Time for a new post for this mile run trip. Back in September I began to consider the option of flying LX
somewhere to get some miles on my card. LX
prices for European flights are among the lowest in Europe and their service is always a pleasant experience. Looking at their website I found that they offered a really good price to fly to TXL
and get 11,000 miles. Excellent! I booked right ahead.
The routing is quite long: BCN
which means leaving BCN
at 9.10 and getting to TXL
at 19.10. Taking into account that you will be able to spend some time in LX
lounges it makes the trip a really wonderful experience.
Let's get down to the issues:
Boarding Gate: 50
Getting up at 6.00 is not really an issue for me as I do it everyday, so why not, when you have ahead a great day of flying with one of Europe's best flight carriers? After a light breakfast I took my bag and head towards the airport by bus. I usually go there by train but I decided to use the new service on one of the urban lines, so my first transport of the day was this TMB
46. It was empty being so early in a holiday morning so I quite chatted with the bus driver along the route. He said this was a really good line to work as it was an easy drive, mostly highway, and people were usually friendly. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the airport and then the fun started.
My first transport for the day
On Wednesday morning I tried to check in on line but I could only do it for the first flight. I wish they opened all legs once you get on the first one. So I printed my first, of three, boarding passes for the BCN
. I called Swiss in the afternoon and asked to get the others, ten minutes later the not so efficient guy got me the boarding card for the GVA
but could not get me the last portion as it was not due until later when the 24 period was due. Very strict, very..... Swiss. I doubt the employees cannot access the check-in procedures before the 24 hours curfew. Anyway I got to the Swiss office and got my three boarding cards on a row this morning. Not very happy with seat assignments but still a window was available for all.
I got straight to the departures area after going through all the safety procedures. Not too bad today, again I had to remove my shoes because they seem to have some metal inside, I wonder where, and they set the alarm on.
Vueling A320 with a nice view of T-Sud, due to open in 2009
No anger towards Ferrari in BCN
Entrance to the lounge with the always present clenaning staff
I went into the common lounge there, it is called Slavador Dalí and it serves all clients for all flights departing the Non-Schengen flights from Barcelona. Not much food around but at least some tea and pastries were available. Second light breakfast of the day. There were several groups of Americans departing for JFK
and some others to EWR
. The lounge is quite big and has some nice furniture around as well as a nice winding wooden roof, nice touch.
Second breakfast of the day
The nice winding wooden roof, homage to Gaudí?
At the boarding area many people heading for the New York marathon, you could guess it as many were displaying T-shirts from their running clubs with messages about the event. Good luck to all of them!
Our gate to GVA
I waited for boarding at the gate. Usually a lot of people getting in a long line, isn't it better to wait for the line to end and then get on your seat comfortably? I went down the bridge after getting the courteous 'Have a nice flight!' from the gate agent. Some nice metal around, CO
had already arrived as well as DL
, while the ATL
one was expected soon. SQ
arrived as I was inside my plane to GVA
. It is always nice to see that B777 parked at next gate.
Almost there, coming from EWR
After getting on the plane and being welcomed by the purser I was given a bottle of water and a newspaper while taxiing to the runaway. It is always a long run there as you bypass all the construction going on around the new terminal, T-Sud, expected to open at early 2009.
The Budapest flight
Nice tails at BCN
The T-Sud on our way to takeoff
It is always nice to see the planes moving around the apron to the runaways. We were preceded by a Clickair A320, a Spanair MD
-80 and followed by a IB
A320 and some others. One by one all planes started roaring their engines and up the skies they went. As we entered the runaway the captain announced our 'décollage en 2 minutes', French was widely used in this flight to Genève. So time to use my rotten French which I do not use in a daily basis but I still enjoy talking when required to after going through French school for four years back in the 1980s.
Nice 'décollage' and quick turn towards the sea to avoid flying over inhabited areas around the airport.
Ten minutes after the seat belt sign was turned off and the service started. A breakfast was going to be served to the hungry fliers. It would be my third today but the most consistent. Orange juice, tea with lemon for me were my morning drinks today. I'd say that the red fruits müesli is not my favorite morning food, but as I was hungry I emptied the plate. Food for thought: this is the type of food you would get in Y-class some years ago, it is really curious how things have changed in a few years. What's next to save costs?
