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San Francisco - Zurich

San Francisco - Zurich

Old Jan 5, 00, 10:54 pm
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San Francisco - Zurich

My first trip report on the board, let's see if this is as hard as it looks...

Tuesday evening my wife wendolene & I arrived at SFO for our 9:20 flight to Zurich on Swissair (Delta codeshare). We're both on business (fortunately, we work for the same company and frequently need to travel together). She is going to stay in Europe for a few weeks, I shall return Sunday.

We were informed that the flight would be quite late in arriving, so we will not leave until past 11:30 PM. I did check the Swissair website for the flight status before we left, and it gleefully lied that the flight was on time. We are given $15 vouchers at the Delta desk for having something to eat. Delta also maked sure we were sitting together, moving us from seats 8D & 9D to an aisle-window combination on the left side in Business class.

We had a very nice dinner at a place called Barbary Coast in the international terminal. We really didn't expect much from this place, basically a bar with a very limited menu. But the Chinese Chicken salad was wonderful, very fresh.

We also realized that Delta never collected miles from wendolene or a systemwide upgrade from me for our business class seats! Well, they know where to find us.

After watching the rest of the Sugar Bowl at the Crown Room Club (back in the domestic termnial), we finally went to the boarding area at around 11 PM. Swissair boarded Business class last, after boarding First Class and Economy. I've seen them do this before, it is actually quite efficient.

The Swissair MD-11 has the entertainment system disabled (a result of the SR 111 accident), so the overhead movies were headlined by the classic Inspector Gadget and Dear Claudia. It's about midnight, so I decide that sleeping is more important than having another meal or watching these fine films on the screen.

wendoline does get the meal setup (some shrimp, a salad, some cheese and dessert). She eats the cheese (terrific,of course) and tastes the dessert ("an apple thing with cream", awful), and is later asked if she wants the hot meal of beef, chicken or fish (there were no menus given out). She opts to sleep, too. She said the meal service was "coach-like".

The legroom of the seats is quite a bit less than Business Elite. wendoline found the seats quite uncomfortable (she likes the Delta seats much better). She did not like the lumbar support much, and she found the seats difficult from which to exit. I liked the foldable wings on the headrest, which stayed in place better than most Delta seats.

I did sleep about 5 hours, which is much better than usual for me. The flight took advantage of the tailwinds, and was scheduled for 10 hours (an hour faster than normal) -- turns out we would give back about a half-hour of that circling Zurich due to fog.

When I woke up, I was thirsty, but the flight attendants had disappeared in the dark cabin. After about a half hour, I made the difficult climb out of my seat over the sleeping wendolene to use the rest room. I then went into the galley and grabbed a small bottle of water. Delta nows supplies these bottles in the seat pockets of every seat in Business Elite -- Swissair could learn from them.

We did hit some pretty bumpy weather sometime afterward. That was the moment that the FA's chose to go through the cabin with glasses of water, apple juice, orange juice & Coke!

We were served a breakfast about a hour before landing -- cold cuts, fruit (very nice), yogurt (with strawberries, which I won't eat) and rolls. Very nice. Coffee-drinker wendolene said the coffee was the best she had ever had on an airplane. They later came through with some omlettes and crepes suzzette, but we declined.

It is hard to judge service (and food) on an overnight flight. This was probably my 15th time crossing the ocean on Swissair, and I am usually quite happy with them. This was wendoline's first trip with them (she has gone with United, Lufthansa, & Delta before), and she was much more critical.

I do like this flight because I need to go to Zurich about 5 times a year, and this is by far the most convinient flight. However, I believe the end of the wonderfully run alliance between Swissair and Delta means that I will need to look elsewhere if I expect an upgraded seat!

After we landed and claimed luggage, we grabbed the waiting shuttle to the Zurich Marriott, our favorite place here.

Maybe I'll post more later (as may wendoline, as she continues her own trip on Crossair, Lufthansa, British Airways and Delta)
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Old Jan 6, 00, 5:40 am
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Now that wasn't too hard--thanks opus.
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Old Jan 6, 00, 7:58 am
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welcome in MY Zurich. The Marriott management-contract for the hotel in downton Zurich (which started only in 1998) will end in summer 2000 - the owners (Oerlikon-Buehrle-Holding) have sold the hotel to ???.
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Old Jan 6, 00, 2:21 pm
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When I called for my messages, it said "welcome to the Meridian voice mail system".. is this a hint (or maybe just the company name of the voice mail system)?

