Swiss International Air Lines, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Stockholm Arlanda

This is a previously unpublished trip report from 2012

Introduction

I’ve decided to visit Stockholm for a long weekend. It’s nearing the end of summer so I figure it should be nice up north around this time of year. Probably, for most people the summer is a time to be outside having barbecues and stuff. But quite frankly, despite the fact that I was born on a Mediterranean island, I’ve never been able to handle the summer heat all that well. So a weekend trip to Stockholm, to me at least, holds the promise of respite from the oppressive humidity and the summer heat in Switzerland.

Getting to the Airport

On Friday afternoon I catch the train from Zürich Main Station to Zürich Airport. In July and August Switzerland pretty much comes to a halt, as this is when most families with kids go on vacation, and so the train is not very full.

Neither is the airport actually. It’s 10 August, which means that now all the traffic will be home bound tourists returning ahead of the start of the autumn semester at school.

Check-in

The SWISS check-in area is calm. There are no business travellers about either, which is kind of nice. Not because of the business travellers as such, but because it’s just nice to travel without hassle.

Which also means you can take your time as security without being rushed by the staff.

The SWISS Business Class Lounge

I make a brief stop at the lounge to grab something to eat and drink – just in case. Most of the flights I take with SWISS these days are usually short hops of one hour or so, which means I’m not really quite sure what to expect from the flight to Stockholm with a block time of over two hours.

Boarding

Boarding starts slightly behind schedule and the gate agent is obviously working to make sure we still manage to get away on time. So boarding is not by priority, just the usual scrum. But I figure that’s okay, because the flight is not that full anyway.

The Cabin

The cabin, or rather the seats, are not exactly in the best of condition. The leather on the seat is worn and threadbare and there are scratches on the back covers. There’s also some food left from the previous flight stuck in my seatbelt. Which is totally unfair, because the guy next to me still had a half eaten chocolate in his seat pocket…

The Crew

The crew seem tense and preoccupied. They’re certainly not rude or anything, but they all seem a bit distant. Either they’re worried about delays the passengers don’t know about, or perhaps they just haven’t found their groove as a crew.

The Meal

Once we’re airborne and the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the smell of warm food starts wafting through the cabin. Initially, I figure they’re probably just heating up the crew meals for the cockpit. But then once the service starts, it turns out the hot meals are for the passengers. Hurrah!

… or maybe not hurrah. Good heavens! The hot snack consists of a sort of rectangular pizza that has been heated in its card board box. KLM also serves these on longer flights in Europe and they’re just so, so bad. The taste isn’t really so much of an issue, if you’re into greasy fast food with zero nutritional value that will clog up your arteries and gives you heart burn just from looking at it.

But it just looks so vile. The bottom of the cardboard box is all greasy, where the oil has seeped in and soaked he cardboard. Which I guess is a win because that means the grease is not in your body, which is probably better for your digestive system and your life expectancy.

To drink I have a cup of water and a cup of coffee. The coffee is usually not too bad on SWISS. For dessert, of course, the crew pass through the cabin with those fabulous little SWISS chocolates.

Arrival

The flight is uneventful and passes quickly. Although it does take the crew a whole hour before they finally pass through the cabin to remove the trash. I guess that’s one way of keeping passengers in their seats.

Getting into Town

In Stockholm I’ll by staying at the Gashaga Sealodge. To get there, I first take the outrageously expensive Arlanda Express to the Central Station. Then from there it’s the tube line 13 to Ropsten and then finally, from there the Lidingöbanan, which is something of a hypbrid between a tram and a train.

Swiss International Air Lines, Economy Class – A 320: Zürich to Paris

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Introduction

I suppose I should be feeling a pang of remorse, an agony of regret for the things that once were and could have been. But there is nothing. We have reached the end of the line. This will be my last flight with SWISS as a Senator before I return to being a normal mortal with the Star Alliance. It is true, I suppose I could have at least tried to make the effort and become a gold member with some obscure frequent flyer programme of an equally obscure little airline. But to be honest, I find that just a tad cheap.

I have not exactly chosen the most exotic route for my farewell either. Then again, this flight is not about the journey, it is simply a means to an end. A positioning flight from Zürich to Paris. No more and no less.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: None required.
Departs from: Nil.
Frequency: Nil.
Journey time: 5 minutes.
Fare: Nil.

I spend the night at the Radisson Blu Zürich Airport, which lies in close proximity to Terminal 1. The hotel has a direct connection to the airport facility across the road.

The hotel is clean enough and the rooms are in good condition. However, I cannot really say I like the place, mainly because I find the public area very dark and gloomy.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 1.
Facilities: Mobile check-in, online check-in, self-service machines, manned counters.
Counters: SWISS dominates Terminal 1. There are a few more airlines of the Star Alliance which also use this facility, but I suspect that would certainly not be the case if SWISS finally managed to have their way…

The terminal is a mess this morning and the queue for passengers wanting to drop of their bags is stretching across the entire check-in area. The queue is so long that it is getting in the way of the passengers trying to get off the escalators.

