Chocolate, FC Barcelona and a First Class Lounge
A trip across Europe in Swiss Business
Welcome to my second trip report, may I invite you to follow along one of my recent intra-European trips on Swiss Air? I know, life can be oh-so exciting.
Welcome onboard of Swiss Air, the FC Barcelona of air travel. Honored by true lovers of the beautiful performance, envied by competitors, always a step ahead of the opponent, sometimes playing in its own league – and several times close to having been bankrupt.
No, no, I should not distract you from the true purpose of this report; sometimes I get taken away and stumble back into the good old times of glorious air travel. Today’s intra-European travel can be as exciting as a trip to your local supermarket, or the dentist that is, if you fly Ryanair. But luckily, a few exceptions still exist and Swiss Air is one of them.
So let us travel to a country that is known for great chocolate, precise technologies, superb service traditions and user-friendly banking policies (for me exactly in this order).
Welcome to tonight’s trip. It actually starts in the middle of Copenhagen, another such places that one can easily envoy. It basically is the FC Barcelona of cities, because… well, you get it.
Clean CPH Metro Station:
As per a recent global study, the people of Denmark are the happiest in the world, so I expect only smiles and laughter around me. The Copenhagen crowd in the Metro seems to try hard to fulfill this prejudice or are they just laughing at me, because I wear this funny looking wool cap with a huge scarf that absolutely do not match? I guess I will never find out, but it is cold, I am not used to that and I am a man – so getting sick will not be an option due to the fact that us men suffer way more when being sick then our female counterparts in life. It’s science. It has been proven. Read about it.
The Metro arrives at Copenhagen Airport, a place I have been quite a few times due to some business here in Denmark. You can walk straight from the Metro platform into the terminal, great, no need to go back outside. The first sign I notice is advertising Valentine’s deals in the duty free area. I forgot, airports are of course shopping malls, airplanes just happen to land here as well. And since air travel usually means being late, I fully understand that the advertising is still up, after all Valentines Day just happened only a few days ago.
Down the escalators into the check-in hall:
I am in the terminal and bypass the very Nordic looking check-in counters. For once, I like the self-service kiosks. And secondly, I do not see any smiling Danish check-in staff there and I refuse to talk to non-happy Danes. Or they are not Danish. See 1910h.
The check-in kiosk refuses to accept any of my entries, so I decide to head over to the non-smiling check-in agent at the SAS/LH/Star Alliance Business Class check-in. As I arrive, he starts smiling. I figure out he then must be Danish.
However, he cannot check me in, even though Swiss is part of Star Alliance and SAS handles almost all Star flights here in Terminal 1, Swiss is the exception and he directs me over to Terminal 2, a five minute hike through the airport. Well, I need any exercise I can get. My cardiologist will love me for that statement.
The combined check-in counter for Swiss and Brussels Airlines (note to myself: they also check-in at Terminal 2, remember it when flying them back to BRU in 3 weeks) are completely empty and I receive a boarding pass within a few moments. Up the stairs to the security checkpoint, the line tonight is quite long so I try the priority lane.
No such luck though, as I get refused. “This priority line is for all airlines in Terminal 2 except Swiss and Brussels Airlines”, the gatekeeper tells me, “You need to take the SAS priority lane from Terminal 1”. Nice, that is where I just come from. Interesting concept. Off to Terminal 1 again.
Time to line up (no, not for departure yet, that would mean I would fly on a private jet and I would certainly keep that experience to myself). The SAS priority security line is not very long, maybe 6 people ahead of me. All of them wear suites, all of them have laptop bags, all of them are so like me. Or I am like them. Or we just tend to loose more and more of our individuality these days.
The line moves really fast, the security staff is smiling (so they must be Danish) and I am through in 2 minutes. This is the norm at this über-efficient security check-point, my favorite one in the world. They are like the FC Barcelona of airport security checks, because… well, you get it.
The SAS lounge is right next door, a place with many faces (people that is). Downstairs is the lounge for the ordinary crowd, upstairs the sanctum for the elites. Does society need such strong diversifications? Shall we really separate elites from non-elites? I am no sociologist, so I am the wrong person to give a firm statement on this. But I know that like the lounge upstairs and that is where I am heading now. Life is exciting.
