Cambrian From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 617 posts, RR: 5 Posted (5 years 3 months 1 week 5 days ago) and read 14636 times:
I felt like a day trip on the spur of the moment. Swiss normally offer quite reasonable fares for weekend day trips at short notice, so I decided to check their website.
I had received an email from Swiss advertising promotional fares to Basel, to celebrate the first anniversary of their launching of several routes from EuroAirport, starting at £50 return from London City. Swiss also have an advertisement about visiting Basel inside the cover of their timetable- I am obviously a salesman’s dream. Next I will be enrolling in clown college…☺ Needless to say, I ended up paying significantly more than the promotional fare…
As I would be going out and returning on a Saturday, I realised that I would have to come back through Heathrow if I was to have a day trip, as LCY closes at lunchtime on Saturdays, reopening at lunchtime on Sundays.
I had a look on the Swiss website on the Wednesday before travelling. I could fly to Basel from LCY on Saturday morning, then take the train to Zurich airport and return to Heathrow, all on the same ticket. Swiss planes and Swiss trains- a winning combination, so I decided to book, leaving London City at 07.55 and returning into Heathrow at 16.20. Sounds like a crazy itinerary I know, but I thought that this would allow me some time for a quick look around the city of Basel, plus some time on the viewing terrace at ZRH, and a ride on a train. Woo-hoo!
The booking engine on the Swiss website allows the customer to book each leg in different fare classes, according to price. The price quoted for the outward trip in business class was an eye-watering £173 one way, whereas I could get a seat in Economy for £42. I decided to book the outward leg in Economy and the return (including the train from Basel to Zurich) in Business.
The total fare paid was £232.55 and the itinerary was as follows:
Saturday, 3rd February 2008
LX485 LCY- BSL 07.55- 10.35
LX7413 ZDH- ZRH 12.42- 13.56 (Airtrain Service, operated by SBB)
LX324 ZRH- LHR 15.30- 16.20
For some reason I was not issued with an e-ticket, but had to collect the ticket from the Swiss ticket desk on arrival at LCY. I assume that this was due to part of the booking including a train ticket?
It makes a change to have a paper ticket, but I was worried about missing out on online check in, but I guessed that neither flight would be too busy, especially given the rock bottom prices still available on the London City- Basel flight.
As the flight was leaving at 07.55, it was an early start for me on Saturday morning, taking the underground and DLR from my home near Green Park to City Airport. There were few bleary-eyed travellers at that time of the day, and most seemed to be heading to work for an early shift, or returning home from a night of partying.
Early morning on the DLR
When we arrived at London City airport, quite a few people got off, many of them off for ski trips to Switzerland, as I would later find out.
The DLR station is adjacent to the terminal, and is so convenient. I noticed as I walked past the Air France self check-in machines that someone had stuck a notice to them to explain that they do not issue tickets for the Underground. Who would mistake an Air France terminal for a ticket machine? ☺
I went to the Swiss desk to collect my ticket. I had to wait about 10 minutes behind 1 other customer. I also noticed that there were very long queues at the Swiss check in counters, which is unusual for a Saturday morning. Eavesdropping on the conversation at the ticket desk, I discovered that the 06.50 flight to Geneva had been cancelled, and that the agents were trying to re-route passengers via Zurich, and onto later flights to Geneva. The staff were totally stressed out by this and they were constantly on the phone to the check in desks to enquire about seating and asking them to move passengers around. They even began allocating middle seats in business class to try to get everyone away.
When it was finally my turn, the agent could really not have been less interested. She irately began to search for my reservation on the computer, until her colleague reminded her that my ticket had already been printed out and was in a folder.
I asked if she could check me in for the Basel flight as I did not really want to join the check in queue, and I was given a pre-assigned seat of 10F. This is an ok seat, but I should really have taken a seat at the back of the aircraft for a better view. I also asked to be checked in for my return flight to Heathrow later that afternoon, but she was unable to (or too stressed out?) to do this, for some reason.
Early morning at LCY- Long queues at Swiss check in
I headed upstairs to Security and glanced at the screen, noticing that my flight was slightly delayed.
