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A New Yearís Travel Extravaganza Featuring AF, CI, SQ, LX, BA, EI, EY, LH, KM and KL

A New Yearís Travel Extravaganza Featuring AF, CI, SQ, LX, BA, EI, EY, LH, KM and KL

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Old Feb 8, 19, 12:14 pm
  #31  
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Mission accomplished: Abu Dhabi to Heathrow - Business Class on the A 380

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

INTRODUCTION

The course with Etihad was good fun and went by really quickly. The people attending the course were easy going and really impressed me by their professionalism. Of course, it also helps that the Etihad training facilities near the airport are modern, with well-equipped classrooms. On Thursday afternoon we finish around lunch, and I even get to take the tour of the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, which is quite dazzling. The white marble is so bright that I can hardly stand to look at the building, itís literally blinding. But on Monday the next course will be starting in Luxembourg, so itís high time for me to leg it back Europe. Which is a shame really, because the weather here in Abu Dhabi has been a delight this last week, with pleasantly mild temperatures hovering around 25 degrees Celsius.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Being the weekend, thereís hardly any traffic on the roads. Which means we manage to make the journey to the airport in just over fifteen minutes. The trip from the Hilton Capitol to the airport will cost you roughly UAD50.

CHECK-IN
Terminal 3 is dedicated to Etihad Airways and there are separate entrances for First and Business Class passengers. The Business Class area of the terminal is calm. It looks rather elegant. There are seven counters open when I arrive. Right next to check-in, there is a dedicated Fast Track for immigration and right behind that the security check. Most of Etihadís flying out of Abu Dhabi occurs during the night time, which is probably why the airport is surprisingly quiet, given the size of the facility.

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE
The Etihad Business Class lounge is located opposite gate 35, and itís enormous. There is a wide selection of hot and cold dishes to choose from at the buffet, ranging from Indian to Japanese, Western and Arab dishes. There are also, as far as I can tell, three bars. Although only one of them is currently open. I have a bit of lunch, seeing as the flight will not be departing until 13h45 and Iím not likely to eat anything before about 15h00. By the time I demolish my plate (I seem to be developing a serious liking for mash in my old age) I decide to check out the Six Senses Spa, also located in the lounge. I still have slightly more than an hour to go before boarding begins, so I figure I might as well treat myself to a full body massage of one hour.

BOARDING
My flight is departing from gate 33. At the entrance to the gate, my passport is first checked, followed by a secondary security check during which all electronic devices youíre carrying on you will be briefly switched on and checked. And then Iím free to board.

CABIN
Iím seated on 12A, which is the same seat I had on the outbound flight from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. This cabin configuration is starting to grow on me, I must say. I really like the abundance of storage space, which allows you to keep everything you might need during the flight within easy reach. Whatís more, no matter how many passengers there are in the cabin, it never seems full or crowded.

CREW
Iím told that Etihad have a crew complement of 22 in the cabin for their Airbus A 380. Todayís crew is yet another interesting mix of ethnicities and races. Theyíre not exactly warm or personable at first, but theyíre professional and courteous in the way they go about their duty.

SERVICE
A blanket, a pillow, the menu and the vanity kit have already been placed at my seat when I arrive. No sooner have I settled in, the crew bring me a rose scented hot towel and a glass of lemon and mint juice, which are both very refreshing.Just before we push back, the crew pass through the cabin taking orders for drinks after departure.

THE MEAL
Once the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off, the service begins, and Iím brought a ramekin of warm nuts and another glass of the lemon and mint juice. The service is ŗ l carte, and passengers have the option when theyíd like to eat.
First course
Mezze Ė muhammara, hummus, a filled grape leaf, tabbouleh and a pastry filled with a feta like cheese and served with a slice of lemon.This dish tastes much better than the one I hand on my way down to Abu Dhabi, Iím guessing thatís because this dish was locally made in the UAE. Especially the muhammara is very good and the lemon gives it a refreshing twist. The first course is served on a tray, together with the breads, butter, olive oil and salt and pepper shakers.
Main course
Rigatoni with a sugo of sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic pesto, parmigiano and fresh basil.When the flight attendant arrives with my main course, I comment on the fact that I think itís a shame the airlines tend not to serve spicy food and that the only thing missing for my main course is a bit of spice. The flight attendant puts my plate down and then rather abruptly dashes off. He returns just a short while later with a bottle of Tobasco for me, which I think is pretty cool and a very nice gesture. The dish is exceptionally good. The sugo has a lovely tangy flavour that is perfectly balanced with the pesto and you can actually still taste the fresh basil.
Dessert
Almond and pistachio pudding with butterscotch sauce.Instead of one of those horrific gelatinous blobs of tasteless gunk that most airlines seem to serve these days (Öand rather unconvincingly disguise as Ďmousseí), Etihad makes the effort to offer a real dessert. And sweet baby J., itís divine! Itís still warm and the texture is just so dense and rich. Gorgeous!

