Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Geneva to Zürich

Airline: SWISS
Aircraft:
Airbus A 320
From:
Genève
To:
Zürich
Departure: 16h00
Arrival:
16h30
Flight time: 30 minutes
Seat: 1A

Transfer in Geneva

Man, what a rathole! I disembark from my flight from Paris at 14h40. Boarding for next my flight should start in ten minutes. But apparently, connecting from the French sector to the Schengen area is not really foreseen in Geneva. And so I end up going up and down a whole set of ugly and narrow corridors, at the end of which I am ejected in front of a security check point. Okay, fine…

The airport is very busy and crowded. There are people sitting on the floor everywhere. The SWISS lounge is one floor up from the gate area. Turn left and right a few tines and eventually you should get there…

The Lounge

If my First Class departure from Zürich were on the same day, I’d be entitled to use the First and Hon lounge in Geneva, but because my departure is still more than two weeks away, it’s the regular Business Class lounge. And it’s quite nice. It’s a descent size and rather empty this afternoon. I don‘t take any pictures though. I’m not there long enough!

The flight is delayed by twenty minutes because of the dog incident earlier on. boarding will be grom gate A02.

Boarding…

… is a complete mess. There are grumpy passengers pushing and shoving everywhere. At some point, a Portuguese speaking mother boards with her baby in a pram and what looks like the combined baggage allowance of about twenty passengers. Oh yes, and she‘s also decided that standing in the middle of the aisle is a brilliant place to make a phone call. Eventually the passenger behind her explains that she has a tight connection in Zürich, so it would be really good for the mother to get out of the way to let the other passengers board quickly.

So the mother quickly dumps her stuff in five overhead bins and then vanishes behind the curtain to find her seat in Economy Class.

Of course this isn‘t any of SWISS‘ fault. There are annoying passengers on every airline. But do also think it might have helped if the crew had been in the cabin to help the poor woman, instead of hiding in the forward galley and doing a bloody good impersonation of somebody who both blind and deaf.

The Crew

Which brings me, of course, to the crew on this flight. Upon entering the aircraft, there is one male crew standing in the galley. He has one job, to say hello and welcome to passengers as they step aboard, but apparently even that is too much to ask.

Instead, he just stands there in his waistcoat, which is really not doing anything to hide just how badly and tight uniform is. He hasn‘t bothered to close the top button of his shirt either and looks, in short, like a complete and utter slob.

And just to make sure there‘s as little interaction as possible, the usual refreshing towel and bottle of water have been placed on the seats before boarding.

The Meal

The meal service consists of one of the sandwiches they usually serve in Economy on international flights. The slob shoves the tray under my nose, without as much as asking if I‘d like to eat anything. I ask him what‘s in the sandwich, but he just shrugs and continues to ignore me. Turns out it‘s mozzarella with mushrooms and hits the spot nicely.

Behind him the purser quickly hands out chocolates, again without saying a word. Oh yes, and there is no drinks service. Apparently, the welcome drink was it.

Arrival

Luckily it‘s not a long flight and we land in Zürich at 16h30 after a short flight of 30 minutes.

The difference between Air France and SWISS on these two flights was like night and day. The Air France staff on the ground and in the air were so friendly and nicely turned out. The interaction with them was just brilliant and really left a good impression.

The SWISS crews, on the other hand, were really not good. They have zero motivation they look as though they’re really unhappy to be there and resent you for actually making them work. I’m aware of that fact that a short hop of thirty minutes hardly gives any airline an opportunity to shine and interact with the customer. But even so, I have to say that on this flight it really felt like they were intentionally not making the effort to interact.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Oslo to Zürich

Introduction

To be honest, I wasn’t actually going to write a review of my return trip from Oslo to Zürich, figuring it would just be more of the same as the outbound.

As such, this isn’t much of a trip report either, consider it therefore, as an update or, for me at least, a very pleasant surprise.

The Crew

I already figured this would turn out to be a good flight the moment I stepped on board. The female maître de and her male colleague were standing at the L1 door as though their only reason to be there was to welcome passengers aboard the flight.

