Swiss International Air Lines powered by Helvetic Airways, Economy Class – Embraer 190: Zürich to Luxembourg

Introduction

This is starting to feel a lot like running a marathon. At sone point you have the finish line in sight, far off in the distance. Your legs are burning, you‘re thirsty, you’re tired and you‘re worried your legs will start cramping any time soon. The risk is that then you start to accelerate, just to bring the race to an end. And that‘s of course when you‘re most likely to fail. Because you‘re no longer running at a pace you‘re comfortable with.

The finishing line, in my case, is obviously the moment I step on that plane to Oz. But there‘s still a stretch to go until then and I have to watch out I don‘t start burning up before.

I leave the office at 11h10 and catch the 11h24 train to Zürich airport. I was kind of expecting security to be quite busy, given that it‘s the lunchtime rush hour. But the airport is suprisingly quiet.

The Lounge

My first stop is the SWISS lounge and even here it’s much quieter than it usually is. The lunch buffet in the lunge consist of a limited selection of salads (three) and a main course, which is ‚prepared‘ by a chef. Although I suspect his real job is mostly to ensure that visitors don‘t over indulge and drive up the costs for the lounge… I mean, it‘s not like he does any real cooking.

Boarding

Boarding is from gate A55, which is in the provisorium that became permanent. Sort of. No people here either. I‘m the last to enter the holding pen for the bus. There are about twenty passengers on the flight today. No wonder it was so easy to get the emergency exit on row 13 when I checked in!

The bus pulls up to our aircraft and I hold back to be the last to board. If the plane is empty anyway, then I‘d much rather sit slightly behind the wing so I can watch the control surfaces during the flight.

The Cabin

I settle in the window seat on row seventeen. The rest of the cabin behind me is empty, which is something I don‘t think I‘ve ever experienced in Economy Class! the seat pitch on roway seventeen is not bad at all, and certainly enough for a flight of forty minutes. The head rest, by the way, can be adjusted in height.

The Crew

There are three cabin crew on this flight. As a rule, I find that the Helvetic crews tend to be friendlier than the SWISS ones. And this bunch is no exception. What is perhaps a tad strange though, is that instead of stepping into the cabin to make his welcome aboard announcenent, the purser decides to hide in the galley, which is just weird to watch.

Our initial climb is quite bumpy. The flight time is only forty minutes, so by the time the crew are released, the captain also informs them that we‘ll be landing in twenty minutes.

The Meal

The service consists of a bottle of still or sparkling water and one of those lovely little Swiss chocolates.

Arrival

We land in Luxembourg on time. The weather here is so bad. This is the first time I‘ll be taking the bus line 16 to the office since Luxembourg introduced free public transport within the Grand Duchy on 1 March 2020. I think it‘s a brilliant idea. Although I must say that it does feel kind of strange getting on a bus without a ticket – kind of clandestine.

Conclusion

To conclude, I’m just assuming the visible lack of passengers is the result of the recent outbreak of Covid19 in Europe. But of course that is only an assumption. However, if indeed it is the case, then I think 2020 may turn out to be something of a watershed moment for the global aviation industry. In Hong Kong more than half of Cathay Pacific’s fleet is on the ground as the result of a reduced network and others are not doing much better. If the current situation continues, it seems likely that some airlines may simply end up running out of time and money. A bit like running a marathon.

Luxair, Economy Class – Bombardier Q400: Paris Roissy to Luxembourg

Airline: Luxair
Aircraft: Q400
From: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2G
To: Luxembourg Findel
Departure: 10h30
Arrival:
11h15
Flight time:
45 minutes
Seat:
14F, window

The Air France Lounge

As soon as I enter the terminal building coming off my flight from Basel, I head straight for the Air France lounge to get some breakfast. I don’t quite know what it is about this lounge, but I really like it. Even when it’s quite busy, it still feels very cosy, as though you’re sitting in somebody’s living room. The view of the aircraft approaching the southern runways is also nice.

My flight is scheduled to depart at 09h35, but there’s an initial delay of 35 minutes due to bad weather in Luxembourg. The new departure time is 10h10. The flight is operated by Luxair, with Air France as a code-share partner. As such, you can make use of your SkyPriority privileges, such as lounge access or priority boarding, just as long as the flight has been booked on the Air France flight number.

Boarding

The gate areas of Terminal 2G have the look and feel of a provisorium, as though the building is only there as a temporary installation. The gate area also tends to be quite cold.

