Flight KM 491
ZRH - MLA
5th June 2006, 1740
Airbus 319 "Floriana" 9H-AEH
Photo © Marcel Schmidt
Travelling over a bank holiday I decided it would be wise to get to the airport early to avoid the queues. So I was all the more surprised to see the check-in area almost deserted and we had our boarding cards in less than a minute. I had made a seat request and we got 6A & 6B as I'd hoped.
After chatting to some of my colleagues we proceeded through passport control and headed to the duty free shops - employees get a 15% discount so it was well worth stocking up! Our flight was departing from Dock E and I am used to telling passengers to allow 15 - 20 minutes to reach the gates. This is usually only true in the mornings, when the long haul flights depart and we reached our gate in 5 minutes.
You have a lovely view of Zürich airport from Dock E and we watched plane after plane landing as it was now the busy time between 1600-1700. The incoming Air Malta flight landed early at about 1640 and it was nice see what a leisurely turnaround looks like, as I am so used to flying Easyjet where people start queuing the moment the plane comes into sight! We started boarding early and again I enjoyed not having to push to get a decent seat. As my partner's boarding card was checked the gate staff said there was a note on the computer that he was an unaccompanied minor and needed assistance, which seem to cause some amusement! I never did find out just how that comment came to be in the system!
As we boarded the aircraft there were two policemen watching the proceedings. There were 4 rows of business class and the flight was about half full. The configuration was the same (3-3) through the whole aircraft, so in business part of the middle seat had been folded down to create a mini table. You could tell the airbus was new and the big leather seats were very comfortable. The downside? Seat pitch was appalling! I felt very cramped and had the misfortune to have a large man sitting on the aisle seat who was taking up half my space
The pilot (who I had seen when boarding) was very young and informed us of our route and that the flight would be a very quick 1hr50. Then the cabin crew did the safety drill, but strangely not in German. It was nice to hear Maltese though! We took off on time from runway 28 and then banked to the left to pass over Zürich
Then we went into cloud so no chance of seeing the Alps. Thankfully there were some gaps later.....here you can see Lake Lugano
Shortly after this dinner was served, and impressive it was for such a short flight. I had ordered a vegi meal and had pasta salad followed by a fruit salad. The meat dish was chicken and potatoes and a piece of cake for desert. You also got two bread rolls, a non-alcoholic drink, wine and tea or coffee.
The Italian coast
We had lovely views of the west coast all the way down Italy. As we approached Sicily we started the descent. The pilot announced the temperature to be a mere 20C, but at least the sun was shining! We were on the wrong side for the views coming into land.
We landed early after a very smooth flight and were taken by bus to the terminal. On arrival we were handed a questionnaire to report on our holiday experience. Luggage came quickly and soon we were on our way to the hotel.
MLA - ZRH
12th June 2006, 1430
Photo © Ian Wright
After a fantastic week in the sun it was time to return to Luqa airport. Again we were some of the first to check in and again were assigned 6A & 6B. At the airports I've been to passports and boarding passes are checked together, but not in Malta! First the boarding passes were looked at, then there was a very thorough security control and then came passport control, after which you entered the tiny departure lounge. There are 7 gates, a small selection of shops and a Hard Rock Bar, which was doing very good business. We enjoyed a final glass of Kinnie (the delicious Maltese soft drink made from oranges and herbs)!
Boarding for the flight started early from gate 2, where we were bussed to the plane, an old 737, which again was little over half full. Whilst the interior wasn't a patch on the airbus, the seat pitch was better and I found the flight far more comfortable. The pilot did make an announcement but it was impossible to hear him! This time the safety demo was presented in Maltese, English and German. There was no other traffic and we took off early, leaving the coastline behind us immediately, with an estimated flight time of 2hrs 20
Shortly afterwards, we passed over Sicily
The meal was served quickly. This time the vegi meal hadn't been ordered. It was a selection of cold meats and cheese, so picked out what I could. The desert was cake again. We were delighted to be able to have another glass of Kinnie on the plane, this really was the last one! The rest of the flight was uneventful, the occasional bump but that was it. I was surprised that Air Malta offered no duty free or indeed any items to buy and I was a bit disappointed.
I noticed a pilot sitting on the front row of economy. I later discovered he was from Swiss airline Hello, who have been operating a number of charter flights from Malta to UK regional airports, so he was obviously on his way home.
Soon the Alps came into view and we started our descent
We enjoyed breathtaking views of Lake Lucerne
Final approach to Zürich
We touched down on runway 14 ahead of schedule and had a short taxi to Dock E. On leaving the plane the police were doing passport checks. for certain flights this is normal but it seems on this occasion they were either looking for someone particular or they were just doing a random check.
And so our holiday was over! My thoughts on Air Malta? I much preferred the old 737 to the new A319. I found the crew somewhat disappointing, they were very business like and didn't smile very much! But both flights were early and the food was good so overall a thumbs up for Air Malta.
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