This continued throughout the flight, with all the cabin crew giving the impression of wanting to make sure passengers felt comfortable and welcome.

The Meal

The biggest surprise though, came when the inflight service started. With a departure at 13:55, SWISS considers the Oslo to Zürich flight a lunch time service.

As such, the service started with an apéritif. Here too, the crew very proactively offered wine and champagne to passengers. The maître de looked charmingly disappointed when I informed her I’d just be having a Coke Zero.

The drinks were served with a small packet of snacks made with olive oil and containing pieces of black olives.

The male flight attendant then went through the cabin addressing every passenger individually and by name. He informed me that for lunch there was a choice of beef or Spätzli for the main course. As I’m not much of a carnivore, I went with the latter. One way or another, I must admit I wasn’t expecting a hot meal.

The Main Course

The meal was served on one tray and consisted of the main course, which was Spätzli with rosted onions and a cheesy cream sauce.

The First Course

A small bowl with potato and smoked sausage salad, served with a chunky piece of smoked salmon.

The Cheese

A small plate of cheese, served with bread from the basket.

Dessert

An excellent piece of apple pie with cherry compote and a chestnut mousse.

Throughout the service drinks were regularly replenished by the crew.

Conclusion

In summary, this really was a highly enjoyable flight I had with SWISS. The crew were excellent and gave the impression of having been properly trained. They were motivated and relaxed, but without being sloppy. Of course, it also helped that I had the whole row of three all to myself and could spread out comfortably.

In fact, I got so comfy that I dosed off and slept for the rest of the flight with the warm feeling of sunshine on my face.

The fabulous Swiss chocolates served at the end of the flight, which have become SWISS’ trademark, were offered to passengers as they disembarked, which I thought was another nice touch.

I wish all flight could be like this!

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Paris Charles de Gaulle

Introduction

In the long and old tradition of giving my colleagues at work that I mention in my blog a nickname, I suppose I should mention that I arrive at the airport early today, at 15:45 to be precise, for a meeting with my colleague, let‘s call him the scruffy M., to discuss the handover of duties while I‘m away on sabbatical.

We finish just before 17h and then I make my way to departures one floor up. Zürich Airport is slowly getting into the groove for Christmas. The lights are up, but they‘re not yet on. At least not all of them.

To access the security checkpoint, there are separate lanes for Economy Class passengers and for those with priority. Which is a good thing, because the airport is quite busy today.

But at least the queue moves quickly. Once I‘m airside, there are more Christmas lights.

This is also when I realise that now‘s the season that‘s difficult for taking pictures of aircraft from inside the terminal, because it gets dark earlier.

The last image, above, is of my aircraft to Paris. I suppose I could say I was being artistic. But I think we all probably know that‘s not really the case…

Boarding

In any case, boarding for the flight starts at 17:25. That‘s 30 minutes ahead of our departure time.

The Cabin

I‘m seated on 1A, which is the bulkhead row. There are three rows in Business Class this evening. And from what I can see, I think there are only six passengers seated up front.

The service on the ground starts with the distribution of the packaged towels and a small bottle of still water.

The Crew

The Business Class cabin is being taken care of by a gentlemen with a Turkish name. And I have to say, he‘s brilliant! One of the best flight attendants I‘ve experienced in a long time. He‘s cheerful, friendly, attentive and all round excellent at his job.

Once boarding is completed, he greets every passenger individually, informs us about the menu on the flight and takes orders for drinks with the meal.

The Meal

There is no choice for the meal. But then again, the flight is only 55 minutes to Paris.

The main course is a plate of salmon tatar with zucchini, a mango and avocado salsa, crème fraîche and pumpernikel crumble.

The dish is served with a plate of cheese and butter.

There is a selection of brown and white bread and crackers from the breadbasket and the crew go through the cabin twice offering bread.

For dessert there is prune compote with panna cotta and crumble.