AMENITIES
The amenity kit is the same one as I had on the outbound flight, only this one is in yellow and not black.

ARRIVAL
About eighty minutes out of Heathrow, the cabin lights slowly start to go on again and the crew come through the cabin asking passengers if thereís anything theyíd like from the menu before they start preparing the cabin for landing. Iím still quite full from lunch, so I just order some ice cream and leave it at that. Originally, weíre scheduled to arrive at 17h15. But traffic in Heathrow is busy and so we end up doing two laps in a holding pattern north-east of the capital before we are eventually released for the approach. By the time we land, itís already 17h45. Terminal 4 is much busier than when I left and there are people everywhere. But still I manage, and before long Iím through security and on my way to the SkyTeam lounge.
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Old Feb 9, 19, 6:21 am
  #32  
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Nearly home: KLM Cityhopper from Heathrow to Amsterdam in Business Class

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

INTRODUCTION

Heathrow is having one of those days. The gusting winds mean there is more separation between the approaching aircraft, and as a result, everything seems to be running late Ė in some cases even as much as one hour or more.

LOUNGE
In Terminal 4 KLM shares the Business Class lounge with some of its other SkyTeam partners, including China Southern, Korean Air and Aeroflot. I rather like the SkyTeam lounge in Heathrow. Itís got a modern and fresh feel to it, and the choice of hot and cold food is rather good. This evening though, the lounge is full of unhappy Frenchmen. The Air France flight to Paris is running nearly ninety minutes late and passengers with connecting flights in Paris have already been informed that theyíre likely not going to make their onward flights. Which of course is a merde.

BOARDING
My flight is running slightly late as well. Boarding is scheduled for 19h55, which passes without the ground crew announcing that thereís going to be a delay. Eventually, at 20h30 boarding for the flight begins. Tonightís flight is being operated by an Embraer 175 of KLM Cityhopper. The flight is more or less sold out, which is why the ground crew are offering passengers to check in their baggage free of charge. Iím guessing this is the reason why eventually it takes us until 21h10 to finally complete the boarding process.

CABIN
There are two rows of Business Class seats on this flight, although on KLM Cityhopper itís difficult to tell the difference, seeing as both seats on the row of two are sold, even in Business Class. Luckily, Iím on 1A, and by the time boarding is completed, the aisle seat next to me is still empty.

CREW
There are two young ladies working the flight today. Theyíre your usual KLM friendly cabin crew. What they lack in finesse, they certainly make up for with their genuine and unpretentious approach to dealing with passengers.

SERVICE
There is no service on the ground. The flight time to Amsterdam is forty-five minutes.

THE MEAL
No sooner has the main landing gear left the ground, the aircraft starts shaking and swinging around as though it were a feather. Even so, before the fasten seatbelt sign is even turned off, the crew start their preparations for the service. A while ago, KLM updated the boxes and the meals that are serve in Business Class on the Cityhopper flights. Iím mean, itís still a box. But even so, I still think itís an improvement in that the new box seems bigger and more spacious. Inside the box there is a falafel and hummus salad, two pieces of bread and butter and a dessert. The salad is good and very light. I soak up the hummus with one of the breads provided with the meal and that is still warm. I donít try the dessert.

ARRIVAL
Very soon we start our descent into Amsterdam. The weather here is no better and we dip and roll violently on the approach. Eventually, after a flight time of only forty minutes, we touch down on the Polderbaan. From here itís another ten minutes taxiing to the Cityhopper apron. By the time we come to a stop on our designated remote stand, itís just gone 23h00 and weíre running thirty minutes late.
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Old Feb 10, 19, 8:28 am
  #33  
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Going home for some fresh clothes, with KLM Cityhopper: Amsterdam to Basel

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS

INTRODUCTION

I spend a very relaxing day in Amsterdam. I go to De Bakerswinkel for breakfast in the centre of Amsterdam and then indulge in a spot of retail therapy to revive the spirits. Itís still very windy here in Amsterdam, which has the positive side effect that aircraft are flying right over central Amsterdam at very low altitude on their approach into Schiphol.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Seeing as I only arrived in Amsterdam very late the day before, my hotel in Amsterdam is the CitizenM at Schiphol airport. I think it probably takes more time to walk from the entrance of the terminal to the KLM check-in counters than it does to walk from the hotel to the terminal building. In any case, itís not far.

CHECK-IN
KLM has a separate check-in area for SkyPriority passengers, which is located to the right as you come off the escalators, coming up from the Schiphol plaza. Iíve already checked in on the app, so itís really just a question of checking in the suitcase Iíve been carting around since I left for Shannon and then Abu Dhabi two weeks ago.

