite amazed by the amount of food that is provided. During the meal service, the crew make two bread rounds. Moreover, once the main course is over, another bread round is made for passengers who would like some bread to accompany the cheese.

ARRIVAL
After the meal the cabin quietens down and I even manage to nod off to sleep at some point. Eventually we start our descent, and shortly after we enter into Swiss airspace. As we descend, the crew pass through with hot towels and a Biberli.

Our routing takes us past the city of Geneva and Montreux towards the capital Berne. From there we turn in a northerly direction and head into German. Before doing a 180 degree turn back towards Switzerland and an approach for runway 14. It really is nice to be back!

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EPILOGUE
And so the story of my failed attempt to bag another flight with the Boeing B 747-400 comes to an end. I am not annoyed it did not work out. After all, the only reason Vueling leased the B 747-400 in the first place was because their operation is a shambles. So I guess it was rather likely it wouldn’t work out.

What really irritates me though, is the behaviour of the Swissport staff in Lanzarote and the way they handled the situation – from the rampers who see no problem in smoking next to an aircraft being refuelled , to the gate agents who did not provide any information about the status of the delayed flight unless you asked them.

Edelweiss Air, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Larnaca to Zürich

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Date: 20 May 2016.
From: Larnaca.
To: Zürich.
Departure: 11:30
Arrival: 14:15.
Flight time: 3 hours 45 minutes.
Seat: 2A.

INTRODUCTION
The course in Nicosia goes well, and once more the Cypriot authorities are excellent hosts. Of course, it also helps that the weather is truly outstanding and makes a welcome change from the drab and dreary weather we have been experiencing back home lately.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Car rental.
Journey time: About thirty minutes.

The distance from Nicosia, which is inland, to the airport by the sea at Larnaca is 47 kilometres and it is a motorway all the way. The valiant M. drops off the car back at Sixt and then we walk across the road to the modern terminal building.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Upper level, rows 17 to 19.
Facilities: There is one row for Business Class passengers and two rows for Economy Class passengers.
Counters: Web check-in and app check-in with Swiss International Air Lines are possible.

The airport looks very modern. It is fairly quiet when I arrive, despite that fact that there are a few flights leaving around the same time as mine. There is no queue for check-in and immigration and security are pretty swift.

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LOUNGE
The check-in agent informs me that Edelweiss Air does not have a contract with the lounge contractor, so no lounge today. But that is alright, by the time I am through security it is only another 15 minutes before boarding begins.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
My flight will be boarding from gate 29. There is a separate queue and even a separate call made for Business Class passengers.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2
Seat: The seat on this aircraft is different to the one on the outbound flight. Apart from the colour of the covers, the seat pockets look slightly different too. But it is still basically the same idea, with the middle seat being kept empty in Business Class. Once again, there are pillows at every seat as I board the aircraft. And everything from the pillows to the headrest covers is branded with the famous Edelweiss.
Pitch: I was unable to find information about the pitch on Edelweiss Air. What I can say though, is that the pitch is very good and allows you to stretch your legs easily.

Edelweiss operates its A 320s in a seating capacity for 168 seats. In today’s configuration there are twelve Business Class seats and 132 seats in Economy Class. In Business Class all twelve seats are occupied.
Facilities: Reading lamp and air vent.
Audio and Video: Edelweiss Air provides entertainment via Wifi. You need to download the app though first before you board the plane.

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SERVICE
The crew are a friendly bunch. In particular the young lady serving the Business Class cabin is warm and very charming in her manner.

There are complimentary Swiss newspapers available in the galley for all passengers as you enter the aircraft.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
A selection of Champagne, orange juice or still water.
Towel before the meal: A hot towel is offered after take-off, before the meal.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero, served with a bag of savoury nibbles.
Choice:
Polenta (vegetarian) or beef.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  1. Boiled beef with a pesto salsa, cucumber and radish.
  2. Mixed salad with mushrooms and an interesting dressing.
  3. A plate of Camembert and Tilsiter (Swiss hard cheese) with apricot and pear bread.
  4. Polenta in a cream sauce with tomatoes, spinach and leek.
  5. A selection from the breadbasket.
  6. A choice of either crème brûlée or ‘Stortzifladen’. The latter is a typically Swiss sweet. It is a sort of cinnamon and pear pie that is served with cream.
  7. Tea or coffee.
  8. A praliné from Sprüngli.

The meal is served on crisp white linen. The tray arrives with the first course, salad and cheese plate already on it. The tray is cleared before the main dish arrives. The dessert is also served separately.

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Once more I am quite impressed with the amount and quality of the food Edelweiss dishes up on a flight of less than four hours. It really is quite amazing. What is more, the service is very efficient but without being hurried, so there are rarely any long waits in between the different dishes. Are you paying attention SWISS?

The meal concludes with a cup of coffee and a praliné from Sprüngli. And even that has an Edelweiss on it!

By the time the meal finished, there are still two hours to go to Zürich. I power up my Kindle with the intention of reading a bit to pass the time. But then I nod off and the next time I open my eyes, the aircraft is already approaching Lake Constance, twenty minutes out of Zürich.

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ARRIVAL
It is a lovely day for flying. The air is clear and the view of the Alps is really stunning.

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The flight arrives at gate E52. At this time of day Zürich airport is very quiet, so there are no delays in us arriving. Zürich really is a brilliant airport. We land at 14h15. By 14h43 I have already collected my checked in luggage and I am on the train home.

And now I have a week at home before my next trip. But that will be a vacation, not work.

