Hello fellow A.netters,
It was mid May 2009. The excitement of visiting an exotic country kept holding my partner and me for days after returning from our spring holiday. Even though we would not be able to travel abroad until the beginning of September due to our busy agenda, we were looking forward to making a travel arrangement to an another exotic destination we had never been to.
While browsing through our wish-list, we came across Egypt. The country of the pyramids, sphinx, mummies and The Valley of The Kings which we were eager to visit for a long time. So we told our employers about our intention to have three weeks off in September. Gladly, our requests were granted.
PREPARING OUR TRIP
Usually we prefer booking flights and accommodation ourselves so that we can arrange our trip on location at our convenience. But due to the fact that we were not used to traveling in the African continent and none of us could speak Arabic, we decided that it would be better to book a tour package this time. Only on one condition…we would be arranging the flights on our own.
One particular Dutch travel agent offers the possibility to book what they call an individual country arrangement which consists of the highlights of Egypt like Cairo, Aswan and Luxor. This offering fit our needs perfectly. So we inquired a quotation of it.
The agent replied the following day and mentioned that they held an option on the international flights with Egyptair as well. But if desired, we could book the international flights separately. Since we would be flying with Egyptair domestically and wished to try a new airline, we declined this option. We wrote back that we would accept the quotation if the agent dropped the international flights.
Then arranging the flights.
For the desired period, we could consider two airlines, Turkish Airlines of Swiss. Both are four star airlines according to Skytrax ranking and we could not decide which airline would be better to fly with. Thanks to your recommendation, we finally cut the knot and made a reservation with Swiss.
We booked our tickets directly through their website at www.swiss.com. In the matter of minutes, we got our E-tickets delivered. One thing I like very much on the Swiss website is the ability to book different classes inbound and outbound. Still a few airlines offer this feature by now. We would be flying outbound in Y and inbound in C.
I was excited about our itinerary since it would involve some firsts. In term of carrier, it would be my first time flying with Swiss. In term of aircraft type, it would my the first time flying with Avro RJ100 Avroliner as well as Airbus A340-300.
Although the Swiss website is easy to navigate, there is one gripe about the booking engine. Once you have booked your flights without profile as we did, you will not be able to include your existing booking number into a registered profile you create afterwards. The only way to reach our booking details was by logging in through an input mask.
The ability of this booking engine did not really meet my expectation either. For instance, we learnt from the Swiss customer service that you should be able to enter your APIS data. But we could not find any field to fill out those details. However, this problem has been solved. I found it out while doing the online check in during our holiday.
Anyway, we notified the Dutch travel agent about our itinerary. We got the invoice delivered the next day. The agent said that the confirmation would follow as soon as they got the notification from their Egyptian counterpart.
Months were passing by. It was the beginning of August and we still did not get anything. So I made a telephone call to inquire the status. The agent told me that they would let me know as soon as possible.
The agent returned my call the following week and told us that we would be receiving our documents about a month before our departure. I asked whether I could get the PNR of the domestic flight. Unfortunately, my request could not be met as the agent did not get notified by their Egyptian partner. I found it quite strange. Would it mean that we would be issued a paper ticket? Even a paper ticket still contains a PNR. I guessed I just had to put with it. I hoped I still would be able to board the Embraer jet when the time came.
The agent however failed to deliver our documents as promised. We received it just less than a week before departure. It was not really a big deal. But since they failed to deliver on their promises, I would consider bringing my business elsewhere next time.
One of the best invented airline features is the online check in facility. We first discovered the ease of this facility about four years ago with Singapore Airlines. Nowadays all of the legacy airlines cannot do without, including Swiss. For some reasons the website stated that online check in was not available for the AMS-ZRH leg. Though we did manage to check in online for both legs once we were logged in.
Boarding pass to Zurich
Boarding pass to Cairo
Due to our departure time, we went to bed before eleven. I tried to catch some sleep, but eventually woke up before two o’clock the next morning. I then stayed awake until I got sleepy after our pickup upon arrival in Cairo.
Date: 17 September 2009
ETD/ATD: 07.05 / 07.08
ETA/ATA: 08.30 / 08.36
Flight number: LX 737
Plane: Avro 146-RJ100
Delivered: 8 October 1999
Photo © Jerome Zbinden
AT THE AIRPORT
We arrived about two hours before the scheduled departure time. For Swiss we had to be at row 8 next to Lufthansa check in desk. It was getting busy.