Arrival

Eventually, we make our approach from the east, and although there is quite some traffic, there‘s no delay and we arrive on stand at 19:15. Exactly according to the schedule.

The Star Alliance operates out of Terminal 1 in Paris. That‘s the one that looks like a flying saucer. It may not be the most practical design, but it‘s just so stylish…!

Getting into Town

I exit arrivals and make a quick stop at Marks and Spencer to get a sandwich for dinner. From there I head outside at door 32 to catch the bus into town.

Terminal 1 does not have a railway station. So if you want to take the train, you first need to take the CDGval to Terminal 2. Alternatively, you can also catch a Le Bus Direct bus service. There are various lines. I think the service is very expensive at EUR19 for a oneway ticket. But the number 2 line goes straight to Porte Maillot nonstop, which is convenient for where I need to go.

The journey take 25 minutes in good traffic and 45 minutes in normal Parisian traffic.

To conclude, I must say this was a short but very pleasant flight with Swiss today. All of the crew were friendly and seemed generally happy to be there, which isn‘t always the case with Swiss.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: London Heathrow to Zürich

Transfer in London Heathrow

The Gulf Air flight from Bahrain arrives in Heathrow at 06h50, on schedule. I now have one hour and forty minutes to make my connection to the SWISS flight to Zürich, which will depart from T2. T4 is connected to the central terminal area at Heathrow by shuttle bus. Normally, the busses will use the service tunnel that passes under runway 09R/27L. However, the tunnel is currently closed for maintenance as so, busses have to take a slightly longer route along the perimeter fence and under the threshold of runway 27L to get to Terminal 2. Which has the rather pleasant side effect that passengers are given quite a tour of Heathrow, including BA’s maintenance facility and the Concorde that they have on display there. The journey takes 12 minutes to complete.

Within Terminal 4 for the signposting to the shuttle bus is clear and easy to follow. Busses run regularly.

The Lufthansa Lounge

The security check is done in Terminal 2, before heading up to the departure concourse. Luckily, there aren’t many passengers this morning and there isn’t even a queue. There is a separate fast track for security which is dedicated to STAR GOLD, First and Business Class passengers.

Behind security are the escalators leading one floor up. There is a passport check just before entering the departures hall, although I’m not sure if this is for immigration purposes, for security reasons or a combination of the two. As I enter the terminal hall, the Star Alliance service desks are on the right. I present my baggage receipt to the lady behind the counter, as instructed by the check-in agent back in Dubai. She scans the stub and my boarding pass and then sends me on my way.

By the time I’m done, we’re just coming up to 07h50. The gate for my flight to Zürich will be showing up on the screens shortly, and not much later boarding should start. So I quickly grab a coffee, call the light of my life to say hello and then take a moment to relax.

Boarding

Boarding for the flight to Zürich is from gate A18. There is a separate queue for Business Class, HON Circle and Senator passengers. As we start boarding for the flight, it soon materialises that there are some passengers in the queue that aren’t flying Business Class and have no status either. Don’t get me wrong, I generally salute the ground crews for enforcing the rules. But I also think there’s really no need for the gate agent to scold passengers. After all, I’m pretty sure there’s a good chance they weren’t trying to jump the queue and perhaps don’t travel often enough to even know what the two queues are for.

The Cabin

There are four rows to the Business Class cabin on this morning’s flight, which is surprising given it’s a public holiday. I would have thought most people would have tried to return home by Maundy Thursday. In any case, as my luck will have it, there are 15 passengers in Business Class this morning. And the only seat left empty is the one on the aisle of my row of three. Cool!

The Crew

There are three and a half cabin crew on the flight and I’m pretty sure that none of them are above the age of twenty-five. Three of the cabin crew are wearing the normal SWISS uniform. The third one though, is wearing ‘civilian’ clothes and a badge that says ‘I am a new crew member’ rather than her name. I’m not quite sure why being a new cabin crew member means she shouldn’t be wearing a uniform. However, given how shabby the SWISS uniform generally looks, I can’t really blame her for not wanting to wear that.