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The security check is no better, and I very much doubt that Zürich Airport will be able to live up to its promise of having passengers queue for not more than 10 minutes at security. Fortunately, I still am a Senator and I am able to bypass the outrageous mass of people.

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The SWISS Senator Lounge

Location: Airside Centre.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated SWISS Senator / Star Alliance Gold lounge.
Facilities:
Showers, toilets, very limited selection of hot and cold dishes, limited selection of hot and cold drinks.
Internet: Available, password required.

The lounge is one floor up from the check-in area. There is a common reception for the Business Class and Senator lounges. The entrance to the latter is on the left of the reception area.

The Senator lounge is divided in two levels. The lower level was recently refurbish and henceforth designated the Senator Bistro, which essentially is a somewhat futile attempt to gloss over the fact that they dumped those nice plump armchairs and replaced them with significantly less comfortable but smaller furniture in a bid to cram even more people into the lounge (If any of my students are reading this, please try to avoid making such long sentences).

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But at least the lounge is very empty this morning. The food selection in the Bistro area is somewhat limited, in fact there are only croissants and buns on offer. I check out the food selection on the upper level, which is more substantial and includes cheese and cold cuts but not a single hot item.

Boarding

Priority Boarding: Kind of…

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My flight is departing from A 86 today, which is the remotest gate on the A dock. There are three boarding pass checkpoints at A 86. Two of them are automatic but not working this morning. The checkpoint closest to the counter is for Business Class passengers and status holders. Once boarding starts, the gate attendant even makes an announcement specifically inviting only Business Class passengers and status holders to board first. But obviously none of the passengers seem to care, and neither does the gate attendant. And so, immediately the boarding process turns into the usual hapless mess it always is with SWISS. Surely this cannot be that difficult to enforce, if other airlines manage.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: The Recaro seat SWISS has installed on its narrow-body fleet is not particularly comfortable. In order to improve leg space without having to increase the pitch, the seats are very thin and thus pretty much lack any sort of padding. For a flight of one hour the seat is perfectly acceptable. However, on longer routes of two hours or more, it can be uncomfortable.
Pitch: 34 inches on the first row, which gradually reduces to 31 inches towards the back.
Width: 17 inches
Facilities: Reading lamp
Audio and Video: Drop down screens throughout the cabin. The screens show the safety on board instructions, a lot of SWISS adverts and, if you’re really unlucky, those ‘Just for Laughs’ clips which are everything but funny.

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My seat is broken. Rather, the recline button is kaput. I try to bring the seatback into the upright position, but it is of no avail and as soon as I lean back, the seat reclines again.

Boarding is completed. The purser makes an announcement in German, obviously his mother tongue. Even so, his enunciation is really poor, and pausing is something that obviously only ever happens to other people, making him rather difficult to understand. What can I say, I am a linguist, I pay attention to stuff like that. His English and French announcements are no better either.

And then, without an announcement, the safety on board video starts playing. The volume is too low, it is barely audible and nobody is paying attention. Neither is the crew for that matter and they obviously do not really care if anybody is paying attention.

‘…for take-off, please fasten your seatbelt and place the back of your seat in the fully upright position…’. Yeah, I am trying you know. I have to give them credit though for at least noticing my seat is not in the upright position. But that is about as far it goes. The cabin crew asks me to put my seat in the upright position – I tell her I cannot – she tells me it is a safety issue – I tell her it is a technical problem – she shrugs her shoulders and walk off – so much for that. Seriously?

We take-off in a northerly direction. Once we level off though, I decide this is not really that comfortable so I ask the cabin crew if I could at least have a pillow to place behind my back. To which she informs me that she has no pillows in Economy Class. I am compelled to ask her – just out of curiosity – if she has even the faintest notion of the meaning of the word ‘service’. But then again I have come to expect so little from SWISS that I do not even bother with that.

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The Crew

My mummy taught me not to speak badly of people, because sometimes they just cannot help being the way they are. Well fine, suits me. But in that case this section of the trip report is going to be very short.

The Meal

  1. Selection of hot and cold drinks.
  2. One croissant.
  3. One chocolate at the end of the flight. And just in case you are wondering boys and girls, Santa Clause does not really exist, and the chocolate SWISS serve on their flights is not Swiss either – no matter what the wrapping says.
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ARRIVAL
Our flight time to Paris is only one hour this morning. SWISS operates to and from Terminal 1 in Paris, which is convenient because my next flight will also be leaving from here.

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I do not really think I could say whether the flying saucer layout of Roissy Terminal 1 makes any sense at all. And from what I can tell the facility is quickly reaching capacity. Even so, personally I think it must be one of the coolest airports out there. The entire building is just so stylish and very futuristic in a very retro kind of way. Kind of.

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