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Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:07 am

At the start of the fall 2018 semester I began to research options for me to intern overseas and have a study abroad experience. After evaluating programs in France, Georgia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Canada I applied for Onwards Israel, and got wait-listed for one of their Haifa programs and accepted into their Be'er Sheva program. Onwards Israel is a partially subsidized internship where you just have to pay for flights+ a small activity fee. Shortly after getting in, my family decided that because my mother has not been to Israel since the 1970s, we would take a family trip right before my internship began. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Initially, we looked into flying on the LY nonstop. We ruled this out because my parent's return flight would have involved a layover at JFK (which is a no-deal issue for my dad). As a kid, I thought that certain airlines seats looked really comfortable- with AC's old long haul seats being one of them. This led me to investigate using AC's TLV-YUL flight, because it is operated by the A333 which still has those seats. The dates for that flight happened to line up with my return from Israel, and happened to have a reasonable layover length in YUL and be timed so that I could get home and just crash. For the outbound leg, I discovered that I could book LX's A343 from BOS-ZRH, have a short layover in ZRH and then hop onto an LY B739 to fly the rest of the way. In total, this itinerary would have given me 1 new airline (AC), 3 new types (A343, B739, and CR9), and would have allowed me to check off a bucket list item (the AC Y seat) before the aircraft is refurbished in the fall. My booking was done via ITA Matrix/Orbitz, and my parent's round trip booking with LX was done via their website.


Online Check In
When we booked the flight we were unable to reserve seats for the flight operated by LY. Exactly 24 hours before the flight I logged in and checked us both in via the LX website, and was only able to generate the boarding passes for our first flight. I logged in again the next day and was able to generate the boarding passes for the LY flight. Somehow despite being on 2 different reservations we were assigned to seats within 1 row of each other, so I accepted the seat assignments and printed the second boarding passes.

At the Airport
The Preflight parking shuttle dropped us off at the airport approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart from Logan terminal E. After a bathroom break, we proceeded directly to the SWISS/Lufthansa check in desks. After a short wait, we were directed to the flight manager's desk, where it took 12 minutes to get us checked in due to a printer issue. Once done with check in, I went through the regular TSA line while my parents went through PreCheck. Within 15 minutes, and one random hand swabbing later I was through TSA security. Somehow I managed to get through before my parents, so I went to go planespot after sending a quick message saying to meet me at the gate.

Image JL B789 with the EK A388 in the background.

Image S4/5K A343, with LY B772 in the background

Once my parents were through, my dad decided to try and see if his UA Club card would work for the LH lounge. Unfortunately, it did not, so I returned to walking around and planespotting. While walking around, I noticed the terminal was jam packed, with several flights being delayed and lots of gate change announcements being made, and many flights being boarded from gate 8A- the bus gate.

Image VS and TK A333 and DY B787

Image VS A333 with LHA346 in the background

Image HB-JMI, my newly refurbished 15.1 year old LX A343, pulling into the gate 20 minutes late.

Image BA B772 with assorted aircraft in the background

10 minutes after the scheduled time, boarding began. Prior to boarding a massive line formed in front of the boarding door. After the premium cabins were boarded, economy was boarded from back to front. Being in row 33, I was in the last economy group to board.

After being greeted by the friendly LX flight attendant, I was directed to my seat, 33A. The newly refurbished LX cabin was immaculate, and looked sleek and modern.

Image The seat.

While a bit firm for my taste, the new LX seat is well padded. While I did not capture an image of it, the back of the seat was really efficiently designed, in that it had an entertainment screen above the tray table that had a paper compartment right behind it. The tray table also had a cup holder available for use when the tray table was retracted, and a mesh pocket for inflight storage. The leg room provided was good- definitely less cramped than what I experienced on the AF B789 last year. It also had an above average recline. On the seat they also had a small pillow, a blanket, and a set of earbuds. Once settled in I began to lookout the window.