A friendly attendant at the combined check in desk of Business Class and Baggage Drop Off greeted us
Check in desk
Satisfied about our documents, he smiled, “See you later at the boarding gate,”
So off we went.
Ticket center on the opposite of the check in row
Past the security, we entered Lounge 1 from which all Schengen flights depart.
The Business Lounges are situated on the second floor. Swiss is hiring the Menzies’s one in AMS.
Apron view from the second floor just behind the smoking cabin
Following shots are taken on our way to the designated gate B17.
When we arrived, there were still not many passengers around.
The holding room
Finally, the glimpse of our beauty.
The ground attendant from the check in desk was there as well together with his colleague. We got seated and waited for the boarding call.
A couple minutes later I heard some arguing from the direction of where the attendants were. When I looked up, I saw a passenger making gestures towards the guy from the check in. I did not what they were talking about, but they kept raising their voices as the matters went.
Anyway about 20 minutes before the scheduled time, the boarding call was made. While boarding, we passed the passenger I mentioned earlier. Apparently he got himself with one carryon bag and two big Duty Free bags. He had still got things to sort out, but had to stay aside for a while to allow other passengers boarding first.
The outside view during the boarding
We were greeted by Lars Meijer, who was Maitre de Cabine for this flight. His other colleague was standing at the back of the plane. They were the only two cabin attendants.
Waiting in line
Finally we reached our seats 21 A and C. These were the only two adjoining seats available at the online check in. These seats are non reclining as well. As this would be a short flight, we did not mind. After all, this would be my very first experience of this Recaro seat.
The magazine rack
The seat pitch, enough for a short flight
View of the right side
In the magazine rack you can find the following things:
Duty Free catalogue
The Swiss own trip report magazine
The safety card
Until then I could not figure out what the registration number was, so I asked the colleague of Lars, he was nearby anyway, about it. He said that he would come back to me on that after the boarding had been completed. He kept his promise.
The door closed about three minutes behind schedule. Lars welcomed all passengers through the intercom and said that the flight would last one hour and five minutes. Then they both did the safety demonstration using a prerecorded tape. That was interesting, I have never seen this feature before.
We were taking off from the famous Polderbaan this time.
The whole cabin prepared for takeoff
The four engines spooled up and with a powerful take off we rocketed to the air.
Emerging above the clouds where the morning son greeted us with his gloomy shine.
After the seat belt sign was switched off, I paid a visit to the toilet at the back of the aircraft. Oh my God, it was the smallest lavatory I have ever seen. The space is just enough to cater one’s need. I unfortunately could not find a decent position to take a picture inside, so I have to disappoint you with that.
When I returned to my seat, the captain came to intercom. He told us that we had reached the cruising level of 9,000 meters and the temperature in Zurich at the moment of arrival would be about 60 degrees of Fahrenheit.
The in flight service was started. Lars’s colleague dragged the trolley all the way to the front and started serving. Lars was serving Business Class first before emerging in the Y cabin to help his colleague.
We were served a banana muffin with a choice of coffee or tea.
The muffin was delicious, I must say. Moist and not too sweet, really to my liking and just enough for that flight duration.
Lars came through the cabin again with the typical Swiss service, a basket with Swiss chocolates.
His colleague appeared with the Duty Free cart. But nobody was interested. What an unimaginable busy task for the two of them.
We started descending even the Duty Free cart was still underway. The seat belt sign was switched on and Lars made an announcement through the intercom. In a short, it went like this, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descend to Zurich. Please put your seat in the upright position and fasten your seat belt. We expect to land in Zurich at eight sixty three.”
I got puzzled of the last information. My partner said, “I think he meant thirty six.” OK, that made more sense.
It was bad weather in Zurich. It rained cats and dogs. You could barely see the ground, just minutes before landing.
And finally the touchdown. My very first arrival in ZRH.
We landed on the outer runway of the satellite building, so we had to cross another active runway to reach the terminal building.
Air Berlin taking off
View on the satellite terminal, our Airbus to CAI was parked next to SQ aircraft, the second from the right
Docked next to sistership Avro
I was just excited about visiting ZRH. After saying goodbye to Lars and his colleague, we made our way to gate E42 where our Airbus was waiting for us.
This is the first part of my trip report. More are still to come. I hope that you enjoy reading my trip report. Please feel free to leave some comments and suggestions.