So unfortunately I don't usually get much say in who I fly with. So my hopes of the greatest aircraft in the world to J'bourg, were soon dashed when I found myself travelling via Zurich.
Still, weren't Swiss meant to be a very good airline? So couldn't all be bad. Even better when I realised Zurich to J'bourg was the 2nd greatest aircraft in the world!! Plus the bonus, I thought, of a C Series aircraft from London.
Unfortunately things got off to a bad start when I went onto the Swiss website to 'manage my booking'. First things first, let's get my veggie meal sorted. No, sorry. If you want to pay us for a posh meal, no problem, but otherwise, get stuffed. Thankfully an email to the travel agents soon sorted this out.
Ok, let's try entering my NZ air miles number. Nope, sorry, think again. Thankfully they did let me do this at online check in. So why not earlier?
Ok, How about choosing a seat? Yeah sure, if you want to pay us a tenth of the airfare again! Ok, I will wait for online check in!
I was starting to wonder what the Swiss website was for. Perhaps I'd accidentally typed in ryanair.com!!!
So I'd worked out the website was a pain. Now how about the aircraft? Surely they make up for the website? Why sure, if you are 5' tall and have no feeling in your body!
The C Series started off well. Ooh, smart aircraft. Smart seats. Looking good. But then I tried to get into my seat, and sit down.
I was on the port side of the aircraft. The side with the double seats. Aisle seat as usual.
Unfortunately the legs of my seat, and the seat in front were so positioned that it was a struggle to get into the seat. For example, my foot, facing fore and aft, cannot get between the seat legs.
Then I sit down, and find my knees scraping everything. The seat back of the seat in front has the most ridiculous seat back table. A support running the height of the seat, and taking up valuable legroom. Why?
Then my body starts aching. Oh lovely. A seat so uncomfortable I was ready to get off before we left. A horrible shape, and no padding, meant most of my body was pretty fed up. Combine that with the lack of knee room and awkward seat legs, and it was a pretty bad experience.
Heathrow to Gatwick ok, but Heathrow to Zurich? Welcome to the torture chamber!!!!
During my stay in the torture chamber, I started reading the in house magazine, where they claimed they had won best economy class in Europe in 2018 was it? Well, to some people perhaps!!!!!
Thankfully the journey eventually ended, but not before time.
The 20min delay on this flight meant I only had an hour in Zurich, and a very simple 5min walk, and I found myself at my next gate, with the A340-300 nearly ready to accept it's passengers!
No time to sit down in the terminal, which was just as well, as I didn't want to sit down so soon after my C Series experience.
Thankfully, with my next flight being on the Princess of the skies, it had to be better. But I was dreading the thought of another 10hrs in more Swiss seats!!!
Luckily the A340 provided me with better seats. By no means the best, but it would do, and there was no stupid table support taking up my knee room.
So, what else do I get in Europe's best economy class?!! It must beat my European benchmark somewhere.
Entertainment? No, not really. Sitting through 5mins of Swiss Air adverts when I first turn it on was a bit mind numbing.
Food? Well dinner was quite good, but breakfast, I just left. It was some box with cold contents inside. I knew it wouldn't be worth it, so tried telling the staff I didn't want it. Then they realised the veggie one was hiding, so they tried shoving that into my hands. It was easier just to take it, and put it straight down onto the floor!
Overall service? Nothing stands out. Apparently some like the chocolate they give out, but I know another European Airline that offers a lot more chocolate!!!
Ok, we have one more chance to be the best. Toilets! Ah ha, yes. The toilet was fairly smart, and clean! Ok Swiss, you win the title of the best European economy bog!!!
So South Africa looms. We get announcements about connections. Apparently terminal A is international, and terminal B is domestic, for which you need to collect your luggage.
But strangely my e ticket says Terminal B, yet Walvis Bay is Namibia, and my luggage is checked in all the way through. This could be interesting.
It seems J'bourg is nothing but remote stands, so we get a fun bus ride all round the tarmac. Perfect for plane spotting. BAs queen is already resting, and I can only but dream of economy on the upper deck. I wonder if Willie wants to do a swap with Emirates. They take BAs 787s, and we get a fleet of 100 A380s!!!!
Anyway, we arrive into a bland and cold arrivals hall. Now, which way do I go? A or B? The screen doesn't help. My next flight isn't there. So I head towards B, and the nice long queue for passport control. I try and ask staff. Nope, they are only trained in pointing some handheld device at you. Dunno what it is.
So I settle in for the long haul in the queue.
Through passport control, now to the baggage hall. Signage is awful. I eventually manage to clarify that my bags are definitely checked in all the way through. Good.
Now the small transit/ baggage drop area. Still my flight is not on any screens. Luckily staff here are able to help. Gate A29. So it is terminal A. Hey, I've only wasted an hour at passport control!
So follow signs for terminal A. Which are fine until the signs stop. I find myself in the centre of some terminal, but where am I? A porter notices me and asks where I need to go. Turns out I'm in terminal B. I haven't got long until boarding now, and he runs me through terminal B, until I reach security for A. Here he leaves me, and bids me fairwell.. Luckily he found me otherwise I'd still be there now!!!!
After security is another passport check. This is getting silly.
Eventually out in terminal A proper.
Only one problem. My flight still isn't on any screens. So I start the long walk to the gate I'd been told earlier. Hoping all works out.
Down some escalators, and into a hall, which thankfully has A29 in it!
Luckily gate A29 has Walvis Bay up on the screen, and a quick check reveals it is my flight. But there is nothing anywhere to say this. The screen above the gate doesn't even have the flight number on it.
Eventually the main screen shows a Walvis Bay flight, along with my flight number. But the time is wrong. It shows 1210, not 1125.
Turns out the flight is delayed until 1210. Not that the screens make this obvious!!
Speaking to regular travellers, they say delays are common, and they often end in cancellations! The other week a flight was cancelled due to landing fees having not been paid! Oh lovely. Well, it is an off shoot of SAA!!!
Eventually boarding begins, onto another bus, and another trip round the tarmac to a fleet of turbo props.
Now I can't remember what type it was, but any turbo prop is usually good fun, and this was no exception.
The seats are worn, but ooh are they comfy. I think I've found the winner of the most comfortable economy class seats! Well, I've yet to find better!
Service is efficient and friendly, as we get served some small snack.
The flight is only half full, so the 2.5hrs go by quite quickly and comfortably. What a contrast to the C Series.
The toilet is good fun. I have to bend myself into all sorts of shapes to fit in!
Before long we land in what is literally an airport in a desert, and another trip is over!
From the hustle and bustle of Heathrow, to a small airfield in the middle of a desert, where you walk unhindered across the tarmac to the terminal.
The torture chamber long forgotten!!!
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