11 minutes after our scheduled departure time, the doors were closed and the captain and cabin service manager made announcements in both German and English. At 22:00 we pushed back as the safety video played in both English and German. Once the safety video finished a SWISS video magazine played on the entertainment system, which I ignored while I looked out the window. At 22:15 we received takeoff clearance for runway 4R and made a sluggish takeoff that took up almost all the runway. We then began a slow climb out from BOS. Once we got above 10,000 feet I switched on the entertainment system and began to explore what it had to offer. It had a broad array of videos including features like Aquaman and both Fantastic Beasts, along with some more niche international film offerings. Normally I would watch a kids movie on Eastbound TATL flights (because they are short enough that they normally finish right around when the meal service ends), but none of the ones on offer really appealed to me, so I chose to watch the sci-fi movie Gravity.

15 minutes later, the flight attendants began to serve dinner and run a full beverage service. On offer was chicken or pasta. I chose the chicken, which consisted of a chicken breast in a mushroom sauce with bow tie pasta and cooked carrots. For beverage, I got a small bottle of water off the cart

Image The meal tray

Image The main course

The chicken was moist, and the sauce had a nice mushroom flavor. The pasta was well cooked, and the carrots were served al dente. The lettuce salad that accompanied the meal tasted fresh, and the warmed whole wheat roll was also really nice. While I would have preferred a Swiss cheese, the Cabot sharp cheddar that came with the meal was quite tasty (it is a brand that I actually eat very frequently at home). The flight attendants also came through the cabin with second helpings of bread for those who wanted them.

After about 45 minutes, the flight attendants came through to collect the trays and offer a second beverage service. Once my movie finished, I slipped on an eye mask, reclined the seat, and curled up into a ball around the pillow and rested my head on it. I then spent the next 2 hours drifting in and out of sleep (I think I got one period of 1 hour nonstop sleep). Once I woke up, I took a quick bathroom break before curling up and spending another hour drifting in and out of sleep.

When I woke up I checked the inflight map and found that we had increased our cruising altitude from FL370 to FL380. Because I like listening to foreign music, I decided to explore the Swiss music selection, and settled on a playlist consisting of new Swiss Indie pop groups.

About 1:50 before our arrival in ZRH, the mood lighting was switched to wake-up mode, and about 5 minutes later the breakfast service began. The service consisted of a warmed croissant, and a box containing a pot of orange juice, and a container of chobani yogurt. While I'm not a big fan of yogurt or OJ, I did have the croissant. Of all the airline economy croissants that I have had (on UA, BA, and IB), this one was probably my favorite. It had all the elements- both flaky and buttery, and its warmth complimented this perfectly.

Image The croissant

Image The box

After completing the service, the flight attendants came through the cabin offering seconds on the croissants. If my dad hadn't given me his, I would have obliged myself to one. Shortly after that they collected the garbage, and I returned to listening to the Swiss Indie Pop playlist while alternating between looking out the window and reading the airline magazine. About 50 minutes before landing the flight attendants came through the cabin and offered warm wet wipes. 10 minutes later the captain announced that we were over Paris and beginning to descend into Zurich. He also announced that the weather that day was 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which was actually warmer than where we were going in Israel! The flight attendants then came through the cabin offering Swiss chocolates and they began preparing the cabin for descent.


Just under 30 minutes from arrival the seatbelt sign was activated, and I began to take some photos of the beautifully scenery on the descent. During the descent it almost felt like we were circling around the airport to descend in an area that did not have the mountains.

Image valley towns

Image valley towns

Image The alps

Image On final

During landing it felt (I'm not sure if this is what actually happened) like the pilot over-flared slightly and floated a little down the runway before firmly but smoothly touching down at 10:51. After a very short taxi, we pulled into the gate at Zurich's E terminal at 10:53, exactly 7 minutes ahead of schedule.

