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

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.

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 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Geneva to Zürich

Airline: SWISS
Aircraft:
Airbus A 320
From:
Genève
To:
Zürich
Departure: 16h00
Arrival:
16h30
Flight time: 30 minutes
Seat: 1A

Transfer in Geneva

Man, what a rathole! I disembark from my flight from Paris at 14h40. Boarding for next my flight should start in ten minutes. But apparently, connecting from the French sector to the Schengen area is not really foreseen in Geneva. And so I end up going up and down a whole set of ugly and narrow corridors, at the end of which I am ejected in front of a security check point. Okay, fine…

The airport is very busy and crowded. There are people sitting on the floor everywhere. The SWISS lounge is one floor up from the gate area. Turn left and right a few tines and eventually you should get there…

The Lounge

If my First Class departure from Zürich were on the same day, I’d be entitled to use the First and Hon lounge in Geneva, but because my departure is still more than two weeks away, it’s the regular Business Class lounge. And it’s quite nice. It’s a descent size and rather empty this afternoon. I don‘t take any pictures though. I’m not there long enough!

The flight is delayed by twenty minutes because of the dog incident earlier on. boarding will be grom gate A02.

Boarding…

… is a complete mess. There are grumpy passengers pushing and shoving everywhere. At some point, a Portuguese speaking mother boards with her baby in a pram and what looks like the combined baggage allowance of about twenty passengers. Oh yes, and she‘s also decided that standing in the middle of the aisle is a brilliant place to make a phone call. Eventually the passenger behind her explains that she has a tight connection in Zürich, so it would be really good for the mother to get out of the way to let the other passengers board quickly.

So the mother quickly dumps her stuff in five overhead bins and then vanishes behind the curtain to find her seat in Economy Class.

Of course this isn‘t any of SWISS‘ fault. There are annoying passengers on every airline. But do also think it might have helped if the crew had been in the cabin to help the poor woman, instead of hiding in the forward galley and doing a bloody good impersonation of somebody who both blind and deaf.

Service

Which brings me, of course, to the crew on this flight. Upon entering the aircraft, there is one male crew standing in the galley. He has one job, to say hello and welcome to passengers as they step aboard, but apparently even that is too much to ask.

Instead, he just stands there in his waistcoat, which is really not doing anything to hide just how badly and tight uniform is. He hasn‘t bothered to close the top button of his shirt either and looks, in short, like a complete and utter slob.

And just to make sure there‘s as little interaction as possible, the usual refreshing towel and bottle of water have been placed on the seats before boarding.

The Meal

The meal service consists of one of the sandwiches they usually serve in Economy on international flights. The slob shoves the tray under my nose, without as much as asking if I‘d like to eat anything. I ask him what‘s in the sandwich, but he just shrugs and continues to ignore me. Turns out it‘s mozzarella with mushrooms and hits the spot nicely.

Behind him the purser quickly hands out chocolates, again without saying a word. Oh yes, and there is no drinks service. Apparently, the welcome drink was it.

Arrival

Luckily it‘s not a long flight and we land in Zürich at 16h30 after a short flight of 30 minutes.

The difference between Air France and SWISS on these two flights was like night and day. The Air France staff on the ground and in the air were so friendly and nicely turned out. The interaction with them was just brilliant and really left a good impression.

The SWISS crews, on the other hand, were really not good. They have zero motivation they look as though they’re really unhappy to be there and resent you for actually making them work. I’m aware of that fact that a short hop of thirty minutes hardly gives any airline an opportunity to shine and interact with the customer. But even so, I have to say that on this flight it really felt like they were intentionally not making the effort to interact.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 220-300: Zürich to Prague

Airline: SWISS
Aircraft: Airbus A 220-300
From: Zürich Airport
To: Prague Ruzyne Airport
Departure: 17:47
Arrival:
18:44
Flight time:
57 minutes
Seat: 1A, window seat on the bulkhead row of the port side

Yesterday, on Sunday afternoon, I flew back from London Heathrow to Basel just as the chaos of another epic IT failure started to unfold in Heathrow. The upshot of that being that I had to spend three hours sitting in agony in BA’s painfully cramped Economy Class to make a journey that normally should only last a bit more than an hour. So as you may well imagine, I didn’t really fancy getting on a plane again on Monday. But this is for work, and I guess there are worse things to have to endure than SWISS’ Business Class.

