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

Introduction

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…

Boarding

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

The Cabin

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 Crew

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.

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.

Arrival

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…!

Getting into Town

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

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.

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

Introduction

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.

Emirates Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 380: Zürich to Dubai

Introduction

I may have skipped posting some of the trips I did after my return from the UAE with Gulf Air via Bahrain and London Heathrow. Since then I’ve done only short-haul trips which are usually not worth mentioning. In fact, I only just returned from another uninspired trip to Luxembourg yesterday evening.

This trip report sees me returning to the UAE for yet another course with the Emirates Flight Training Academy.

This is my fourth visit to the UAE this year, and despite the flying dutchman’s insistence, I’m pretty sure it probably won’t be the last time… still, I don’t mind. Especially given the fact that the A380 programme has been officially shut down and I don’t know how many more chances I’ll get to fly on this magnificent bird.

In any case, here in Switzerland it feels as though summer is only just around the corner. It’s already warm but not stifling, and the sky is a crystal clear blue, unblemished even by a single cloud.

Check-in

Emirates checks-in on row 1 of check-in 2 and there are ten counters open for the flight.

Considering it’s such a lovely day, I figure I might as well go out onto the viewing gallery and while away the time until boarding begins there. And as my luck will have, I arrive on the terrace just as the lunchtime rush of outbounds gets underway.

Airside

By the time I can tear myself away from the long line of departing widebodies, it’s already 14h40. The flight leaves at 15h25 and I still have to make my way through security, immigration and then take the shuttle across to the E dock, from where my flight will be departing.

Boarding

For some reason or other, the usual A 380 stand was still occupied when my aircraft arrived on the inbound from Dubai. And so, instead we’re parked at gate E19 today, which is a single level gate. At least, by the time I arrive at the gate boarding is nearly completed, so the queue is fairly short.

Ahead of me is some old guy in a suit. As he passes the gate, the scanner beeps. He turns to me and says ‘oh my, not another complimentary upgrade to First…’. He’s obviously going for unimpressed indifference with this one, trying hard not to sound gleeful and clearly failing miserably. I actually feel kind of sorry for the guy when the gate agent looks at him and simply say ‘ ah…no actually, they just hadn’t scanned your passport’. Aw…!

The Cabin

On today’s flight I’m sitting on 7A, which is the window on the bulkhead row and the first row by the window in the main Business Class cabin. I like the A seats because they’re removed from the aisle and thus offer quite some privacy.

Amenities

The wine and food menus have already been placed at my seat and there is also a thick blanket, a pillow and a pair of earphones.

In short succession I’m handed a glass of the Veuve Cliquot, which gives me a headache before we even leave the ground, and then a warm, scented towel.

The Meal

Ahead of the lunch service I order a virgin mojito, which is served with a small plate of warm mixed nuts.

The First Course

The first course is served together with a salad, which are both delivery on a tray. I’ve ordered the mezze for the starter, which includes black olives, a stuffed vine leaf, muhammara, houmous, and baba ghanouj.

The Main Course

Next up, I’m having the beef with green beans, mash and leeks. To be honest, I’m not much of a meat eater at the best of times. But I’m a total sucker for mash…

Dessert

And for dessert I have the chocolate cake with Earl Grey infused vanilla sauce.

One of the things I really like about Emirates, is that the meal service is always very efficient but never rushed. Two hours into the flight, the trays have been removed and it’s time for me to extend the seat into a bed and read.

Incidentally, on day flights Emirates does not provide amenity kits. However, a pair of eye shades with ear plugs is provided at every seat and dental sets are available in the toilets. The dental kits are Colgate branded and the tooth brush is of good quality.

Arrival

Eventually, we arrive in Dubai on time without having to do a single circuit in a holding pattern. Judging by the sound of his voice, I think even the pilot is surprised.

Immigration is swift. The Emirates Business Class boarding pass entitles the holder to use the fast track for security. There’s still a queue, but it’s nowhere near as bad as that for Economy Class passengers.

Getting into Town

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the queue for the taxis, which is ridiculously long. It takes me thirty minutes just to reach the head of the queue. And then, once I get a taxi, it’s another forty minutes to my hotel, which is just down the road from the Emirates Flight Training Academy.

God it’s hot here…

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

Transfer in London Heathrow

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.

The Lufthansa Lounge

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.

The 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!

The 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!

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

TAP Express, Business Class – Embraer 190: Zürich to Porto

Introduction

Taking this trip is probably not a good idea. Four weeks after the pain started, my back is still no better. But, in the end I couldn’t resist.

