I finish teaching early today, mainly because the audio system in the classroom I’m using is inop and nobody had bothered to tell me. Today was my last time teaching this particular class, which is a shame really, because they were rather nice. At least, on a positive note, this was also my last class until September of next year!
I leave the university just after 15h to catch the 15:24 train to Zürich airport. It’s only a 12 minutes train ride from Winterthur.
Zürich airport is already decked out in full-on Christmas mode. I think it looks quite nice with all the lights. But where is everybody…?
I’ve already checked in on my mobile phone. So instead of going to the SWISS terminal, I head three floors up from the train station, then across the bridge to access check-in area 5 and then from there I go one floor up to the access point for security – which I’d say is probably the most direct routing.
The security check is quick and efficient. There are no queues. My flight is departing from the D gates, which is the non-Schengen area of the B pier at Zürich.
Because there isn’t really much to see from the waiting area, I figure I might as well go to the SWISS lounge, which is located behind immigration.
The lounge is your typical SWISS branded lounge. It has the usual selection of loud business men talking on the phone, light snacks and drinks. It’s not at all crowded when I arrive.
I’m only in the lounge for about 20 minutes – enough time for a cup of tea – before I decide it’s time to make my way to the gate.
Boarding for my flight is from gate D39 and starts exactly thirty minutes before departure with a call for priority passengers to board first.
Unfortunately, the location of the gate makes it impossible to take a decent picture of my plane.
I’m seated on 1A, and clearly Mr. 1C is not happy about that. I’m not sure what his problem is, but he’s definitely not a happy bunny.
He demonstratively plonks his fake Canada Goose jacket on the middle seat. I’m actually surprised he doesn’t say something to the effect of ‘I claim this territory for England’… or something like that.
Boarding for the flight is quick, and it looks as though the load on this evening’s flight is very light.
Once boarding is completed, the crew distribute small bottles of still water and packaged towels. SWISS appear to have recently switched suppliers, because their towels have a different smell than they used to.
Safety is always a bit sloppy on SWISS, which is really not good. And this flight is no different. The flight attendant asks Mr. 1D to either put on his jacket or stow it in the overhead bin for take-off. Alas, Mr. 1D is not willing to cooperate and simply asks why? To which the flight attendant literally replies that she really has no idea either, but that’s just the rule. And walks away.
Seriously? Mr. 1C has his earphones on during take-off, and nobody seems too bothered by that either. And the lights are not dimmed, even though it’s already dark outside.
Eventually, we take off just slightly ahead of schedule. The flight time is one hour and 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes holding.
The meal service starts straight away. There is no choice. The tray has on it a plate of cold roast beef with a potato salad, a plate of cheese and a creamy looking dessert.
I wasn’t intending to eat the meat, which is all the same because it smells rather awful. The salad is nice enough though.
The cheese is lovely. Can’t really go wrong there. It is served with a selection of white or dark bread from the basket. The crew come through the cabin twice with bread. Although it takes them so long for the second round that everybody has already finished their meal anyway by that time.
And the dessert is simply dreadful, despite the cute Läckerli on it, which is a speciality of Basel, where I live.
The cream is just horribly sweet and tastes awfully artificial.
But the flight passes quickly, and despite the holding, we still arrive on stand ten minutes ahead of schedule.
Immigration at Terminal 2 is quick this evening, and I’m through in no time.
All in all, this evening’s flight was no better or worse than any other airline’s short-haul European Business Class flight. I’m also pretty sure that SWISS takes passenger safety very seriously, because any airline’s reputation hinges on that being so. Nonetheless, I really do think they could improve on their crews’ attitude toward safety.
It’s just gone five in the morning as I exit the Plaza Premium airport hotel in terminal 1 and make my way over to terminal 3 and the elusive Etihad First Class lounge and spa. I’m rather looking forward to this part of the trip after having already heard so many good things about the lounge and about Etihad’s First Class product aboard the mighty A 380.
Currently the A 380 is deployed on routes to London, Mumbai, Melbourne, Sydney and New York. During the high season, in the summer, Paris will also be added to the list of A 380 destinations.
The entrance to the lounge is located right next to the Fendi shop in terminal 3 and looks quite unpretentious in fact. The lounge dragon at the entrance welcomes me to the lounge and as the doors close to take me up to the second floor, I see her making a call upstairs to advise them that I’m on my way. And indeed, the moment I step out of the lift I’m greeted by a young woman who welcomes me to the lounge and shows me around.
The lounge has a small gym (no weights though), a spa with a massage salon and a barber and hairdresser. Every First Class passenger is entitled to one complimentary treatment at the spa or at the barber’s. The largest part of the lounge is made up of the dining area. There is also a relaxation room with loungers, although the room has this brightly lit wall that keeps changing colours and hence makes you wonder just how relaxing it really is.
The staff seem a bit disoriented, quite as though they’re not really prepared to deal with customers. When I enter the lounge I take a seat at one of the tables near the window. A waiter comes to take my order. But then a few minutes later another waiter appears wanting to take my order. So I tell her that my order has already been taken. And so she saunters off. A short while later, yet another waiter appears – guess why – to take my order for breakfast. It’s no big deal really but it’s hardly First Class either. But the food is good!
Just before six in the morning I head over to the barber’s reception to request an appointment for a shave. Only the young lady informs me that the next slot will not be until 07h00 in the morning, which seems a bit tight given that my flight should start boarding at 07h10.
All in all, I think the First Class lounge in Abu Dhabi is okay, but to be honest I don’t think it’s anything special. It looks a lot like the dining room in a hotel. So as far as First Class lounges are concerned at least, Qatar Airways certainly has the upper hand.
Abu Dhabi airport is completely overcrowded, so getting from the lounge to the departure gate takes a while because there’s simply no getting through all the passengers making their way to and from their flights. A new terminal is under construction, but it looks like it might take a while before that opens for business.
A separate call is made for First and Business Class passengers to board first.