My flight is scheduled to depart at 17h35. I catch the 16h24 train from Winterthur, which arrives in Zürich Airport at 16h40. The airport is very quiet, which may have something to do with the fact that I think it’s the public school skiing holiday, when a lot of people head for the slopes with their families. All the better for me, because it means there are only very short queues for security.

I haven’t really got that much time left before boarding begins, so I figure I might as well head to the gate directly. I take a few pictures of my aircraft on the way.

Boarding starts on time. And I’m pleased to say that they appear to have implemented some changes to the check-in system which trigger an alarm if passengers try to board before their boarding group is called. It makes the whole process a lot more efficient.

There are four rows of Business Class on today’s flight, for a total of twelve seats. However, only six of the seats are occupied and the load in Economy Class doesn’t appear to be all that heavy either.

Generally speaking, I rather like the cabin layout SWISS has on the A 220-300. It’s a very comfortable experience for the passenger. The only thing I don’t like is the colour scheme, which looks rather bland and drab.

Another thing I really like on the A 220, is the Business Class loo, which is very roomy and large enough for me to be able to stand up straight in front of the sink. Usually, on the A 320 the curvature of the hull makes it impossible to stand upright.

The crew in the cabin consists of three young females. The maître de is 26 years old. She was married to a guy from Antigua and she really just couldn’t imagine living in the US, which is why he moved to Switzerland after they got married. But that only lasted for two years, because you know, honestly, after two years she’d really just had enough and couldn’t stand being married anymore. Like. I can also tell you what she studied and then broke off, what she’s currently studying, what she wants to do in future, and where she gets her nails done.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s actually very good at her job. She’s just a bit of a little Miss Chatterbox and clearly unaware of the fact that yes, the A 220 really has got very quiet engines indeed.

The service on the ground is the usual packaged towel and still water.

We make our way to runway 28 for departure. The weather really is quite dreary here today…

Much to my surprise, there’s a full meal service, depsite the short flight time. There is no choice for the meal. But I like that every passenger is served individually from the galley.

The main course is roast beef (bleeach…!) with potato salad, pickled radishes and carrots.

The meal is served with the usual small plate of Swiss cheese.

The crew pass through the cabin twice offering warm breads.

And for dessert there is a Läckerli cream thingy (better if you google that one…). And as if I haven’t had enough sweetness for one day, I have a coffee to finish the meal, which is served with a little SWISS chocolate.

The roast beef is really so not my thing. But the potato salad is quite okay and the dessert is just lovely.

Before I manage to finish the coffee, we’ve already started our descent into Prague, where eventually we land on time. The one thing I never fully understood about Prague is that although the airport is quite large, it’s also usually fairly empty. At least when I visit. And today is no exception, there are only a few aircraft standing around.

Public transport to and from the airport is a bit tricky in Prague. There is a bus that will take you to the closest metro station. But there is no rail link from the airport to the city. The hotel has organised a car to pick me up though, which makes the journey into town in about twenty minutes.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Oslo to Zürich

To be honest, I wasn’t actually going to write a review of my return trip from Oslo to Zürich, figuring it would just be more of the same as the outbound.

As such, this isn’t much of a trip report either, consider it therefore, as an update or, for me at least, a very pleasant surprise.

I already figured this would turn out to be a good flight the moment I stepped on board. The female maître de and her male colleague were standing at the L1 door as though their only reason to be there was to welcome passengers aboard the flight.

This continued throughout the flight, with all the cabin crew giving the impression of wanting to make sure passengers felt comfortable and welcome.

The biggest surprise though, came when the inflight service started. With a departure at 13:55, SWISS considers the Oslo to Zürich flight a lunch time service.

As such, the service started with an apéritif. Here too, the crew very proactively offered wine and champagne to passengers. The maître de looked charmingly disappointed when I informed her I’d just be having a Coke Zero.