Getting to the Airport

I catch the 16h31 train from Winterthur, which arrives at Zürich airport at 16h44. Fortunately, this service has level carriages at platform height, so I won’t have to climb any steps.

Check-in

I’ve checked in online. I don’t have the TAP app because I don’t really use them that often. But the web check-in works fine on my iPhone. Airport check-in for TAP is done in check-in 1, which is the Star Alliance area, or at one of the self-service ticket machines in check-in 3, above the airport’s railway station.

The Lounge

I arrive at the lounge at 17h15 and the place is crawling with people. I end up standing around for a few minutes for a seat to become available because the place is so crowded.

Eventually, I find a place to sit in a rather oddly shaped corner of the lounge. I’m guessing this is the ‘business’ area where passengers can work. One wall is kept in this really ugly and unfinished looking plywood. Or course, the opportunity to bullshit is too great for SWISS to pass up, which is why of course they have to put up a plaque declaring that this wall is hypoallergenic and made of freshly pressed hay from the Alps. Really SWISS, is that what you’re going with? You’re too cheap to properly renovate your lounge and now you’re going to pretend it’s because you’re doing your passengers a favour…

Eventually I figure I might as well step outside and find a place to sit there. It’ll be more comfortable for my back, and probably better for my blood pressure too…

Boarding

Boarding is from gate A 75. There are four rows set up in front of the counter to queue. From right to left: one for ‘premium’ passengers, one for passengers without bulky hand luggage and two for everybody else. Boarding starts with a delay of fifteen minutes, which was caused due to the late arrival of the plane form Porto.

The Cabin

On the Embraer 190, Portugalia, who operated the flight on behalf of TAP under the TAP Express brand, has managed to squeeze in an impressive 106 seats. To this end, the aircraft only has a quarter of a Business Class galley, so that row 1is more or less opposite the L1 door.

Unlike many airlines, seat numbers on this aircraft are A and B on the port side and C and D on the starboard side. A and D are the window seats. There are no seats 1A and 1B. Thus, the seats with the best legroom are the bulkheads rows on 1CD or 2AB.

Other than that, I have to say that the Embraer 190 is a very uncomfortable little aircraft that really should not be deployed by any airline on sectors of more than one hour. I know I have a back injury right now, but that does not account for the fact that I and the guy next to me eventually agree that the seat is rather unpleasant. By the time we land in Porto, my back is pretty much jammed up and my kneecaps are more or less locked in the bent position.

Oh yes, and more thing: in Business Class TAP Express will not leave the seat next to you empty.

The Crew

There are three females working the cabin on this evening’s flight. And I have to say, they really are very lovely. They have friendly, warm smiles and their service is attentive and chic.

While we’re on the ground, there is no service at all. Boarding is completed at around 18h10. At around 18h40 the captain comes on the blower to explain that only the first fifteen minutes of our delay were cause by the aircraft being late. He explains that Swissport, the handling agent, is have problems finding an available tug to push us back from our stand. ‘Swissport company provides bad service at this airport…’.

Eventually, at 18h44 we push back. We are airborne at 19h03, with a delay of one hour.

The Meal

The other issue with the tightness of the Embraer 190 and the fact that both seats on a row are sold, is that it can be rather difficult to eat in this seat. At least not without shoving your elbow in the kisser of the person on your left.

The Main Course

A small salad with shrimps, served with olive oil dressing.

Dessert

A pasteis de nata – which is something of a Portuguese national dish. It’s a filo pastry with vanilla custard filling and burned sugar on top.

A packaged refreshing towel and a small piece of chocolate.

To drink with the meal, I have a sparkling water with ice and lemon. And then after the meal a cup of tea.

Arrival

We land in Porto after a flight time of two hours and fifteen minutes. It’s already dark outside, which makes for a very nice approach right over the city with all the lights.

Porto airport is a bit of a surprise, because I was expecting the same kind of patched up facility as that in Lisbon. But instead, Porto has a very nice, spacious and airy terminal.

To get into town I take the metro, or tram rather, which makes the journey form the airport to the city in about thirty minutes, depending on where you’re going. A one way ticket will cost EUR2.30.


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

Introduction

I have a colleague at work. For argument’s sake, let’s call him Mr. Bighead. In any case, Mr. Bighead worked on the development of the Bombardier CSeries. He recently gave me his candid, and of course totally unbiased opinion about my blog. According to which, I could be a bit more enthusiastic in my praise for the fabulous CSeries. I promised to make amends, especially seeing as the CSeries is indeed starting to grow on me. And so, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let it be known that I, William, think the Bombardier CSeries aka the Airbus A 220 is a rather nice aircraft.