Despite not having a laptop, putting my coins in my bag and removing my coat, I got held up at Security. After passing my bag through the Scanner a few times, it transpired that my security pass from work was the problem.
I finally made it into the departure lounge, got a newspaper and a coffee, and settled down to wait for my flight and watch comings and goings on the ramp. It was a clear, crisp, sunny day, and perfect weather for flying.
It makes a nice change to get a paper ticket, and I really like the Swiss branding on their boarding cards, ticket wallets etc.
CityJet Dornier 328
This would depart as AF5143 to Strasbourg, with a load of around 20 passengers. I was interested to see the Dornier, as I will be returning from Edinburgh on a CityJet Dornier to LCY in March.
Soon my flight arrived from BSL.
CityJet departing as AF5143 to Strasbourg
It seemed that no sooner had the inbound flight arrived at the gate, that boarding was announced. Judging by how many people got up, it was to be a light load today.
At the gate
I counted 26 passengers, all in Economy. We hung around for a while at the gate before being allowed to board, by the front steps only.
I was welcomed by the Maitre de Cabine and soon found my seat. Business class took up 3 rows this morning, with no takers on this leg. With such a light load, boarding was relaxed and didn’t take too long. The Security demo was played and the Captain came on to apologise for the small delay this morning, but explained that we would be able to make up some time. I had a quick look at the Swiss Magazine to pass the time before take off.
The RJ has the new style seats, which make for a pleasant and roomy feel in the cabin. I really don’t know how airlines get away with 6 abreast on the Avros. It really is an insult!
With such a light load we made a very powerful and quick takeoff, 25 minutes late. We took off to the west and made a sharp turn over Stratford, heading east down the Thames estuary.
London City and Canary Wharf- blurred due to engine exhaust!
We gradually climbed into the morning sunshine, following the course of the Thames, then heading out over the Isle of Grain, Medway Towns and Thanet, towards the channel.
The town of Deal, with the port of Dover in the distance
Soon we were crossing the coast of either France or Belgium. Is this port Dunkerque or Ostend, perhaps?
As the seatbelt sign went off, the female flight attendant went to prepare the breakfast service, whilst the Maitre de Cabine settled himself down in Business class.
I find the breakfast in Economy sufficient and tasty for this short flight. The vanilla muffin tasted fresh, and the coffee was very good.
As we headed further into Europe the fields were covered in snow. We passed over a few airports.
Is this Luxembourg?
Another mystery airport. Any ideas?
At this point the person sitting in front of me decided to recline his seat fully. Perhaps he imagined that he was flying the polar route to Anchorage? I nearly asked him if he would prefer to sit on my lap. I really should have moved to the back of the aircraft.
The Maitre de Cabine finally decided to spring into action and collected the breakfast waste. There were some young children on the flight, and the female crew member busied herself collecting pens, postcards etc for them. She gave the basket of Swiss chocolates to one of the children and accompanied him down the aisle as he gave them out. It really made his day, and I thought that it was such a nice touch! The attitude of the crew on Swiss really does mark LX out as a quality, customer-focused airline, I think.
Start of descent into Basel
A city near Basel- does anyone recognise it?
As we made our descent, we made some very tight turns, highlighting how nimble the Avros are. I wasn’t sure if we were over France, Germany or Switzerland at this point.
We made one of the smoothest landings that I ever experienced, and I arrived at EuroAirport for the first time. We made a fast taxi to the terminal and disembarked via the front steps and walked into the terminal.
Promoting LX at BSL
At this point an EasyJet A319 was leaving, and a TK 737-800 was arriving.
I was really impressed with BSL. It took a very short time to transit. I left via the Swiss exits and wondered whether I could spend time spotting at BSL before heading into town.
In the end I decided to head off, but I would have liked to have a better look around BSL.
I found the 50 bus which would take me into the city waiting outside the terminal. I bought a ticket from the machine, somewhere in the region of CHF2.5, I think.
The bus left soon after and it was only a ride of about 10 minutes or so to the main rail station.