Other than that, the crew are friendly and really make an effort to accommodate passengers. Even if they’re a bit clumsy at times. For example, once boarding is completed, one of the female flight attendants working in the Economy Class section asks if there’s still any space left in the overhead bins up front, so she can stow one fairly large piece of hand luggage. The maître de yells back to her form the front that yes, there is space left. ‘But let him lift his suitcase himself, it’s his problem so you’re not expected to do that…’. Of course, the maître de does have a point. When I still worked at Swissair they always used to say that passengers are allowed to take just about anything into the cabin, as long as it fits the dimensions and they could still carry it themselves. But I’m pretty sure there might have been a politer way of saying that.

But perhaps I’m just irritated by the fact that the maître de is wearing turquoise coloured underwear. And in case you’re wondering why I know that, he’s shoved his uniform shirt into his undies and pulled them up so high that the waistband is showing above the trousers. It’s all very classy really!

The service on the ground is the standard bottle of still water and a refreshing towel. We push back on time and then make our way to the holding point for runways 09R. The flight time is announced as one hour and ten minutes.

The Meal

Once we’re airborne, the meal service begins. There is no choice for the meal. Much to my surprise, SWISS offers a hot breakfast on this route, despite the short flight time. I’m guessing this to accommodate its British customer base. The trays are delivered from a trolley. The meal consists of:

A small plate of cheese.

Butter and jam.

A small dish of Quinoa müsli.

And the hot meal.

The hot meal is more of a brunch than a breakfast and consists of a grilled tomato with a Provençale crust, brown lentils and a slice of cheese quiche. I must say, the meal is quite good. With that I also have a croissant and a bun from the bread basket.

Despite the short flight, the crew manage to do two nicely paced runs for drinks and with the breadbasket.

Arrival

It’s a lovely day for flying. The approach into Zürich brings us in right over Basel, my home town, from where we make a left hand turn to head east, before lining up for the landing on runway 14. After landing we taxi to the B pier, which can accept both Schengen and non-Schengen flights. I make my way down to immigration and am positively surprised that a) there’s hardly anybody there and b) they appear to have updated the software of the passport readers, so that I can now use the e-gates with my Maltese passport.

The suitcases for the London flight will be delivery on belt 22. I figure my suitcase probably hasn’t survived having to change planes in Bahrain and London Heathrow, so instead of going to belt 22, I make a beeline for the Swissport lost and found in the hope of saving some time.

But lo and behold, just before I get there, something silvery in the corner of my eye catches my attention. I look over to belt 22 to find that by some divine intervention, my suitcase has actually made it.

Conclusion

And quicker than you know, the first four months of the year are over. Just like that. And I’ve spent most of that time travelling. My return to Switzerland on SWISS marks the end of the busy travel period for me. From now on, it’s really just the occasional short-haul trip here and there. And thank god for that. I really love flying, but there are limits to how much flying even I can handle at a time…

Happy Easter everyone!

William

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Bucharest

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Introduction

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Switzerland. It’s sunny and warm but without the oppressive heat yet that you get in July or August. The vegetation is a lush, dark green and it crosses my mind for just the briefest moment that I would miss all this if I were to leave this world.

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Check-in

Today I’m on my way to Bucharest, where I have an appointment on Monday morning. The summer holidays are about to kick off, which is why the airport is crawling with passengers. I take the escalators up to Check-in 1, which is home to SWISS, and I have trouble getting off the escalators without falling over somebody. The queue for the Economy Class baggage drop-off stretches halfway across the terminal building. And it’s moving very slowly…

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The lines for security are no better!

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Airside

The Business Class lounge in the Schengen area is still not open. Originally it was scheduled to reopen in May following refurbishment. But apparently that deadline has now quietly been moved back to mid-July. But at least, seeing as my flight is departing from the non-Schengen area, there’s always the SWISS lounge on the D concourse, which is behind immigration.

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As can be expected, this lounge is pretty full. There is a small selection of hot and cold snacks but quite honestly, it’s nothing to write home about.