Getting to the Airport

The course at Eurocontrol ends just before 15h00. My flight back to Zürich is not until 18h50. But instead of hanging around the office, I figure I might as well go to the airport and find myself somewhere quiet to sit with a good book. I’m so looking forward to finally going home.

Eurocontrol in Brussels is pretty much out in the sticks. In fact, I think there are more wild bunnies per square metre than there are humans on the premises. But at least, being out in the boonies means you can avoid the notoriously horrific traffic around Brussels. The journey to the airport by taxi takes roughly 12 minutes and costs EUR18.

Check-in

SWISS checks in on rows 1 and 2, which is where the Brussels Airlines counters are located. Brussels Airlines does the check-in on behalf of its Star Alliance partner SWISS at Brussels airport. Rows 1 and 2 are in the best spot of the departures concourse, because they’re closest to the escalators as you come up from the car park and railway station. They’re also closest to the entrance to security.

The Brussels Airlines Business Lounge

The security checkpoint at Brussels airport is very well organised. There is a separate queue for Fast Track security and the whole process is efficient and quick. The security checkpoint is located halfway between the A (Schengen) and the B (non-Schengen) piers.

Brussels Airlines and the Star Alliance carriers use The Loft lounge, which is one floor up from the main airside area of the A pier, just opposite the escalators.

The lounge is nice and it’s been extended since the last time I was there. In fact, I think its size has been doubled. It’s spacious, clean and modern and offers a wide range of comfortable seating options, including some with excellent vistas of the apron. The food is also very good, with a variety of hot and cold dishes that change regularly throughout the day.

One of the things I don’t much like about most lounges though, is the people you find in them. Like the German business man who has two large beers in front of him and is busy on the phone telling the caller about exactly what he told them in the meeting – and everybody else in the lounge, whether they care to listen or not.

And the table manners – or lack thereof – of some of these people! At some point I become aware of these obscenely revolting slurping sounds from behind me. I turn to find Slurpy the Wonderboy sitting behind me in a suit and tie, who’s obviously attempting to inhale the chicken soup he found at the buffet. Luckily, my aircraft choses that exact moment to appear from behind the B pier. I think it’s time to leave.

Boarding

Boarding is from gate A45, which is close to the lounge. There is a separate call for Business Class passengers to board first and there is also a separate lane, so Business Class passengers can skip the queue. Seeing as I’m seated on 1A though, I take my time to board. No point in holding up the queue. Although in hindsight, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because the flight is not very full.

The Cabin

And… by the looks of it, the CS300 now has a cabin divider between the Business and Economy Class sections of the cabin. Or maybe it has always been there but I didn’t notice. I have no idea if only the -300 aircraft have these or if gradually the -100 will also be equipped with them. I shall have to ask one of my students who’s a flight attendant with SWISS.

The Crew

There are two young ladies working the forward cabin and both of them seem nice enough.

On the ground a packaged cold towel and a small bottle of still water are served. The flight time is announced at slightly less than fifty minutes.

The Meal

The Brussels service gets a meal served on a tray, unlike the Luxembourg flight, which is only slightly shorter but only gets a small snack. And despite the short flight time, the passengers are served individually instead of from a trolley.

On the tray there is the main event – a light meal – as well as a plate with two slices of cheese and a small glass jar with dessert. And what a thoroughly revolting meal it is. The main dish is allegedly beef tartar with egg and truffle oil, served with a small celery and pumpkin salad. I mean, what on earth were they thinking? I very much doubt that many people are all that fond of a combination of raw meat and raw egg. And by the looks of it, most of the six other passengers have touched the vile thing. Even the flight attendant comments on it.

And for dessert there is yet another gelatinous and very sweet looking blob of something with a soggy piece of cantuccio on it. Lööövely, as the tall, blond M. would say…

Arrival

I know I always say this, but it’s just always true. Zürich airport really is absolutely brilliant. Honestly! We touch down at 19h53. By 2013 I’ve collected my checked luggage, bought some cigarettes for the wiry R. at the duty free and taken a seat on the train to Zürich main station. And all that in twenty minutes!

Seven weeks, 23 flights and 60’000 kilometres later I’m finally home. I now have three whole days before I take my next trip. Woohoo!


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.