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE
The airport is very quiet this evening and thereís a nice hushed atmosphere in the lounge. With so few passengers around, itís easy to find a quiet space in the huge lounge. Since my last visit, there have been a few changes to the lounge. First of all, the KLM branded cutlery and plates have been replaced by something neutral and not branded. Itís a shame really, because there was always something very decidedly Dutch about the old tableware. The food selection is also different, although in this case I think itís actually an improvement over what they had before, because thereís now more choice.

BOARDING
The screens inside the lounge are showing a delay for my flight of 35 minutes, so 21h10 instead of 20h35. My flight will be boarding from gate B24, which is roughly a 10-minute schlep from the Crowne Lounge. Eventually, boarding start at 20h55 and itís all a bit messy. Luckily though, the Embraer 175 is a very small plane, so that despite the mess weíre all happily or not so happily settled in our seats by 21h05. The captain then steps out of the cockpit and puts on his jacket before he makes a public address. When that happens with KLM, you know itís bad news. So the captain informs us that the delay was caused by the gusting winds here in Amsterdam, which has meant increased separation and thus less capacity per hour per runway. But he assures us that weíll be on our way shortly. At 21h25 the first officer comes on the PA and informs us that thereís a problem with the manifest, which doesnít add up. Apparently, there are passengers in seats they shouldnít be occupying and that needs to be cleared up first. Eventually, at 21h38 we push back from our stand and the engines start up. Weíre now running slightly more than an hour behind schedule.

CABIN
Good heavens, these seats are tight. Either Iíve grown some more (highly unlikely) since I last flew KLM or theyíve decreased the seat pitch. My knees are pushing into the seatback of the seat in front of me. Whatís more, Iím sitting in front of a young man with seriously long legs who in turn is pushing his knees into the back of my seat. As such, itís a bit unfortunate to be kept waiting on the ground for thirty minutes before the flight begins. Finally though, I find a position in which I can minimise the amount of damage to my kneecaps and coccyx.

CREW
The crew looks slightly harassed and a bit tired. Even so, I think they do an excellent job in dealing with the disgruntled passengers, all of which are clearly just tired and weary from their travels at this stage. The crew announce the flight time as 55 minutes.

THE MEAL
The meal service on this flight consists of a wrap filled with cheese, egg and lettuce that is served in a small box with a little tub of still water. In addition to that, the crew pass through the cabin with a drinks trolley, offering hot and cold beverages. By this stage, Iím too tired to eat, let alone to remember to take a photo. But in my twilight state of semi-consciousness, I remember to dump the wrap in my backpack to take a picture of it once I get home.

ARRIVAL
Eventually we land at 22h40, 55 minutes behind schedule. The airport is already very busy, what with the Basel based easyJet fleet returning home for the evening. This does not bode well for immigration, me thinks. Much to my surprise though, weíre marshalled to a stand in the French domestic sector of the apron, which means that once inside the terminal, we will in fact not have to go through immigration at all, just like the good old days.Ten minutes later my suitcase arrives. I exit on the Swiss side of terminal and make my way to the bus stop. The bus is crowded, but I still manage to snag a seat. I now have a whole day at home before I head off again on MondayÖ
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Old Feb 11, 19, 9:18 am
  #34  
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Off we go again: back to Luxembourg in SWISS Business Class

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS

INTRODUCTION

Itís Monday morning and Iím on my way back to the airport in ZŁrich. Today Iím travelling to Luxembourg again to give another course. With me is my boss, an aerodynamicist by trade, and he looks just a wee bit upset. You see, the reason we get on with each other is that weíre both fascinated Ė so as not to call it obsessed Ė with airplanes. So thereís always something to talk about. Heíd been hoping for a chance to sample the A 220-300. But thereís been an aircraft change apparentlyÖ

CHECK-IN
But first things first. I arrive at the airport at around 07h20. My first stop is the SWISS Business Class check-in counters to dump my suitcase. From there I head across to the other side of Check-in area 3 to the counters of the Swiss federal railways. Iím inquiring about purchasing a ticket from Luxembourg to Brussels, where Iíll be heading to later on this week for yet another course. Only, the very friendly lady at the counter informs me that she can only sell me a ticket from Luxembourg to the border and then another ticket from the border to Brussels. But the system wonít tell her what the border town is at which Iíll need to swap tickets. So no sale.

Allow me to rant: in Europe distances between the major cities are often not that great. As such, in some cases the train would be a viable alternative to the airplane. But if even buying a ticket is so complicated and cumbersome, itís hardly surprising that trains have still not succeeded in competing against the airlines Ė even on short routes.

AIRSIDE
By the time Iím through security, itís gone eight in the morning. My flight will start boarding in less than thirty minutes. So I get myself a cinnamon roll and a cappuccino from the Marchť cafť at the beginning of the A concourse and then head for gate A 86, from where the flight to Luxembourg will be leaving and where Iíll be meeting my boss.

Meanwhile, outside itís a dark and dreary morning with low visibility. And itís started snowing as well. Which looks really pretty to be honest, but doesnít bode well for an on time departure.