The Cabin

The cabin of the Dash 8 is very tight and uncomfortable. There just isn’t really any room for anything much. Usually, on these small aircraft it’s a lot more comfortable once you’re seated.

But sadly, that isn’t the case for the Dash 8. I have to make a mental note to remember not to select a window seat ever again on these planes. Because the rail the seat is mounted on is in a rather awkward and uncomfortable position.

On row 14 I’m sitting pretty much under the wing, so the view of the outside is somewhat limited on the ground.

By the time we push back from the gate, it’s already past 10h10. And although Terminal 2G is located close to the threshold for runway 26R on the south side of the airfield, we’re still guided to runway 27L on the north side of the airfield, which only helps to add to our delay.

The Snack

In Economy Class the service consists of a small chocolate muffin that is served in a paper bag with a napkin. In addition, the crew pass through the cabin with the drinks trolley, which has a very limited selection. I mean, they don’t even have sparkling water.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew working the cabin this morning. And both of them are quite dreadful. It’s not that they’re rude or anything of the sort. They just come across as being somewhat lacking in interest for their job.

Arrival

Very soon we start our descent. The crew inform us that we’ll be doing an automatic landing due to the low visibility conditions at Luxembourg airport, and therefore we are all required to fully turn off our mobiles.

The landing is smooth enough, and indeed, the runway only comes into view a short moment before we touch down. Judging by the splash we’re making as we taxi in, it must have been raining fairly recently.

Conclusion

Luxair is a somewhat boring, nondescript little airline. There really isn’t anything remarkable about them, which is okay I guess, seeing as you’re only every going to be likely to really have to fly them if you’re intending to visit Luxembourg.

SWISS, Business Class – Airbus A 220-300: Luxembourg to Zürich

Getting to the Airport

It’s Friday evening and I’m finally on my way home. The flying Dutchman drops me off at Luxembourg airport on his way back to Holland. The journey from Kirchberg, where the offices are, to the airport is only about 15 minutes by car or by bus.

Check-in

The Star Alliance carriers operating out of Luxembourg check in on row 16 for Economy Class and row 17 for First and Business Class passengers.

The Lounge

The lounge in Luxembourg is quite nice, and has a nice selection of snacks and drinks. Especially their cakes are lovely! The views of the apron are pretty good. Throughout the terminal, wifi is available either through the airport’s network or through Eduroam.

I always feel slightly out of place in this lounge. Because while all the bankers are milling about in their sharp suits, I’m just lounging in my sneakers and jeans…

The inbound appear to have left Zürich with quite a delay, and is now not expected to land until 18:30, which is the boarding time for the return flight from Luxembourg to Zürich.

Boarding

Despite the arrival delay, boarding for my flight start with only a minor delay of about ten minutes. It’s a lovely late summer evening outside.

The Cabin

I’m seated on 3A. There are four rows of Business Class, for a total of twelve seats. Although only seven are occupied this evening.

I really like the cabin of the A220. It feels very spacious and airy. And the seat pitch up front is excellent.

I’m the last passenger to board. I take my seat and one of the flight attendants brings me a bottle of still water and a wet towel.

By the time we taxi out for departure, it’s 19h15. The flight time is 35 minutes, which means we’ll still be arriving on time.

The Crew

The crew on this flight really is excellent. The Business Class cabin is served by the purser, a friendly German young man with really excellent manners. He takes his time with every passenger and explains what’s in the three ramekins that are served on this flight.

The Meal

The first ramekin contains what is, apparently, Egyptian tartar. It’s vegetarian and I think it’s probably something similar to muhammara. It tastes similar too. Then there is a chicken curry. And the dessert is a mocca cream served on a bed of glazed mandarins.

Arrival

Meanwhile, the view outside with the setting sun is just so beautiful and very atmospheric. It’s quickly getting dark as we start our descent into Zürich.

Eventually we land just after eight in the evening, with just a few minutes delay. A big, orange full moon is slowly rising on the horizon and I’m just happy to be home again.

Conclusion

Sometimes things just line up. Even though it was only very short, I greatly enjoyed the flight this evening. The lovely weather, the quiet and spacious cabin, the tasty food and the brilliant service made for an utterly pleasant travel experience with SWISS.

My next trip to Luxembourg will be in October. In future I will probably be using the plane less and less on this route, now that the SNCF have introduced two daily TGV trains from Mulhouse to Luxembourg. The introduction of these two services mean that I can make the journey, door to door, in under four hours even with changing trains in Mulhouse.