The drinks were served with a small packet of snacks made with olive oil and containing pieces of black olives.

The male flight attendant then went through the cabin addressing every passenger individually and by name. He informed me that for lunch there was a choice of beef or Spätzli for the main course. As I’m not much of a carnivore, I went with the latter. One way or another, I must admit I wasn’t expecting a hot meal.

The meal was served on one tray and consisted of the main course, which was Spätzli with rosted onions and a cheesy cream sauce.

A small bowl with potato and smoked sausage salad, served with a chunky piece of smoked salmon.

A small plate of cheese, served with bread from the basket.

An excellent piece of apple pie with cherry compote and a chestnut mousse.

Throughout the service drinks were regularly replenished by the crew.

In summary, this really was a highly enjoyable flight I had with SWISS. The crew were excellent and gave the impression of having been properly trained. They were motivated and relaxed, but without being sloppy. Of course, it also helped that I had the whole row of three all to myself and could spread out comfortably.

In fact, I got so comfy that I dosed off and slept for the rest of the flight with the warm feeling of sunshine on my face.

The fabulous Swiss chocolates served at the end of the flight, which have become SWISS’ trademark, were offered to passengers as they disembarked, which I thought was another nice touch.

I wish all flight could be like this!

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 220-300: Zürich to Oslo

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m on my way to Norway. The flight to Oslo isn’t leaving until 09:40. But I figure I might as well take my usual train from Basel to avoid the worst of the morning rush hour.

I arrive at Zürich Airport at 07:20. They’re currently replacing the tracks in the station, so half the platform is closed off. It’s not so much of an issue, but it means that the platforms are quite crowded and it can take a while for the queue to move.

Either the morning rush for security is already over, or most companies have already spent their travel budget for this year because the airport is very quiet.

My first stop is the lounge. I’m starving! Luckily, the lounge isn’t too crowded either.

When it’s empty, you can actually appreciate the design of the SWISS Business lounge. I’m not so sure if the Swiss rustic look will age all that well, but for the time being it’s okay.

There is a small buffet with a rather limited choice of food. However, the centrepiece of the lounge is the open kitchen, where you can order hot dishes. So I help myself to some bread and cheese and order an omelette with chives and some beans to go with that.

I answer a few office e-mails and then decide I’d much rather be looking at the aircraft outside. So I leave the lounge around 08:30, with 50 minutes to go before boarding starts.

My flight is departing from gate B41 on the mixed Schengen/non-Schengen pier.

There are six rows of Business Class for a total of 18 seats. However, there are only nine passengers seated up front this morning. I am on 3A, with the aisle seat next to me empty. Seat pitch on row 3 is good and very comfortable.

I really like the the A 220’s cabin, because it feels so spacious. Although I probably shouldn’t confess to that to my colleague Mr Bighead, who worked on the development of the CSeries.

As usual, the service starts with the distribution of still water and towels.

Departure is from runway 28, right behind an A340 which only just manages to get off the ground…

Once the crew is released, the breakfast service begins. It consists of a tray with cheese, melon, parma ham and some disgusting liver parfait. Yuk!

With that, there is a selection of breads offered by the crew. Although Mr 3D manages to grab a total of five buns before the flight attendant can stop him. Some people…

And with that there is butter and apricot jam. There’s also a small jar of very sweet berry Müsli.

And to conclude there is a Swiss chocolate, which strangely vanished before I could take a photo…

As we head further north, the weather rapidly deteriorates. And much to my horror, when we break through the cloud on our descent, the ground below is covered in snow.

Eventually we land after a flight time of two hours and twenty minutes. The runway and taxiways are covered with ice, but nobody seems phased by that.

Once we stop at the gate there is an ID check before we’re allowed into the terminal. But the check is painless enough. I now have 90 minutes to make my connection.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 321: Zürich to London Heathrow

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.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Paris Charles de Gaulle

In the long and old tradition of giving my colleagues at work that I mention in my blog a nickname, I suppose I should mention that I arrive at the airport early today, at 15:45 to be precise, for a meeting with my colleague, let‘s call him the scruffy M., to discuss the handover of duties while I‘m away on sabbatical.