My third breakfast, not the best; but it went all down my throat
The crew attending the C-cabin was formed by two FA
, Laurent and Sandra. I'D say that the flight was about 100% occupancy in both classes. Eager as I was to practice my French I got always an answer in English. I assumed my French sounded so rotten that Sandra preferred to speak English. When I point this to her she told me that she was not fluent in French so she preferred to speak English. I was surprised to see that, I had assumed that FA
were always bilingual, French and German plus English, in LX
flights. Another thing which I found curious, to say the least, is the nonexistence of any flight attendants speaking the language of the country of destination... I gave some thoughts about it.
Service on board was very 'à la suisse', punctual, efficient, smiling and refills and more food was offered once service was completed. Chocolates came while I was on the toilet and I was not offered any later..... sniffffffffff; later I took my revenge on the GVA
Routing took us over the Mediterranean to Marseille, then to Geneva passing the Alps. Lovely day and wonderful views were available all time as pointed out by both the pilot and First Officer on their speeches. It is always nice to learn about the route, flying altitude, arrival time, weather at destination... I think many airlines should learn from that and keep passengers informed, it makes you feel the airline cares.
Time to land, all procedures on time and after the final check we began our final descent. It was nice to see the routing our previous neighbors were taking: a nice turn around away from Geneva and then a nice landing.
The Alps, must be approaching our destination
My best view
No Sun on the valleys
Geneva airport was quite empty when we arrived, not that it would get any crowded any later.
Went through customs and headed outside to have a walk along the terminal and get some sun and fresh air.
Once back inside I had a look at the check in area, shows its age and cries for some reform IMO. Then upstairs through many shops and through passport control to the lounge.
Swiss lounge is located at the end of a corridor, quite crappy looking, not at all 'à la suisse', but once you go through the door you feel safe again. Really nice and newly furnished, very clean and with plenty of munchies: fruit, nuts, cookies, both cold and hot drinks.... Really nice. It was empty except for the corner dedicated to First Class passengers where there seem to be an ongoing meeting or convention going on there. Once the crowd left it was quite again and I had something to eat and grab a stool in front of one of the six computers available. Read some mails, browsed the internet and sat down to read for a while.
Nice bar at GVA
Another view of thi quiet lounge
After having some more fruit I went downstairs and was amazed at the smoking areas of the airport, just some regular seating areas not secluded at all... really amazing these days in Europe. The airport was more than empty, no one around, security was deserted and the waiting areas for the coming flights only filled up when boarding was announced.
Not a busy gate
Where is everybody?
Once boarding for my flight commenced there were about 20 people.... That was the load for today.
Boarding Gate: A05
The plane was exactly the same as on my previous flight. The new Recaro seats were holding the C cabin until row 20 and the passengers traveling in Y were squeezing in the last rows. Not that there were that many, but it was really curious to see such an empty section with so much room.
Seating on the comfy Recaro seats
First items on board on any LX
The two flight attendants serving the C cabin were extremely friendly and cooperative. We were pushed back on time and headed for the runaway where our engines started roaring and in no time we were airborne. With such a light load I had the feeling that someone was pushing the plane from underneath and taking us up in a very gentle way, the softest I have experienced in my flight experiences. The weather was great and you could have a great view of the city and the Alps behind, the best inflight entertainment you could possibly have. The pilot spoke to give some details and talk about the wonderful view we could have on the left side.
The Alps at its best
Five minutes after take off service started: a nice plate with some munchies and drinks a plenty. Refills came on time. We reached our cruising altitude at 6,000 meters and headed towards ZRH
, only half an hour away. Once finished I went to the toilet and had a talk with the flight attendants telling them how cheerful and enthusiastic they seemed, and how rare was that behavior nowadays.... In response I got half a dozen of Swiss chocolates. Very nice touch.
Nice snack for this half an hour flight
Our arrival gate at ZRH
Getting down to ZRH
was a little bumpy, the flight had been so smooth so far that the slightest shake was perceived as turbulence. We landed safely and driven to gate on no time. Again I headed outside the airport to get some sun and have a look at the airport. After sitting outside for a while I went downstairs towards the train station, God, it is such a huge airport underground as it is outside. Several corridors and plazas lead you to a big area where there are many stores and cafés. Switzerland is such a quite country that you could perfectly listen to a street (underground musician, in this case) playing the harp!!!!!!
Back to the check in area and inside the terminal through customs to the busy lounge. Being a Thursday evening it was quite full of people and not many places to seat, so I went upstairs to the bar and sat at the counter and asked for a bourbon. Looking at the screens I realized that the NRT
flight had been delayed for about 5 hours, so people were still there waiting for it. Once I finished my recovery drink I headed for the PCs, some are on tables and some others are on a common desk where you have to stand while you use it. So, lot of rotation there. I grabbed a banana, some apple cake and a tea and sat for a while before my flight was due.