CABIN & SEAT
As far as the First Class cabin and seat are concerned, Etihad wins hands down. No questions asked. Seriously, this is really quite an amazing set up they’ve got here. First of all, unlike that god awful and tacky Emirates First Class cabin with its fake gold trimmings, this cabin is much more elegant and very beautifully finished. It’s also a lot more lavish and private than the Qatar Airways First Class seat.
They’ve obviously put a lot of thought into the design of the cabin and the seat: every apartment comes with its own little vanity mirror and a mini bar that you can have stocked specifically to your wishes. And there’s plenty of storage space.
The bed is separate from the seat and takes up the whole length of the apartment. It is long enough for me to stretch out comfortably. My only criticism is that the bed seems fairly narrow. Actually, I don’t think it’s any narrower than other First Class seats, but whereas in other seats you are confined on three sides, on this seat there is no support at all on one side, and as a result I am constantly aware of the edge of the bed and trying to avoid rolling off.
And then there’s the shower, which works really well and is also much nicer than the one Emirates has. I must say you feel a lot less grimy traveling when you have a shower to use on board. Every passenger gets five minutes of water, after which the supply automatically stops. However, during the shower you can interrupt the flow of water any time, so that the five minutes are more than enough to lather up and rinse down. For the shower passengers are provided with nice fluffy towels, conditioner, shower gel and shampoo.
CREW & SERVICE
The crew on this flight seem friendly enough and once I am seated they all come to introduce themselves. The young lady in charge of my cabin is Brazilian. She give me a tour of the features of the apartment, in case I’m not familiar with them.
As a welcome drink I have a glass of still water with ice and lemon, which is served with a bowl of dates, a hot towel and a welcome note from Etihad Airways signed by the inflight service manager.
Next, the chef comes to introduce himself and hands me the drinks and food menu. He also asks me if I’d like to book a slot for the shower.
Before take-off another crew member drops in and brings me a large bag containing my slippers and the pyjamas.
VANITY KIT & PJs
The vanity kit is stored inside the vanity mirror and includes:
moisturizing hand cream,
pulse point oil,
toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste,
What strikes me as slightly inconsistent is that the vanity kit and the pyjamas are of no name brands. I don’t mind and they’re in good quality. But given that Etihad has really gone for a high end finish for the rest of its First Class product, it just seems slightly unusual that they didn’t do the same for the vanity kits and pjs.
There are plenty of options for the meal. On the one hand, there is a full breakfast service right after take-off. In addition, there is also a menu with a wide selection of dishes that passengers can combine as they wish.
I skip the breakfast service because I’m feeling tired. So I have a nap instead. When I awake, we’re just under four hours out of London and I’m feeling hungry. So I call for the chef to discuss the food options.
First, the table is laid out for the meal. The cutlery and chinaware are elegant. I am also given a small ramekin with butter and another empty one for olive oil. One of the crew comes by with the breadbasket.
For a starter I have the chef’s salad, which consists of fresh, crisp salad, fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and smoked salmon and is served with a light balsamic vinaigrette. The salmon is obviously of very good quality, light in colour and with a very subtle taste that is complemented nicely by the champagne.
Next, I have the wagyu sirloin, served with creamy mashed potato and green beans. I have a sauce Hollondaise with the meat, which is light and goes very well with the meet. The beans are served with a hint of lemon zest, giving them a refreshing twist.
And then comes the cheese course, which is served with jelly, slices of fresh apple and grapes and crackers. The presentation of the dish is nice. For the cheese dish I turn down a third glass of champagne and instead have a glass of the sauternes, which is excellent.
And then to conclude the meal, I have a slice of rich and tasty carrot cake with a cappuccino.
After the meal I am handed another hot towel.
Overall I think the quality of the meal is very good. The meat was cooked just the way I requested and the ingredients are obviously of good quality.
Eventually we start our descent, the crew come to say goodbye and the young lady from Brazil hands me her business card in case I have any comment to make on the flight.
So what’s the verdict? As far as the First Class product is concerned, I think Etihad Airways really nails the inflight experience. The cabin and the seat are not only very elegant and attractive, they also make for a very pleasant journey at a level of comfort and privacy that Qatar Airways and Emirates can’t match. However, overall there are certain inconsistencies in their product. The First Class experience on the ground, for example, is really lacking. Especially given that Abu Dhabi is quite a maze and very busy, an escort to and from the lounge would have been a nice idea. Also, while the lounge is okay, it’s definitely nowhere near as grand and impressive as Qatar Airways’ First Class lounge in Doha.
Based on my experience yesterday evening on the flight from Colombo to Abu Dhabi though, I think I would say that Qatar Airways has the superior Business Class product, followed by Emirates in second place and Etihad in third.
INTRODUCTION Time to move on. I wouldn’t have minded staying in Sri Lanka a little while longer. I’ve rather enjoyed being here. But I have to get back home because I’ll be traveling week after next and still need to get a few things done before then.
Let’s see. I’ve tried Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Emirates. So I think it’s only fair to give Etihad a try before I make up my mind if Qatar Airways really is my favourite airline.
The flight to Abu Dhabi will not be leaving until 21h10. Which means I have the whole day to spend by the pool revising a paper I have to submit soon and having afternoon tea at the lovely Galle Face Hotel before it’s time to head for the airport.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT I’ve ordered a car to pick me up at the hotel at 17h30. The journey to the airport is only 36 kilometres. Colombo is still only just coming back to life after most of the city folk left the city behind to celebrate the Singalese New Year with their families.
Security at the airport is very tight and there are roadblocks and barriers set up all along the road leading to the terminal.
CHECK-IN The driver drops me off before the entrance to departures. And then the hassle begins. First, I need to show a police officer standing guard by the entrance my passport and a copy of my ticket to even be allowed to enter the terminal building. Immediately inside the terminal is a first security checkpoint where I need to have all my bags screened and another police officer pats me down. From there I follow a long corridor that looks as though it was originally set up as a provisional building but then accidentally, brutally started sprouting retail space.
At the end of the corridor I finally enter the terminal proper. From here passengers have to go through another security checkpoint and show their passport again to enter the actual check-in area. Photography is strictly prohibited within the terminal.