Too bad about changing, I made Marquis on this Marriott alone. Of course, I used to stay here a lot when it was the Hotel Zurich & La Residence.
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Old Jan 6, 00, 5:25 pm
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Nice trip report. I'm always surprised that SR doesn't offer chocolates. The Neuhaus chocolates on DL BE are a high-end touch. On the whole, for trans-Atlantic, I prefer DL to SR for reasons I've discussed elsewhere. I think all the carriers, however, have disappearing FAs on the redeyes to Europe.

Opus17, with the end of the Alliance with SR, are you going to use AF for SFO/CDG connecting to ZRH, or LH for SFO/FRA connecting to ZRH?

I know what Rudi recommends, by telepathy.

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Old Jan 6, 00, 7:03 pm
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Eidetic -- First choice would be AF. I like the idea of leaving the US at such a time that I get to Europe in the evening -- it is easier for me to adjust. It is hard to get an upgrade seat on the AF sometimes (as it was on SR), so the next preference is the CVG DL flight (this is my return route this time). DL Systemwide upgrades rule!

I've taken LH in Business (wonderful) and coach (living hell). SFO being United City for FF, this flight is always packed. Last flight that wendolene & I took together SFO-FRA in LH business: The flight attendents talked to me in English, to her in German (don't know how they figured out she was fluent & I was wasn't) -- by the end of the flight, they were coming over to her for advice on how to say certain things in English! Loved the lounge in Frankfurt, too.

But I paid for that flight out of my own pocket. Most of my travel is business, and my company usually only pays for coach unless it is a super-long trip, and then only after getting everyone just about up to the CEO to sign off on it. So I crave those upgrades, and I'm almost 100% successful at getting them with DL or its codeshares.


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Old Jan 6, 00, 7:55 pm
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opus17, Meridian Mail is the brand name for Nortel's voice mail. Nortel supplies phone systems for many hotels.

Interestingly, the hotel could easily supply it's own name rather than the name of their phone vendor, but I guess that would be too technical for them.
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Old Jan 7, 00, 11:37 am
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Stimpy...
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Old Jan 7, 00, 2:12 pm
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Yes every Marriott and every Courtyard (at least four dozen distinct hotels) I've ever stayed at uses Meridian Mail so that's no clue to that hotels' future...
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Old Jan 7, 00, 8:13 pm
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Thanks, all, I guess my detective ability in this area is as good as my one for mystery movies (my rule is that the murderer is always the character who wears the fez.)

I know I have run into this voice mail systems before, because I cannot forget the torturous steps it takes to delete a message. No one could ever claim that they deleted a message by accident.

Saturday is our one free day here in Switzerland. We haven't even decided what to do yet. We did vacation here in the summer, so we visited a lot of places together that I usually visit on my own when I am here over weekends. If it is sunny, maybe we'll go to Interlaken, Pilatus or Arosa, all of which are beautiful, especially this time of year. Neither wendolene nor I ski, which is kind of a shame for frequent travellers to Switzerland.

stimpy: any relation to Nurse Stimpy?

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Old Jan 10, 00, 1:38 pm
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wendolene & I had breakfast at the Marriott before our flights -- it is one of the best (and expensive) breakfasts around. wendolene loves the Muesli and the yogurt, deriding the American product as something unworthy of the name.

When we reached the airport, for some reason Swissair was unable to give my the First Class boarding pass for CVG-SFO (their system was unable to see the upgrade). I knew that my upgrade had cleared on this segment, since I read my itinerary on the Delta web site. I had to go over to the Delta ticket desk, where they processed the upgrade and gave me a seat (but still no boarding pass, I would have to take care of that in CVG).

I did not check any bags, since I only had a rollerboard and my computer bag. I did check bags on the outbound, since wendolene had bags to check, and I would have to wait anyway. But she was going on to Germany at this point, so that was no longer a constraint. In general, I am not one of those people who try to cram a lot of bags on the plane, but I will take on the rollerboard if I know I will be on a plane and class that can handle it. And I will put a bag under the seat in front of me. (I'm so good!).

After a brief stop in the business class lounge of Swissair, where we Delta flyers are still welcome (for the time being?), I said my goodbyes to wendolene, fought through the cloud of cigarette smoke in the lounge and went to the gate. Although there are both a smoking and non-smoking room (divided by a glass wall), the whole lounge reeks of smoke. Swissair has also established a distinct "smoker's lounge" at Zurich, which is purported to have cigars, cognacs, fine scotch and other trappings of deluded alpha males. I cannot imagine something move lovely than sitting next to a cigar-reeking likkered up seatmate on some long flight...

