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Elegance to the Emirate: The Outstanding Swiss First Class Experience

Elegance to the Emirate: The Outstanding Swiss First Class Experience

Old Aug 5, 23, 8:41 am
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Elegance to the Emirate: The Outstanding Swiss First Class Experience

Elegance to the Emirate: The Outstanding Swiss First Class Experience

Index to Genius1 Trip Reports

On a sunny early May day last year I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 with a sense of excitement building; the next day, I would be trying a product long since on my bucket list. With fair regularity, the Lufthansa Group, of which Swiss International Air Lines is a part, runs decent sale fares for First Class cabins. Four months prior to my trip I had managed to secure one of these fares, albeit only on the shortest route one can try the product – Zurich to Dubai.

Ahead in this report:

Part 1
• Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines and Lufthansa lounges at LHR
• LHR-ZRH in Swiss Business
• Radisson Blu Hotel Zurich Airport
• Swiss First check-in lounge at ZRH and private transfer to E Gates
• Swiss First lounge at ZRH E Gates
• ZRH-DXB in Swiss First
Part 2
• InterContinental Dubai Festival City
• Lufthansa lounges and Ahlan First Class lounge at DXB
• DXB-ZRH in Swiss First
• Day rooms and tasting menu at the Swiss First lounge at ZRH E Gates
• Swiss First lounge at ZRH A Gates and private apron transfer to aircraft
• ZRH-LHR in Swiss Business


The Lufthansa Group use Zone B check-in in T2, with two desks for premium classes on the rear wall adjacent to security. Whilst queueing behind a couple checking in at the single First desk, I was waved over to the adjacent Business desk, where my COVID vaccination certificate and insurance documents were checked – then still a condition of entry to the UAE – and boarding passes issued. The check-in agent didn’t seem very sure of what she was doing, but after a few minutes I was in the queue for two out of three available Fast Track security lanes, and airside within ten minutes. The Heathrow staff were in a notably good mood that morning.

Four Star Alliance airlines operate lounges in T2; Lufthansa offer Senator and Business lounges in T2A, whilst over in the T2B satellite building Air Canada have a Maple Leaf lounge, Singapore Airlines offer First and Business Class SilverKris lounges, and there’s also a United Global Services lounge and United Club. I had, obviously, arrived in plenty of time to sample all four, starting with AC’s offering – which meant a ten-minute subterranean walk under the taxiway to the satellite building.

The Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge is located near Gate B44, one level above the gates in T2B, and shares a lobby with the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge opposite. As with all of the Star Alliance lounges in T2, the lounge opened with the terminal in 2014, but despite its relative age and lack of major refurbishment since, it’s in very good condition. I was warmly welcomed at reception, where my vaccination certificate was again checked (an AC policy at the time) and I was proactively advised of the other lounges I could use in the terminal.

The lounge has a straightforward layout, with a buffet and dining area to the left of reception and the main seating area of the lounge extending back to the right along the side of the building, with views over the apron to T2A. The design is simple, yet elegant in an unfussy and still-modern way. I particularly liked the use of slatted wooden panelling, which at the entrance features AC’s maple leaf logo recessed into the wood. A meeting room with large communal conference table is available behind this screen, including two PCs and a printer.

The main seating area is light and airy, with a raised platform in the centre featuring mainly banquette seating facing the windows, and an odd Christmas tree-like sculpture in the centre. Armchairs in groups of four make up the bulk of the seating along the window, with more casual seating at either end. The far end features three rest areas with reclining chairs and individual TVs, although they are not particularly private. Power sockets, mostly located in floor boxes requiring a little hunting out, are available throughout most of the seating areas.

The dining area is a little on the dark side given its location in the interior of the space, and there aren’t many dining tables for couples or solo travellers, the focus of the space being on the communal high-top table. The dregs of breakfast were being cleared from the buffet when I arrived at around 11:00 but were soon replaced with an adequate if unexciting selection of hot dishes, salad, cold meats and cheeses, crackers, breads, pastries and sweet snacks. A tended bar in this area serves alcoholic drinks on request, with a self-serve coffee machine and soft drinks adjacent to the left.

Washrooms are located off the dining area, which whilst clean had no special amenities. Three showers are available in the lounge, which I understand have Molton Brown amenities – it would be nice if AC offered these in the washrooms too.