Check-in for the Etihad flight opens three hours before departure. The departure hall is very crowded with passengers checking in for their flights with Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Sri Lankan which all seem to depart around the same time.
From check-in I walk to the far right of the departure hall and queue again for immigration. I’m not really sure why they bother though, because the officer is obviously so busy reading text messages that he nearly forgets to stamp my passport.
And then, finally, I’m airside.
LOUNGE Etihad Airways uses the Araliya lounge, which is at the beginning of the pier on the left hand side. The lounge only has very basic facilities, but there is a small selection of hot and cold snacks, there’s wifi and the toilets and shower are very clean. The lounge’s best feature though, is the excellent view of the action on the apron.
BOARDING Not again, seriously? My flight will be departing from gate B5, which is a bus gate. To enter the gate area I need to show my boarding pass and passport again to another police officer guarding the staircase. Once he lets me pass, I head downstairs to the holding area for the gate, which pretty much looks like a badly converted broom cupboard. But not as pretty. And yes, I have to go through security. Again. I don’t have to take out any liquids or laptops but I do have to take off my shoes and get another pat down under the watchful eyes of no less than eight police officers manning one conveyor belt and one security gate.
Shortly after, and somewhat unceremoniously, boarding begins. Our bus pulls up to the rear stairs of the aircraft and I step outside. I try to make my way to the forward door but one of the five police officers guarding the plane won’t let me pass and insists I take the rear door. But then a member of Etihad’s ground crew here in Colombo talks to her and I’m allowed to walk to the forward door.
CABIN & SEAT I rather like the cabin. I think the design and colours have some serious retro vibe going on, but somehow it works. There are four rows of seats in a 2 + 2 configuration for a total of 16 seats. Every seat has an AC and USB power port. The aircraft also has wifi, although I don’t actually try it out. The air is very humid tonight and as a result, there is thick mist coming out of the air conditioning system, which is a pretty nifty effect.
The recline of the seat is good and the seat controls are electric. Stretching my legs is problematic though because of the IFE box under the seat in front of me which takes up a lot of space.
A large blanket, pillow, earphones and the menu have already been placed at the seats. The blanket is rather funky in that one side is in this velvety fake fur material which feels kind of kinky. Now I know what Jane Fonda must have felt like rolling around naked on that fur rug during the opening credits of Barbarella.
CREW & SERVICE The crew up front consists of a young man of Pakistani origin and a Chinese young lady. Both of them are friendly and courteous in their manner and give all the passengers a warm greeting as they board the plane.
The service begins with a welcome drink and a hot towel.
VANITY KIT The flight time to Abu Dhabi is four hours and twenty minutes. Etihad does not provide a full vanity kit on this flight, but they do provide eye shades, socks and earplugs.
IFE The IFE is touchscreen enabled and works really very well. The selection is fairly large, but as usual there’s nothing I’d really be interested in watching.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM…BUT IT’S BEAUTIFUL… The meal service is a bit of a let down and definitely not on a par with Qatar Airways’ offerings. We start with an aperitif and a bowl of warm nuts.
For the first course I have the Arabic mezze, which basically is a small dollop of hummus, with a huge portion of parsley that’s been drowned in lemon juice and some vegetable pickles and a greasy samosa. The tray is served with a bun, Arabic flat bread and butter. The taste of the food is so so, but the presentation of the tray really is nice.
For the main course I have the Indian chicken and pea curry, which is quite simply disgusting. Yuk! There’s something chewy and green on the plate that tastes of nothing and is hard to bite. The chicken itself is mainly bone and skin and I decide not to touch it. The only edible parts of the meal are the spicy coconut rice and the warm beetroot.
And then for dessert I make the mistake of ordering a bowl of vanilla ice cream, which is served with a sablé on top. The only problem is, the ice cream is so cold the sablé is welded to it. I can’t get it off! And the ice cream is so hard I think you could knock somebody unconscious with it if you threw it at them. So I wait a few minutes. But eventually my impatience gets the better of me and I make the fatal mistake of trying to take a spoonful of ice cream.
Next thing I know, the spoon hits the bowl with a clank, and the blob of ice cream slips off to the left and goes flying through the cabin. The whole thing happens in slow motion. I swear I can actually hear the opening chords of Strauss’ ‘Thus spoke Zarathustra’ and feel the compulsion to ask HAL what’s going on… But then I manage to catch the ball of ice cream with my hand, but the thing is slippery and gets away, eventually landing and sitting in my lap. Well fine. I scoop the ice cream off my groin and when the flight attendant passes my seat next, I tell him to take the ice cream with him. A few minutes later though he returns. Apparently he’s put the blob in the oven to thaw it a bit for me. Which is kind of a nice gesture, only now the ice cream has a faint and very disturbing taste of the curry chicken I refused to eat a short while previously…
ARRIVAL But at least the flight passes quickly and before long we’re starting our descent into Abu Dhabi. We land in darkness and then taxi for a very long time to the main apron. We park on a remote stand, but things happen so quick that I don’t really have any time to take any photos before the Business Class bus whisks us off to the terminal.
CONCLUSION Of all the flights I’ve done on this trip, I think this one was the most unremarkable one. The crew were friendly enough and very polite but the food really was bad. The seat was okay, But I think a flight time of over four hours is really pushing it for passenger comfort in the premium cabin.
INTRODUCTION At last, a new airline! This will be my first trip on SriLankan and my first visit to Sri Lanka. I must say, every since K., herself Sri Lankan, engineer extraordinaire and purveyor of incredibly spicy food started working for us as an intern, I’ve been rather curious about Sri Lanka. This will only be a short visit. But I can always go back if I like it.
To get from KL to Colombo I have two options for a nonstop flight, either Malaysia Airlines or SriLankan. Given that both are Oneworld members and the fact that I’ve already sampled Malaysian a couple of times – and wasn’t too impressed – of course my choice would be SriLankan.
CHECK-IN Check-in for the flight opens three hours before departure and SriLankan has its counters on row M. There is a dedicated Business Class counter and the young lady behind the desk makes quick work of checking me in. She also prints an invitation for the Plaza Lounge in the satellite terminal.