At the start of the flight the flight crew were present in the cabin to greet the passenger's and help them with their luggage. While I felt that a few more pleases and thank you's would have been appropriate, I feel like the crew went above and beyond the normal level of service. I saw them playing with a couple of the kids in the cabin and spending time talking to the kid's parents, which was definitely going above and beyond the normal level of service.

Overall Weighted Score
NOTE- food was an average of dinner (4.5/5) and breakfast (5/5)

Connecting at ZRH
After disembarking the aircraft directly into the E terminal at ZRH, we proceeded to walk towards our LY flight at gate E58. After stopping for a bathroom break, we were directed by a Swissport employee to the LY security screening area.

After a brief wait, we were directed to a security interviewer who looked over our passports, scanned our tickets and baggage receipts, asked us a few questions about our travels and then left to talk with his supervisor. After a few minutes, he returned our passports with a security sticker on the inside, and we were sent back to the waiting area to wait for our flight. Once my parents were settled in, I left to go walk around and do some planespotting.

Image TG B77W

Image US Airforce

Image 4X-EKJ, my 10.1 year old B738 for the ride to TLV

Image CX A351 with with the SQ A388 in the background

Image EY B789

Image LX A220 taking off by a WK aircraft

At 11:50 boarding began by zone. Somehow, our boarding passes did not have a zone listed on them, so we were allowed to board with the first economy group.

LY 348
Because my dad and I shared a security sticker, I let my mother board first, and she settled into what she thought was her seat. Knowing that I was in the seat directly behind her, I automatically sat down there, thinking I was in my seat 51K. It turns out that she sat down in my actual seat, and I was a row behind where I was supposed to. Once someone told me I was in their seat I realized her mistake and we were able to sort things out.

Image The LY cabin.

The bottom cushion of the seat was soft and well padded, but the seat-back felt like it needed more padding. At my seat (and only my seat) their was a fleece blanket. The seatback pouch was also ripped, leaving me with a poor first impression. Once settled into the correct seat I began to look out the window and take some photos.

Image EI A320

Image LX B77W

Image LX A333 HB-JHK. This aircraft operated my second ever TATL flight.

At 12:29 boarding was announced as completed. At 12:36 (6 minutes after our scheduled departure time), the captain made his announcements and said that we would be pushing back in another 8 minutes, and that turbulence would be the occasional light chop "as usual".

Image 2L E190

At 12:44 we pushed back from the gate as the LY safety video began to play.

Image JP SB20

Image FI B752

At 12:55 the engines spooled up and we had a smooth takeoff from ZRH. About 7 minutes after takeoff, the seatbelt signs came off and I dozed off for a short 5 minute nap. When I woke up, the flight attendants were coming through the cabin offering blankets to those who wanted them, and some sort of card (not sure what was on it).

Image The view on climbout.

Image Snow covered alps.

After a little bit, I began to explore the entertainment offering on our flight. On the B737, LY offers entertainment via both the drop down screens and a streaming app (that you must download before the flight). The drop down screens were playing a movie on ocean life. Later on they showed news and then an Israeli TV show. On the streaming app they had a small selection of movies and tv shows split roughly 50/50 between US and Israeli content. While the selection was not exceptional, I felt like between the 2 options, no one would have trouble with keeping occupied for the flight to TLV. They also had a large library of Israeli music. I ultimately settled on an episode of Bob's Burgers- mainly because I was too tired to really enjoy a movie.

About 20 minutes after takeoff a full food and beverage service (including wine) began. On offer were a cold salad or a hot corned beef sandwich. I selected the sandwich, and had a mini bottle of water with it.

Image The sandwich

Image The sandwich

The sandwich had a good amount of nicely flavored corned beef with a flavorful, mildly spicy sauerkraut and some sort of spread (almost like a mayonnaise). The bread tasted reasonably fresh. Overall, it was a good lunch. Once they finished the beverage service, the flight attendants came through the cabin offering tea to those who wanted it. After a little bit, they also collected the trash.