The lounge never got busy during my hour or so there, and staff were clearing empties at pace and were eager to please. If you’re not hungry, this lounge is a pleasant option in which to while away the time.

Moving across the hall to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge, I was greeted rather frostily at reception and directed to the right to the Business Class lounge (the First Class lounge is through a door to the left). Designed by ONG&ONG, this was one of the first lounges in the SQ network to adopt the ‘home away from home’ concept. Whilst the lounge was busy when I first arrived, it soon emptied as an SQ departure was called; the staff were quick to clear empties, leaving me free to explore and photograph the space fully. Immediately to the right after reception is an odd overflow-type area with a single desk (which looked more like a concierge desk than one for passenger use), small drinks station and armchair seating, decorated with a worrying array of ugly plastic plants.

Beyond this, the Business Class lounge opens up, initially with a buffet on the left. During my visit most food was available via a QR code menu ordering system, although a small selection of good quality self-service sandwiches, wraps, cheeses, salad, a single chilled dessert and sweet snacks was available, along with nuts at the tended bar just around the corner. I believe the lounge has since reverted to offering hot dishes from the buffet. The buffet area features a drinks station and plenty of traditional dining and high-top tables, which extend along the lounge’s rear wall. The banner advertising SQ’s ‘new’ A380 Business Class (which actually debuted at the end of 2017) looked a little tacky and out of place.

The main seating area of the lounge is square in shape and offers a good range of armchair seating (the tables between which feature power and USB sockets), with a few wingback chairs by the windows overlooking the apron to the BA maintenance base beyond. I found it a bit odd that these were placed opposite normal armchairs rather than in matching pairs, but I accept this is the sort of thing that only a few people notice. The space is broken up by wooden partitions and includes eight semi-private booths featuring power and USB sockets and individual reading lights that feel a little like SQ’s original A380 Business Class seats. Another drinks station is located here, with a notably ugly water dispenser.

Washrooms and three showers are available, all with surprisingly unbranded amenities. The washrooms were not particularly clean, which surprised me for such a brand-conscious airline.

Of all the lounges I visited that morning, I spent the most time in the SQ lounge. This meant I had ample opportunity to test the wifi (nice and fast), enjoy a Singapore Sling from the bar (which was only sporadically staffed), and sample the delicious nasi lemak with chicken sambal for lunch. Other options from the QR menu included madras chicken curry, barbecue pulled pork, breaded scampi and vegetarian pad Thai.

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with the SQ lounge. The dcor – in particular the ceiling – looked dated in a way which the other lounges didn’t, and the layout felt awkward. That being said, I enjoyed the tranquillity offered post-SQ departure, and the high-quality food offering.

The penultimate stop on my lounge tour was the United Club, also located one level above the gates in T2B, but further along from the AC and SQ lounges, near Gate B34.

From reception, the Global Services lounge (formerly the Global First lounge until UA discontinued international first class service in 2018) is located back and to the right, whilst the Club stretches out straight ahead. I scanned my own boarding pass and the agent welcomed me by name, which is always nice to hear but even more so when you’re using another airline’s lounge. The lounge was quite busy during my brief visit, so forgive the relative lack of photos.

The Club space is a generous rectangle, with a circular buffet room at one end, circular quiet room at the other (flanked on the outside by a self-service hot and soft drinks station) and various different seating options in between.

Individual phone rooms (half of which were closed), washrooms and showers are located off the right-hand wall, whilst the tended bar is the lounge’s centrepiece in pride of place by the expansive windows overlooking the apron to the now-closed T1. Individual and communal dining tables at various heights as well as armchair seating flank either side of the bar, with power sockets aplenty (although the one at my seat didn’t work). As with the AC lounge, the overall design still feels modern if slightly bland, although the high level of occupancy of the space meant the lounge didn’t look at its best on my visit.

For a US-based airline’s lounge I was impressed with the buffet selection, which comprised a selection of appetising hot dishes, sandwiches and wraps, cold meats and cheeses, salad, breads, a single chilled dessert and sweet snacks – a selection easily on a par with AA’s Flagship lounges in the US. Whilst I didn’t eat anything here, everything looked higher quality than the offerings in both the AC and LH lounges. As well as the main drinks area at the other end of the lounge, hot and soft drinks are available in the buffet room too.