The journey to the C gates in the satellite is via an automated train that runs partly underground and partly above ground. Alas, the windows are all plastered with stickers, so there’s no photo taking on the journey.
LOUNGE As a Silver member in BA’s Executive Club I have a number of options for the lounge. I’ve been in the Malaysia lounge and wasn’t too impressed with that either. So in the interest of investigative blogging, or something, I decide to try the Plaza Lounge as envisaged by SriLankan.
Man, what a big mistake! They’re actually queuing outside the lounge entrance for access. I’m sure there are more people inside this lounge than there are outside right now. This seems to be the lounge for just about all carriers operating out of KL’s satellite that don’t have their own lounge. Them and all the credit card companies that give you lounge access if you’re a respectable shopaholic aka good customer. I think it’s time to leave.
Okay, time to head across to the Cathay Pacific lounge which is a) much nicer, b) empty, and c) quiet. The food options are better too. I’m not sure there are toilets or showers in this lounge though.
BOARDING If you’re departing on a flight from KL, the boarding time for your flight will be one hour prior to departure. That’s because the security check takes place at the gate. It also means that usually it’s better not to arrive too early so you won’t have queue or wait too long inside the lounge. Unless of course, you’re the kind of weirdo who’ll arrive early on purpose to take a few shots of the aircraft you’ll be travelling on…
And thank God I did arrive early! Because there’s been an aircraft change. And what a nice one it is too. The scheduled Airbus A 321 narrowbody has been replaced by an Airbus A 330-300 in the new seating configuration. Oh ye might airline gods, how can I ever thank you enough? I shall have to offer my first born as a sacrifice to thank you.
CABIN & SEAT This is what I call the Cathay Pacific seat, which is basically a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration in a reverse herringbone layout. There’s not quite as much storage space as on the Cathay Pacific seat but other than that, this is still one of my favourite airplane seats out there. My only complaint is that SriLankan have gone for faux leather seat covers and within just a few minutes of sitting down, I’m already starting to feel sticky.
Earphones, two pillows and a blanket have already been placed at every seat. Originally I’m on 3G, which is an aisle seat. However, as soon as boarding is completed it becomes apparent that the Business Class cabin is going to be everything but full. So I ask the flight attendant if it’s okay for me to change seats and then move back to the window on 6K.
CREW & SERVICE Ah yes, the flight attendants. Bugger me! The crew on this flight is made up of a group of young men and women. And what a good-looking bunch they are too. The men all look rather dapper in their dark blue suits and the ladies are wearing these very elegant looking dresses in a peacock design. And they look gorgeous!
But apart form all that, the crew all seem really friendly and give the impression of being rather happy in their jobs and well, happy to see you as a customer. Which is always nice.
While we’re still on the ground, a welcome drink is served along with a scented hot towel that is so hot I’m sure my epidermis is about to dissolve… Other than that, I notice when the crew place the glasses down they all make sure the airline’s logo on the glass is visible. This is something they continue to pay attention to throughout the flight. Their interaction with the passengers is charming and easy going.
MEAL SERVICE Before departure a menu is handed out and then a flight attendant comes by to take my order. For an aperitif I have a glass of Harvey Bristol cream, which is served with a dish of warm cashews.
For the starter there is a salad of mixed shredded vegetables with sesame seeds, presented with a wasabi and ginger sauce, which is quite tasty and light.
For the main course I go with the vegetarian option – vegetable biryani with vegetable makhani and a potato and cauliflower masala with raita. This is really very tasty, and I think K. would approve, even if this is nowhere as spicy as the stuff she normally makes.
The salad is served with a selection from the breadbasket, which is my queue to overdose on the garlic bread again. For dessert there is a fresh fruit, which is the vile and healthy option, and a bread and butter pudding with almond flakes, the sinfully delectable option, which is served with tea.
Obviously, this being Ceylon I’m heading for, I decide to go with a Ceylon Early Grey tea to finish off.
ARRIVAL Eventually we start our descent into Colombo after a flying time of about three hours. There are quite a few CBs around, so it’s quite a bumpy ride. I’m struck by just how green and lush Sri Lanka looks from above.
The terminal is fairly busy when we arrive. I make my way to immigration where the friendly immigration officer informs me that I need a visa for Sri Lanka which I should have obtained before arrival. Eventually though, we’re able to resolve the whole thing, I pay the fee and I’m in the country. Something tells me I’m going to like it here…
So what about SriLankan? Well, if I’m perfectly honest I have to say I really like them very much. The seat and cabin were in mint condition and this really is a much nicer way to travel on a three hours sector than on some narrowbody. The food was good too. But most of all, I think what really impressed me were their cabin crew who were really quite charming in the way they went about their business. I wouldn’t mind flying SriLankan again actually.
TRANSFER IN MUSCAT Upon entering the terminal building in Muscat, transit passengers turn left and then head up one floor to transit security and the airside area beyond. As in Zürich, the terminal seems very quiet and is certainly calmer than the last time I was here in 2016.
LOUNGE The Oman Air lounge is operated by the same company that runs the Chedi hotel in Muscat and it shows clearly in the design of the lounge. The gentleman at reception informs me that boarding for my flight to Kuala Lumpur will be from inside the lounge.
The lounge is also very quiet, with only a few seats here and there occupied. The lounge has all the amenities one might expect, including toilets and showers on the premises and a spa. Complimentary wifi is also available. Lounge access comes with a 15 minutes complimentary massage.
In theory, the lounge has some excellent views of the apron, but the curtains obstruct the view and I’m not about the make a spectacle of myself by lifting them to take pictures…
The buffet is excellent!
BOARDING At 08h20 I go to the boarding desk inside the lounge and the gate agent directs me down the stairs to ground level, where a small mini bus is waiting to take the KL bound passengers to their aircraft.
Eventually pull up next to an Airbus A 330-300, together with the two regular busses carrying the Economy Class passengers. And then we wait. And we wait. And then we wait some more. Eventually, when our bus does start moving again, it’s to take us back to arrivals. I ask the bus driver what’s up but he’s none the wiser. So I step inside the arrivals hall and ask one of the Oman Air agents there about the status of my flight. To which he tells me to go back upstairs, through security again and then to gate 20 for further information.