I arrived in the city centre just after 11.00 and my train would leave for Zurich airport at 12.42, so I had just over an hour to look around. Not a huge amount of time for a city which markets itself as the cultural capital of Switzerland!
The morning market was in full swing, with delicious-looking produce and cheeses on sale. It was a beautiful morning and lots of people were walking their “designer dogs” that I always see when I am in Switzerland.
In one of the squares, there was a big barbeque event going on, and lots of Christmas trees. Does anyone know what this is all about?
I enjoyed this brief tour of the city, and I am sure that there is a lot more to see, but that is for another time…
I made my way back to the station in good time for the train to Zurich.
Main rail station
At this point I had some time to kill, so I bought some excellent sandwiches and as I was not checked in for my return flight, I decided to use the FlyRail system. This would allow me to hopefully get a good seat and give me more time at Zurich airport for spotting, without having to go to check in.
I was pre-assigned 3F which was fine, as all I really wanted was a window.
FlyRail Check in at Basel station
Train departures at Basel
LX7413 ZDH-ZRH Airtrain Service, operated by SBB
Dep ZDH: 13.42
Arr ZRH: 13.56
On Time- Of course!
Oh goody, a double decker train!
Having a business class ticket entitles passengers to use First Class on the train.
First Class, upper deck
Some competition from Ryanair…
The train left bang on time and I settled down for the 1h 14 journey to ZRH. The initial stage of the journey follows the course of the Rhine and the border with Germany. It also goes past the Feldschlossen brewery!
It was quite an interesting journey along the Rhine, through small towns and rolling hills, until we reached the rather unlovely suburbs of Zurich.
It is a short walk from the platform to the terminals.
After checking the status of my flight, I decided to head straight for the viewing terrace. Unlike most airports, ZRH actually welcomes visitors and provides excellent amenities such as a landside shopping centre, cafes and restaurants, and of course, the excellent observation terrace. I felt sorry for the families who had made the trip to the airport today, as there was not a lot happening!
I know that Saturday afternoon is a relatively quiet time for air travel, but I have never seen ZRH so eerily quiet. It almost felt like the airport was closed.
Alitalia Embraer in special 700th delivered colours
This A320 would take me back to Heathrow
Hey, a movement! Montenegro Airlines F100
I also visited the shop on the terrace- they have a good selection there.
As there were so few movements, I decided to head for the lounge.
Check In 2
Check In 1- Star Alliance territory!
Check In 1
There was no queue at passport control, and I was soon in the eerily-quiet Airside Centre.
This aircraft would later take me back to London
There wasn’t exactly a dazzling selection on offer, but the pastries were good!
I then headed upstairs to the bar.
Waiting for my flight to board.
After a while I decided to head to the gate. A65. Security was quick in the business class lane.
This flight was departing for CDG.
BA A319 leaving the E Terminal for LHR
HB-IJO- shortly to take me back to London
I had a last look in the duty free shop before joining the snaking queue for the additional passport check and boarding. It seemed that Economy would be full, with business class back to row 7, with a 50% load.
LX324 ZRH- LHR
Dep ZRH: 15.30 (15.50) Arr LHR: 16.20 (16.30)
A320 HB-IJO Business Class, Seat 5F
Even with a full load in Economy, boarding was fast and organised. The captain made an announcement that we would remain at the gate for a while and be taking off at 15.50, due to heavy inbound traffic at Heathrow this afternoon, but still expected an on time arrival.
There was no queue for take off and soon we were climbing to our cruising altitude of 34,000 feet.
The city of Basel
Today we would be served by the male Maitre de Cabine and a female Flight Attendant. The Swiss News programme was played as service began. The catering seems to have improved on this flight. I take this flight often and meals have been getting smaller on this route of late. It seems that the catering has been improved on this flight as the meal was better and larger than I remembered of late, consisting of chicken breast, cous cous salad, cherry cake and cheese.
The chicken appears to be dry in the photo but it was in fact very good, as was everything offered. I had a few glasses of champagne to accompany the meal, and the service was attentive and personalised, as I have come to expect on Swiss.
Regular refills of drinks were offered. Extra bread and cheese were also offered by the crew.
