We’re in week five of the new year, and so far I have spent a grand total of seven days at home. Not seven consecutive days though, I might add. Another two weeks and then the semester starts. And then I’m done travelling for a while.
Getting from Berne to Zürich Airport
This year, the Swiss Federation is celebrating 175 years since the constitution of 1848 was ratified. To mark the occasion, the Bundeshaus is offering special guided tours to the public – which is why I’m in Berne today.
The tour ends just after 14:30, which gives me enough time to grab a cake and coffee from Loeb before heading across the square to collect my luggage and catch the 15:31 train to the airport. The journey takes eighty minutes, with the train stopping at Zürich Main Station and Oerlikon on the way.
Once again I am absolutely amazed by just how incredibly ugly the railway station in Berne is. Think brutalist meets dead boring and painfully bland.
The service to the airport today is operated by a Dosto composition. That’s right, it’s the train I mentioned previously that shakes about violently enough to cause disorientation, blurred vision and possibly also concussion.
But at least the First Class carriages are quite nice – and empty.
Speaking of empty, Zürich airport isn’t exactly jumping this afternoon either. Most of the people landside seem to be shoppers, not passengers. Check-in 1, where SWISS checks in, is pretty much deserted.
There is one counter for First and Senator passengers, which is where I head to drop off my suitcase. Something seems to have changed on the Wallet app, because I can open my boarding pass, but I can’t seem to save it.
SWISS Senator Lounge Zürich Airport
There is a Senator lounge in the Schengen area, and another on the non-Schengen D concourse. When I inquire with the check-in agent though, she tells me she’s not sure if the lounge on the D concourse is even open and suggests therefore, that I use the Schengen lounge instead.
Just like the rest of the airport, the lounge is quiet. The mute noise and the high ceiling make it feel a bit like being in a church.
There is a hot and cold buffet in the lounge, with a small but nice selection of dishes.
I go for the Älpermagrone, a Swiss dish of pasta with a cheesy sauce, apple compote and fried onions.
At 18:00 I leave the lounge to make my way to gate D 52. I still need to go through passport control. Although I needn’t have worried, because there’s hardly anybody around here either. This is now becoming just a wee bit eerie.
D 52 is a bus gate. I just miss the first bus when I arrive, but it doesn’t look as though the flight is packed. Before boarding there is a document check for all passengers.
Our aircraft is parked on a remote stand. Really the remotest of remote stands at the far end of runway 16, near the old Swissair hangar. On our way, we pass a long line up of Swiss, Edelweiss and Helvetic aircraft that don’t look as though they’ll be heading off somewhere anytime soon.
There are four rows of Business Class on this aircraft. I’m the only passenger in the forward cabin this evening, which means that I can take my pick from any one of the eight available seats. I park myself on 1F, just in case they bring us in for an approach from the East in Heathrow, which would take us right over the Westend.
Seat pitch on row 1 is okay. However, it quickly diminishes towards the back of the bus, and Helvetic really know how to pack them in.
The Crew & Service
There are three crew on the flight this evening. They’re very young and also very good. I’m quite impressed actually. Straight off the bat they address me with my family name in every interaction they have with me. They are friendly and polite.
The service on the ground begins with a small bottle of still water and a scented disinfectant towel. Just before we reach the threshold for runway 28, one of the crew asks me if I’ll be having dinner and takes my order for drinks after take-off. The flight time is eighty minutes.
The meal consists of a plate of smoked duck with wedges of parsnip, celery and potato mash and red cabbage. I don’t try the meat, but the vegetables all taste very good – especially the mash.
During the meal, the crew make two rounds with the breadbasket. I have one roll with the cheese and a packet of Darvida biscuits with butter. To drink I have a Coke Zero.
Throughout the meal, the crew keep close tabs on me – checking regularly to inquire if they can get me anything. Once I’m done with the food, the tray is quickly removed and I am brought a mug of mint tea. And then shortly after that, the crew hand out the chocolates and we start our descent.
Cool. The approach does indeed bring us in over London. We break through the cloud abeam London City airport and then continue past the Shard, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace towards Heathrow.
There’s a bit of a hold up for the luggage to be delivered. But other than that, the arrival in Heathrow is fairly smooth.
Getting to the Hotel
Tomorrow, I’ll be departing from Terminal 4. That’s why I decide to spend the night at one of the hotels near T4. Getting there from Terminal 2, where my flight from Zürich arrives, takes a while. First, because you walk quite a bit and have to go up and down many flights of stairs. And second, because trains from the central Heathrow railway station to Terminal 4 are infrequent and only run every thirty minutes in the evening.
The trip between terminals is complimentary. However, you’ll still need a ticket to get through the barriers to reach the platform. There is a dedicated vending machine that prints tickets to that end. They’re really hard to miss.
The journey time is about five minutes.