GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: train, train, bus, train, shuttle train
Departs from: Grand station – red line
Journey time: one hour and fifty minutes
Following the relatively easy journey from O’Hare to the city a couple of days earlier, I figure I might as well take public transport again to get back to the airport. Or perhaps better not…
I walk down the step into the underground station on Grand to find an enormous and growing queue of passengers trying to purchase tickets. Apparently there is some technical glitch. The machines will not accept cards and if you pay in cash, they will not give change. Eventually, fifteen minutes later, I am finally in possession of a train ticket to get me to the airport.
I take the red line for one stop to Lake, where I transfer to the blue line. The train duly arrives. As the doors shut behind me, an announcement is made that trains will only be running as far as Damen today due to construction on the line. At Damen I will have to change to a relief shuttle bus service which has been put in place. But this will only run three stops to Logan Square, from where I have to change back to the train again. Eventually, three trains and one bus later I arrive at the airport and figure I have finally had it with the public transport. Well, not quite. To reach Terminal 5, you have to pass through Terminal 2. From there follow the signs to the shuttle train station which links Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5. Terminal 5 is the second stop after Terminal 3.
Location: Departures concourse Terminal 5
Facilities: web check-in, mobile check-in, dedicated SWISS check-in counters at the airport – there is a separate queue for First Class and Hon passengers.
There are four queues for security and there is a dedicated queue for First Class passengers. You still have to queue for security, but at least the line is manageable and the whole process take a little less than ten minutes.
Location: near gate M10
Type of Lounge: Swiss International Air Lines First Class lounge
Facilities: cold snacks, hot and cold drinks; the toilets are in the Business Class section
Internet: password available at reception
Chicago is one of only two outstations where SWISS still operates its own lounge. The other one is in New York’s JFK airport. As you enter, the Business Class section is to the right, while the First Class section is on the left. In all honesty I do not think there really is anything much that is First Class about this lounge. First of all, it is not much bigger than my bedroom at home. There are eight single sofas, and three small dining tables for two persons. As such, if the flight is full in First Class and there are a few Hons around too, the place becomes crowded very quickly.
Because of the very limited space, there is absolutely no privacy at all. This also means that unless you have really stupendous earphones with you, you are going to have to listen to the waffling and bravado of some people who have no qualms about blowing their own trumpet at full volume on the phone. I mean goodness, what is wrong with these people? Makes you wonder how short the shortcomings are they are trying to compensate…
The food options are very limited as well. In fact thee are no warm dishes and from what I can tell, all you can have are snacks – small items of sushi for example.
My suggestion if you are a STAR Gold member is to go to the SAS lounge located around about gate M14/M15. It is bigger, it is less crowded, quite frankly I think it is nicer, and Lufthansa’s B747-8 is parked right outside the window, so close you feel you could give her a tender pat on the nose.
Priority Boarding: separate queue for Business Class and First Class passengers
Since I arrived at the airport the weather has been deteriorating quickly. Eventually it starts raining cats and dogs, there is thunder and lightning and all movements on the ramp are temporarily halted. Eventually we board with a delay of about thirty minutes.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: There are eight seats. The First Class seat Swiss has installed on its A330-300 fleet is the result of a series of compromises to get more passengers into the aircraft over all. First of all, to gain some space, there is no longer a passage between the two middle row seats on the first row and the bulkhead. As a result, sitting on the right side can be a bit inconvenient because you have to pass through the galley to get to the only toilet in the First Class cabin, which is on the left side. Furthermore, avoid sitting on one of the middle seats on row one. You would be amazed at the frequency with which the cabin crew bang into the middle seats with the trolley as they emerge from behind the curtain, coming from the galley. Other than that, the pneumatic cushion of the seat is quite irritating because it just goes off randomly. The vibration of the pump or motor is quite annoying; it is enough to wake you up!
But all the shortcomings aside, the seat looks very nice and SWISS has taken good care of the cabin.