By now we were heading east of Paris towards the Channel
The trays were then cleared and coffee was served, with chocolates, of course.
Duty free service followed, but I don’t find the selection normally offered on short haul flights to be too inspiring.
Soon we were circling over Biggin Hill. The Captain then announced that we would be held in the stack for 20 minutes or so, due to heavy traffic at Heathrow.
The crew then came and took drink orders. This has never happened to me so near to Heathrow, and I thought that it was a nice touch.
After a while we began our approach into LHR.
Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs
The City of London. In this photo, from left to right, Barbican, Tower 42, The Gherkin and Tower Bridge
Westminster, Trafalgar Square, and London Eye
Buckingham Palace, Green Park and Mayfair. My home is in this photo, but it isn’t Buckingham Palace!
We made a smooth touchdown at Heathrow at dusk and taxied to Terminal 2. We were held by a preceding aircraft waiting for a gate, so I snapped a few more photos. We arrived at 16.30 and the aircraft was to have a quick turnaround for the 17.10 service to Zurich.
OA fans- the Queen of Terminal 2!
We eventually got to our gate and disembarked, but after leaving the plane, the door into the terminal was locked. This caused a lot of amusement and lots of comments such as “Welcome to London!” and “Only at Heathrow!” from some of the passengers. After a few minutes we were released from captivity and I proceeded to passport control, and the tube home.
All in all it was an interesting day. I experienced good service with Swiss, both in Economy and Business class, and the flights were broadly on schedule. I also visited 4 airports and had a train ride. I have now flown into ZRH, GVA, LUG, BRN and BSL. Am I missing any Swiss airport that gets a scheduled service? Sion perhaps?
It was a fun day trip and I was home by 17.30. Not bad at all!
Thanks for reading my report and questions and comments are appreciated.
Ndebele From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 2895 posts, RR: 25 Reply 9, posted (5 years 3 months 1 week 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 13887 times:
Very nice report, thanks for sharing.
Quoting Cambrian (Thread starter): They even began allocating middle seats in business class to try to get everyone away.
Strange, I always thought that due to weight restrictions, the Avro can't take off full from LCY anyway - and now they start giving out C-Class middle seats? Let's not forget about all the baggage for the ski-travellers you mentioned. The ZRH flight must have been close to the limit when it took off.
Infodesk From Switzerland, joined exactly 7 years ago today! , 1236 posts, RR: 34 Reply 12, posted (5 years 3 months 1 week 3 days ago) and read 13625 times:
Excellent trip report, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and great pics. You certainly packed a lot into your day trip!
Quoting Cambrian (Thread starter): For some reason I was not issued with an e-ticket, but had to collect the ticket from the Swiss ticket desk on arrival at LCY. I assume that this was due to part of the booking including a train ticket?
Exactly. I recently wanted to book BSL-ZRH(train), ZRH-MAN and realised at the last moment it wouldn't be an e-ticket, making web check-in impossible. Pity.
Quoting Cambrian (Thread starter): In one of the squares, there was a big barbeque event going on, and lots of Christmas trees. Does anyone know what this is all about?
It would have been the so-called "Christbaumverbennen". After Christmas you're often invited by your village or town to come and burn your tree and enjoy a snack at the same time. quite a few places cancelled it this year for environmental reasons.
Glad you had a good experience on LX and thanks for posting
"Do nothing in haste, look well to each step and from the beginning think what may be the end" - Edward Whymper
AA767LOVER From Hong Kong, joined Aug 2007, 549 posts, RR: 0 Reply 13, posted (5 years 3 months 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 13350 times:
I'm trying to be a bit adventurous. Let's say I arrive LHR at 805a on schedule from DUB. How long does customs take?
Let's say I want to take the Tube to LCY (which is faster, Tube or Heathrow Express?), and I fly within the country and come back to LHR by 5 p.m. Is this realistic? I have to catch a 22:15 p.m. plane to HKG that same night. I just don't want to stay in LHR for 14 hours (give maybe 3 hours for customs and transfers).