I was in seat 1G on the flight to CVG. The bulkhead on the 767 looks less roomy than the other seats, but I didn't feel cramped. The gentleman in the seat next to me had boarded with another person, presumably his wife, and ultimately was reseated before takeoff, so I had both seats to myself.

There were obviously some new FA's in training on this flight, and they committed some faux pas that didn't bother me at all, but were of great consternation to the French-speaking gentlemen in the row behind me. There was also a lot of confusion about running the movies on the personal video screens -- the first cycle didn't start until 90 minutes into the flight (should be 30), when it did, only one movie was running ("Sunset Boulevard"), until I pointed this out to an F.A. (these type of things are the sacred duties of the Front Row). Later cycles did not start without prompting from myself of others in the Front Row.

The pretend-fancy appetizer was pretty bad. Come to think of it, I never see airline type appetizers on any restaurant menu... The salad was OK, with a few too many wilted greens for my taste. Every restaurant in Switzerland has wonderful "Gruener" or "gemischter Salat"(green and mixed, thanks wendolene for e-mailing me the right German spellings!), I wonder why salads on the airlines leaving Europe are so uninspired. It is like they tell the local food staff to forget everything they know.

After picking on the preliminaries (in honestly, I has a big breakfast, so I wasn't exactly starving), I received the main course of turbot, which was wretched. It was hard to believe anything so dry ever lived in the water.

Due to the fact that the whole meal was way below Delta's normal standards, and the fact that the plane was moving around like a subway train (not scary, just a lot of left-to-right bumpiness), I decided to stop eating at this point, and reflect on the wisdom of Dave Barry, who defined turbulance as the part of the flight where the meal is served.

Speaking of turbulance, I am always interested in observing how the captains employ the seat belt sign. A lot of Delta captains seem to have a hair-trigger on this; I have had flights where the light is on practically the whole flight. On some European carriers, it seems that unless the plane is upside-down, the light does not come on. This captain was more of the latter style.

About 6 hours into the flight, I started to get hungry. Soon afterward, an FA came by with a cart with some snacks: A bag of potato chips (I only saw one), some dried fruit, Kit-Kat bars and a box of Chocolates. I took the Kit-Kat bar (wafers covered in chocolate). One warning -- these things melt in your hand before they melt in your mouth. I noticed I had chocolate on my blanket, my pillow...

I watched 3 movies, napped a little bit. We were served another meal (I chose poorly again, an oriental chicken noodle salad that sounded a lot better than it was).

This was my first flight on a Delta-operated plane with my new Platinum Medallion status. Interestingly enough, I was always addressed by name in Business Elite, but not on this flight. All pronouns here. This doesn't bother me at all, but it was interesting to observe (maybe it was because of the trainees).

I was the first through immigration at CVG, and I directly went through customs, since I had no checked baggage. Certainly, Delta has some of the better ports-of-entry for these sorts of things (OK, not JFK).

I quickly got my boarding pass in the CRC, then went to the gate where the flight for SFO was already boarding. This was an antique 727 with (honest!) wood paneling. It came equipped with a 3-man flight crew. I reflected what it must have been like for the pioneers who first settled the west -- no movies, no audio systems, no Empower outlets for their laptops.

I was fairly hungry -- fortunately, the food on this flight was much better: a smoked trout and cream cheese wrap, a good salad, Omaha steak with Thai sauce, and the standard issue sundae. Service was wonderful, we were offered drinks every 20 minutes of so. And there were lots of announcements from the cockpit (since it was dark for half the flight, nothing could really be seen, so these were updates of where we were-- kind of a moving map display for the visually impaired). This probably would have annoyed me if I were trying to sleep, but I wasn't.

So those are the details. Or, as I summarized it to wendolene by e-mail last night when she asked how it went, "nothing unusual".



[This message has been edited by opus17 (edited 01-10-2000).]
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Old Jan 10, 00, 3:33 pm
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opus17, what upset the francophone in the seat behind you?

As for the turbot, fish isn't on my list of "best airline meals" except for departures out of Japan. Elsewhere in Asia is just as bad as in the US and EU.

As to the Row 1 duties. I've seen a Row 1 FF (not me) actually show the F/A how to program the map display. Each element is independently selectable, e.g., large scale map, smaller scale map, data screen 1, foreign language screens, etc.
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Old Jan 10, 00, 4:29 pm
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Not sure what the fuss was about. I had my headphones on but heard this disturbance. I took them off long enough to discern there was some service-related problem. The head FA (I don't think Delta calls them pursers) was there. This continued for some time, but I put my headphones after a few seconds, since I was more interested in the movie.

