Air Europa, Economy Class – Embraer 195: Zürich to Madrid

Airline: Air Europa
Aircraft: Embraer 195
From: Zürich
To: Madrid Barajas
Departure: 18:51
Arrival:
20:36
Flight time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Seat:
14D, aisle seat on the emergency exit

At 16:54 I catch the train back to Zürich airport and make my way to Check-In 2, row 3, which is where Swissport has its counters for the smaller airlines like Air Baltic, Air Malta and Air Europa.

There‘s nobody else checking-in right now, so I‘m seen to straight away. And then from there I head for security, which is just as quiet.

Air Europa uses the Dnata lounge in Zürich, located towards the end of the airside centre, near the B pier. The lounge is completely packed and there‘s hardly any room to sit.

Eventually, I find a place to settle and get myself some food. The selection in the lounge is good, with a choice of salads, soup and a pasta dish to choose from.

Considering they‘re a handling agent, boarding an aircraft is something Swissport doesn‘t do very well at all. An announcement is made that boarding will be by zones, starting with zone 1. only, no further announcement is made, resulting in the inevitable scrum by passengers. In fact, boarding is utter chaos and the original two queues expand quickly into a riot-scale pushing and shoving extravaganza.

Eventually though, I make it onto the plane and settle into my seat on the emergency exit.

Again, the seat pitch on the exit row is great. I also think Air Euopa have better padding on their seats in the Embraer than KLM, Air France or Helvetic.

There are three crew in the cabin. As I don‘t make any purchases from the inflight menu, my interaction with them is limited. But the safety briefing they give is professional.

The flight itself is very bumpy for most of the journey. To the extent that even the crew had to be seated. Which is good, because the rocking puts me right off to sleep!

We land slightly head of schedule. In Madrid Air Europa operates out of Terminal 3, which has its own metro station. Public transport in Madrid is quite cheap. Although you need to purchase a supplement for journeys to and from the airport.

LOT Polish Airlines, Business Class – Embraer 195: Warsaw to Zürich

It’s just coming up to 16h by the time I enter the terminal building. The airport is very busy, and there are people everywhere. I make my way to the LOT Business Class lounge, which is one floor up from the public airside area.

I think the place is probably cramped at the best of times, but right now it’s also completely full. It doesn’t look at all inviting. I don’t even bother to look for a place to sit, because I have a much better idea anyway…

So instead I head one floor down again to the foodcourt, which is where I spot just what I’m looking for: a Polish restaurant that also serves Pierogi. It’s basically just a fast food joint. But the Pierogi are just so good, covered in fried onion and served with a healthy dollop of sour cream!

With that out of the way, I make my way to gate 32. There’s a slight delay for boarding. And the flight is completely full, the gate agent says.

There are seven rows of seats ahead of the cabin divider. This aircraft is clearly older than the one I had on my way to Warsaw on Sunday. But it’s still a nice looking cabin and the seat pitch is great.

Again there are no welcome drinks, but the crew hand out chocolate biscuits, followed by Polish and English language newspapers.

The crew on this flight are a lot more pleasant and approachable. The purser is a portly, middle-aged gentlemen and he’s very friendly.

The flight time is announced as one 1 hour and 45 minutes, although in actual fact it later turns out to have been only 91 minutes.

The service in Business Class is slightly different to Premium Economy, in that there is a drinks service ahead of the meal. I just have a glass of sparkling water, which is served with dried slices of veg in a cajun spice mix. Not a good combination…

Next, the tray with the food is served. It looks pretty much like the Premium Economy tray, except of course that the plates are not plastic.

The right dish is quinoa with aubergines, spinach and feta cheese. I think.

The left dish is roast beef with feta and broccoli and bell pepper. It’s good that I had the Pierogi.

With the meal the crew offer bread from a basket. It’s just a minor thing, but I’m quite sure it wouldn’t hurt to warm up the bread in the oven to upgrade it from recently defrosted to at least room temperature.

The flight passes smoothly. The crew have kept the cabin lights dimmed, which makes for a nice, cosy atmosphere on board.

Eventually, we land at 19h56. By 19h15 I’m already on the train on my way home.

And that brings to an end my first experience with LOT. All in all, the four flights I took were not unpleasant. And I think the hardware – things like seat comfort or the meal service – were fine. Bu the crews were a bit of a mixed bag. And as a result, the service delivery lacked consistency. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly LOT. But at least I wouldn’t actively avoid them either.

LOT Polish Airlines, Business Class – Embraer 175: Rzeszow to Warsaw

LOT Polish Airlines Logo. (PRNewsFoto/LOT Polish Airlines)

One of the things I enjoy about my job, is that everywhere I go, people go out of their way to make me feel welcome. And Rzeszow is no exception. But it’s probably still a good thing I’m leaving today, because I seriously could get used to Polish food. As far as I’m concerned, Pierogi Ruski are the epitome of comfort food and deserving of a Nobel prize!

Uber does not have a licence to operate in Rzeszow. Instead, a similar service is provided by Bolt. And to be honest, I think I like their app better than Uber’s, because it’s easier to use.

In any case, the journey from Rzeszow to the airport will take between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on a range of variables, such as traffic or your driver’s maniacal inclinations.

Fortunately, the latter does not appear to be a concern with my driver. And so we make the journey in pleasantly civilised 25 minutes and without putting at risk the lives of the inhabitants of the Subcarpathians.

Apparently, there is also a bus to the airport. But unless you speak Polish, information about the schedule may be hard to come by.

The terminal is a modern building on three levels with a domed ceiling.

Arrivals and departures are both on ground level, with the airside area located on the upper floor. The airlines that operate to Rzeszow – namely LOT, Ryanair and Lufthansa – have their own dedicated counters. Check-in doesn’t open until 90 minutes before departure though. So don’t be too early!

