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


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.

The Cabin

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

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.

The Cambrian Hotel, Adelboden

The Cambrian Hotel is located in the heart of the village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland. By public transport Adelboden is only accessible by bus from a town called Frutigen, there is no train.

I enjoyed my stay at The Cambrian very much. From the specutacular vistas from the balcony of my room to the excellent and very friendly staff, I can highly recommend staying here.

Rooms at The Cambrian either look out over the valley and the mountains beyond, or onto the main street in front of the bus terminus. From what I could tell from the floor plan, there are only standard rooms facing the street.

The room

I stayed in The Cambrian Suite, which was spacious and well appointed. The living room had a comfortable armchair and sofa, as well as a dining area and a bar with a fully stocked fridge, a Nespresso machine and electric tea kettle.

The bedroom

The bedroom was completely separate from the living room. It had plenty of storage space. The bed was large and the mattress was reasonably hard and certainly supportive for my slipped disc.

The bathroom

The Cambrian Suite had an en suite bathroom with a bath and a separate walk-in shower. In addition, there was also a separate toilet next to the entrance to the suite. The amenities were by the Grown Alchemist.

The view

Of course it helped that the weather over Easter was stunning here in Switzerland. Even so, I really cannot say enough about the views from the hotel. Being a corner room, the suite had three balconies on two sides. All of them offered spectacular views of the valley. I could have spent all day sitting out there just watching the world go by!

The restaurant

The restaurant was on the lower level, given that the hotel is built on a slope. The chef is a Welshman by the name of Bryant Williams. I woldn’t say that the menu offered any unusual or extraodinary choices, but the food was well prepared and nicely presented. For breakfast there was a large buffet with a wide selection of hot and cold dishes.

When I first arrived, it was still a bit cold in the mornings to sit outside. However, by Easter Sunday the temeprature had risen sufficiently to be able to enjoy breakfast outside.

The hotel grounds

The hotel had a large spa area which proved very popular with the Japanese tourists, who clearly used it as their onsen. The outdoor pool was heated. From what I understand, there was an indoor pool too.

The lobby was nice and cosy. I can only imagine that it must be lovely in the winter, to be able to sit there watching the snow, preferably with a mug of hot chocolate by the open fireplace.

The staff

The Cambrian Hotel gave the impression of being a very well maintained and professionally run establishment, and this also showed in their staff. Everybody I met at this hotel was really just so nice. At breakfast, it was nearly as though the waiting staff had a sixth sense: every time I was about to finish my coffee, one of them would appear by my side out of nowhere and ask me if I’d like a refill. At dinner too, the service was efficient, friendly and completely unpretentious. Just perfect!


Adelboden is clearly geared towards winter sports. There are many good slopes in close proximity to the village. Even so, it’s also very nice to visit in the summer, be it for relaxation or for hiking. The long Easter weekend is an excellent time to visit too, because that’s when the village is between seasons. During my stay many hotels had already closed down until the start of the summer season in June. As a result, it was very quiet and not at all crowded.


I enjoyed my say at The Cambrian in Adelboden so much. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had such a relaxing stay anywhere. Adelboden is lovely and the hotel made it all the more enjoyable. Granted, staying at The Cambrian Hotel was not exactly cheap. But that is not something that is unique to this hotel, but something you have to accept when visiting any one of the Swiss ski resorts – even in the off season.

Lucerne – The scenic route from Engelberg

I spend my Sunday morning in Engelberg climbing among the rocks at 1800 m above sea level like a deranged mountain goat. Down in the valley it’s still fresh. But up on the Brunni the sun is already warming up the air.

By the time I make my way down the mountain it’s already gone eleven. I have until 12h00 to check out of the hotel. There is a train departure from Engelberg every hour at two minutes past the hour. There are two possibilities for me to get back to Lucerne. I can either just stay put on the Lucerne-Engelberg Express, which should get me there in 43 minutes, or I can take the scenic route.

The scenic route requires two changes, but is totally worth it! From Engelberg to Stans takes 33 minutes on the express. There I have seven minutes to change trains to a local service to Stansstad, which is a journey of four minutes.

And then from Stansstad it’s about five minutes on foot from the railway station to the lake, from where I’ll be catching the boat back to Lucerne.

The trip by boat from Stansstad to Lucerne takes just over one hour. En route the boats calls at Hergiswil, Kehrsiten, Kastanienbaum, and the Transport Museum. Today’s service is being operated by the Titlis, one of the smaller vessels in the fleet.

Despite the many places I have visited around the globe, as far as I’m concerned nothing beats a lazy Sunday afternoon on Lake Lucerne in the autumn. It’s still warm enough to sit out on the deck, but without the humidity and the oppressive heat of summer.

Pilatus emerging out of the fog.
Just before Kersitten.
The Rigi, if I’m not mistaken.
The Bürgenstock.
Just before entering the port of Lucerne.
The Uri, which entered service on the lake back in 1901. She was overhauled back in 1994 and is still plying her trade on the company’s scheduled service. The Uri is the only one of the original steamboats on the lake that also operates in the winter.

The port of Lucerne is right in the centre of town. The railway station is two minutes on foot and the city’s famous covered bridge, the Kapelbrücke, is not much further away.