BOARDING
Since I booked this trip, there have been three aircraft changes. Originally, the flight should have been operated by an Airbus A 220-300. Then it was changed to an Airbus A 220-100. Then when I checked in on the app on Sunday evening it had changed to an Airbus A 320 and then by the time boarding eventually started, it had reverted back to an Airbus A 220-300 Ė much to the delight of my boss. One of the things Iíve noticed about the morning Luxembourg flight is that it is quite prone to aircraft changes. I suspect the main reason being that the flight is so short that the schedule to Luxembourg is not really integrated into SWISSí hub schedule but rather the flight times are dictated by the availability of an aircraft.

Boarding finishes at around 09h05. The doors close and the captain welcomes us aboard. He also informs us that due to the weather situation, weíre going to have to de-ice first and thereís a queue of at least ten minutes for de-icing. So weíre not scheduled to depart before 09h45, forty minutes behind schedule.

CABIN
This time Iím sitting on 3A, the window seat on the row of two, which is perfect because it means I can store my luggage under the seat in front and have more than enough space to spread out. I donít think Iíve ever noticed just how spacious and airy the cabin of the A 220 is, despite the fact that the aircraft isnít all that big.

SERVICE
The Swiss solution to any problem is chocolate. And so, no sooner has the captain announced our departure delay, the crew pass through the cabin offering those small bars of chocolate that are a cornerstone of the SWISS on board experience. And it really works. The chocolate wonít make the weather any better and it wonít reduce the delay either, but it releases endorphins in the brains so that at least you give a bit less of a ratís bum about the delay because youíre busy happily clogging up your arteries with sumptuous goodness.

THE MEAL
The menu is still the same as it was three weeks ago, only this time I think they overdid it slightly with the smoked salmon in the brioche. The two ramekins are Bircher MŁsli and a fruit salad. The coffee is still served in cardboard cups but is not so vile.

ARRIVAL
Eventually we land in Luxembourg after a flight time of forty minutes, twenty minutes behind schedule. The weather here is slightly better, but also colder than in ZŁrich.We collect our suitcase and then head upstairs to catch the bus line 16 to the office.
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Old Feb 13, 19, 11:45 am
  #35  
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What an awesome trip!! Thank you for sharing
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Old Feb 16, 19, 11:09 am
  #36  
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Hi Madone59,
Thanks! Yeah, it's been quite long. I only just realised today that since 4 January 2019 I've actually only been home for a total of four days... I yearn for a simple home cooked meal! Nearly there though, nearly there...

Cheers,
William
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Old Feb 16, 19, 11:13 am
  #37  
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Luxembourg to Brussels by Belgian State Railways & Pullman Brussels Cenre Midi

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS
On Friday afternoon I hitch a ride with the flying Dutchman from Luxembourg to LiŤge, which is about a ninety minute drive from Luxembourg in good traffic.

In LiŤge I head across the square to the main entrance of the railway station that was designed by Calatrava and clearly carries his signature style.

Travelling by train in Belgium takes a lot of patience Ė especially if youíre from a place like Switzerland, where the federal railways have a bit of a paranoia about punctuality. My first stop is at the ticket machine to try to purchase a ticket to Brussels. Only, the ticket machine wonít accept credit cards, I keep getting an error message. Cash seems to be working, but only if youíre paying only in coinsÖ At some point I give up and join the queue with what looks like seemingly half of Belgium.

Eventually, with my ticket in hand I board what should have been the 15h01 train to Bruxelles Midi. Only, weíre running fourteen minutes late. Fourteen seems to be something of a magic number for the Belgian railways, because most trains appear to run late, and most of the time the delay is fourteen minutes.In any case, the journey from LiŤge to Bruxelles Midi should take exactly one hour. Only, by the time we finally arrive weíre somehow managed to pick up a further delay and are running twenty minutes late. Still, if Iíd taken the train all the way from Luxembourg, I would have first had to get from the Kirchberg plateau to the city centre, which is where the railways station is. And then from there, the journey from Luxembourg to Brussels with the direct train is 3h15. Plus a very likely delayÖ

In Brussels Iím staying at the Pullman hotel at Bruxelles Midi, which sits atop the station and has an entrance onto the main passenger concourse. The hotel looks as though it has only recently been refurbished and even still retains that nice smell of new furniture. The room Iím in is very big and comes with an electric kettle and a Nespresso machine. The drinks in the fridge are complimentary, although I think thatís because of my Platinum status. The cosmetics in the bathroom are by Bigelow Apothecaries.