We finish just before 17h and then I make my way to departures one floor up. Zürich Airport is slowly getting into the groove for Christmas. The lights are up, but they‘re not yet on. At least not all of them.

To access the security checkpoint, there are separate lanes for Economy Class passengers and for those with priority. Which is a good thing, because the airport is quite busy today.

But at least the queue moves quickly. Once I‘m airside, there are more Christmas lights.

This is also when I realise that now‘s the season that‘s difficult for taking pictures of aircraft from inside the terminal, because it gets dark earlier.

The last image, above, is of my aircraft to Paris. I suppose I could say I was being artistic. But I think we all probably know that‘s not really the case…

In any case, boarding for the flight starts at 17:25. That‘s 30 minutes ahead of our departure time.

I‘m seated on 1A, which is the bulkhead row. There are three rows in Business Class this evening. And from what I can see, I think there are only six passengers seated up front.

The service on the ground starts with the distribution of the packaged towels and a small bottle of still water.

The Business Class cabin is being taken care of by a gentlemen with a Turkish name. And I have to say, he‘s brilliant! One of the best flight attendants I‘ve experienced in a long time. He‘s cheerful, friendly, attentive and all round excellent at his job.

Once boarding is completed, he greets every passenger individually, informs us about the menu on the flight and takes orders for drinks with the meal.

There is no choice for the meal. But then again, the flight is only 55 minutes to Paris.

The main course is a plate of salmon tatar with zucchini, a mango and avocado salsa, crème fraîche and pumpernikel crumble.

The dish is served with a plate of cheese and butter.

There is a selection of brown and white bread and crackers from the breadbasket and the crew go through the cabin twice offering bread.

For dessert there is prune compote with panna cotta and crumble.

Eventually, we make our approach from the east, and although there is quite some traffic, there‘s no delay and we arrive on stand at 19:15. Exactly according to the schedule.

The Star Alliance operates out of Terminal 1 in Paris. That‘s the one that looks like a flying saucer. It may not be the most practical design, but it‘s just so stylish…!

I exit arrivals and make a quick stop at Marks and Spencer to get a sandwich for dinner. From there I head outside at door 32 to catch the bus into town.

Terminal 1 does not have a railway station. So if you want to take the train, you first need to take the CDGval to Terminal 2. Alternatively, you can also catch a Le Bus Direct bus service. There are various lines. I think the service is very expensive at EUR19 for a oneway ticket. But the number 2 line goes straight to Porte Maillot nonstop, which is convenient for where I need to go.

The journey take 25 minutes in good traffic and 45 minutes in normal Parisian traffic.

To conclude, I must say this was a short but very pleasant flight with Swiss today. All of the crew were friendly and seemed generally happy to be there, which isn‘t always the case with Swiss.

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

Helvetic Airways, Embraer 190 – Business Class: Zürich to London City

My colleague at work, let‘s call him the talented Mr. F., recently complained about the apparent lack of any new posts on my blog in recents weeks. The talented Mr. F., incidentally, gets his name from his truly exceptional talent of getting airlines to pay him compensation for all sorts of things, including some reported cases where the airlines hadn‘t actually done anything wrong – other than being on time…

So here you go, this one‘s for you, Mr. F. May it inspire you to even greater greatness. Or something.

