I recently took a trip from Berlin to Dallas via Zurich on Swissair and American and thought I'd give you the report.
Dec. 31 - as I was invited to a New Year's Eve party before a conference, I took the New Year's Eve flight.
TXL-ZRH SR 599 - The flight was a Airbus A-319 that, from the look of it, was pretty new. It was a 7:20 a.m. flight and from the look of the lounge was pretty empty. As I got on the plane I saw that it was in fact nearly empty and I got the entire emergency exit row to myself. As it was snowing lightly, the plane was deiced ansd then backed out of the gate only 10 minutes behind schedule. With such a light load, the plane took off like a rocket and we enjoyed a smooth ride and saw a spectacular sunrise out the window. We arrived in Zurich on time and then, as ZRH doesn't have enough gates, we were taken by bus from the plane to the terminal. I counted 10 people on the bus.
ZRH-DFW AA 37 - By the time I walked the difference from concourse A and concourse B at ZRH, they were listing my flight as boarding. As I checked in, I was asked the "did anyone you didn't know pack anything for you today?" question again and then my connecting luggage was checked off a list. That's the first time that's ever happened to me - they were being extra careful.
The "boarding" was merely allowing us into the boarding lounge and it was a typical hurry up and wait situation. As I was seated relatively far forward in Economy and am not a Gold, Platinum or other precious metal AAdvantage member, I was among the last to board.
I had an aisle seat (inner aisle - 25H) and there was space in the overhead for my carryon in the 777. It was my first time on the 777 and I like the overhead design -very airy and spacious feeling.
The flight was essentially full and we backed out of the gate on time and taxied to take off. On board we were fed lunch (some chicken creation, generally pretty edible) and the perfunctory drinks. There were seatback videos throughout coach with a selection of 3-4 movies, CBS programming and old comedy and Nickelodeon. American also has more legroom than most airlines nowadays (though still not as much as, say, Lufthansa had in their A-340s as recently as 1996) and that helps. 1.5 hours before landing they served a snack with Spinach Pizza that was actually pretty good.
In all it was about as pleasant as transatlantic economy flying gets today when the plane is full but it was still unpleasant as it was 11 hours and I found sleep impossible.
We landed in Dallas about 20 minutes early. However, about 4 other flights came in at the same time and the Imigration and Customs facilities were clearly overwhelmed. The lines were as bad as anything I've seen at JFK.
January 10 - I had about a 3 hour drive to the airport from some friends I was visiting but allowed plenty of time and returned the rental car in good shape. By the way DFW has a newly opened Rental Car Center at the South Entrance to the airport. One bus works for all companies. Not a bad arrangement.
DFW-ZRH AA 38 - I got checked in without incident and had lunch at the food court (the selection of food at DFW isn't bad, by the way). We boarded on time and the flight wasn't even full. I had an aisle seat again (24J, the outer aisle) and things were looking up. The first trouble came when there was a brief mechanical delay. Then came the announcement that we would be going in 15-20 minutes. Then another similar announcement saying that the mechanical work had been done but that there was some "paperwork" to finish. More than 2 1/2 hours after our scheduled departure, it turns out that insurance cerificate on the aircraft had expired at the end of 2000 and they were scrambling to find the new one, without which the Swiss authorities could impound the aircraft. That was a new one on me and didn't make AA look very good, frankly.
We got going and they apologized up one side and down another throughout the flight. Originally I had 2:45 to kill in Zurich and now I was wondering if I would make my connection at all. If I missed it, I would be waiting 6 1/2 hours until the next one.
The service was similar to that which I had on the flight to the U.S. (i.e., good but not extravagent).
We landed and it was off to the races. I asked the CSM if I had time to make my connection and she said it hadn't left yet (though it was on the other concourse).
ZRH-TXL SR 592 - I all but ran through the airport with my carryon and my laptop case and got to the gate with it still showing Berlin. I checked in at the gate, a small bus pulled up and took 6 of us to the airplane (another A-319). We climbed in, sat down, and they taxied off. I had spent a total of 12 minutes in Switzerland. They left the door to the cockpit open and since I was on the aisle (12C), I had a good look forward. They closed the door shortly before takeoff and off we went.
The rest of the flight to Tegel was uneventful and we landed on time. After clearing immigration I waited for my luggage to arrive which, as I expected, it didn't. It was delivered to my home later that night to the disappointment of my kids who didn't see the stuff I got them until the next morning.
I was still a little ticked about American's incompetence in not having that insurance certificate until I looked at my AAdvantage account online and saw that they had credited my account with 7,000 bonus miles as a "Customer Service Bonus". That is a smart way to make up for a mistake.
Anyway, that was long and I'm sorry about that.
Dave in Berlin