Breakfast is served on the first floor in Victorís restaurant. The buffet is quite extensive and offers a very wide range of hot and cold dishes. On the downside though, when I come down at 09h30 for breakfast, the place looks like a bomb has just gone off. The staff seem to be doing a lot of running around, but without really getting anything done. Most tables are still full with the old dishes of the previous guests, and those tables that have been cleared away have not been set for the next guests. And the buffet is a barren wastelandÖ

All in all though, even with the breakfast, I liked the Pullman Bruxelles Centre Midi. The design and finish of the room and of the public areas is modern and comfortable. The breakfast experience could be improved thoughÖ
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Old Feb 17, 19, 2:25 am
  #38  
 
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Been enjoying your TR's!! Thank you.

Also, I agree about the Pullman at Brussels Midi - very clean, functional hotel but I am surprised that they have still not sorted out the Breakfast scrum. On one occasion, got there just after 6:30, set up my fresh OJ (those orange machines are so great, but I am sure they waste so much as well), with my tea, and when I went to get something from the buffet, the server decided to clear my table
But otherwise, a great hotel and it suited my needs perfectly.
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Old Feb 17, 19, 6:23 am
  #39  
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Hi Roadwarrier
Thanks a lot. It's been fun so far, but I'm glad it'll ease up with the travel soon. I hope...
For location and comfort the Pullman really is great. But for service there may be better places. I mean, they weren't exactly enthusiastic at reception either...

Cheers,
William
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Old Feb 17, 19, 6:25 am
  #40  
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To the city of Bruges - to check out what all the fuss is about

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Bruges is one of those places that people will start raving about when you mention it, even if theyíve never been there themselves. I think itís probably a similar effect to when people talk about Venice. And so, rather than spending the weekend in Brussels, I decide to take the train to Bruges on Saturday morning, just to see for myself what all the fuss is about.

Trains from Bruxelles Midi to Bruges run frequently and make the journey in about one hour. The Belgian State Railways offer a reduced weekend ticket that is valid on Saturdays and Sundays only. If youíre planning a trip to Bruges, you better plan for an early start, because the trains tend to be very full Ė as in Ďstanding room onlyí in second class.

But in any case, Bruges is admittedly a nice little place. But in all honesty, I think itís either a bit overrated Ė or else Iíve just travelled too much. I think part of my problem with Bruges is that it doesnít seem real. Itís so meticulously turned out for the tourists that itís ended up looking a lot like a film set. I had a similar sensation I when I visited Dubrovnik, which is also very nice but feels like a museum.

The other issue is that the place is literally crawling with tourists, to the extent that itís impossible to find a place to eat without having to queue for ages. All in all, Iím glad Iíve been to Bruges. But Iíve ticked it off the list now, and I donít think Iíll be coming back.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:17 am
  #41  
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The long way home... SWISS Business from Brussels to ZŁrich

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INTRODUCTION

I have a colleague at work. For argumentís sake, letís call him Mr. Bighead. In any case, Mr. Bighead worked on the development of the Bombardier CSeries. He recently gave me his candid, and of course totally unbiased opinion about my blog. According to which, I could be a bit more enthusiastic in my praise for the fabulous CSeries. I promised to make amends, especially seeing as the CSeries is indeed starting to grow on me. And so, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let it be known that I, William, think the Bombardier CSeries aka the Airbus A 220 is a rather nice aircraft.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The course at Eurocontrol ends just before 15h00. My flight back to ZŁrich is not until 18h50. But instead of hanging around the office, I figure I might as well go to the airport and find myself somewhere quiet to sit with a good book. Iím so looking forward to finally going home.

Eurocontrol in Brussels is pretty much out in the sticks. In fact, I think there are more wild bunnies per square metre than there are humans on the premises. But at least, being out in the boonies means you can avoid the notoriously horrific traffic around Brussels. The journey to the airport by taxi takes roughly 12 minutes and costs EUR18.

CHECK-IN
SWISS checks in on rows 1 and 2, which is where the Brussels Airlines counters are located. Brussels Airlines does the check-in on behalf of its Star Alliance partner SWISS at Brussels airport. Rows 1 and 2 are in the best spot of the departures concourse, because theyíre closest to the escalators as you come up from the car park and railway station. Theyíre also closest to the entrance to security.

LOUNGE
The security checkpoint at Brussels airport is very well organised. There is a separate queue for Fast Track security and the whole process is efficient and quick. The security checkpoint is located halfway between the A (Schengen) and the B (non-Schengen) piers.

Brussels Airlines and the Star Alliance carriers use The Loft lounge, which is one floor up from the main airside area of the A pier, just opposite the escalators. The lounge is nice and itís been extended since the last time I was there. In fact, I think its size has been doubled. Itís spacious, clean and modern and offers a wide range of comfortable seating options, including some with excellent vistas of the apron. The food is also very good, with a variety of hot and cold dishes that change regularly throughout the day.

One of the things I donít much like about most lounges though, is the people you find in them. Like the business man who has two large beers in front of him and is busy on the phone telling the caller about exactly what he told them in the meeting Ė and everybody else in the lounge, whether they care to listen or not. And the table manners Ė or lack thereof Ė of some of these people! At some point I become aware of these obscenely revolting slurping sounds from behind me. I turn to find Slurpy the Wonderboy sitting behind me in a suit and tie, whoís obviously attempting to inhale the chicken soup he found at the buffet. Luckily, my aircraft choses that exact moment to appear from behind the B pier. I think itís time to leave.