As usual, I arrive at Zürich Airport by train. It‘s just gone 16:15. One hour to go before my departure to London.
Security is quite busy. After all, it‘s still the holiday season. But it‘s nowhere near as bad as when I flew to Bucharest two weeks ago, just as the summer holidays in Switzerland got underway!
My flight will be boarding from D57. Which is a bus gate on the ground floor level of the non-Schengen terminal. I don‘t think I‘ve ever used one of these gates before. I rather like the B/D pier though. Even if the ceilings are quite low.
I can‘t be bothered with the SWISS lounge, so instead I buy myself some chocolate goodness from Sprüngli on my way to passport control.
Today‘s flight is operated by Helvetic Airways, on behalf of SWISS. Helvetic has 15 E2s on order, which are expected to enter the fleet in Q4 of this year. Ten of their aircraft are on a permanent wet lease to SWISS. My flight today will be with an Embraer 190.
I‘m seated on 1A. So I figure I might as well take my time and board last. And take a few pictures while I wait.
The pitch on row 1, the bulkhead row, is great. Although from past experience I have to say, it get‘s awfully tight towards the back.
The service on the ground starts with the distribution of the cold towels and a bottle of still water. There are five passengers in Business this afternoon. One thing I really like on SWISS, is that they keep the seat next to you empty.
No sooner has the seatbelt sign gone off after take-off, the meal service begins. There is no choice available, so if you‘re vegetarian or picky about what you eat, you may want to pre order a special meal.
Today‘s offering is vitello tonnato, served with rocket, capers and red onion.
Warm breads and crackers are served with the meal. The maître de does an excellent job of explaining what all the items on the tray are.
Of course, being SWISS, there has to be a small plate with cheese.
The dessert is brownies on a citrus yoghurt cream and strawberry compote.
The meal ends with a cup of coffee and a small Swiss chocolate.
We land in London City more or less on time. The airport is busy. There‘s a bit of a hold up because the guy bringing the stairs is having problems puttting it in position. The captain shrugs at me and says: ‚they expect us to land on something the size of a stamp, but they struggle with the stairs…‘.
It‘s a lovely evening in London, and so I decide to walk to the hotel. From London City airport it‘s a walk of about thirty minutes to the Emirates Air Line, the cable car that takes you across the Thames. The journey takes about ten minutes and you can pay either by Oyster card or with a touch credit card.
At the other end, the cable car spits you out in front of the O2 arena. I stop off at Wagamama and the make my way to the Intetcontinental O2.
I‘ve been to many lovely places across the globe. Including some I didn‘t know existed before I had to go there! And feel priviledged for the opportunity to travel and see so much of the world. But no matter where I go, sooner or later I‘m always drawn back to this city. For me, there really is no place like London!

P. S. In the background of the last picture, on the hill, is Woolwich, where my nannu was originally from.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: London Heathrow to Zürich

TRANSFER FROM HEATHROW T4 TO T2

The Gulf Air flight from Bahrain arrives in Heathrow at 06h50, on schedule. I now have one hour and forty minutes to make my connection to the SWISS flight to Zürich, which will depart from T2. T4 is connected to the central terminal area at Heathrow by shuttle bus. Normally, the busses will use the service tunnel that passes under runway 09R/27L. However, the tunnel is currently closed for maintenance as so, busses have to take a slightly longer route along the perimeter fence and under the threshold of runway 27L to get to Terminal 2. Which has the rather pleasant side effect that passengers are given quite a tour of Heathrow, including BA’s maintenance facility and the Concorde that they have on display there. The journey takes 12 minutes to complete.

Within Terminal 4 for the signposting to the shuttle bus is clear and easy to follow. Busses run regularly.

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE

The security check is done in Terminal 2, before heading up to the departure concourse. Luckily, there aren’t many passengers this morning and there isn’t even a queue. There is a separate fast track for security which is dedicated to STAR GOLD, First and Business Class passengers.

Behind security are the escalators leading one floor up. There is a passport check just before entering the departures hall, although I’m not sure if this is for immigration purposes, for security reasons or a combination of the two. As I enter the terminal hall, the Star Alliance service desks are on the right. I present my baggage receipt to the lady behind the counter, as instructed by the check-in agent back in Dubai. She scans the stub and my boarding pass and then sends me on my way.

By the time I’m done, we’re just coming up to 07h50. The gate for my flight to Zürich will be showing up on the screens shortly, and not much later boarding should start. So I quickly grab a coffee, call the light of my life to say hello and then take a moment to relax.