I cannot imagine what would get someone so upset (and they were quite upset) to make such a fuss. Besides, as everyone who visits this site knows, it is more fun to slam an airline in front of a few million potential internet users.

I usually go with the fish dish on Delta, since it is most often the best choice. Beef is last on my list (except for the Omaha steak, a relatively new addition). On the Asian flights, I always get the Japanese meal.

Glad you take passengers' Sacred Duty in the First Row seriously. Last time there, I had to show the FA how to turn on the Empower system. I didn't expect worship and adoration from the rest of the laptop users, since, of course, it is merely another routine day in the life of the Front Row.

[This message has been edited by opus17 (edited 01-10-2000).]
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Old Jan 10, 00, 11:29 pm
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Since Opus17 gave such a detailed account of his trip back to the US, I have to add my portion of the trip that started in SFO and continued to Stuttgart.

Opus17 left me at the Swissair Buissiness Lounge to get on his plane back to CVG and then SFO. I had another 1 1/2 hours until my flight for Stuttgart was about to board. So I pulled out my new book and engrossed myself in the plot. About 15 minutes into it, a commotion started. There were about 12 people trying to find a seat in the densely occupied non-smoking section of the lounge. About 8 of them were children of about 8-10 years. As they could not all sit together the group scattered in the lounge, but the kids managed to find an area together to get the toys out and started playschool at a sometimes eardrum deafening noise level. The parents were seemingly uninterested in this development that I decided to get up and venture to the gate area, which actually promised to be quieter. (Both Opus 17 and I had had a miserable night in an overheated hotel room and we had been up since 3 AM.)

I wandered down to the gate area for the European departures, which are mostly operated by CrossAir. Once I got through security I plopped myself down near the gate and pulled out my book. Suddenly there was some commotion near the desk and shortly thereafter an announcement flashed on the monitor that the flight was delayed for technical reasons. Then an announcement was made explaining in German and English, that the plane had not yet arrived from Stuttgart, and that the next update would be at the orginally scheduled flight departure time. Shortly after that another announcement was made that the plane was on the field but that there was a technical problem. Around the time that the plane was to leave, they announced that all was fixed now and that we could start boarding. Boarding the bus to take us to the plane, that is. So they piled everyone onto the bus and took us out for a 5 minute drive to the air strip. Since I had seat 2F (Business all the way on my extended Europe trip) I thought it might be best to board as one of the last people. The plane was a little Saab Concordino Turboprop with a seat arrangement of 1/2. I had my backpack and a purse, which I attempted to stuff under the seat in front of me, but fortunately the gentleman next to me asked the FA if she could find a space for both of our pack. This made things better since I now actually had space for my legs. When everyone was settled and the door was closed, the Captain made an announcement that all technical problems had been taken care of, but that we had to wait another 30 minutes until we cleared for take off. At this point a single moan went through the entire cabin. When the Captain finally switched on the props, which gives an unpleasant full body massage by shaking the entire plane with contents from side to side, we started towards the runway. As we turned I could see that there were at least 6 planes in line for take off before us, so I steeled myself for at least 15 more minutes -- by now I was supposed to be in Stuttgart. When we finally took to the air, the flight only took 25 minutes. In those 25 minutes the FA's managed to serve either Champagne or orange juice and a choice of three different sandwiches. They even came around two times with the sandwich tray. I must say you get more service on the little short flights than you get on a flight from SFO to Chicago. I am continually impressed by this.
We landed without incident in Stuttgart. (Actually just a day after my flight a turboprop CorssAir flight crashed near Zurich on its way to Dresden and killed all on board!!!)
Again we were met by a bus on the air strip which promptly took us to the terminal. Passport check was very quick, although they did actually scan in my passport this time, which previously had never happened as I have an EU passport and I usually get waved though. Could it be that Germany is getting a bit more security alert?? When I got to the baggage claim for the flight my bags came out immediately and I marched through customs without incident.

Opus17 says I should cancel my flights from Germany to Gatwick as they all are by Turboprop, and take the train, but I don't know. Do these planes crash a lot here in Europe?

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Old Jan 11, 00, 12:48 am
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wendolene, I believe the Crossair crash is its first in its corporate history. From my experience, Crossair is indistinguishable from SR, except Crossair has props.

The key to prop happiness are the super earplugs in your DL BE kit ... I hope you kept them.

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