This is the second part of my first RTW trip.
Flights 3 & 4
Flight 3 CDG-ZRH
Flight No: LX635
Seat No: 16A
Aircraft: Airbus A320-212 Registration: HB-IJH
This part of the journey did not begin well. One of the reasons for the poor beginning was my fault and the other was French bureaucracy. My contribution to the unfolding debacle was that I was unsure from which terminal my flight to Zurich departed. I thought it was Terminal 1 at CDG, but to be honest, I wasn’t 100 per cent sure – I should have checked my itinerary before I packed it in my bag and threw it into the boot of the taxi. So when the taxi driver asked me which terminal, I said “terminal 1, I think”. He said it was best to be sure and gave me a book to look up the correct terminal. The book said Terminal 3, so that’s what I told him. Arriving at Terminal 3, I knew within seconds that I was in the wrong place, of course the taxi had left by then, so I had to leg it through the terminals through to the inter-terminal shuttle train.
I seemed to walk for ages, but it couldn’t have been that long because I arrived at the SWISS check-in desk in Hall 4 of Terminal 1 at bout 9:05am. Hall 4 also hosted the check-ion areas for Lufthansa, TAP and SAS. The check-in area seemed to be in a state of chaos! People were all over the place. Many passengers seemed to still picking up their tickets from the SWISS Ticket Desk at the airport and the lines were long with people jumping between them. As a Air New Zealand Star Gold Member I joined the short queue at the business class check-in. I soon moved to the front and was called to the desk. When they check-in clerk realised I was on the 11:00am flight, she told me that they were still checking in the 10:00am flight and asked me to leave the queue and come back at 9:30am. I was not impressed, but what can you do? Now I knew the reason for the congested check-in area, I stepped to the back of the check-in area and waited, with the others.
Eventually I approached the business class desk again at around 9:40. There were a lot of people around and both desks were busy, but I was first in line to be served, until a couple with a mountain of luggage, just walked in the exit line as a desk became available and despite being asked to join the queue behind me, insisted that they be attended too. They were directed to the queue again and argued with the check-in clerk and the supervisor. As the next to be served, I said they could go ahead because the sooner they were processed the sooner a check-in counter would become available. Right at that time another check-in desk, the one I approached before, became available. The check-in clerk bid me good morning again and we got down to business. As I was connecting to the US, I had to supply the address of my NYC mid-town hotel. While she was typing in into the check-in system, I ventured that the area seemed very busy and somewhat chaotic, The check-clerk agreed and said it was always like that when they had to check people onto African flights. She noted that although I had a short transit in Zurich (50min) I would make the flight because the Swiss are very efficient. She issued me with my invitation to the Star Alliance Lounge but warned my to allow a lot of time to get from the lounge to the boarding gate (gate 71) because it was a fair distance away. I thanked her and went off to find the Tourist Tax-return Desk.
I found it, but so had about 15 people before me. While dismayed at the length of the queue, I wasn’t too worried as I had 1:15 minutes before my flight left and despite their poor reputation for efficiency; the 2 French officials were keeping things moving along. Until two women from the Middle East and Japan moved to both counters. Between them, they must have cleared all the shops in Paris, receipt after receipt after receipt was checked. The queue had grown to about 30 people behind me and still about 6 in front of me. Time was ticking away and the queue wasn’t moving.
Bearing in mind the warning about the distance of the gate, I left the tax-refund queue at 10:10am. Despite a longish line, I passed through the initial identity check quickly and then found my way across to terminal satellite containing gates 70-78.
Not there yet
And what do I see when I get there – two long and obviously slow moving queues to get through security. And boy were they slow moving? It took 50 minutes to get processed! Luckily only 4 of the 8 gates were being used otherwise I would never have made in onto the aeroplane. As it was, people were skipping the queue to make their flight in something like good time. People for the KLM Amsterdam flight, people travelling to Copenhagen on SAS all begged to be taken to the front of the queue. My “friends” from check-in were a few behind me and tried to do the same, but when everyone realised we were mostly all passengers on the LX 636 to Zurich, no quarter was given. Every time I travel in France, it takes ages to get through security, doesn’t matter which airport I use, the French model for scanning passengers is just slow. So I eventually made it onto the flight, without my tax-refunds and without getting to see the new Star Alliance Gold Lounge at Paris! Oh well I might try and get the refund at Zurich.