BOARDING

Boarding for the flight to Zürich is from gate A18. There is a separate queue for Business Class, HON Circle and Senator passengers. As we start boarding for the flight, it soon materialises that there are some passengers in the queue that aren’t flying Business Class and have no status either. Don’t get me wrong, I generally salute the ground crews for enforcing the rules. But I also think there’s really no need for the gate agent to scold passengers. After all, I’m pretty sure there’s a good chance they weren’t trying to jump the queue and perhaps don’t travel often enough to even know what the two queues are for.

CABIN

There are four rows to the Business Class cabin on this morning’s flight, which is surprising given it’s a public holiday. I would have thought most people would have tried to return home by Maundy Thursday. In any case, as my luck will have it, there are 15 passengers in Business Class this morning. And the only seat left empty is the one on the aisle of my row of three. Cool!

CREW

There are three and a half cabin crew on the flight and I’m pretty sure that none of them are above the age of twenty-five. Three of the cabin crew are wearing the normal SWISS uniform. The third one though, is wearing ‘civilian’ clothes and a badge that says ‘I am a new crew member’ rather than her name. I’m not quite sure why being a new cabin crew member means she shouldn’t be wearing a uniform. However, given how shabby the SWISS uniform generally looks, I can’t really blame her for not wanting to wear that.

Other than that, the crew are friendly and really make an effort to accommodate passengers. Even if they’re a bit clumsy at times. For example, once boarding is completed, one of the female flight attendants working in the Economy Class section asks if there’s still any space left in the overhead bins up front, so she can stow one fairly large piece of hand luggage. The maître de yells back to her form the front that yes, there is space left. ‘But let him lift his suitcase himself, it’s his problem so you’re not expected to do that…’. Of course, the maître de does have a point. When I still worked at Swissair they always used to say that passengers are allowed to take just about anything into the cabin, as long as it fits the dimensions and they could still carry it themselves. But I’m pretty sure there might have been a politer way of saying that.

But perhaps I’m just irritated by the fact that the maître de is wearing turquoise coloured underwear. And in case you’re wondering why I know that, he’s shoved his uniform shirt into his undies and pulled them up so high that the waistband is showing above the trousers. It’s all very classy really!

SERVICE

The service on the ground is the standard bottle of still water and a refreshing towel. We push back on time and then make our way to the holding point for runways 09R. The flight time is announced as one hour and ten minutes.

THE MEAL

Once we’re airborne, the meal service begins. There is no choice for the meal. Much to my surprise, SWISS offers a hot breakfast on this route, despite the short flight time. I’m guessing this to accommodate its British customer base. The trays are delivered from a trolley. The meal consists of:

A small plate of cheese.

Butter and jam.

A small dish of Quinoa müsli.

And the hot meal.

The hot meal is more of a brunch than a breakfast and consists of a grilled tomato with a Provençale crust, brown lentils and a slice of cheese quiche. I must say, the meal is quite good. With that I also have a croissant and a bun from the bread basket.

Despite the short flight, the crew manage to do two nicely paced runs for drinks and with the breadbasket.

ARRIVAL

It’s a lovely day for flying. The approach into Zürich brings us in right over Basel, my home town, from where we make a left hand turn to head east, before lining up for the landing on runway 14. After landing we taxi to the B pier, which can accept both Schengen and non-Schengen flights. I make my way down to immigration and am positively surprised that a) there’s hardly anybody there and b) they appear to have updated the software of the passport readers, so that I can now use the e-gates with my Maltese passport.

The suitcases for the London flight will be delivery on belt 22. I figure my suitcase probably hasn’t survived having to change planes in Bahrain and London Heathrow, so instead of going to belt 22, I make a beeline for the Swissport lost and found in the hope of saving some time.

But lo and behold, just before I get there, something silvery in the corner of my eye catches my attention. I look over to belt 22 to find that by some divine intervention, my suitcase has actually made it.

CONCLUSION

And quicker than you know, the first four months of the year are over. Just like that. And I’ve spent most of that time travelling. My return to Switzerland on SWISS marks the end of the busy travel period for me. From now on, it’s really just the occasional short-haul trip here and there. And thank god for that. I really love flying, but there are limits to how much flying even I can handle at a time…

Happy Easter everyone!

William