Luxair, Economy Class – Dash 8-400: Paris to Luxembourg

Transfer in Paris Roissy

My flight from Zagreb arrives at terminal 2E, which is used for non-Schengen flights. My flight to Luxembourg will be departing from terminal 2G, which is reserved for regional aircraft ops.

The security check is done in terminal 2E. From there, the way to the shuttle bus to 2G is clearly signposted.

The airport is fairly quiet, and in total there are only four of us making the trip to 2G. Sitting up front we have an elderly American lady with her daughter, who’s obviously decided now would be a good moment to have a hissy fit because her mum left her handbag with her to go to the loo…

Boarding

My timing couldn’t be better. In 2G I first have to go through passport control to enter Schengen. From there I head to my departure gate at G27, where boarding has just started. One hour connecting time between 2E and 2G is perfectly fine, but there’s probably not going to be any time left to raid the duty free shop.

The Cabin

Being such a little aircraft, there’s a baggage cart parked by the stairs of the plane and passengers with larger items have to place them there for them to be loaded into the hold. These items are retrieved directly at the aircraft upon arrival in Luxebourg.

The cabin of the Dash 8 really is tight. Although at least, the Luxair aircraft are configured in a much more comfortable configuration with greater pitch and a seat with better cushioning than on Croatia Airlines.

Sadly, the window seat is of no use, because it’s already dark outside and the guy next to me has his reading light on.

The Snack

The flight time is forty minutes. The service in Economy consists of a small paper bag containing a bottle of still water and a packet of Happy Snacks savoury crackers. The service is delivered by the crew without any attempt at being polite or civil or at least pretending to give a rat’s bum.

Arrival

We land just slightly behind schedule. Seeing as I only have hand luggage, I’m out through customs quickly and then head one floor up to catch the bus line 16 to Luxexpo. I try paying the EUR2.- for my ticket, but one machine is inop and the other just won’t take my money…

Conclusion

I have to say, I’m quite impressed by how painless and easy the transfer in Paris works. It seems to me that Charles de Gaulle is better than its reputation. Ai France were also great. The crew were attentive and the food choices were very good. As for Luxair, this is another one that nobody is likely to really miss should one day disappear.

Luxair, Business Class – Bombardier Q400: Luxembourg to Paris CDG

Introduction

The Ibis at Luxembourg airport is currently in the process of being refurbished. And I think that’s probably a good thing. The room I’m in is nice enough, but the public areas are starting to look grubby. The carpets should probably be declared a bio hazard, and the smell of boiled cabbage is ‘interesting’…

The hotel’s redeeming feature though, is that it’s very close to the airport terminal, within walking distance.

Getting to the Airport

On foot, the airport is only about ten minutes away from the hotel. However, there’s also a shuttle that runs every thirty minutes and is available for guests. The service is complimentary, but advance reservations are mandatory. The drive takes about four minutes.

Check-in

I’m booked on the Air France flight from Luxembourg to Paris-Roissy, which is in fact a code-share operated by Luxair. There are two counters open for Business Class passengers and there is no queue when I arrive, given that it is, after all, the weekend.

The Lounge

From check-in I head straight for the security check. There is a checkpoint at either side of the terminal facility, and trying to figure out which one is currently in use is not always that clear when you’re standing in front of the check-in counters. Which means that it’s not uncommon at Luxembourg airport to see disoriented passengers moving back and forth between the two, with the look lemmings get when they’re trying to figure out if they’re really in the mood to go jumping off a cliff with their pals…

But anyway, the lounge is very quiet. All the bankers that normally populate the lounge have gone home to count their millions. I grab myself a coffee and a bottle of water, in the hope they will turn me into a functioning human being again.

Boarding

The flight is departing from gate B08, which is in the new part of the facility and specially designed to handle small regional aircraft. As in, regional aircraft that do not use a contact stand and thus require passengers to walk across the apron and, as a pleasant side-effect, give me cause to geek out on my obsession with airplanes.

I’m seated on 1A, so I figure I might as well wait until the very end to board, so as not to be in the way. The Dash 8 is a small aircraft. Besides, I have a back injury, so my movements are a bit slow right now. And every moment I do not have to stand in a queue is bliss right now!

The Cabin

There is literally half a row of a Business Class cabin on this aircraft. Because on row 1 there are only the A and C seats on the port side. And as it happens, I’m the only Business Class passenger on today’s flight. The seat is comfortable and nicely padded. It’s very pleasant on the bum and also on my damaged back.

