Edelweiss Air, Business Class – Airbus A 340-300: Muscat to Zürich

Introduction

The main advantage in taking the Edelweiss Air flight back to Zürich is that it is one of the few flights that leave Muscat bound for Europe as a day flight. Most of the other flights depart in the dead of night, which is not at all pleasant. With a flight time of only seven hours, a night flight is usually not long enough to get a good night’s rest. The Edelweiss Air flight however, departs Muscat at 09h20, to arrive back in Zürich at 13h40. Previously, Muscat was served from Zürich as a tag-on to SWISS’ daily Zürich to Dubai service. Since the flight was taken over by Edelweiss, it only operates once a week on Saturdays.

Getting to the Airport

I’ve spent the whole of the last week in Sohar, which is Oman’s second city in the West of the country. From Sohar to Muscat it’s a little more than 200km. There is the old main road and what looks like a recently completed six lane motorway. I would recommend taking the motorway, simply because it’s a much more pleasant drive and the scenery is quite beautiful. Just watch our for the goats that have a nasty habit of walking into the middle of the motorway like they own the place…

I spend my last night in Oman at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is roughly 15 minutes away by car from the airport terminal. The close proximity to the airport is great if, like me, you forget your passport, ID, and wallet in the hotel safe and have to return to get them – because you only remember as your car pulls up at the curb outside the terminal that you didn’t take them out of the safe.

Check-In

At As-Seeb airport there is a segregated check-in area for First and Business Class passengers. Even if you’ve checked in online, I would still recommend you pass by the Business Class check-in area, as it gives you direct access to a dedicated queue for immigration and security.

Muscat Prime Class Lounge

The only lounge other than the Oman Air lounges is the Prime Class lounge, which is located one floor up from the duty free shopping area. This is also where you’ll find the entrance to the airport transit hotel.

The lounge is large and has many comfortable seating options. It also has wifi, and showers are available too.

The food options look interesting. There is a good choice of hot and cold dishes. Behind the buffet area is an attended bar where you can order alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Given that I had to go back to the hotel and then hurry back to the airport, I don’t spend all that much time in the lounge.

Boarding

The new terminal uses a closed gate concept. There is only one queue, and there is no priority for Business Class passengers to access the gate area, so that by the time I enter the gate, boarding has already started. I figure I might as well wait for the initial scrum to settle and busy myself taking photos of my aircraft instead.

The Cabin & Seat

The cabin layout of Edelweiss’ Business Class is a bit strange. The Business Class cabin is sandwiched between the forward Economy Class cabin and the rear Economy Class section. As you enter through the L2 door, the Business Class section is to your right. Which basically means that the Business Class cabin shares two loos with the entire forward Economy Class section.

There are seven rows of seats in the Business Class cabin. Row 11 is the bulkhead row. On rows 11, 14, and 16 the seats are configured in a 1+2+1 layout, whereas on the other rows they are in a 2+2+1 layout. The port side seats 11A, 14A and 16A are the throne seats that offer some additional storage space compared to the other seats. 14A also has a larger foot well, which come in handy with my size 11s.

The Business Class seat is essentially the same one that SWISS has installed on its long-haul fleet. The main difference being that the Edelweiss seat is covered in a light blue fabric.

The seat is comfortable enough, and being able to sit on your own is nice. But it doesn’t offer much in terms of privacy.

The Crew

The crew on this flight are excellent. They’re very friendly and hard working. Being a day flight, most passengers stay awake, and the crew make sure they have everything they need, passing through the cabin regularly offering snacks and drinks. It’s also noteworthy that the number of crew who actually speak Swiss German is much higher than it is on SWISS.

As soon as I take my seat and stow my luggage, one of the cabin crew comes to offer me a choice of orange juice, champagne or water and a packaged cold towel.

Amenity Kit

The amenities (socks and a tooth brush) are packaged in a cardboard box for “maximum impact”. I kind of like the idea. But I’m not sure how effective that box is in mitigating the CO2 emmissions being produced by the aircraft’s four engines.