The washrooms are unisex rooms each with their own WC and basin and Sunday Riley amenities. Eight showers are also available.

With its decent food selection and multiple seating options, I can imagine in quieter times the United Club would be a pleasant option for those departing from T2B.

Walking back to T2A (this time without the aid of travelators), my final stop was the Lufthansa lounges, located one level above the gates, to the right after passing through security.

I asked at reception whether I would have access to the Senator lounge given my onward connection in First, which received a positive response and a printed QR code receipt to scan at the ‘lounge within a lounge’ entrance. The Business and Senator lounges are almost identical in style and food offering, so I’m not really sure what the purpose of having this two-tier arrangement is in what is a relatively small space in T2. Both lounges follow Lufthansa’s signature interior design of yellow and grey tones that has worn well over the years – I don’t dislike it, although it is far from luxurious.

The Business lounge (which was rammed to the gills, hence the lack of photos) starts, true to form, with a large business centre with communal conference table and high-top seating, a single PC and printer. Three phone booths front this area. Beyond is the main lounge, with armchair seating by the windows (overlooking the Southern runway albeit through a brise soleil) and a central buffet flanked by a mixture of dining table, high-top and banquette seating. Power sockets are located throughout.

The Senator lounge, accessed through doors roughly two thirds of the way through the Business lounge, places the buffet and dining seating near the front of the space, with armchair seating at the far end in front of a backlit forest scene. High table lamps separate the armchairs from each other and represent one of the few distinguishing features of the Senator space. A smaller business centre than that found in the Business lounge is located to the right, as are washrooms.

The Senator lounge was as uncomfortably full as the Business lounge, a victim of LH being the only Star Alliance lounge in T2A. Despite this, these are perfectly acceptable lounges for a quick bite to eat before a short haul flight.

As boarding time approached, I headed downstairs to Gate A19, where a dedicated Group 1 and 2 lane was set up, with both groups invited to board together as I arrived at the gate.

Today’s flight to ZRH was operated by Helvetic Airways on behalf of Swiss, aboard two-year-old HB-AZF, an E190-E2. As with most narrowbody aircraft in Europe, Helvetic’s E190s have a variable number of Business seats, with five rows of J on this flight – but no divider between the two cabins. In a 2-2 configuration throughout, Business is sold in a 1-1 configuration, alternating so that theoretically no passenger can be reclined into – in practice, most passengers chose the window seats. Oddly there were only antimacassars on the aisle seats.

The cabin is smart, with red carpet and grey leather seats spaced at around 30 inches. Each seat has two USB sockets and individual overhead air vents, although there was no wifi on my flight. A safety card and menu (for Economy service) was in an eye-level literature pocket. Soon after I took my seat in 3A, the cabin crew distributed bottles of Swiss-branded water and a wipe (I assume in lieu of a hot towel).

Economy was reasonably full with a party of students, whilst Business had 8 of 9 seats occupied. Once boarding was complete, a flight time of 1h15 was announced by the Senior Cabin Attendant, and we pushed back 17 minutes late for takeoff from Runway 27L. Once airborne, an announcement was made advising the forward washroom was only for Business passengers (this had to be policed on only one occasion), and that personal alcohol could not be consumed onboard – I’m not sure whether that is a Helvetic / Swiss policy, or unique to this flight given the students onboard.

Before too long our efficient and pleasant single Business cabin crew member was hand delivering dinner trays, comprised of a salad, cheese plate, glass dessert pot and warm bread offered from a basket. Drinks were offered at the same time as the tray service, empties were promptly cleared and the curtain to the forward galley remained closed with each pass through. The dinner tray was of high quality if fairly meagre in portion size, and I appreciated touches such as the hot water for my tea arriving on a tray with drip dish.

Two passes of Swiss-branded chocolates were made through both cabins, with doubles being offered each time.

The single washroom at the front of the cabin was the cleanest short haul aircraft washroom I’ve seen, although didn’t feature any special Business amenities.

After landing in ZRH we parked at D Gates, and with no queue at immigration I was soon landside and heading to my hotel for the night.

