Welcome everyone to this Trip Report covering my weekend journey to San Fransisco in the new generation SWISS Business class. A bed above the clouds, they say.
This trip was booked on-line at LKM.com, a very easy to use website. A good feature is the ability to change country, paying in a local currency, regardless of country of departure. For example I was bake to pay in Euro for this trip, avoids pesky bank charges.
The 0600 deaorture implies an 0400 start, but a small, price to pay for a weekend of flying! LBA
is my local airport, but rarely used by me these days. This would be my first flight through LBA
in a few years. I was keen to see what changes there would be.
Security are has been redesigned to cope with increasing numbers of Jet2 and Ryanair passengers travelling across Europe, PIA passengers to ISB
in addition to seasonal long-haul charters to north america and the carribbean.
As I had already checked in on-line I picked up a boarding card and proceeded through security, already busy at this hour with KL
and TCX passengers, most looking as bleary eyed as I!
A quick e-mail check and browse of the departures area and it was boarding time through gate 10, so no air bridge today. This would be my first time on a Fokker, today my lift would be PH
-KZP, a Fokker 70. With 69 passengers today we were soon ready to go. A really friendly and smiley crew today, all from the UK, based at LBA
. Both crew were smartly turned out and impossibly cheery for 0540. Announcements in English and Dutch, with the usual welcomes from KLM, AF
/KL and skyTeam partners.
The inflight service was a real surprise. It was a very tasy and fresh sandwich with a choice of drinks, more than adequate on such a short flight as this. I’ve certainly never had cream cheese at 0600!
Arrival into AMS
was early, we arrived on-stand at 0700, about 20 minutes early. As we disembarked the captain individually thanked the passengers, a nice touch. As with most UK arrivals we were bussed to the terminal. As I was departing to a Shengen country I needed to re-clear security before admission to the central "Schipol Plaza" shopping/dining/lounge area for Shengen area flights.
First port of call would be the Servisair lounge. This lounge is used by most STAR airlines out of AMS
, including Swiss and Lufthansa. It seems to be the former BD
lounge. Although new sofas appear to have to have been installed, not much has changed since the BD
days and the things that have are not improvements. The selection of food and drinks is extremely limited and the coffee is foul and undrinkable. I took a quick run to starbucks and brought it back to the lounge, with a knowing smile from the lady at the desk. No free wi-fi either and the lounge dragons were having a very loud conversation at the desk, I have no problem with the chat, but one level below shouting is not approprtiate. This is a disappointing lounge, the only up-side is that the lounge has plenty of comfortable seating. Probably because frequent travelers simply don't bother, I proceeded to he gate rather earlier than usual.
A significant hike later I arrived at the assigned gate, where pre-boarding was just about to start. Boarding at AMS
is odd. After boarding is called everyone is corralled into a holding area before everyone boards all at once. Anyway, the greeting of this LX
crew was great and I was soon settled in 2A with a refreezing towelette and bottle of water. Load in business was 10, all of us seated in the first three rows.
Flight time was one hour and the crew were kept busy with a cold breakfast plate, warm pasteries drinks and duty free sales. All of the 5 crew were friendly in the Swiss way, very approachable but discrete and unobtrusive service.
Soon it was arrival time into ZRH
and I made my way to the SWISS_Lounge complex. Both the SEN
and business/FTL sides were extremily busy, it was hard to find a seat. Good for SWISS, I suppose. It does not seem that long ago that SWISS was anemic and bleeding cash in the style of Alitalia and Olympic. Now the airline is flourishing with an ever expanding route structure and record profits for Lufthansa. It is not so long since tha last renovation but if SWISS plan their continued expansion they need to look at more lounge space, maybe in the new Pier B.
I thought I would share the A340 take off sequence with you all. This is on the SEN
/*G side of the lounge and is a cool feature, which caught my eye.