LOT has a dedicated check-in line for Business Class and status card holders. But this is also still closed when I arrive.

There are a few places to eat, both landside and airside. Alas, none of them serve Pierogi. But the potato pancakes with sour cream help to console my disappointment…

Incidentally, there’s a HolidayInn Express just across the road from the airport.

And… there’s even an open air viewing gallery. Now if only there just a bit more traffic!

Security is very pleasant. It’s just me, and for a change the staff seem glad to see me. The airport is so quiet, they must be bored to tears most of the time!

Much to my surprise, there’s even a lounge, which is small but serves its purpose perfectly.

When I enter, there‘s one person in the lounge. He’s obviously on the Munich flight, which has just started boarding, and seems determined to do that I’m-way-too-cool-to-board-first thing. Now if only he would stop pacing up and down checking the gate situation. It kind of spoils the effect.

There’s a large tv screen showing the news. I can’t understand a word of what’s going on, but I still enjoy listening and trying to figure out the Polish language. But the lounge attendant obviously mistakes my baffled expression with dissatisfaction – and promptly switches channels to Michael Bolton live in concert. I’m not fully sure that’s an improvement though…

Eventually, Michael gives his last encore. But my reprieve is only short-lived, because next up is a ‘best of the nineties’ medley featuring Brian Adams and the tedious Lenny Kravitz.

Okay, enough’s enough. Okay? ‘Can you feel the love tonight’ has me wanting to hit someone. I’m leaving. This must be worse than waterboarding…

Boarding starts exactly on time. There is a separate queue for status card holders, but there’s no special announcement.

The flight is operated by an Embraer 175. I’m seated on 1A.

The seats on this aircraft are different to those on my flight to Rzeszow. Or maybe they’re just a different colour.

Eventually we depart five minutes ahead of schedule. The flight time is thirty minutes.

We break through the clouds just in time to witness a glorious sunset.

The service is the same as on the outbound leg. This time I have the waffle and sparkling water.

Eventually, we land at 15:35. Shame though that the ground crew are not expecting us. And so we wait for 15 minutes for the stairs and a bus to arrive to take us to the terminal.

LOT Polish Airlines, Premium Economy – Embraer 195: Zürich to Warsaw

The international phonetic alphabet was introduced specifically to be able to have a written representation of what a word sounds like, irrespective of the rules of orthography that abide in the language.

Which is, of course, a good thing because I’m on my way to Poland this evening to give a course, and the Poles seem to have quite an unhealthy obsession with impossible to pronounce consonant clusters.

I mention this here, because today I’m on my way to Rzeszow. And in case you’re wondering, it should be pronounced something like /ʒɛʃuf/ in the IPA, which sounds similar to ‘jeshoof’...

I was intending to take the 17h07 train from Basel to Zürich. But that service is operated by a German ICE train that originates in Germany. And of course it’s been cancelled…

So instead I’m on the 16:43 service, which stops in Liestal, Sissach, Aarau and Lenzburg on the way. The journey is ten minutes longer than on the nonstop train.

In Zürich I change trains to the 18h05 for the airport. As my luck would have it, second class rolling stock is currently in short supply, apparently, which is why the train consists of plush, comfortable first class carriages operating as second class carriages.

LOT is located in check-in 2 at Zürich airport and uses row 5, which is conveniently located on the mezzanine level, just as you come off the foot bridge connecting the shopping mall to the terminal. AAS is LOT’s handling agent.

By the time I change some Polish money and make my way through security, it’s 18h30. My flight should start boarding at 19h25. The lines for security are very light. And there are just three people ahead of me.

And the two lines open for Business Class passengers are deserted. So I ask one of the employees milling about if I could also use one of those two lines, considering they’re empty. To which she gives me her best disapproving look, or maybe she’s just constipated, and tells me that if I’m in that much of a hurry, I may use one of the empty lines.

This is just about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t know in what parallel universe there is anybody who greatly enjoys queueing for security at airports…

My flight is departing from A86. The departure time comes and goes, but the gate staff are too busy bitching about what a sad airline LOT is to even bother making an announcement.

Eventually, boarding starts about 15 minutes behind schedule.

My first impression of the cabin is very good. I think this aircraft is either new or recently had a new cabin fitted. Seats are in a soft, beige coloured leather and the seat pitch on 3A is excellent.

What I don’t understand though, is that my seat on 3A is in front of the cabin divider, even though I’m travelling on a Premium Economy Class ticket. And the seat next to me is empty, although I don’t know if this is intentional or just that the flight is not entirely full.

By way of a welcome, passengers up front are handed a chocolate biscuit, but no drink.

The flight time is one hour and 35 minutes.

Once the meal service begins, the small differences between Premium Economy and Business Class start to become clear. But they seem fairly minor to me. Rows 1 and 2 have proper linen table cloths, whereas row 3 does not. Furthermore, my meal is served on reusable plastic, and not on proper porcelain.

The meal consists of two dishes. One is a pasta salad, and the other is cold beef with cucumber and a cream cheese.

Bread is offered with the meal. And there is also a small chocolate on the tray.

To drink I have sparkling water, and after the meal some tea. The meal concludes with a chocolate wafer.

All in all, I think the food is rather good and the meal tasty. But the service seems unnecessarily rushed. By the time the crew come through with the second bread service, I haven’t even started on the first piece. They don’t smile much either!

Having said that, once my tray is removed, one of the cabin crew brings me a pillow and blanket, without me even asking for them.

Eventually we land at 21h36, 14 minutes ahead of schedule. My flight to Rzeszów will start boarding at 22h10.

This was my first flight with LOT and to be honest, I’d been expecting much, much worse. But so far so good…