Name it! The best airport in Europe 2006
Very nice hallways
Many people at the main security area so I headed for the other ones leading to the A gates, there are about three more and there is always a dedicated one for Business and First Class passengers. No one there and soon I was at the gate. Very busy area, lots of lines. Our neighbor was heading to Vienna, the ones in front to Warsaw.
Boarding Gate: A75
Waited until the line was empty and headed into the bridge. This plane still had the old interiors of Swiss and my seat was taken by another passenger. As I was the last one onboard and there were only three of us in C I asked the purser, a nice gentleman, if I could seat at the front row on 2F, he obliged and took my jacket away to hang at the closet.
We sat there for about ten minutes and the captain came on the speakers to inform us about it, nice touch again, not that frequent. There seemed to be quite a crowd of planes leaving ZRH
at the time and all trucks were busy. We were moved at 17.50 and headed towards the runaway. Water and towels had already been distributed and safety demonstration played on the overhead monitors exactly the same as in all LX
Many Swiss flights today
Old seating on this flight
Our Austrian neighbor with Spanish registration
Thanks, Danke, Merci, Grazie, Grazia
Take off was fast and soon we reached our cruising altitude. Service began at the back, that is, the gentleman seating behind me, and soon I was given my meal, again a cold plate with some salad, three pieces of a Swiss 'wurst' and a slice of what seemed a potato omelet. Bread and French cheese (do cheese Swiss producers know about this?) were offered twice during the flight. I took some wine and as well refills came any time my cup was half empty. After dinner I was offered some tea and chocolates, which I obviously I did not refuse.
My dinner, not filling but OK
A nice tea to finish the meal
Quite cold in ou descent to TXL
The flight was uneventful and our descend to TXL
was fast and safe. We landed just 5 minutes behind our schedule, and I was fast out of the plane and into TXL
towards the bus stop.
After three flights with Swiss today, I can say that their performance was excellent, both crews and pilots. They keep you informed on all flights: first the pilot at mid flight, then the first officer before descent. The crews very good on all three: very attentive, nice, smiling, enthusiastic and cheerful. Thumbs up for Swiss.
After three days in Berlin which included an attendance to the Deustsche-Staatsoper to enjoy Carmen in a 2004 production it is time to get back home.
Tiergarten at full colors
I get to Zoologischergarten Bahnhof to catch my bus to Tegel airport. I have always loved this place, when I began to study German all characters in language books headed to this train station as it was Berlin's central station before the opening of the spectacular Hauptbahnhof, really worth a visit: 5 floors where trains come and go from the top floor or the basement, simply amazing, all glass and full of life.
Banhhof Zoologischer Garten
My bus to Tegel
I catch one of the buses that take you to Tegel from there, either 109 or X9
, the express service. I go for the first one as I have plenty of time. After half an hour I am in Tegel, the sun is beginning to shine and the feeling of cold gets lower. I get my boarding cards from the auto-check in machines and head outside again to watch some of the action.
Berlin Tegel Airport, one of the three airports in the city
Something really amazing happens then: the Mongolian Airlines flight from Ulan-Bator and Moscow arrives and soon the Delta flight to JFK
departs so you get this curious view of such two different airlines, so close together.
These two countries have never been so close together
Some other action includes a BA
, an IB
, several AirBerlin and a KLM to AMS
. After all that I head to our departing gate where all the remains from the previous DL
flight can still be seen. The flight seems to be full and sure it is once we board the aircraft. We are bused in two carriers to the remote stand where our CRJ-700 stands. It is not sitting alone on the apron, there is another one and a 200 series next to it.
Our gateto ZRH
Wasn't it a flight I had paid for?
Boarding Gate: B20
3653 (Op. by Lufthansa CityLine)
CRJ-700 D-ACPK 'Besigheim'
Nice winglet and tail
Boarding one by one
View of the engine from the plane door
It is my first time on this plane and I like the way we board, through the front stairs and seeing its silhouette, so much stylized and thin gives the idea of a flying pencil. My handbag, too big to fit the overhead bins is left on the apron together with three others with the promise that it will be delivered back to me once I reach my destination.
Inside the plane it feels very cozy and comfortable although I almost hit the ceiling, I am just 1.73, but it is almost the clearance height. I take my seat, full of legroom on this first row and I feel I am flying my own private jet. The purser introduces herself and takes my jacket away and offers me newspapers, magazines, a cup of water and a refreshing towel. We are still sitting on the apron due to some late arrival of baggage as the captain informs us. Ten minutes later we start our way to the runaway. We take the path behind the airport crossing the highway and going through the bridge that has a 2% climb and descent as advertised on a road sign. We reach the runaway and after a short stop we start running along and we take off in such a gentle way and quite manner that it feels really smooth.