So I do that. At gate 20 nobody really seems to want to be responsible. So I ask some random guy in an Oman Air uniform what’s going on and he tells me that our flight has gone tech. I should return to the lounge and await further instructions. Brilliant! Oh yes, and I’m given the rather funky and very old school Egypt Air transit card. Not quite sure what to do with this though…
So I return to the lounge and figure I might as well have breakfast. After about thirty minutes in the lounge, the flight to KL is called again and so I head downstairs once more to the waiting bus. This time everything seems to go without a hitch. Eventually we take off form Muscat with a delay of 75 minutes at 10h05.
CABIN & SEAT The seat on this aircraft is the same as the one on the Boeing B 787-9. Immediately after take-off I change into my running shorts and lie down to have a nap. The seat really is very comfortable and provides ample space, even for a larger person. I am 184cm tall and could stretch out fully. The seat is also wide enough for me not to hit anything or knock something over when I turn.
Every seat is equipped with USB ports and an AC power port.
CREW & SERVICE The crew on this flight are much better than the previous lot. You can tell by the ease with which they interact with the passengers and the efficiency with which they complete their pre-departure tasks. To be fair, they’re probably also in a good mood because there are only eight passengers in the Business Class cabin on this flight.
VANITY KIT The vanity kit is identical to the one I received on the previous flight from Zürich. I think I forgot to mention in my previous post that the kit for men also includes a one-way shaver with shaving cream.
IFE Once I wake up again, I make a closer inspection of the inflight entertainment system. The selection is sufficiently large, but even so, I think there isn’t a single thing I would actually want to watch. Then again, perhaps there are people who actually do enjoy watching the untalented Mr Gosling trying to make his mind up whether he wants to talk or sing his way through an entire movie…
FIRST SERVICE On this flight the service makes a lot more sense than it did on the previous flight and follows the same sequence as my morning flight from Dubai to Amsterdam the week before. Just after departure a small breakfast is served, which I pass on, and then the proper of full meal service takes place before landing in KL.
SECOND SERVICE About two and a half hours out of KL passengers are starting to stir from sleep so it’s time for the crew to begin their main service. As on the previous flight, there are four options for the first course, main course and dessert. I have the following:
cream of asparagus soup
seasonal salad with vinaigrette
linguine pasta with a creamy pesto and parmesan shavings
ice cream selection with pistachios and chocolate sauce for dessert
selection of breads served with butter or balsamic vinegar
The soup is served with a cheese stick and lemon, which goes surprisingly well with the fine taste. There’s also something spicy in there to give the soup a bit of a zing.
The main course is tasty, although the pasta is definitely overcooked, which is normally the case when you have pasta on a plane. My favourite though is definitely the dessert.
ARRIVAL We land in KL at around 20h40, more than an hour later than our scheduled arrival time. The approach is pretty spectacular. There are storm cells in the vicinity of the airport and with the darkness around us, the bursts of lighting look pretty impressive!
CONCLUSION Okay. On this flight Oman Air definitely managed to redeem themselves after last night’s rather unpleasant flight from Zürich to Muscat. The delay was not such a major issue for me and we were only a bit more than an hour late arriving in KL. However, I do think the staff on the ground could have handled the situation much better. No information was given at any time unless you explicitly asked for it, which is obviously not the way to do it in case of an irregularity. All in all, Oman Air is a nice little airline but they lack polish and professionalism in my opinion.
INTRODUCTION Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. In Switzerland Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays so all public services and most offices and shops will be closed. Many people take advantage of the long weekend to go away. And so I’m expecting Zürich Airport to be rather busy when I arrive by train. Much to my surprise though, the place is really quiet. In fact, it’s a lot quieter than usual.
CHECK-IN Oman Air has its check-in counters on row 1 of terminal 2 at Zürich Airport. There is one counter for Business Class passengers and four counters for Economy Class passengers. And there’s loads of staff milling about. What on earth do they need all these people for? Some of them are check-in agents from Swissport that are just wearing an Oman Air tie or a scarf. Others however, look as though they’re employed by Oman Air and are wearing the airline’s full uniform.
I step onto the plush, soft carpet in front of the Business Class counter. The young lady behind the desk issues my boarding passes straight away and has already prepared for me the lounge invitation for my transit in Muscat. If you’ve already checked in online, Oman Air will hand you a ‘proper’ boarding pass at the gate and will hand you your lounge invitation for Muscat at the gate.
The young lady informs me that an Oman Air rep will come to the lounge to collect me once boarding begins. So far I’m quite impressed by the operation here in Zürich.
LOUNGE Oman Air uses the Swissport Aspire Lounge in the E dock. My flight will be departing form gate E46.
The stairs leading up to the Aspire lounge are located right in front of the Starbucks Café on the E concourse. The selection of food and beverages in the lounge is limited to small cold and warm snacks, things like greasy spring rolls and very sweet cakes.
The design of the lounge is nice, bright and airy. However, there are no toilets or showers on the premises. Despite all this, I very much like this lounge for its one redeeming feature which really is a major selling point in my view: it has an outdoor deck. It’s a good thing it’s already getting dark, otherwise I think I’d seriously be at risk of missing my flight for all the plane spotting you can do here. As it happens, runway 28 is in use for arrivals this evening, which means I get to see Emirates’ evening A 380 service to Zürich applying some pretty serious braking action on the relatively short runway.
BOARDING Boarding is from gate E46 and start about forty minutes before departure. I’m guessing that with the very strict curfew in place at Zürich Airport the airline is keen the make sure to get away without any major delays.
Business Class passengers are invited to board the aircraft first.
CABIN & SEAT Today’s flight is being operated by a brand spanking new Boeing B 787-9 which has only been in revenue service for six weeks. After the short hop last month from Heathrow to Paris CDG on Air Frances’ B 787-9, this will be my second journey on this type. Yes, I know I’m a nerd but that’s still no reason to be sloppy with the details. Yeah?