J.I. Tsui, American Advantage Member, United Mileage Plus (Premier)
SandroZRH From Switzerland, joined Feb 2007, 3382 posts, RR: 51 Reply 14, posted (5 years 3 months 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 13148 times:
Great report and trip, i'm jealous
Pity that you were at ZRH just in those 2-3 hours of total inactivity. It's not just saturdays, but everyday, it's just dead calm from about 1:30/2pm to 4pm. You should have made your trip during the WEF, there was a whole lot more to see around Terminal B.
Quoting MIAspotter (Reply 6): I think we should create an LX-oholics anonymous here on a.net
Quoting Ndebele (Reply 9): and it keeps me wondering why they always park the El-Al plane so close to the viewing terrace. Other airports hide El Al's planes somewhere in some hidden corners.
Other airports don't have security checkpoints prior to entering a viewing terrace It's probably safer there than on some remote stand close to the airport perimeter.
Cambrian From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 617 posts, RR: 5 Reply 16, posted (5 years 3 months 15 hours ago) and read 12955 times:
Quoting AA767LOVER (Reply 13): I'm trying to be a bit adventurous. Let's say I arrive LHR at 805a on schedule from DUB. How long does customs take?
Let's say I want to take the Tube to LCY (which is faster, Tube or Heathrow Express?), and I fly within the country and come back to LHR by 5 p.m. Is this realistic? I have to catch a 22:15 p.m. plane to HKG that same night.
Do you have a lot of luggage? Are you going to leave it at Heathrow or claim it? Have you thought about taking a mid morning flight to EDI, GLA or MAN, then taking a mid afternoon flight back into City, then taking the underground back to LHR? If you don't have a lot of luggage, the transit from LCY to LHR on the tube would take about 90 minutes, changing at Canning Town and Green Park.
Quoting SandroZRH (Reply 14): Pity that you were at ZRH just in those 2-3 hours of total inactivity. It's not just saturdays, but everyday, it's just dead calm from about 1:30/2pm to 4pm. You should have made your trip during the WEF, there was a whole lot more to see around Terminal B.
Yes, bad timing in a way, but having said that, I quite often transit ZRH on Saturday afternoons en route from MUC or ATH to LHR, and I have never ever seen it so deathly quiet as on that day!
Quoting MIAspotter (Reply 6): I think we should create an LX-oholics anonymous here on a.net... I can be the first member, I just love LX and ZRH airport!
Yes, I think that we are beyond help in our love of LX. We can also get OA260 to join!
Quoting MIAspotter (Reply 6):
P.S. Watching the pictures of the approach into LHR....and for no reason the song from "eastenders" popped into my head.... oh dear....
Oh no! I suppose that I must have flown over Walford.
Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 7):
It seems, once again, like also on my personal experiences, Swiss offers a top-notch product nowadays
I like these daytrips, amazing how much is possible in only some hours!.
Yes- Swiss really is hard to beat. The Economy service is also very nice, I find. It was a fun daytrip and you are right; a lot can be packed in if the flights are on time and the alarm clock is set!
Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 7): Ah, well, my bird from last week also in service at ZRH.
I had already seen (and enjoyed) your trip report, and I suppose that is why I took a photo.
Quoting OA260 (Reply 11): Hi there great LX TR and photos. Ive always wanted to fly out of LCY. The last time I was there is when it first opened. They had a Brymon prop A/C flying out back then LOL....How its changed....
That's going back a bit! I sometimes wonder if the growth of LCY into its current usage was really foreseen. Routes have come and gone and it is only in recent years that the airport has been carved up by Skyteam, VLM and Star, with multiple frequencies to business destinations. BA has been quite a late entrant into the LCY market. Was there ever a danger of LCY becoming a "white elephant"?
Quoting OA260 (Reply 11): Glad you had a good trip. Also nice to see SX-DFC making an appearance LOL...
How could I resist? Seeing her there only made me wish that I was on the next flight to Athens.
Quoting Infodesk (Reply 12): It would have been the so-called "Christbaumverbennen". After Christmas you're often invited by your village or town to come and burn your tree and enjoy a snack at the same time. quite a few places cancelled it this year for environmental reasons.
Thanks for letting me know- I did wonder. The food seemed very appetising.