In any case, at 09:35 we push back from our gate. One after the other, the four engines come to life with a quiet murmur and we slowly make our way to the active runway. The flight time is seven hours.

The Meal – Breakfast

The main meal service is breakfast. There is no menu, and there do not appear to be any choices either.

The crew set the table with every dish individually. The downside of that, of course, is that it means you cannot get out of your seat unless you remove every item individually.

The meal consists of a very tasty bircher müsli and small fruit salad.

A plate with a slice of Emmental, some smoked cheese and some revolting looking slice of cold cut that I don’t touch.

The hot meal is an omelette with peppers in a tomato sauce with creamy spinach and potatos.

With that the crew serve a wide selection of breads, which are served with butter and a variety of HERO jams or honey. The crew makes several rounds with the bread basket, which may account for how I end up having five slices of buttery Zopf…

At 11:00 the remains of the meal are cleared away. And I am mightily impressed. Just 80 minutes after wheels up the meal service is over, and passengers can kick back and relax. I fire up my laptop to work on my thesis.

The Second Meal

Ninety minutes out of Zürich, the crew pass through the cabin with sandwiches. There is a choice of roast beef or grilled peppers with cream cheese. And they’re very tasty. For dessert passengers are served a Biberli, which is a kind of honey and gingerbread sweet filled with almonds.

Arrival in Zürich

Shortly after, our A 340 dips its nose and we begin our descent into the murky Swiss clouds. It’s so much greener here than in Oman. Eventually, we touch down at 13:40, exactly on time, and make our way to the parking stand at the E pier, which is the satellite terminal. From there I catch the SkyMetro to the main terminal. There’s quite a queue for immigration, but at least it moves quickly.

Conclusion

I have to say that I rather enjoyed this flight with Edelweiss. I’m not even sure what I was expecting exactly, but this was certainly better. The crew was excellent and very friendly and the food was adequate for a flight of seven hours. The only thing I didn’t like that much was the seat, because you’re quite exposed in it. Other than that, it was good to get another flight on the A 340, as these aircraft are becoming increasingly hard to come by.

As for my trip to Oman, it was really great to be back. The one thing that always impresses me about the Omanis, and that I think really sets them apart from many of the other Gulf states, is just how incredibly friendly, down to earth and hospitable they are. There is something very dignified in their pride for their country. They make you feel welcome from the very first step you take off the aircraft when you arrive. And the ruggedness of the landscape is stunningly beautiful. I hope I’ll be back one day!

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

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

Check-in

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

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

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

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

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

Boarding

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

The Cabin

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

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The Crew

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

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The Meal

Type of meal: Snack.

  1. Cheese sandwich.
  2. Choice of hot and cold drinks.
  3. A Kägi Fret, which is a typically Swiss biscuit that is basically a few layers of waffle with chocolate in between and then coated in chocolate.
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Once the service is done, there are still sandwiches left, so the crew pass through the cabin offering seconds to those who are still hungry. The sandwich is okay, with some tomato and pepper spread and cheese in it. The bread is a bit rubbery though.

Arrival

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

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

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

Getting into Town

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

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

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

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Introduction

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

Getting to the Airport

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

Check-in

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

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Airside

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

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Boarding

The boarding ‘announcement’ is interesting. Basically the lady behind the desk looks up at the first person who catches her eye and then very quietly says ‘Zurich?’. That it is, and boarding starts.

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The Cabin

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

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

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The Crew

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

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

The Meal

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

  1. Mixed salad with a home made Italian dressing.
  2. Parma ham with small balls of melon, mozzarella and olive oil.
  3. Angus beef in a rich brown sauce, served with mushrooms, white and green asparagus and Pretzel dumplings.
  4. A selection of cheese with pickled onions and a dried apricot.
  5. A selection of desserts – I go with the peach in a thyme crust.
  6. Sprüngli chocolates.
  7. Selection from the bread basked.
  8. Tea or coffee.
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The meal is very tasty and I am quite amazed by the amount of food that is provided. During the meal service, the crew make two bread rounds. Moreover, once the main course is over, another bread round is made for passengers who would like some bread to accompany the cheese.

Arrival

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

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

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Epilogue

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

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