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Boarding

Boarding is from gate D 54, which is a bus gate and therefore good news for me. By the time I reach the gate, the first bus has already departed. But when my bus pulls up next to the stairs to our aircraft, the passengers from the first bus are still milling around at the bottom of the stairs waiting to get on board. To be honest, I’m not quite sure why, but the whole boarding process takes forever. But I don’t complain. First, because that gives me time to take some pictures of my aircraft and secondly, because while I’m standing around the daily Singapore Airlines departs right in front of my nose. Cool!

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By the time all the passenger settle in the cabin, it’s already gone 12h05, the scheduled departure time. The captain makes his welcome announcement and informs us that the flight time will be one hour and 55 minutes and that we should expect an on time arrival.

Famous last words… eventually we depart with a delay of more than 45 minutes.

The Cabin

The cabin is in the usual 2 + 2 configuration where the middle seat is kept empty in Business Class. I don’t know if this is the case for all of the SWISS Airbus narrow-body fleet, but in any case this aircraft is not equipped with power plugs at the seats.

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The Crew

There are two young ladies and two middle aged ladies working the cabin on today’s flight. I think one of the two young ones is still in training. She’s not shy but sometimes seems a bit unsure of herself. But she more than makes up for it with her personality. She’s very friendly and obviously putting a lot of effort into delivering a good service.

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Before take-off the usual still water and refreshing towel are distributed.

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The Meal

The meal consists of a cold main course, a plate of cheese and dessert. The main course is smoked salmon with ratatouille, with avocado and mango and a quinoa salad. With that I have a Silser bun that was obviously designed to look like a football, and a normal bun.

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When the tray first arrives, my first thought is that it all looks rather frugal. But I must admit that it actually all tastes very good. It’s clearly a good quality cut of salmon and the salad is flavourful.

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For dessert there is a small glass ramekin with white chocolate mousse (encore…!) on a coulis of raspberries.

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And then to conclude the meal, I have a coffee and a football shaped chocolate. By the time the meal service ends, there are only fifty minutes left to go to Bucharest.

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Arrival

Eventually we land in Bucharest with a delay of fifty minutes.

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But at least I only have hand luggage, so I’m out of the terminal in no time. As I’m staying in the centre of town, my best option is the bus 783. The bus stop in on the ground level, one floor down from arrivals. As you exit the arrivals hall, you will find the ticket booth on your right. But keep in mind that you can’t just buy a ticket and must have a chip card first, on to which you can then charge money. All of this can be done at the ticket booth. You can’t purchase tickets on the bus.

The journey into the centre will take you roughly forty minutes in good traffic.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Bucharest to Zürich

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Introduction

The course with the Romanian ANSP goes well. With that out of the way, it’s time for me to pack up my bags and head back home. On the return flight I’m travelling with SWISS, mainly because they have a direct service from Bucharest to Zürich and the timing was convenient.

Getting to the Airport

Everybody in Bucharest seems to use Uber these days. In fact, taxis are rather hard to come by and when you do find one, there is a latent risk that you will be ripped off. I’m not sure what to think of Uber. But what I like, is that the drivers are not constantly trying to engage you in conversation or giving you advice on where to find the best prostitutes.

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Check-in

I checked in using the SWISS app. But for some reason I couldn’t obtain my boarding pass. Which is why my first stop at the airport is the Lufthansa/Austrian/SWISS check-in counters to get an good old-fashioned, printed boarding pass.

The Lufthansa group checks in on counters 80 to 84, which are located in what is either a new extension to the terminal or a recently renovated part of the building I previously hadn’t noticed. In any case, it all looks very modern and new, especially in contrast with the rest of the facility which is starting to show its age.

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The young lady who checks me in hands me the lounge invitation and then sends me on my way.

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The Mastercard Lounge

In Bucharest SWISS uses the Mastercard lounge, which is located one floor up from the general airside area. The stairs to reach the lounge are located near gate 7.