BOARDING
Boarding is from gate A45, which is close to the lounge. There is a separate call for Business Class passengers to board first and there is also a separate lane, so Business Class passengers can skip the queue. Seeing as Iím seated on 1A though, I take my time to board. No point in holding up the queue. Although in hindsight, it wouldnít have mattered anyway, because the flight is not very full.

CABIN
AndÖ by the looks of it, the CS300 now has a cabin divider between the Business and Economy Class sections of the cabin. Or maybe it has always been there but I didnít notice. I have no idea if only the -300 aircraft have these or if gradually the -100 will also be equipped with them. I shall have to ask one of my students whoís a flight attendant with SWISS.

CREW
There are two young ladies working the forward cabin and both of them seem nice enough.

SERVICE
On the ground a packaged cold towel and a small bottle of still water are served. The flight time is announced at slightly less than fifty minutes.

THE MEAL
The Brussels service gets a meal served on a tray, unlike the Luxembourg flight, which is only slightly shorter but only gets a small snack. And despite the short flight time, the passengers are served individually instead of from a trolley. On the tray there is the main event Ė a light meal Ė as well as a plate with two slices of cheese and a small glass jar with dessert. And what a thoroughly revolting meal it is. The main dish is allegedly beef tartar with egg and truffle oil, served with a small celery and pumpkin salad. I mean, what on earth were they thinking? I very much doubt that many people are all that fond of a combination of raw meat and raw egg. And by the looks of it, most of the six other passengers have touched the vile thing. Even the flight attendant comments on it. And for dessert there is yet another gelatinous and very sweet looking blob of something with a soggy piece of cantuccio on it. LŲŲŲvely, as the tall, blond M. would sayÖ

ARRIVAL
I know I always say this, but itís just always true. ZŁrich airport really is absolutely brilliant. Honestly! We touch down at 19h53. By 2013 Iíve collected my checked luggage, bought some cigarettes for the wiry R. at the duty free and taken a seat on the train to ZŁrich main station. And all that in twenty minutes!

Seven weeks, 23 flights and 60í000 kilometres later Iím finally home. I now have three whole days before I take my next trip. Woohoo!
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Old Feb 21, 19, 2:38 pm
  #42  
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William,

I appreciate your trip reports and your blog.

Can you spot the menu for the EY AUH-LHR flight?

Thanks again for all these excellent reports.
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Old Feb 23, 19, 11:12 am
  #43  
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Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 267
Basel to Munich on Lufthansa Business Class

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS

INTRODUCTION

Iím on my way to Malta. Tomorrow is the Malta marathon that I was actually planning on participating in. But itís looking like that may not be happening after all. First of all, I have a collapsed arch, which doesnít cause me any problems when Iím walking or running but all the more pain when Iím just standing or resting. And apart from that, the organisers have announced that despite the expected gale force winds, the run is expected to go ahead as planned. But I really donít think I fancy that.

But the flights are booked anyway, and I think itíll do me good to go home one way or another. The upshot of course, is that Iím going to have to travel with Lufthansa, which is rarely a pleasurable experience.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
My flight departs at 06h15, which means I have to take the 04h55 bus to the airport, which gets there at 05h09. Being a Saturday morning, the bus is still fairly empty.

CHECK-IN
The Lufthansa app works moderately well. It takes quite a while to load, but that might just as well be because of my iPhone or the connection. Seeing as Iíll only be gone one day, Iím only travelling with hand luggage.

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE
Basel airport has been a constant building site since the partial suspension of the Schengen treaty. And to be honest, I canít help feel that perhaps that was the main idea Ė to keep people in the area in jobs. Because while thereís a lot of construction going on in the terminal building itself, more and more flights are shifting back into the secured Schengen area that still exists. Apparently, Lufthansa or Germany have made it on to the Ďgoodí list, so at least I wonít need to go through immigration.

BOARDING
Boarding starts at 05h55. There is a separate line for Business Class passengers and status holders and these are also invited to board the aircraft first.

CABIN
Iím seated on row 2A. I know I complain a lot about Lufthansa, but one advantage they have in Business Class, is that even on a puny little squirt like the CRJ-900, the seat next to you will always remain empty. And I also must say, the amount of noise up front is minimal. Itís quite calm and pleasant.On a side note, row 1 is right opposite the door to the toilet Ė which might be unpleasant, especially on a full flight.

CREW
There are two cabin crew on the flight: a middle aged woman with a rather grating voice, especially at 06h in the morning, and a middle aged gentleman. I donít think heís German though, because his accent when he speaks English and French is nearly non-existent.