Water, magazine and towel, my first items of the day
Aufwiedersehen Berlin! Bis bald!
We climb above the scattered clouds in no time and soon reach our cruising altitude when service begins.
A cold lunch is served: two brochettes, one meat one shrimps, plus a salad, some bread and cheese and a nice apple cake together with a nice red wine a glass of water and some tea... really nice for lunch. My views were great: we were flying high above the clouds and some other planes could be seen, most going north but there was this nice view of this LH747 flying under us; due to perspective it seemed to fly sideways. Who needs a PTV when you can have so wonderful views?
Lunch. Notice my notepad on the right
The only pushback of the plane was that it feels really cold during the flight, too much air conditioning or being too close to the front door?
Service is very courteous and pleasant. When offered wine, I am asked to choose between the two basic options: French or South African, I go for the first one. The purser apologizes for it being too cold and offer me a third German option. I stick to my selection and have to say that she is right, anyway I drink it all.
Landing in clouded ZRH
is as pleasant as the rest of the flight and we are taken to a remote stand. When we disembark my bag is already there waiting for me. I take it and get on the bus that takes us to the main terminal.
Bye CRJ-700, thanks for such a nice flight
I go through passport control and after helping some passengers heading for MAD
to find the way to their gate for the connecting flight I go outside to have some air and there I run into a colleague of work who has been in Switzerland for the weekend with his wife and a group of architects visiting Luzern and Basel.
I head to the terminal, really quiet and nice on this Sunday afternoon. I head to the lunch where the bar is there ready to help me spend some time having a bourbon then downstairs where I get on a PC
to catch up some of the work for tomorrow Monday.
Best way to wait for next flight
Then I go the A07 gates which is together with all the other bus gates (A01-10) and has a quite crowded waiting area. At security I notice that everyone wearing boots is asked to remove them and throw them into the X-rays. Our flight is delayed to 17.00 due to a late arrival and we are taken on time to the plane by bus.
Must be ZRH
, mustn't it?
Busy waiting area
Our gate to GVA
Again another A320 that has a light load, many C seats and a secluded Y at the last rows. The crew is gentle and performs their duties with punctuality and a smile.
Swiss engine, any doubt?
Yes! It's Swiss
Boarding Gate: A07
-IJO 'Liestegerat, 2346m'
We are offered a nice bite and a glass of champagne to enjoy this short flight are served smilingly and refilled before reaching GVA
. Meanwhile through the window I see an amazing sunset full of colors... again a lot better than watching the many times seen 'Just For Laughs' episodes that keep repeating on LX
One of the many pictures I took of this wonderful sunset
Landing is really smooth and we are taken to the C gates, the furthest possible from terminal. Having to return to this very plane for my flight to BCN
it is really a long walk along the airport: many corridors, left and right turns until finally reaching the security area where there are many people; it takes about 10 minutes, not bad after all, to head on my way back to the plane. More corridors and more turns until I reach a really crappy boarding area where all stores are closed and the people have already started to board the plane.
Boarding Gate: C14
-IJO 'Liestegreat, 2346m'
Seeing the same faces of the crew is quite amusing and they all welcome me back on board. The plane is full except fro one seat in C, by the way, the C section has been reduced for this flight to the first three rows.
Same welcome, same water and towels before take off and then a newspaper service that included some Spanish ones. My seat has been cleaned on this short time as I left some bread crumbs on it, just as Tom Thumb, to find my way back.
Doors close right after me and pushback is immediate, we are following a BA
and take off right after. We turn southwest and head directly to BCN
after flying above the Massif Céntral and Perpignan as the captain informs us. The flight is uneventful and the food service, the same as the ZRH
flight, is Ok, but a little soggy this time. Once near BCN
we go around for a while as there is some congestion tonight as we are informed by the FO.
I can see some other flights going around as well, after two loops we are told to descend and land in about ten minutes heading to the gate to disembark. I say goodbye to the crew and inform them not to wait for me on their way back to GVA
Taking a ride on the bus back home resulted in arriving home 50 minutes after landing... not bad at all.
Well folks, that is it.
I hope you enjoyed and please leave any comments, suggestions, criticisms... as you please.
Thanks for reading.
"At reise er at leve" H.C. Andersen (Travelling is Living)