Seat numbering is rather strange on Oman Air. The airline is in the process of abolishing its First Class product and refitting all aircraft with a Business Class/Economy Class seating configuration. Even so, Business Class has retained the original numbering, so that the first row in this cabin is row 11. On the Boeing B 787-9 the main Business Class cabin is located between the L/R1 and L/R2 doors. In addition, there is a single row in a mini cabin located behind the galley before the Economy Class cabin starts. This is row 15 and is where I am sitting today.
I really like the colours in the Oman Air cabin. Everything is kept in earthy tones, with light and dark brown colours and a bit of turquoise thrown in for good measure.
The configuration in Business Class is 2 + 2 + 2. The seat is based on a similar principle as the Japan Airlines seat in that the two seats on every pair are staggered. There is also a privacy screen that can be raised after take-off in case you don’t fancy staring at your neighbour’s ugly mug for six hours. The best feature though, is that the staggered seating configuration enables that passengers seated by the window to also have aisle access without the embarrassment of having to climb over the person sitting on the aisle seat. Storage space is good. Being a night flight, a blanket and pillow have already been placed at every seat.
CREW & SERVICE The crew are the usual mix of nationalities that you find on all the Middle East carriers. I’m guessing some of the crew are form the Philippines, some from Thailand and a few from India.
The service starts with a welcome drink, hot towel and the distributions of the menus and vanity kits. Once boarding is completed, the crew pass through the cabin with the traditional Omani welcome of dates and saffron scented Arabic coffee.
VANITY KIT The vanity kit has a good toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste, eye shades, earplugs and a range of cosmetics from Oman’s Amouage perfume, which is, admittedly, an acquired taste and very strong.
IFE The IFE screen is fairly big and can be operated either using the remote control or via touchscreen, although the latter is somewhat inconvenient given the distance between the seat and the screen.
FIRST SERVICE There is a choice of four options to choose from for the first course, main course and dessert and there is usually a vegetarian option included on the menu. Given that it’s already late and the flight is not that long, I decide to go with just the Arabic mezze.
The meal service does not start until more than an hour after take-off and it is quite obvious that the crew are unprepared for passengers like me that just want a light meal in order to give them some time to sleep. So instead of dishing out the food straight away, the crew go all out and start serving the aperitifs and an amuse bouche. By this time it’s become quite apparent that it’ll be a while longer until they finally start serving the meal. So the next time a member of the crew walks by, I tell them I’m tired and that I’ve decided not to have dinner after all.
SECOND SERVICE I awake about eighty minutes out of Muscat. As soon as the crew notice I’m awake, they bring me the breakfast, which consists of:
a bowl with different rolls and pastries
a bowl of yoghurt with some green unidentifiable fruity stuff in it
a bowl of fruit salad
According to the menu there should also have been some cheese, but none of the passengers seem to get any of that. What’s more, there is no jam and if you want a juice you have to request it specifically.
ARRIVAL The new terminal in Muscat has yet to open. But I ain’t complaining because as long as the old facility is still in use, all passengers will need to deplane via stairs and journey to arrivals by bus.
There is a separate, dedicated Business Class bus to bring passengers to the terminal.
CONCLUSION All in all, I think Oman Air’s performance can only be described as an epic fail. First of all, I think their service concept on this flight is highly unsuitable for the flight time and schedule. On a flight that leaves fairly late in the evening, it should be expected that many passengers will want to get to sleep as quickly as possible and there should be an appropriate meal option for them.
Other than that though, I also found today’s crew somewhat unprofessional and inattentive. For example, my coffee cup was not collected prior to take-off and the passenger seated next to me did not eat one of the canapés that was served as an amuse bouche. When I woke up for breakfast a few hours later, the small plate had still not been removed and the amuse bouche looked decidedly unappealing.
INTRODUCTION I have just enough time to upload and post my review of the Melbourne to Doha leg, and then it is already time to head to the departure gate for my flight to Frankfurt. I suppose you could say I am literally on my last leg…!
BOARDING FROM AN AWKWARD GATE The flight is departing from gate B8, which is the end gate on the B pier. As such, the position of the gate in relation to how the aircraft is actually parked is awkward and does not allow for any reasonable photos. Add to that the fact that the windows on the B pier have these opaque dots on them and it becomes near impossible to take any decent pictures of your awaiting chariot.
CABIN & SEAT The Airbus A 350 features Qatar Airways’ new Business Class configuration in a 1 + 2 + 1 layout that gives every passenger direct access to the aisle. The additional width of the A 350 really comes into its own in this cabin layout, giving a spacious and airy feel to the cabin.
The only thing I do not like about this aircraft is the fact that it has those electronically controlled window blinds. And while these are obviously a lot of fun to play with if, like me, you spend way too much time around engineers than is really good for you, they have the disadvantage of being remote controllable by the crew.
No sooner has the fasten seatbelt sign turned off after take-off the blinds come down and can no longer be opened individually until about ninety minutes out of Frankfurt.
YET ANOTHER EXCELLENT CREW The crew on this flight are a chirpy bunch. Their service is efficient but unrushed and they are obviously determined not to waste any time so passengers can maximise the amount of rest they can get before we reach our destination. This is yet another thing that Qatar Airways does really well in my opinion. One of the things I really cannot stand on Singapore Airlines or SWISS is that for some reason their main meal service always seems to take for ever. On a flight across the Atlantic you are usually already half way there by the time they finally finish and clear everything up.
THE VANITY KIT IS BACK TO ITS OLD TRICKS The vanity kit is another one of the senselessly oversized tube of aftershave balm variety. Come to think of it, it would be interesting to know what is in the ladies’ vanity kit and if that has any more sensible contents.
YOU REALLY WILL NOT GO HUNGRY ON QATAR AIRWAYS I know it has not been that long since my breakfast on the inbound from Melbourne, but I am feeling peckish nonetheless. I blame it on the jet lag.
I start with a tasty strawberry and banana smoothie with is rich and creamy.