SERVICE
The one thing that always strikes me on European Lufthansa, is how the service has been stripped to the absolute minimum. There is not refreshing towel, no welcome drink and no interaction with the crew.

THE MEAL
The flight time is announced at slightly over forty minutes. The Business Class meal is served on a tray and passengers are served individually from the galley, as opposed to a classic trolley service. And what a sad meal it is! The food comes on a small white tray which is decked out in a red and white chequered napkin, in what I can only assume is Lufthansaís interpretation of rustic Bavarian country bumpkin chic. On it is a nut protein bar, a small bottle with a coconut and pineapple smoothie, a yoghurt with cherry compote and a ham sandwich wrapped in paper. Apart from the fact that the meal really looks very sad and just screams Ďcost savingí at you, itís also not very good. In particular, I find it somewhat awkward that they should put pork ham in the sandwiches. Surely, it wouldnít hurt Lufthansa to use cheese or something else that will not immediately exclude or cause offence to people who will not eat pork for religious reasons or any meat out of conviction.

ARRIVAL
The flight passes quickly and eventually we land at 07h11. I now have just under two hours to make my connection to Malta.
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Old Feb 23, 19, 12:34 pm
  #44  
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Posts: 267
... and then on home to Malta, with Lufthansa Business Class

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

TRANSFER IN MUC

Lufthansa and its Star Alliance partners all call Terminal 2 home. The bus ejects me at the main terminal building. My onward connection to Malta will be departing from K09, which is the Schengen concourse in the satellite of Terminal 2. To get there, there is an underground shuttle that runs every few minutes and makes the journey across in slightly over one minute. This is my first trip through the satellite and I have to say, I like it. Itís very spacious and despite the many travellers, the place is very quiet.

LOUNGE
There is a Business Class and a Senator lounge in the satellite. The Business Class lounge is not very busy when I arrive, probably because it is still early on a Saturday morning. The toilets have apparently all gone out of order at the same time. So instead, passenger have to use the toilets in the shower rooms instead. Other than that, it seems to me the lounge hasnít really aged all that well. Itís also quite small.

BOARDING
Before boarding even begins, thereís already a mob forming in front of the automatic gates. There is a separate gate for Business Class passenger, who are invited to board first, but itís not that easy to get through with all the people milling about. From what I can tell, it looks like itís going to be a full flight this morning.

CABIN
There are four rows of Business Class on this flight, and twelve out of sixteen seats are occupied, which is surprisingly high. There also seem to be a lot of French passengers on the flight.Leg space in Business Class is excellent. Iím sitting on 2F and I have ample space to stretch my legs. The windows are also nicely aligned for some excellent outside views.

CREW
There are two middle aged women working the Business Class cabin and theyíre really excellent. Their service approach is relaxed but still professional. They interact with a lot of ease and charm with the passengers, which I think is indicative of a breed of usually senior flight attendants that have been properly trained but is sadly becoming increasingly difficult to come by these days.

SERVICE
Again, there is absolutely no service on the ground. However, no sooner has boarding been completed, one of the crew members passes through the cabin offering nice fluffy pillows to passengers for some additional comfort. We depart more or less on time. The flight time is announced as a quick 1 hour and 45 minutes. We take off in an easterly direction and then do a right turn to point us south. Itís a lovely crisp morning with good visibility. A perfect day for flying really. The Alps look beautiful from above. Theyíre all covered in snow and some of the valleys are still shrouded in morning mist. Itís not a bad view to go along with breakfast.

THE MEAL
The meal service starts shortly after take-off. This time, the trays are delivered from a tray by one of the flight attendants. The tray has on it:
A sliver of smoked salmon on rye bread with mustard and dill.
Vanilla yoghurt with berries.
A small plate with a cream cheese with radishes.
Another small plate with salami and smoked ham.
A strawberry smoothie.
Butter and strawberry jam.

The crew also pass through the cabin with a bread basket. Iím starving, but I decide to just take one bun, given that my request for another when I took this flight a year previously did not go down so well with the crew. Surprisingly though, the crew pass through the cabin a second time with a full bread basket that contains croissants as well as buns.

ARRIVAL
The weather stays good right up until we reach Sicily. From there on it gradually starts to cover up. The weather in Malta doesnít look too bad though. There are some clouds in the sky but itís mostly sunny and warm. We land slightly ahead of schedule. Given that I only have hand luggage, Iím through to arrivals fairly quickly. I step outside and grab the X2 bus, which goes to St. Julianís. The ticket price is EUR1.50.