Leg space is also good on the bulkhead row and the seat next to me is kept empty.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew on the flight today, one male and one female. Both of them are perhaps not the world’s most extrovert individuals, but their service is attentive, friendly and polite.

There is a trolley set up by the entry door of the aircraft, where passengers can pick up a magazine or newspaper before taking their seat. The selection is rather good. I go for Time magazine, mainly because their cover catches my interest.

Other than that though, there is no service at all on the ground. The flight time is indicated as 45 minutes.

The Meal

As soon as the crew are released after take-off, the male cabin attendant asks me what I’d like to drink with breakfast. He subsequently brings me a glass of orange juice, served in a real glass, and a cup of coffee with milk and sugar. The coffee is good, but I wonder if they really couldn’t have splurged on a proper cup instead of the cardboard one.

They put down a paper table cloth for the meal. Agreed, it won’t make the meal larger or better, but it’s still a nice touch.

The meal arrived in a cardboard box. It contains:

  1. a salami sandwich
  2. an yoghurt
  3. an apple pasty
  4. and a packaged refreshing towel

Transfer in Paris Roissy

Eventually, we land in Paris more or less on time. Luxair uses terminal 2G, which is exclusively for small regional aircraft. It’s also very far out in the sticks. The only way to access any of the other terminals from here is by bus. Depending on which terminal your onward connection is departing from, there is an airside or a landside transfer.

I shall be departing from the M concourse, which is basically the non-Schengen satellite of Terminal 2E. Transfer to 2E is airside, which means that I will not have to undergo security screening again here in Paris. On the downside, emigration is done in 2G and the queues are very long.

SWISS, Business Class – Airbus A 220-300: Zürich to Luxembourg

Introduction

It’s Monday morning and I’m on my way back to the airport in Zürich. Today I’m travelling to Luxembourg again to give another course. With me is my boss, an aerodynamicist by trade, and he looks just a wee bit upset. You see, the reason we get on with each other is that we’re both fascinated – so as not to call it obsessed – with airplanes. So there’s always something to talk about. He’d been hoping for a chance to sample the A 220-300. But there’s been an aircraft change apparently…

Check-in

But first things first. I arrive at the airport at around 07h20. My first stop is the SWISS Business Class check-in counters to dump my suitcase. From there I head across to the other side of Check-in area 3 to the counters of the Swiss federal railways. I’m inquiring about purchasing a ticket from Luxembourg to Brussels, where I’ll be heading to later on this week for yet another course. Only, the very friendly lady at the counter informs me that she can only sell me a ticket from Luxembourg to the border and then another ticket from the border to Brussels. But the system won’t tell her what the border town is at which I’ll need to swap tickets. So no sale.

Allow me to rant: in Europe distances between the major cities are often not that great. As such, in some cases the train would be a viable alternative to the airplane. But if even buying a ticket is so complicated and cumbersome, it’s hardly surprising that trains have still not succeeded in competing against the airlines – even on short routes.

Airside

By the time I’m through security, it’s gone eight in the morning. My flight will start boarding in less than thirty minutes. So I get myself a cinnamon roll and a cappuccino from the Marché café at the beginning of the A concourse and then head for gate A 86, from where the flight to Luxembourg will be leaving and where I’ll be meeting my boss.

Meanwhile, outside it’s a dark and dreary morning with low visibility. And it’s started snowing as well. Which looks really pretty to be honest, but doesn’t bode well for an on time departure.

Boarding

Since I booked this trip, there have been three aircraft changes. Originally, the flight should have been operated by an Airbus A 220-300. Then it was changed to an Airbus A 220-100. Then when I checked in on the app on Sunday evening it had changed to an Airbus A 320 and then by the time boarding eventually started, it had reverted back to an Airbus A 220-300 – much to the delight of my boss. One of the things I’ve noticed about the morning Luxembourg flight is that it is quite prone to aircraft changes. I suspect the main reason being that the flight is so short that the schedule to Luxembourg is not really integrated into SWISS’ hub schedule but rather the flight times are dictated by the availability of an aircraft.

Boarding finishes at around 09h05. The doors close and the captain welcomes us aboard. He also informs us that due to the weather situation, we’re going to have to de-ice first and there’s a queue of at least ten minutes for de-icing. So we’re not scheduled to depart before 09h45, forty minutes behind schedule.