Now was the cause of the trip, the chance to fly LX
new business class. I have to admit this layout is pretty ugly. The staggered seats and small distance between the seats give the impression of a cramped, cluttered space. Personally I find the look and texture of the "wood" panels very unappealing, the materials of the seat housing feel somewhat cheap to the touch. The seat fabric and leather armrests are much nicer.
Some images from the web:
(Those two are not my phtos, but represent the cabin better than mine did, all credit to the original poster)
Despite first impressions, once seated things get a lot better, very quickly. I was seated in 10A, which is a great seat for solo flyers. There is a large table area, one each side of the seat and plenty of floor storage too. This seat offers plenty of privacy, as it is on it's own but the rows don't line up exactly, so you cannot directly look across and see anyone. When in bed mode the seat is completely flat and very low to the floor, again very private. The seat has air cushions which adjust every so often, also enhancing comfort. The seat does not have a large range of adjustment. There are basically two modes, "bed" and "lounge" in addition to the "take off" position. I did not have a problem, but others might do. This seat is defiantly an improvement over "old" A340 business class and incomparable to A332 business class. It's great as a seat and a bed, where the surface is not only horizontal but also free of lumps and bumps found in many seats, I managed to get some truly relaxing sleep in this seat.
SWISS business service offers high quality of food and wine, I had a delicious beef starter and chicken main.
Dessert was not so much to my taste, but the accompanying fruit salad was delicious. Choices of tea and coffee and free flowing drinks, as usual. Much more to my liking was the choice of beverages aboard. Not only was the Bombay Sapphire offered from a large bottle it was served with generous measure and regularly topped up. Much more like it!
Mid-flight an ice-cream cone was offered and then this ham and cheese roll, also found on short intra-Europe Y:
quite tasty too.
An hour before landing the trolley came round with some deli options, bread and more drinks. Again very tasty and appropriate for early evening arrival in SFO
SWISS service is beyond reproach. All the crew were friendly, and attentive too. In boarding I hit my head on the overhead locker while stepping in from the aisle. The attendant for my section rushed over to check I was ok, but later on continually asked about my head. This sort of thing makes a very good impression.
Here are a few snaps of the Red Carpet lounge at LAX
and return meal options.
For the return I selected 5A
, with the seat next to me blocked. This mini-cabin between First class and Doors 2 is very intimate and there are only 9 passengers in this mini-cabin, ensuring very attentive service.
I’m not sure who designed the tables on these new seats but they are unnecessarily difficult to stow away. Already the area around the table is showing evidence of damage as people just can’t stow the bloody thing. SWISS need to give clear instructions on this, or redesign the table (too late, I would think). Either way something needs to be done. At least two areas of the seat had been bent/were coming away, maybe my first impression of build quality was not so wrong, after all.
I think it is the combination of a strong hard product, attentive crew and reliable schedules which makes SWISS so successful. ZRH
is a dream to transfer or use, the main concourses have a relaxing hush about them, even when busy. The terminal is airy and bright.
Yet, for all the brilliance LX
always leaves me somehow cold. The service is consistently faultless, yet I somehow prefer Austrian. Maybe it's the purple seats, green carpet and red uniforms. Maybe the sky chef, but I suspect it is the genuine warmth and genuine friendliness with which one is welcomed aboard an OS
flight, the service feels more first class than the LX
equivalent. Of course OS
has not F cabin to worry about and is more of a niche carrier. Maybe think of OS
as a boutique hotel, LX
more like the Hilton, more mass market appeal, still luxurious and comfortable.
So, SWISS still offer an excellent product. The new “bed above the clouds” business class seat/bed is a fantastic seat, despite a few quality problems with the seat housing and the table. The product exceeds expectations and is competitively priced, what’s not to like?
Next flights: MAN-ORK-LHR(EI)-MAN(BD); MAN-LHR(BD)-ORK (EI); DUB-ZRH-LAX (LX) LAX-YYZ (AC) YYZ-YHZ-LHR(AC)-DUB(BD)