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The lounge itself is nothing special. It has a very limited selection of drinks, and food options consist of a few sad looking, limp paprika chips and some stale peanuts. But. There’s one big but: the views from up here are excellent, and I even manage to get a seat by the window, from where I can watch all the proceedings outside.

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Boarding

Boarding is from gate 2, which is the closest stand to the terminal building. The first call is for Business Class and status card holders to board. There are four passengers in Business Class today.

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The Cabin

This aircraft is clearly a fairly new addition to the SWISS fleet. Either that, or they’ve taken exceptionally good care of this bird.

There are three rows of Business Class, for a total of twelve seats. Which means that every passenger has a row to themselves. Unlike Lufthansa or Air France, SWISS has screens installed throughout the cabin. On the downside though, there are no electricity plugs for passengers.

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I’m seated on 1A. On the first row the seat pitch is good. Better, I should say, than on Air France or KLM on the bulkhead row.

The Crew

There are four cabin attendants. As I enter the plane, a middle aged female maître de and a clean-shaven, pleasant young man welcome me aboard the aircraft. Their manner is friendly and welcoming. While boarding is still in progress, the young man brings me a bottle of still water and a packaged refreshing towel.

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Once boarding is completed, the captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us that there will be a slight delay in leaving due to snow in Zürich. While we wait, the crew pass through the cabin with chocolate, which always goes down well.

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The flight time is announced as 2 hours and 5 minutes.

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The Meal

Shortly after take-off, the crew is released to start the service. The food trays with the meals are delivered individually from the galley.

The meal consists of:

  1. thinly sliced veal with a walnut vinaigrette and a salmon mouse on wholegrain bread,
  2. a plate of cheese and butter, which is served with bread,
  3. a dessert which tastes rather nice but of which I have no idea what it is supposed to be.
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The meal is okay, although I still think that a flight time of over two hours is enough time to serve a proper meal. I also think that compared to the lobster flan served on Air France on my way to Bucharest, the salmon mouse thing served by SWISS is rather underwhelming, heavy and just a bit weird.

Throughout the meal the crew pass through the cabin to check if there’s anything else the passengers need – offering top ups of drinks and more bread. The crew really are quite pleasant and take their time to interact with the passengers in a very natural way. I especially like that when they talk to you, both the maître de and the young man really look at you, as though their acknowledging you as a customer. It’s quite refreshing and something you don’t get that often anymore these days.

After the meal I ask for a coffee, which is served with yet another chocolate. Jay!

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent into Zürich. There’s a bit of a delay because apparently it’s still snowing heavily around the airport. About twenty minutes out of Zürich, the captain makes an announcement informing us that due to the low visibility we’ll be doing a fully automatic landing and therefore, all electronic devices will have to be turned off completely. And indeed, a short while later the cabin crew come through the cabin to check that mobiles and the likes are fully turned off and not just in flight mode.

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To be honest, if the pilot hadn’t said anything, I don’t think I would have known the difference.

When eventually we come to a stop on our stand, there’s a bit of a hold up with the airbridge. The young man is standing next to me. He apologises and tells me it hopefully won’t be long. I explain that given the rejected take-off and the subsequent delay of nearly four hours on Monday and the two-hour delay in Paris on Tuesday, a few minutes hardly seem worth mentioning…

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And so my trip to Bucharest ends. Tomorrow I shall go off to London for the week-end. But that trip will be in BA Economy Class, and I’m not really sure that will be worth reporting on…

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Malta

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Date: 11. July 2016
Departure: 12:00
Arrival: 14:15
Flight time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Seat: 1F

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Introduction

Well that was quick. Yesterday late afternoon I arrived back in Zürich from Lanzarote. It is now ten o’clock on Monday morning and I am back at the airport. This time, I am on my way to Malta.

I am travelling with two guys from work – the tall, blond M, with whom I previously travelled to Singapore, and the silent, broody S. The latter will be leaving in summer to start a new job in the autumn. So in a way, this trip to Malta is a kind of last farewell.