The Cabin

This time I’m sitting on 3A, the window seat on the row of two, which is perfect because it means I can store my luggage under the seat in front and have more than enough space to spread out. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed just how spacious and airy the cabin of the A 220 is, despite the fact that the aircraft isn’t all that big.

The Crew

The Swiss solution to any problem is chocolate. And so, no sooner has the captain announced our departure delay, the crew pass through the cabin offering those small bars of chocolate that are a cornerstone of the SWISS on board experience. And it really works. The chocolate won’t make the weather any better and it won’t reduce the delay either, but it releases endorphins in the brains so that at least you give a bit less of a rat’s bum about the delay because you’re busy happily clogging up your arteries with sumptuous goodness.

The Meal

The menu is still the same as it was three weeks ago, only this time I think they overdid it slightly with the smoked salmon in the brioche. The two ramekins are Bircher Müsli and a fruit salad. The coffee is still served in cardboard cups but is not so vile.

Arrival

Eventually we land in Luxembourg after a flight time of forty minutes, twenty minutes behind schedule. The weather here is slightly better, but also colder than in Zürich.

We collect our suitcase and then head upstairs to catch the bus line 16 to the office.

Helvetic Airways, Business Class – Embraer 190: Luxembourg to Zürich

Getting to the Airport

It’s only just gone 13h on Friday afternoon, and the flying Dutchman P. has kindly offered to drive me to the airport. I suspect he probably just took pity on me, after I’d been nagging the whole week about how cold it was in Luxembourg…

The journey by car from Kirchberg to the airport takes about fifteen minutes in moderately busy traffic.

Check-in

At Luxembourg airport, Lufthansa and SWISS check-in on rows 15 to 17. There are also self-service machines available. I’ve checked in on the app.

Before the security checkpoint in Luxembourg, Luxair ground staff check to make sure that passengers’ hand luggage is within the permissible dimensions and weight. And they’re quite strict about it.

The Lounge

The lounge is still quiet. It tends to get a lot busier after 17h. So I grab myself a seat with a good view of the runway. And then I while away my time reading and watching the landing and departing aircraft.

The lounge in Luxembourg is nice. However, in order to accommodate all the passengers that use the facility, seating in the lounge is rather tight.

There are no showers in the lounge and as far as catering is concerned, only cold snacks are available. Although they do have some tasty cakes on offer too…

Boarding

The flight is delayed arriving from Zürich. No reason is given for the delay by the gate attendants nor later on by the crew. In any case, as a result, boarding starts about fifteen minutes behind schedule.

Once boarding is completed, the captain comes on to inform us that there will be a further delay of ten minutes because we’re going to have to de-ice on stand first. Eventually, we depart with a delay of thirty minutes.

The Cabin

This aircraft has a cabin divider to separate the Business Class cabin from Economy. But this is not always the case with Helvetic Airways. I’m not sure what the logic here is. I suspect that perhaps those aircraft assigned to SWISS are equipped with a cabin divider, whereas those operating for Helvetic Airways are not.

Pitch is good good enough on the first row, and definitely much better than the rows behind.

There are two rows of Business Class and three of the four available seats are occupied.

The Crew

There are three cabin crew on this flight and the maître de serving the Business Class cabin is an absolute delight. She’s still quite young and seems a bit reserved or formal. But her manners are flawless. Every time she addresses one of the passengers, she uses their family name. And later during the short flight, when she comes to clear the tray tables, she makes a point of asking each passenger individually if they enjoyed the meal.

As usual, a small bottle of still water and a packaged refreshing towel are handed out once boarding is completed.

Once de-icing is done, we push back from the gate. The flight time to Zürich is expected to be 45 minutes. But somewhere along the line we receive a shortcut or something, because eventually we land in Zürich after a flight time of only 39 minutes.

The Meal

The meal is more of a snack really, and consists of the usual three ramekins. Today we have salmon tartar, a cheese mousse with beetroot and apple crumble.

The salmon tartar and the crumble are good, but the cheese mousse thing is horrible and has a rather unappealing texture.

Arrival

As we approach Switzerland, the weather starts to improve. At some point during our steep descent, the aircraft banks left to fly in an easterly track. As we come out of the bank, the Alps come in to view. They’re all covered in snow and look so majestic, towering above the clouds.