The flight appeared to be close to 100 per cent full in both classes. Despite the full flight and the slow security checks, the doors were closed at 11:05 – only 5 minutes late. All announcements were made by the crew in French, German and English. The safety video was played and then we pushed back at 11:09.
We taxied to Runway 26R and took-off at 11:24am with a take-off run of about 35 seconds. The Swiss must have a problem with passengers smoking on their flights because they seemed to remind everyone that smoking was verboten every 5 minutes or so.
In flight service started at 11:35, when we reached our initial cruising altitude. In economy were we given a cheese and gherkin baguette and a choice of water, coffee, tea, orange juice and soft-drinks. I had coffee and water with my baguette. At 11:55am, the crew started to sell duty-free goods, just after they collected the rubbish.
Helpfully, the connecting flight details and a map of Zurich airport were displayed on the IFE system, so I knew that I had to go to gate 26 in Terminal E.
We touched town on runway 34 at 12:15pm and we reached the gate at 12:20. Boarding for my flight to JFK started 10 minutes ago! Would I make the flight? I certainly hoped so. There was no time to go to the Star Alliance Gold lounge or get my tax refund. I whisked through Terminal A straight to the intra-terminal shuttle train. I wasn’t the only one, about 30 people came with me, some people were going to Shanghai, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Flight 4 ZRH-JFK
Flight No: LX014
Seat No: 22K
Aircraft: Airbus A330-222 Registration: HB-IQH
The A330 -200 was in the 3-class configuration. Although I reserved seat 30K at the time of booking, when I checked-in in Paris I was given seat 22K, I closer to the front, so I didn’t complain. I didn’t realise until I reached my seat that I had a seat in the first row of Y-class. Great, no one to recline back onto me!
The captain introduced the crew and announced our route would take us over London, Shannon, Gander, Boston to JFK. Our initial cruising altitude was 34,000 feet and a flight time of 8:15 hours. Our final cruising altitude was 36,000 feet. The cabin service director introduced himself and the cabin crew and reminded us that the flight was non-smoking and that all mobile-phones should be switched off now.
With typical Swiss efficiency, the doors were shut at 12:58pm, 2 minutes early. The safety video was played and we pushed back at 1:00pm. We taxied to Runway 34 and took-off towards the north-west at 1:15pm after a take-off run of about 45 seconds. We followed the LX flight to Chicago.
At 1:36, the pre-lunch drink service was served. I chose some white wine (Chardonnay) and the “Happy Mix”. The flight attendant returned after about 5 minutes, apologising that she forgot to ask me what I would like to drink during lunch. I asked what we were having for lunch and was told a chicken dish and lasagne. I said I would have a red wine – I was planning to have the lasagne. Unfortunately, I latter found out that it was a vegetarian lasagne.
"Visa or no Visa?"
I decided to give the in-flight entertainment system a work out. Not being an on-demand system, I had to plan my viewing to make sure I didn’t miss the beginning and to minimise the time between movies. I watched two films, Revolutionary Road (US), The Man who Loves (ITL) and two episodes of an English television programme called Great Artists with Tim Marlow – Leonardo and Bruegel. I also listened to some operatic arias on the sound system.
I must try and visit this other Sydney!
At 1:50pm US Eastern time, a snack was served. It was a Char grilled Mediterranean Vegetable Pasty from Monty’s Bakehouse in the UK. It wasn’t particularly nice. The pastry was fatty and soggy – you know what happens if your reheat flaky pastry in a microwave – it gets steamed when it really should be baked. I also had a Movenpick Crème-Brulee ice cream – that was nice. I also had water and coffee at the same time.
At 2:50pm US Eastern Time, the pilot announced our descent, just as we flew past Boston. We were about 45 minutes from landing at JFK.
Seen at JFK...
Lots of people seem to be critical of the seating on Swiss A330-200s, but I found it was OK – no better or worse than many other airlines. The old IFE isn’t great but easy enough to live with. Of course I did score the first row in Y class so I didn’t have anyone reclining into my space so that may have coloured my judgement.
We eventually touched down at 3:33pm US Eastern Time. A pity I wasn’t flying a couple of weeks later when Swiss introduced the Airbus A330-300 on the route. We landed on runway 31R and docked at the gate at 3:42 US Eastern Time. I arrived at the queue for US Immigration at 3:50pm and formally entered the country at 4:47pm – yes the queue was long and eventually the officials opened up the lines for US Citizens to non-US Citizens to speed things up. I was processed by a very polite and friendly immigration official and walked to the baggage collection belt and found my bags doing a circuit.