Next I have the Bircher Müsli with berries and nuts, which is served nicely decorated with a sprig of mint that gives it a refreshing twist.
And then for the main course I have the Indian dish, in this case something called Aloo paneer tikki with jeera potatoes, green pea upma, makhani sauce and sambhar. And what an excellent dish it is too, even though I am really not quite sure what it is I am eating. Luckily, Qatar Airways always seem to have at least one Indian dish on their menu, usually the vegetarian option.
For dessert I have a combination of lychee éclair and a coffee and chocolate mousse cake, which is also very good.
Once the meal is over, I figure I may as well make another trip to Noddy land to pass the time before the next feeding.
THE SECOND SERVICE Ninety minutes out of Frankfurt the cabin crew pass through the cabin asking passengers if there is anything they would like to eat before we arrive in Frankfurt. There is a section with light options on the menu for passengers to choose from. I decide to go with the shredded beef salad with Thai noodles. The dish is good and tastes authentic, but I am kind of disappointed because I had been hoping for something with a bit of ‘umpf’ in it, which this dish does not have.
ARRIVAL Twenty-three hours after departing from Melbourne I arrive back in Frankfurt. We approach the airport from the East and land on the new runway that lies north of the apron. As I step off the plane I finally get a chance to take a proper look at her and take a few pictures. This is a really very cool plane!
CONCLUSION This flight brings to a close my journey to the land of Oz with the fabulous Qatar Airways. Their performance on the four flights I took has been truly stellar. What’s more, they are consistent in the service level they provide, even in comparison to my experience on previous trips with them. In comparison to the other Middle Eastern carriers I have tried, I think Qatar Airways definitely takes the biscuit. They are certainly more professional than Oman Air and their service feels a lot more sophisticated than Emirates. I also think their cabins are a lot classier than Emirates, which tends to be a bit flashy, bordering on gaudy. Of course Qatar Airways also has the advantage that with Hamad airport, they have a very spacious and nicely designed hub.
I shall be flying with Etihad for the first time in two months, and I am curious to see how they will compare to Qatar Airways, but I think it is safe to say that Qatar Airways is a hard act to follow.
Date: 09. February 2017. Departure: 19:20. Arrival: 20:20. Flight time: 1 hour. Seat: 2F, window on the starboard of the aircraft.
I step off Qatar’s Airbus A 350 and make my way to immigration, which is deserted. From what I can tell, ours is the only international flight to arrive around this time. The guy at customs seems a bit surprised to see me travelling such a long way with only a small carry-on suitcase, but eventually he lets me pass anyway.
If you are catching a domestic connection, simply exit customs and then turn left. There is an escalator that takes you one floor up to the departures level.
Counters: Virgin Australia have their own dedicated check-in area and there is a separate counter for Business Class passengers.
It had not been possible to check me in for this flight already in Frankfurt or in Doha.
Location: Opposite immigration for international departures.
Name of Lounge: Virgin Airlines lounge.
Access: As you exit the security checkpoint, turn left.
Toilets & showers: Available in the lounge. Food & Beverages: The food selection in the lounge is limited to junk food and toast. Drinks are ordered at the counter.
Connectivity: Complimentary wifi is available. The password is given to you at check-in.
Priority Boarding: Business Class passengers and frequent flyers are invited to board first.
CABIN & SEAT
Configuration: 2 + 2. Seat Layout: There are two rows of seats, making a total of eight seats in Business Class. The aircraft has a dedicated, proper Business Class cabin and seat. Pitch: 38 inches. Width: 19.5 inches.
AC Power: Not available. Audio and Video: Virgin offers wireless inflight entertainment that you can watch on your own handheld device. But you need to download their app for that first.
SERVICE & CREW
The crew seem friendly enough. They work efficiently to get the service through in just one hour, but without making it feel rushed.
Taking off over Glenelg.
Welcome drink on the ground: Sparkling water.
Choice: There is a choice of either chicken or a salad with beetroot.
Delivery: Individual tray service.
Type of meal: Dinner.
Main course: Chicken breast with creamed corn and tomatoes.
Dessert: A really very tasty carrot cake.
Cheese: A plate of camembert with fig chutney and rice crackers.
Beverages: Coke Zero.
Bread: One bun, served with butter.
Coming from Europe, it is quite amazing to be offered a hot meal on a flight of only one hour and to have a proper Business Class seat at your disposal. I am certainly impressed!
We arrive in Melbourne more or less on time. Virgin Australia have their own terminal in Melbourne.
From arrivals it takes me about five minutes to walk the short distance to the Holiday Inn hotel, where I will be staying for just the one night.
In summary, I rather like Virgin Australia and I am very glad to say that their service is still as good as I remember it from when I travelled with them last back in 2013.
INTRODUCTION I have just enough time to post the report of my flight from Frankfurt to Doha before it is time for me to leave the comfort of the al-Mourjan lounge and head for gate C5 from where the flight to Adelaide will be boarding.
Since my last visit to Doha airport they have changed the security regime. Where previously you used to go through a centralised security checkpoint, which tended to get slightly hectic and chaotic during peak periods, you now only have to go through security before you enter the respective gate for your flight, which makes the whole process far more efficient and much less of a hassle for passengers.
Location: Just off the central plaza that links concourses A, B and C.
Name of Lounge: Al-Mourjan.
Type of Lounge: Qatar Airways Business Class lounge.
Access: There is a long escalator that leads up to the lounge.
Toilets & Showers: Both are available in the lounge and there is an attendant who obviously keeps the place spotlessly clean. Food & Beverages: There is a huge selection of hot and cold dishes. In fact the food offerings are more comparable to what many airlines provide in their First Class lounges. One floor up from the central lounge area there is also a restaurant with buffet and à la carte dining.
Connectivity: Complimentary wifi is provided by Doha airport.
Newspapers & Magazines: There is a large selection of magazines and newspapers in English and Arabic.
Priority Boarding: There is a separate lane for security for Business Class passengers. Business Class passengers are invited to board the aircraft first and there is a separate airbridge attached to the L1 door.