We land at 16h09 and make our way to one of the open stands alongside runway 28. Fortunately, SWISS has remembered to send out the dedicated Business Class bus to pick us up (which isn’t always the case…). And with only three passengers we’re quickly off towards the terminal.

Saturday I’ll have the day off. But then on Sunday I’m on the move again.

SWISS, Business Class – Airbus A 220-300: Zürich to Luxembourg

Introduction

It’s Monday morning. The holiday is over and I’m back to work. Today marks the first in a number of business trips that will see me travelling more or less nonstop until March. Still, never mind. If I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can still hear the waves breaking on Manly Beach…

Getting to the Airport

I take the 06h07 train from Basel, which is an ICE – my favourite. At Zürich main station I change to the 07h05, which ejects me at Zürich airport just fifteen minutes later.

Check-in

I’ve checked in using the SWISS app as usual. The boarding pass still won’t show up on my locked screen and I suspect that’s not about to change any time soon. The check-in area and security are surprisingly quiet. The flight to Luxembourg leaves at 09h05, so maybe I just managed to miss the morning rush.

The SWISS Business Class Lounge

I’m in dire need of a coffee, which is why I head straight for the SWISS lounge to re-caffeinate. I try using the e-gate to enter the lounge, but the display is showing an error message. So I approach the desk and explain my predicament to the lounge dragon. She smiles and explains in a mocking tone that it’s not working because everything at SWISS is of such superior quality… I get that she was probably going for some comic relief with her apology, but I still find it somewhat alienating that she would take the piss at the company she represents to do so.

Other than that, I don’t know what it is about this lounge, but for some reason I really don’t feel comfortable here. The place just feels a bit sterile. Other than that, there’s hardly any space left to sit, unless you feel like making a new acquaintance and sitting at a table with strangers.

So I quickly down my coffee and head for the gate, which at least has the much better views.

Boarding

Boarding starts with an initial call for the premium passengers to board through the manned exit on the left. Once that’s done, the remaining passengers are invited to board using one of the electronic gates.

The Cabin

I’d really like to know just how much time and money SWISS invests in all the aircraft changes it does. Since I booked this flight, the aircraft type operating the flight has changed at least five times, but it now looks as though an Airbus A 220-300 will be deployed.

The cabin is in pristine condition. The two benefits for the passenger when flying with the A 220 are the large windows on the one hand, and the fact that the seating configuration is 2 + 3.

I’m seated on 1A, a window seat. The aisle seat on 1C is kept empty in Business Class.

The Crew

I’m assuming there are three cabin crew on the flight today. The Business Class cabin is served by the maître de, a young man who is probably German, at least that’s my guess based on his accent. The crew seem friendly enough, although clearly the young man is probably more interested in flirting with one of the female flight attendants than in attending to the passengers.

When I arrive at my seat, a small bottle of still water as well as a pre-packed wet towel have already been placed at my seat.

We push back on time. The flight time to Luxembourg is announced as 45 minutes.

The Meal

The meal consists of the usual three items: a brioche with salmon, which is always good, a small ramekin of Bircher Müsli and another ramekin with fresh fruit.

I like the presentation of the meal, which is simple and yet elegant. The quality of the food is also good.

To drink I request a coffee, which is served in a cardboard cup and tastes just vile. The highlight of the meal, of course, is the small chocolate bar.

Arrival

By the time we reach Luxembourg, the weather has improved significantly. It’s a lovely day up here. We land at 09h55. One of the nice things about flying SWISS to Luxembourg is that SWISS always insists on having a contact stand, which mean you can avoid the tedious bus shuttle from the aircraft to the terminal building. Generally speaking, I don’t mind taking a bus, because at least that allows you to take photos of your aircraft as you disembark. But here in Luxembourg, they don’t actually have proper airport busses and instead use what appear to be decommissioned public transport busses, which are usually too small for all the passengers disembarking from a plane.

Once I’m landside again, I catch the bus 16 which takes me directly to my office in Kirchberg.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Bombardier CS100: Luxembourg to Zürich

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Introduction

It’s Friday afternoon, so it’s time for me to pack my bags and make my way back to Switzerland. The flying Dutchman has kindly offered to drop me off at the airport before returning to the office to do a Sim session.

I think I’ve already written more than enough about Luxembourg airport, so I guess we might as well skip ahead to the actual flight, without bothering with the preliminaries of getting to the airport, checking in, etc.