The food station, quite crowded tonight:
My favorite spot in the lounge, the small “private room”:
Boarding to Zurich is delayed and this is the only reason I decided to even visit the lounge. I hate being late for boarding and make other people wait. I am not that important, I am not the pope – or Messi (he is like the pope of FC Barcelona, just in case you are not familiar with the beautiful game of European Football). I fell like I could have some nice Spanish ham now, but there isn’t any. Shame.
Boarding process starts as I arrive at the gate:
Boarding! The purser at the door is as friendly as can be and I immediately feel like asking for some of the Swiss Air chocolate, but tell myself no, you are not 10 anymore, you can wait. So I just arrive at my seat. I still want chocolate.
I am in row 3 and except for me, there is only one other passenger in Business Class tonight. Economy seems to be 60-70 % full. The two lovely older ladies in the row behind me seem to be quite excited to go wherever they will be going tonight. I don’t understand a word, but I could, if I would just speak their language, as they are not talking, but almost shouting. It sounds friendly, so I don’t think they are having an argument. I still decide to move up to row 2 after takeoff, so I can concentrate on some last-minute work.
View from row 3:
View from row 2, not that much different:
The dinner is served, a small plate with salmon and cucumber, bread, cheese and of course water. I usually only drink water on planes and never any alcohol. The purser is extremely friendly, addresses my by name all the time and offers frequent water refills. Light turbulence shakes the plane here and there, nothing serious though, just enough to keep any Martinis perfect - if they were to be served here.
The dinner tonight:
Chocolate! Chocolate! Did I mention that I love chocolate? Tea service comes around and with it the famous Swiss Airlines chocolate. I take some black tea and three small sweet bites, just enough to enjoy and not enough to regret. Below us, the city of Hannover just passes by – not that it is of particular beauty or touristic importance, but they have the very famous CeBit trade show, so I go there at least once a year.
Chocolate and tee:
Rumble in the jungle! The plane shakes every now and then and I hear a very female “Ooohhh” from behind. For a moment, I wonder if it would be worth to turn on my iPhone and put it in video mode, but figure out that it is probably just someone who is a bit afraid of flying. Turns out that is the case.
The fasten seatbelt signs are off and I make a trip to the loo. I never understood why people love pictures of airplane lavatories so much, but it seemed to be the standard in a.net trip reports, so here it is. The fancy-schmancy, super-dupa A321 forward lavatory. Enjoy, loo-lovers!
Getting closer to Zurich, we leave the cruising altitude and start our descent towards Zurich Airport. In a close tie with Munich, it is my favorite Airport in Europe. Very clean, very efficient, a nice and comfy Swiss First Class lounge, usually short ways and quick connections and very friendly staff. Kind of like the FC Barcelona of European Airports, because… well, you get it.
City of Kloten, moments before landing:
Landing on runway 28:
We arrive at the gate, close to the main concourse, and are let off the plane. Quite a lot of people have some late-evening connections to destinations around the world, some of which are high on my list of must-visits. The connecting flight display on board showes a substantial number of flights and people start heading in all directions, giving me this very special feeling that one can only get inside an airport. It’s a mix of excitement and being slightly nervous, sometimes feeling like an explorer, other times just like a commuter on the way to work.
I actually sometimes envoy those fellow travelers that seem not to be frequent flyers, as you can often tell how excited they are about their upcoming trip, might it be for a vacation, for which they worked really hard in the past months, or to see family or friends, in anticipation of meeting the ones they love. There are so many reasons to fly; yet us “very” frequent flyers sometime forget about those special moments of air travel.
Fairly empty concourse:
With only hand luggage today, I am out of the concourse in no time and on my way to my hotel, which is a mere 50 meters away. If I arrive in the evenings in Zurich, I usually stay at the Radisson Hotel directly connected to the terminal. It is very convenient, with a nice interior design concept and the connection to central Zurich in the morning is easy through many non-stop trains from the airport railway station, right underneath the hotel lobby.
A couple of e-Mails and phone call home later plus the good feeling of a day well spent bring me finally to bed. That’s where we will go separate ways now, fellow readers, as I am not exactly the FC Barcelona of late night activities.