Check-in

Location: Check-in 3 above the railway tracks, or Check-in 1, which is the dedicated Star Alliance terminal in Zürich.
Facilities: Online and app check-in, self-service ticketing machines or counters.
Counters: There are separate counters for Business Class passengers in both check-in areas and there is a separate queue to speed things up.

We catch the 10h25 train from Winterthur, which arrives at Zürich airport at 10h38. The summer holidays have only just started, so the queues for check-in are something nasty. Fortunately, there are next to no passenger queuing up for Business Class and I am seen to right away. The check-in agent tags my suitcase with a priority sticker and sends me on my way.

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The SWISS Business Class Lounge

Location: SWISS Business Class lounge on the upper level of the airside centre.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers, workstations with computers, a selection of newspapers.
Catering: A limited selection of rather hot and cold snacks.
Internet:
Available in the lounge. The password is available at reception but there is complimentary wifi available throughout the terminal.

Much to my surprise, the lounge is not at all full. It is still a mess though, and I really think they need to have a word with their cleaning staff.

Boarding

Priority Boarding: Good question.

When we arrive at the gate, there is already a long queue forming for our flight, even though boarding will only start in about ten minutes. Eventually, when boarding does start, no boarding call is made. The gates just open and boarding starts. Given that the three of us are sitting on row 1, we figure we might as well wait until all the other passengers have boarded.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 in a mixed Business/Economy Class configuration with the middle seat left empty in Business Class.
Seat: SWISS has recently completed reconfiguring its narrow body fleet. As a result, they have managed to squeeze a staggering 182 seats into the Airbus A 320, which is only four seats short of the maximum.
Pitch: 32 inches on the first row, which gradually degreases to 31 inches towards the back of the bus.
Width: 17 inches.
Facilities: Reading lamp and air vent.
Audio and Video: There are overhead screens showing a lot of SWISS ads, short films and the route map.

The cabin looks very neat and clean. Especially the SWISS logo on the bulkhead makes a sharp contrast and adds a bit of colour.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

The Crew

The crew are all Germans from what I can tell. This is something that creeps up regularly in various aviation forums. The lack of Swiss staff apparently tarnishes the airline’s Swissness. To be honest though, I am not quite sure what the big deal is. The four young ladies working the flight today are friendly, charming and attentive. What do I care if they are not Swiss? After all, if you take an airline like Emirates, it may well happen that you have as many different nationalities in the crew as there are crew members. And nobody seems to have an issue with that either.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Small bottle of still water.
Towel before the meal: Scented, pre-packed towel served with the bottle of water.
Pre-meal drink:
No.
Choice:
There are two choices for the main course, one is vegetarian.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.

  1. Salad with balsamico dressing.
  2. Vegetable ravioli with a creamy tomato sauce.
  3. A plate with two different cheeses.
  4. A lemon tiramisu.
  5. Selection of bread from the breadbasket.
  6. Tea or coffee.
  7. Chocolate
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The meal is tasty enough and the crew even appear to respect passengers’ status in taking orders for the main course. However, the whole experience does seem a bit lacklustre. I mean, with a flight time of 1 hour and 50 minutes and only 12 passengers in the cabin, surely it would not have been too much to ask to offer a drink before the meal.

Arrival

Our routing takes us from Zürich to Genova and then from there more or less in a straight line across the water to Palermo. Just as we hit Sicily’s southern coast, the descent into Malta begins.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – A 320: Zürich to London Heathrow

Date: 21 July 2011
From: Zürich
To: London Heathrow
Airline: Swiss International Air Lines
Class: Business Class
Seat: 1A
Aircraft: A 320

Getting to the Airport

My journey begins, as usual, on the train from Basel to Zürich Airport on the ‘Flugzug’, the airport train. This train does not go via Zürich main station, going instead straight to Zürich Airport. All of the direct trains between Zürich Airport and Basel have an LX flight number and can be booked on the airlines’ website as a feeder in connection with a flight to or from Zürich. In theory, when you book the air train on SWISS.COM, you’re booking a particular train. In practice however, the Swiss Federal Railways are very lenient and in fact you can take any train on the date of travel. You may even take a train that goes via the main station in Zürich.