Boarding

The flight is scheduled to depart at 14h55, with boarding expected to commence at 14h30. Clearly, that’s not likely to happen today, given that the aircraft only touches down in Luxembourg until after 14h30. The monitors are showing a minor delay of ten minutes, with an expected time of departure at 15h05.

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Apparently, there’s a bit of a confusion about a VIP passenger, who is first allowed to board the aircraft but later on asked to step off the plane and wait with everybody else…

Boarding starts just after 15h00, so it looks like the 15h05 departure isn’t going happen either. Eventually we take-off at 15h32, forty minutes behind schedule.

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The Cabin

I really must say, I like the cabin of the CSeries. It feels so roomy. Having said that, I was recently browsing on the SWISS website and saw that on some days the CSeries is deployed even as far afield as Cairo. No matter how nice the CSeries is, I think a four-hour sector to Cairo is definitely pushing it in terms of passenger comfort…

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The Luxembourg route is highly susceptible to last minute aircraft changes. When I made the booking, the outbound should have been a CSeries 300 and the return should have been operated by a Helvetic Airways Embraer 190. As it turned out though, the CSeries on the outbound was substituted by an Embraer, while the Embraer on this afternoon’s flight has been replaced by a CSeries 100. I mention this because the configuration on the Embraer is 2 + 2. So it makes no difference which side of the vessel you’re seated on, because in Business Class the seat next to you always remains empty. But on the CSeries, the configuration is 2 + 3. Which means that if you’re on the starboard side, you will still possibly have to climb over the person on the aisle to get out.

Luckily enough for me though, today the aisle seat on my row stays empty.

The Crew

The cabin crew consists of three flight attendants, two young ladies and one young man, who is also the maître de. One of the females is exclusively working the Economy Class cabin, so I only catch a glimpse of her. The maître de is working the Business Class cabin and is occasionally assisted by the third crew member. Which is a good thing because she’s obviously having a bad day. Poor boo…! Apparently she’s made a vow of silence too, because she refuses to speak. And that’s just all sorts of awkward when you have a job that involves interacting with other human beings…

But the young man is excellent! He has very good manners and obviously goes to great lengths to make all the passengers feel comfortable.

Once the doors are closed, the crew distribute pre-packaged, scented towels and small bottles of still water. I think this is a nice touch and something that SWISS does on every flight, unlike KLM, who will only distribute water in case of a delay, so soften the blow so to speak…

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The Meal

The meal consists of the usual three ramekins. The first one is filled with a red cabbage salad on cream cheese, the second is pieces of duck on a barley salad and the third is the dessert – a milk chocolate and white chocolate mousse.

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With the meal I ask for some coffee, which is served from a cardboard cup and which doesn’t seem very premium to me…

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The flight time to Zürich is thirty minutes and the cockpit crew are obviously making the effort to make up for some of the delay.

Just before the landing, the crew distribute the chocolates. The usual small, red bars of goodness have been replaced with little round chocolates wrapped up like a football to mark the occasion of the world cup. And then there’s a bit of an awkward moment when the maître de makes an announcement that ‘…in preparation for lading, please consult the safety on board cards and take a moment to located the nearest emergency exit in the likely event of an evacuation…’. But I think it goes to show just how little the travelling public gives a shit about the on board announcements, because nobody turns a hair, leaving the young man clearly confused about what he actually intended to say and what eventually came out…!

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Eventually we land and taxi to one of the remote stands near the old SR Technics hangar. This time there’s a small minibus waiting to pick up all the Business Class passengers. I say ‘this time’ because the Business Class shuttle tends to be a bit unreliable…

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Luxair, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Luxembourg to Lisbon

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Introduction

I’m on my way to Lisbon for a meeting in the afternoon. Fortunately, the fairly large expat community of Portuguese in Luxembourg means that there are numerous flights between Luxembourg’s Findel airport and beautiful Lisbon.

Getting to the Airport

To get to the airport from the Novotel, I first catch a tram from ‘Europa Parlament’ towards ‘Luxexpo’, which is currently the tram’s terminus, until they eventually extend the line to the airport. At Luxexpo I transfer to the bus line 16, which runs from there to the airport, which is its last stop. The journey takes about forty minutes to complete.

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Check-in

Check-in for the flight opens 24 hours before departure. I don’t know if there is a Luxair app but you can definitely check-in online and save the boarding pass to your wallet, if you’re using an iPhone.

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There are self-service machines and check-in counters at the airport. To be honest though, I’m not entirely sure what the procedure is here in Luxembourg with the check-in desks, because some flights appear to have their own designated counters, while others don’t. I don’t think it should make a difference though, seeing as Luxair is the only handling agent at the airport.