CONCLUSION
If Iím perfectly honest, this flight was much better than I had expected. I think that partly has to do with the fact that Business Class was not entirely full. As a result, the crew were able to take their time with the service and tried very hard to make passengers feel comfortable.Apart from that though, I do think itís a shame how the service on Lufthansa on short-haul has been cut back to the absolute minimum. Theyíve become as bad as British Airways Ė and I donít mean that in a nice way! The flight was okay. But I wouldnít go out of my way to travel Lufthansa.
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Old Feb 25, 19, 1:39 am
  #45  
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Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 267
Air Malta Business Class to Frankfurt

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

INTRODUCTION

So eventually the marathon had to be cancelled because of the storm. And what a storm it was! I donít think Iíve ever seen anything quite like it. On Sunday morning I fire up the flightradar24 app just for the fun of watching one aircraft after another executing a missed approach and coming around for a second attempt Ė and hoping the weather will have calmed down by the time my flight to Frankfurt leaves at 16h25Ö

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I leave the Hilton in St. Julianís at around 14h20. The trip to the airport normally only takes about twenty minutes in good traffic. But given the weather situation, god knows what might happen on the way. And indeed, I do pass a car accident on the road, that was caused by a falling tree.

CHECK-IN
There are now multipurpose machines for check-in at Malta Airport. However, seeing as Iíll have to go to a manned check-in counter anyway to pick up my invitation to the La Valette lounge, I figure I might as well go to the counter straight away. In front of me at the dedicated Business Class counter is an Economy Class passenger who is refusing to pay for his checked luggage. But he obviously picked the wrong young lady in an Air Malta uniform, because sheís obviously not having any of his nonsense. Itís quite funny to watch. Eventually, she moves him aside and tells him she needs to check in some passengers while he decided what he wants to do. But clearly, sheís not going to give him an inchÖ

LOUNGE
The departure lounge at the airport has become too small for the amount of traffic it handles. There are people everywhere and barely enough places to sit. Although of course there are also those who just sit on the floor out of principle, because theyíre just so unconventionalÖThank god I have access to the Business Class loungeÖ which turns out to be unusually busy. Even so, I like this lounge, it ticks all the boxes: good views of the apron, comfortable seating and a small but nice food selection (Kinnie and pastizzi, what elseÖ).

BOARDING
Boarding starts slightly behind schedule. All the flights are running just a little bit late today, mainly because most of them have had to do a go around on the inbound. The distance to the plane is only a short one to walk. But itís started to rain again, so I must say Iím rather glad when I see a bus pulling up at our gate to take us to the aircraft.

CABIN
There are just a few minor oddities in this cabin. At a glance, it looks like your regular Air Malta cabin. However, first I notice that there is no cabin divider and no other sign to mark off the Business Class section of the aircraft from the Economy Class section, other than the headrest covers. Secondly, the seats are different. Previously, the first few rows of seats were installed with a small table between the aisle and the window seat which folded away into the back of the middle seat to convert the seat into an Economy Class configuration. But that does not seem to be the case here. Initially, Iím seated on 1D, the aisle seat. But once boarding is completed, it becomes clear that there are three rows of Business Class for only three Business Class passengers. So I move back to 2F for a seat by the window.

CREW
There are four cabin crew on the flight. Two men and two women. The service on the ground is done by the younger one of the females, while the main service during the flight is done by the maÓtre de. The latter is very attentive. Throughout the meal service sheís prowling the cabin. No sooner has a passenger finished their meal, she removes the tray and asks about tea or coffee. The flight time is announced as two hours and thirty minutes. Whatís more, for the very first time in my life, weíll be departing from runway 05. This is the first runway that was ever built for the original airport after World War II. Itís only 2300 metres long and therefore only used nowadays when the wind makes it necessary. Like today.

SERVICE
While weíre still on the ground, the crew offer still water or orange juice as a welcome drink. They also pass through the cabin with copies of the Sunday Times of Malta. Our take-off is surprisingly calm. Itís only bumpy for the first minute or so. As we climb out over the coast, the sea still looks really rough and quite violent.The fasten seat belt sign is turned off only once we settle into the cruise at 34í000 feet. The crew pass through the cabin taking orders for pre-meal drinks and distributing hot towels. Of course it goes without saying that I have a Kinnie.

THE MEAL
Much to my surprise and delight, Air Malta offers a hot meal on its service to Frankfurt. The service consists of:

First course Ė Tomato and Mozzarella salad with spinach, black olives and olive oil.
Main course Ė chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce, served with polenta and steamed vegetables.
Cheese Ė a slice of Camembert, Cheddar and Gbejna, served with two warm rolls. Gbejna is a Maltese goat cheese.
Dessert Ė Coconut cake with a thin layer of cream and strawberry jam.

And to conclude, I have a cup of black tea. Once thatís over, itís really not as though I havenít had enough food. But I give in to my craving Ė which sounds so much nicer than compulsion Ė and buy myself a packet of Twistees from the inflight shop. Twistees are just one of those things I remember from my childhood in Malta. I donít think you can get them anywhere else than Malta, which is why they are so closely linked to my childhood.

ARRIVAL
Eventually we land in Frankfurt at 19h25. By the time we pull up to our assigned stand, itís just gone 19h30 and I now have one hour to make the connection to Basel.
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