Pitch: 83 inches
Length as a bed: 83 inches
Width: 22 inches
Recline: 180 degrees
Facilities: power outlet, reading lamp, overhead lamp
Audio and Video: AVOD, touch screen or remote controlled
I am the first passenger to enter the First Class cabin. Before I even have a chance to sit down, the two flight attendants working the First Class cabin have already come to welcome me aboard and ask me if I would like a paper and what I would like to drink.
Both of them are truly excellent at their job. Nothing seems too much of an effort for them. They proactively approach passengers to make them more comfortable, but at the same time manage to give them a lot of private space. And all this with a genuinely friendly smile!
Other than that, the seat has already been set up for me when I arrive. Earphones, slippers and a cushion have been placed at the seat. Shortly after I also receive my pyjamas, the vanity kit and the menu.
While we wait for the last suitcases to be loaded I also receive a hot scented towel to freshen up.
Welcome drink on the ground: orange juice – served with an amuse bouche of smoked breast of duck with watercress, apricot chutney and flutes from Sprüngli
Hot towel before the meal: scented, served while still on the ground
Pre-meal drink: Passugger – a Swiss brand of mineral water
Type of meal: dinner
- Balik salmon with crème fraîche and fresh lemon
- Herb marinated prawns with a lemon cream sauce (I did not try this one)
- Selection of Swiss cold meats (I did not try any)
- Goat cheese and golden beet timbale with a lemon vinaigrette
- Cream of sweet corn soup with polenta croutons
- Seasonal salad with radish and mixed teardrop tomatoes
For the main dish there are five options to choose from, including one vegetarian dish and one option that is not on the menu.
- Bratwurst sausage with Rösti, onion sauce, mustard and vegetables
- Selection of cheese
- Raspberry tart with crème pâtissière or chocolate ice cream with berries on a mango coulis – I try the latter and it is very good
- Sprüngli pralines
- Mint tea
After such an epic meal I am totally stuffed and need to have a digestive nap. I go to the lavatory to change into my pyjamas and by the time I return, one of the cabin crew has already turned my seat into a bed, drawn the privacy screen and lit the bedside lamp. Good night!
I manage a good three hours of sleep. We are two hours out of Zürich. I head for the lavatory to change back into my clothes and when I return to my seat, the bed clothes have been removed and a coffee and an orange juice are already waiting for me!
With a little less than an hour before we arrive in Zürich, the second service sets in. The cabin crew have noticed that I am taking pictures of all the food and I get the distinct impression they want to make sure I get enough pictures for my trip report. The food just will not stop coming. Meanwhile, the crew also make sure I remain properly hydrated and replenish my glass of orange juice and the coffee regularly.
- Birchermüsli with berries
- Fresh fruit
- Breadbasket with a selection of Hero jam
- Cheese omelette
Once I have finished, one of the cabin crew comes to check if everything is okay. I tell her the meal was very tasty, to which she replies that there are also three minute eggs available, just in case I want one of those as well…, which if of course very nice of her but I really do not think I could eat anything else.
The meal is perfectly timed and just as my table is cleared away our A 330 gently dips its nose and we begin our descent into Zürich.
We enter into Swiss airspace just east of Basel, my hometown. As it is still early morning, we are approaching the airport from the south for an arrival on runway 34. We are running rather late, and while this may be slightly bothersome for most of the connecting passenger, it is rather convenient for those passengers ending their journey in Zürich because the mad rush is already over by the time we land.
SWISS ARRIVALS LOUNGE
Location: Terminal 2 arrivals, turn left as you exit customs and you will find glass sliding doors, press the button to enter and then take the lift one floor upFacilities: day rooms, showers, toilets, workstations, wifi, hot and cold dishes as well as beverages
I still have some time before my train leaves to Basel, so I figure I might as well give the SWISS arrivals lounge a try. The lounge is much nicer than I expected. It also happens to be empty this morning.
After seventeen days of travelling I am finally back home. Over the entire journey I have picked up a delay of seventy minutes by the time I get back home, which really is not bad at all, considering the distance and the number of flights I took on this trip.