Airside

Luxembourg is nice little airport that is quickly reaching capacity, even though they only recently reopened the old B pier.  The really cool thing about the airport though, is that once you’re airside, you have some really good views of the apron and the runway beyond.

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Boarding

Boarding starts slightly behind schedule from gate A 20 in the Schengen part of the terminal. Gate A 20 is a bus gate, which of course has me doing a little happy dance right there in front of the gate because it means me taking pictures of my aircraft from up close.

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The Cabin

I wonder if perhaps this is the first flight this aircraft will be doing today, because the cabin is stifling and very warm. The APU isn’t running and, because we’re on a remote stand, there’s no means of hooking us up to an external cooling system. Other than that though, I think the Luxair cabin on the Boeing B 737 looks quite nice. The seats are in light blue leather, while the headrests are white. The sides of the headrest can be folded up for extra comfort.

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On the downside, seat pitch on Luxair’s B 737s is among the worst I’ve ever experienced. The aircraft are mainly deployed on typical charter routes, where the main objective is quantity and not quality. Which is why today I’ve decided to splurge on a seat on the emergency exit on row 12.

The advanced seat reservation for 12A cost me EUR25 and was made online at the time of booking. I know EUR25 may seem like a lot, but given the prospect of spending two hours and half with my knees stuck under my chin, I think it’s money well invested.

Unfortunately though, despite the fact that I’m on the window seat, I only have a limited view of the outside, because the outer glass is severely scratched.

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Luxair does not have a cabin divider between Economy and Business Class, by the way.

The Crew

The crew on this flight consists of three cabin crew, all of which are fluent in Letzebuergesch, French, English and of course Portuguese. The two younger cabin crew seem friendly enough but a bit reserved. The maître de however, is a really friendly guy and interacts well with the passengers, especially the fairly large number of elderly Portuguese travellers.

The Meal

Once we’re airborne, I immediately nod off… Luckily, I wake up just as the service trolley reaches the row in front of me, making me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge when he wakes up on Christmas morning to find that he hasn’t missed anything because the ghosts of Christmas passed, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come have taught him a lesson all within the scope of one night. Oh, you know what I mean (the tall, blond M. will probably have a field day with this…).

And much to my surprise, the meal isn’t half bad either. There is a complimentary full bar trolley service that even includes a Luxemburgish sparkling wine. To eat there is a choice between a chicken or a cheese sandwich. The sandwiches are a good size and look and taste as though they were freshly made. I choose the cheese sandwich.

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Unlike the pre-packaged rubbish you get on most European airlines that still offer a complimentary meal service, which usually ends up tasting like the plastic and cardboard it was packaged in, this sandwich is in fact very tasty. The bread is multigrain and inside the sandwich there’s not only the cheese but also a bread spread, cucumbers and a bit of salad.

To drink I have a Coke Zero and a coffee.

The service is well paced. The crew are unrushed but still don’t leave us waiting too long before passing through the cabin to remove the trash.

Arrival

After the meal I sit back with the intention of reading in my Kindle. But instead, I end up going off to sleep again. What’s going on here…? By the time I wake up again, we’ve already started our initial descent and the crew are coming through the cabin with these small baskets filled with toffees and other sweets to help alleviate the pressure in the ears as we descend. I don’t quite know why, but I find there something nicely old-fashioned about this.

From what I can tell through the scratched window, the approach into Lisbon is gorgeous and takes us right over the city and then out to sea, before eventually coming around and turning on to the final approach. The landing however, is perhaps not so gorgeous… we actually bounce three times before eventually settling on the runway!

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Here in Lisbon we’ll be using a remote stand, which is hardly surprising given that the terminal building is literally bursting at the seams and has only very few contact stands. As we taxi in, we pass an Airbus A 330NEO in the colours of TAP Air Portugal but still in its French registration. And then eventually, we make a last right turn and come to a stop right next to an Airbus A 321NEO of Azores Airlines.

Conclusion

I’m always in two minds about Luxair. Their home market is highly affluent but also tragically small. As such, I think the airline does a good job in striking the right balance between offering a reliable air service from its hub in Luxembourg to the major business centres in Europe on the one hand, while at the same time also serving the leisure traffic market. Even so, one cannot help but wonder what the point is of small countries like Luxembourg trying to maintain their own airline.