Once the episode of Bob's burgers had finished, I decided I wanted to try out a new Israeli artist, so I selected the Dikla Dori playlist on the LY streaming app. The music was excellent, but I could feel myself starting to doze off, so I left my earbuds in and set a timer for 20 minutes so that I would take a quick "power nap". Once I woke up, I returned to the music and after a little bit took another 20 minute power nap, repeating this cycle for a total of 3, 20 minute "power naps". Waking up refreshed, I returned to the Dikla Dori playlist. I also read the interesting LY magazine to see if their was anything new to do in Israel since my last time there. The flight attendants also periodically came through the cabin with water, and had a self serve area set up in the back with bottles of water and other beverages.

Somewhere over Turkey the seatbelt sign finally came off after being on since a rough spot over Serbia, and was not reengaged until shortly before descent (which surprised me, because normally the seatbelt sign is engaged 45 minutes before arrival on flights to Israel).

Image One of the Turkish islands

About 160 miles out from TLV the captain announced that we had begun our descent into TLV, and the flight attendants came through the cabin with a chocolate-quinoa-granola cluster. At 17:51 we executed a soft, smooth landing into TLV, followed by some hard braking. At 17:56 we pulled into the gate- 31 minutes late. Disembarkation was quick, and after a quick pit stop we found ourselves in the crowded immigration hall, where we had to wait about 30 minutes- while being entertained by a guy screaming at the top of his lungs in Hebrew. Once through our baggage was already on the belt waiting for us.

Image Soon to be retired LY B744

Overall Weighted Score

LX: of the airlines that I have flown on, they continue to be one of my favorite airlines for TATL travel, having some of the best hard and soft product that I have experienced on TATL flights.
LY: While their hard product could be improved, they provide a competitive soft product on their short/medium haul flights. I am a little disappointed though about not getting a B739.

Log Book and Previous Trip Reports
My Logbook, offering a comparison of this flight to previous flights that I have taken.

The Milwaukee Way WN BOS-MKE-BOS

Porting it to and from Toronto
Southwest to Milwaukee and Back (with a surprise)
Air France, CSA Czech Air, and Alitalia to Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest

From my Archives: Summer '16 rescheduled and delayed with Iberia, Vueling, and British Airways

From my Archives Summer '15 Shuttle America: Do they actually meet Delta's Standards?

From my Archives: Summer '14 Returning from Israel One of the Only Ways Available El Al
From my Archives: Summer '14 Outward bound to Poland and Israel with LH
From my Archives: Winter '14 From Sunny Spain to Snowy Boston, KLM and Delta to Boston
Posts: 3866
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2000 4:08 am

Re: Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:26 pm

Odd that the UA Club membership didn’t grant you access. According to *A policy, paid membership in the united club grants you access:
Topic Author
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2014 2:20 pm

Re: Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:23 pm

zrs70 wrote:
Odd that the UA Club membership didn’t grant you access. According to *A policy, paid membership in the united club grants you access:

I agree it was a little odd, but he was also in violation of the rules for trying to bring 2 guests in.
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Re: Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Mon Jun 17, 2019 5:09 am

I took LX53 in 2010. The arrival service then was just a croissant, impressed to see they've added the Chobani & OJ.
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Re: Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:50 pm

Nice report! There was TSA precheck at terminal E? Are you sure it wasn't just a premium lane?
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Re: Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Sat Jun 22, 2019 10:14 am

kq747 wrote:
Nice report! There was TSA precheck at terminal E? Are you sure it wasn't just a premium lane?

I'm not entirely sure- they did direct all the Precheck passengers down a separate lane from the one that I was in, so I just assumed it was a dedicated TSA Precheck lane.
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Re: Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Sat Jun 29, 2019 2:26 am

Great trip report! I have heard great things about LX... really hoping to try them one day. The pics from BOS were great too!
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Posts: 146
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Re: Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:31 am

mikegigs wrote:
Great trip report! I have heard great things about LX... really hoping to try them one day. The pics from BOS were great too!

Thank you!

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