CABIN & SEAT The seat on the Airbus A 350 is very similar to that on the Boeing B 787 on my previous flight. There are however, a few differences. First of all, due to the fact that there are no overhead bins for the middle row of seats, the cabin has a very spacious and cavernous feel, which is very pleasant actually. There is a shoe compartment large enough to store a pair of shoes properly (I wear a size 46 and managed to stow my shoes easily). And finally, the inflight entertainment system is slightly updated. Is has a larger selection of films and can be operated either via the handset or using the touch screen.
The Business Class cabin is also larger on this aircraft. There is one toilet behind the forward galley on the left and two toilets by the L2/R2 doors.
SERVICE & CREW The service sequence is identical to that on the previous flight – welcome drink, menu, vanity kit. However, because of the longer flight time of twelve hours and fifty minutes, a few additions have been made to the service:
Slippers are provided and they are rather comfortable.
Pyjamas are also provided.
There is a turndown service to convert the seat into a bed.
Welcome drink on the ground: Lemon and mint juice.
Pre-meal drink: Coke Zero, served with a ramekin of warm nuts.
Choice: There are three choices for the first and main course and dessert.
Delivery: À la carte service.
Type of meal: Late dinner.
Amuse bouche: Salmon tartar with mango salsa.
First course: Spicy lentil soup.
Second course: Arabic mezze with hummus, moutabel and tabouleh, served with Arabic bread.
Main course: Red snapper with a saffron cream sauce and asparagus. Served with crushed new potatoes and spring onions and a confit of cherry tomatoes.
Dessert: Ice cream.
Cheese: There is no cheese course on the menu but it is available on request.
Hot towel after the meal: Rose scented hot towel.
THE SECOND SERVICE
Pre-meal drink: Strawberry and banana smoothie.
Choice: The breakfast menu can be put together individually and includes a wide selection of hot and cold dishes.
Delivery: À la carte service.
Type of meal: Breakfast.
Main course: Scrambled eggs with chives, served on toast with ruccola and grilled tomatoes.
Bread: A selection of breads, served with butter and marmalade.
ARRIVAL We land in Adelaide after a flight time of twelve hours and thirty minutes. The approach brings us in right over the city and offers some great views of the hills in Adelaide’s hinterland.
Once we land I have ninety minutes to make my domestic connection and then I’ll be done. For today.
SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT…? This flight and the previous one from Frankfurt to Doha have firmly established Qatar Airways as one of my favourite airlines, together with the legendary Cathay Pacific. As I already mentioned in a previous post on Qatar Airways, it never seizes to amaze me just how reliable and consistent their crews are in their service delivery. And they are all so nice about it.
But it is not just the crews that make flying with Qatar Airways such a brilliant experience. The quality and quantity of the food is really something else and puts many of the First Class products I have had the pleasure of sampling to shame.
And then there is also the aircraft. This was my second flight on the Airbus A 350 and I must say, she’s really something else. The feeling of space and comfort that the cabin provides makes even a twelve hours journey pleasurable. The only problem you have with this aircraft is that it is so quiet in the cabin that you can hear the dude snoring five rows further back!
CHECK-IN Terminal 1, hall C. Qatar Airways has its own dedicated check-in counters. There are two counters for Business Class passengers.
Location: Terminal 1.
Name of Lounge: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge.
Access: There is a set of stairs and an escalator adjacent to gate B42 which take you one floor up. You see the lounge entrance as soon as you get off the escalator.
Toilets: Available in the lounge. The toilets are clean and look rather nice.
Showers: Available in the lounge. Contact reception for a slot. Food & Beverages: There is a fairly large bar area but the selection of food and beverages is fairly limited. There are no hot dishes. But at least they have Lavazza coffee.
Connectivity: Complimentary wifi is available, no password required.
Newspapers & Magazines: There is also a good selection of English and French language magazines and newspapers.
Priority Boarding: Business Class passengers are invited to board the aircraft first and have their own, dedicated gate. Boarding is through the L2 door.
CABIN & SEAT
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1. Cabin Layout: Business Class – 22 seats.
Economy Class – 232 seats. Pitch: 80 inches. Width: 22 inches. Length as a Bed: 80 inches.
AC Power: AC power plugs are available at all seats in Business and Economy Class. Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand, handset controlled. Earphones: No-name noise-cancelling earphones. Connectivity: Onair wifi available. Comment: A pillow and a blanket are already on the seat.
SERVICE & CREW The crew on today’s flight are all either from Thailand or the Indian subcontinent and they are all very friendly.
The service begins with a welcome drink and a choice of either a hot or cold towel. I choose a cold towel and have a lemon juice with mint with that.
Shortly after that the vanity kit and the menus are distributed.
Once the doors close, the crew pass through offering Arabic, English and German language newspapers.
VANITY KIT Armani branded vanity kit. There are obviously different kits for men and women. The kit contains earplugs, lip balm, perfume, after shave cream, socks and eye shades. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are available in the toilets.
Welcome drink on the ground: Lemon juice with lime.
Pre-meal drink: Apple cooler – Apple juice, soda water, lemon juice, mint leaves and a slice of lemon. Served with a bowl of nuts served with the drink.
Menu: There are three choices for the starter, main course and dessert.
Delivery: À la carte service.
Type of meal: Lunch.
Amuse bouche: Balik salmon with a horseradish sauce.
First course: Soup of roasted butternut squash with a lemon and herb crème fraîche.
Second course: Smoked salmon with pea and potato salad with confit tomatoes and a lemon dressing.
Main course: Paneer tikka masala with makhini sauce, servied with coriander and mint basmati rice, spiced asparagus and black-eyed beans.
Cheese: A selection of cheese with crackers, red onion chutney and condiments.
Dessert: Chocolate ice cream with berries.
Tea: The meal concludes with a hot, rose scented towel and a mug of Karak Chai with cardamom. Before the lights go out, the crew pass through the cabin with small boxes of Godiva pralines.
ARRIVAL We arrive in Doha at 18:30, just slightly ahead of schedule, after a flight time of five hours and thirty minutes. I know have a bit more than two hours to make my onward connection.