Edelweiss Air, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Larnaca

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Date: 17 May 2016.
Departure: Zürich.
Arrival: Larnaca.
Flight time: 3 hours and 10 minutes.
Seat: 1A

INTRODUCTION
I am on my way to Cyprus to give another course. I am rather looking forward to this one. The last time I was in Cyprus, the authorities were very welcoming and friendly. So for me, this kind of feels a bit like visiting old friends. I am joined on this course by my colleague, the valiant M. and the test manager P., a Dutchman whose flight statistic makes me look like a hopeless newbie. While I am still trying to figure out how to achieve Platinum again with Air France for this year, the Dutchman is already planning for his lifelong status once he achieves Platinum in ten consecutive years…

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Train.
Journey time: About 90 minutes.
Departs from: Basel SBB.
Arrives: Zürich Flughafen
Frequency: The earliest direct train departs from Basel at 04:37 in the morning. From then on there is a direct train every hour until 19:37 from Basel to Zürich Airport. The journey takes about one hour and twenty-five minutes. Alternatively, the fastest way to the airport is to catch a train to Zürich main station and change for an airport train there. There is a nonstop train to Zürich main station every half hour from Basel, at 07 and 33 minutes past the hour. Even changing trains at the main station, this option is about 15 minutes faster.

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But my flight to Larnaca will already be leaving at 06:15 in the morning, which is still too early for the first train. So I am travelling to Zürich the evening before and spending the night at the Radisson Blue adjacent to Terminal 1 in Zürich

To access the hotel from the airport’s railway station, follow the signs to Check-in 1. Eventually, you will pass through a set of sliding doors and will have a small Coop grocery store ahead of you. The passage curves to the left here. If you continue walking straight ahead, you will eventually end up in Terminal 1. However, if instead you turn right, you will eventually arrive at a set of escalators. The ones on the left lead down into the airport gym, while those on the right lead up into the lobby of the hotel.

The Radisson Blue Zürich Airport is pretty much your standard airport hotel. I like the high ceiling in the atrium, but overall I just find the whole place a bit too dark and gloomy.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Check-in 3, located right above the railway station.
Facilities: Web check-in, app check-in with Passbook, airport check-in.
Counters: The flight is operated by Edelweiss but has a SWISS flight number, so I can check-in the evening before until 22h00 at the SWISS counters. Once that is taken care of, I head for the hotel.

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The next morning I meet the valiant M., all bright eyed and bushy tailed. We take the underground passage to Check-in 1. The place is more or less deserted save for a few other passengers milling about. Airport security does not open until 05h00, so we still have a few minutes to wait before the airport officially ‘opens’.

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Security is a swift affair and there is a separate queue for Business Class passengers.

LOUNGE
Location:
On the upper level of the airside centre.
Type of Lounge:
SWISS Business Class lounge.
The lounge does not open until 05h45, by which time my flight will already be boarding. So I figure I might as well head across to the E dock from where the flight will be leaving. There is another SWISS Business Class lounge in the E dock.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate queue for Business Class and SWISS status card holder and these passengers are invited to board the aircraft first.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2, typical European Business Class configuration with the middle seat left empty.
Seat: The seat and cabin are more or less identical to the SWISS product. If it were not for the headrest covers, which feature the Edelweiss, you would not be able to tell the difference. The cabin looks very clean and tidy, with a pillow placed at every seat. But somehow the whole cabin has also started to look very drab and dated.

There are three rows of Business Class on today’s flight and there are eight passengers in the forward cabin. Not bad at all, considering the holiday season has not even started yet.
Pitch:
Width:
Facilities:
Reading lamp and air vent. No power outlet.
Audio and Video: Moving map.

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SERVICE
Service in Business Class is done by an elderly gentleman and a young blond female. Both of them are what can best be described as business friendly. Other than that though, the service is really excellent. The crew are very attentive and do repeated rounds to replenish drinks and offer more bread. They remind me a bit of what the old Swissair used to be like.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
A choice of grapefruit juice or still water.
Towel before the meal: Pre-packed refreshment towel.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Meal:

  1. Ramekin with scrambled egg.
  2. A plate of Swiss smoked meat (Bündnerfleisch) and cheese with a slice of dried apple.
  3. Fruit salad with grapes, melon and mango.
  4. Birchermüsli.
  5. Croissants and bread from the breadbasket.
  6. Butter and raspberry jam.
  7. Coffee, juice and water.

The meal is really excellent. What I particularly like about it, is that there is a bit of everything on the tray and that there is certainly more than enough food. By the time we finish, I am feeling happy and full.

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THE SECOND SERVICE
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Pre-arrival snack.
Meal:

  1. Packet of savoury biscuits.
  2. A selection of ham roll or mini cheese and leek quiche.
  3. Full service from the bar trolley.

About an hour before arrival, the crew come through the cabin for the second service. The crew also seem to have warmed up and are friendlier and more chatty now. It is around this point that I start to be impressed with the level of service and the quality of the product provided by Edelweiss Air.

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Just as I finish my drink, the Med comes into few and I feel, for the briefest of moments, the pang of being home sick. The service concludes with the distribution of a Biberli and scented hot towels.

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ARRIVAL
We make a beautiful approach into Larnaca. We pass over the airport and then head out to see before executing a 270 degrees turn to bring us back on to the approach for the airport.

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Immigration is fairly swift. And then we pick up the car and head into town. Just so you know, if you rent a car: you can pick up the car one floor up from arrivals, unless you have rented a car with Hertz, in which case you will need to take a shuttle bus to the pick up and drop off point for car rentals.