My pet peeve with the Flugzug is the duration of the journey. The distance between Basel and Zürich is merely 80kms. The direct nonstop trains to the main station usually make the journey in 49 minutes. The Flugzug however, takes 1hour and 16 minutes to make the journey. For one because it takes another route that is shorter but has speed restrictions, for another because it stops no less than seven times en route.

But let us now move on the trip review proper: as we pull out of Basel’s main, Swiss railway station the weather is still more or less fine. We haven’t really had much of a summer in Switzerland so far. After a promising start to summer, July was rather unsettled and also unusually cool and with lots of rain.

Within just a few minutes the weather situation starts to deteriorate, and by the time the train reaches Frick, the second of the seven stops between Basel and Zürich Airport, it is raining heavily. Alas, the situation does not improve any until I reach the airport. It is only a short while before boarding that the rain stops.

I’ve checked in online, so once I arrived the plan is to go airside immediately. On my way to the Senator lounge I spot the daily Air Malta flight to Malta. Yearning for the warmer climes the aircraft is heading for and overcome by a sudden bout of patriotism, I decide to sacrifice the comfort of the lounge to watch the Air Malta flight push back. As it happens though, the flight appears to have some slot issue and although it shows as departed, it is still parked at the gate at the time boarding for my flight to Heathrow starts.

Boarding

My flight left from a bus gate in the non-Schengen area in Terminal B. This part of the terminal complex has since closed down.

Fortunately it’s stopped raining and the sun is trying to make a come back by the time our bus reaches the aircraft. There is a bit of a hold up for departure. Some woman is travelling with her cello, for which she apparently had made a correct booking for an extra seat to have the delicate instrument transported in the cabin with her. But nobody on the aircraft or from Swissport knows about the cello. There’s a bit of a commotion and a substantial delay as the ground crew attempt, and finally manage, to secure the cello in the cabin. What I find particularly funny though, is that while all this is going on, the captain suddenly comes on the PA and makes an announcement that there will be a delay due to a passenger ‘and her cello which we did not know about’. The poor woman looks as though she wants to go through the floor with embarrassment.

The Cabin

The cabin is clean and tidy. Of course sitting on the bulkhead row the leg room is also very good.

Service begins on the ground with the distribution of small bottles of mineral water and prepacked cold refreshing towels. I don’t much like the ones Swiss uses, mainly because they’re so heavily scented they tend to give you a headache. There is a large selection of newspapers and I choose the Neu Zürcher Zeitung.

Take-off is from runway 28, which is the main departing runway at Zürich. A short while after we’re airborne, we’re already above the clouds.

The Meal

The service on this flight is nothing to write home about, really not. But at least the meal offered on this short sector is quite good. It consists of a chicken breast on rice salad with grilled artichokes. The meal is served with lovely crisp, warm bread and cheese and a dessert. Generally though, I find desserts are rarely any good in Swiss European Business Class and usually consist of something bland and overly sweet made with loads of gelatine. So I give this one a miss – as I usually do.

To drink I have a Diet Coke with lemon.

Arrival

Very soon we start our descent into Heathrow, where the weather is even worse than in Zürich. We are coming in on runway 9L but unfortunately I remember only at the last moment that this means we’ll be flying straight over Windsor Castle. Hence the somewhat botched picture of the estate.

After we land there is a further delay because our gate is still being occupied by a South African Airways A 340. After about 20 minutes the aircraft finally moves off stand and we are able to make our way to the gate.

I’ll be spending the night at the Sofitel in Terminal 5, which means taking the Heathrow Express to get there from Terminal 1, which is home to most of the Star Alliance carriers in Heathrow. The Heathrow Express is free of charge for passengers only transferring between Terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5.

Conclusion

Swiss offered a pretty standard service on this flight. They weren’t bad at all, they just weren’t overly good either. I’m no fan of the Recaro slimline seats they have on their European fleet, the seats are somewhat hard on the backside after a while. Still, at least the food was good!