Radisson Blu Hotel Zurich Airport

A 5-minute walk from arrivals, the Radisson Blu is a convenient pit stop for a night before a flight. With the main revolving door out of service, I used the side door to enter the lobby, which is more of an interior atrium / courtyard, over which a number of rooms look. A fairly perfunctory check-in experience followed, with a rather cocky member of staff acting as if he was doing me a favour checking me in. With a slightly sour taste in my mouth, I headed up one floor to my Standard room, very close to the lifts for a convenient getaway the next morning.

With interior designs by the Designers Guild and Matteo Thun, I had expected something a little more sophisticated than my room presented. Whilst the space was of a decent 28m, the overall ‘design’ effect was pretty dull – not least the ugly suitcase stand below the TV, the uncomfortable lounge chair, the partially unfrosted window to the bathroom, and the student-like artwork above the desk. Things didn’t get better with the view, which was of an access ramp for the terminal forecourt through integrated window blinds.

Visual aspects aside, the room fell short on practical features; there were no power sockets beside the bed (indeed, there was only one free power socket in the whole room, above the desk), there was no master light switch, and the phone didn’t have any labels explaining the buttons – I pressed a random combination until I got through to a human to request a dental kit. The TV, however, had an HD feed (a feature so many hotels inexplicably lack in this day and age), and the bed was comfortable despite the cushion-sized pillows. Complimentary still and sparkling water was provided, along with hand sanitiser. Robes and slippers are only provided in suites, although I’m sure slippers would have been available had I requested them.

The bathroom was a little spartan with small grey tiles covering much of the walls and floor. Some rooms feature walk-in showers instead of baths, although mine had the latter – thankfully with a glass shower screen instead of a curtain. If I’d have wanted to use the bath, I would have been out of luck however, as the plug was missing. Own-brand amenities were provided in sustainable large bottles, although with the body wash empty I had to make do with the provided small bar of soap the next morning – why these things aren’t checked properly during room cleaning I don’t know. There was no body lotion. When showering, the shower screen leaked fairly substantially, and it became evident that the mirror wasn’t anti-steam.

Despite a few practical niggles and the fairly odd design of the room, I had a decent night’s sleep and a prompt check-out early the next morning ready for my Swiss First experience to begin in earnest.

Last edited by Genius1; Aug 5, 23 at 11:16 am
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Old Aug 5, 23, 8:43 am
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Swiss First passengers together with HON Circle members have a discreet private entrance from the departures forecourt at ZRH, which leads through a revolving door directly into the Swiss First Check-in Lounge. Brand consistency is something that Swiss certainly excel in, and in 2018 the airline took the opportunity to construct a new check-in lounge alongside the opening of their new A Gates First lounge (known as FCL A).

The check-in lounge comprises two staffed podiums and three comfortable seating areas, where check-in formalities can be completed if you have luggage to deposit. The overall design of the space, in common with the entire Swiss First experience, is understated, consistent and supremely elegant.

This is what the entrance looks like from the check-in concourse.

I was welcomed by the staff and given a fresh boarding pass, asked whether I knew the way to the lounge, and when I replied in the negative was escorted half way to the entrance to the FCL A, just a minute away from the check-in lounge. I’m not sure why I wasn’t escorted all the way, but I didn’t mind given my desire to take photos.

The FCL A has its own private entrance via lift, stairs and escalator from the check-in concourse. At the top of the escalator, I was greeted by an agent who offered to book my timed transfer over to the E Gates. Security took place after the desk, with one private lane and friendly staff processing me with the minimum of fuss. A passport check (I believe COVID-related, as immigration was later in the process) took place straight after security.

I’ll cover the FCL A in detail on the return leg, so for now will fast forward to my transfer to E Gates. All Swiss First and HON Circle passengers departing from E Gates are driven to the satellite terminal with direct access to the E Gates Swiss First lounge (FCL E). Transfers directly to the aircraft are also provided for all remote gate departures. The transfer area is accessed from the rear of the FCL A, down a long oak-panelled corridor terminating in a podium and small seating area – bottled water is available before you start your trek along the corridor. An agent will wait in the seating area for any other passengers booked on the same transfer, before escorting you down a ramp past the entrance to the Alpine lounge (the former FCL A), down one more floor in a lift, through private immigration (for non-Schengen destinations) and out to your waiting vehicle – either a Mercedes Sprinter minibus (for shared transfers) or E-Class Mercedes (for private transfers).

Another passenger due to take the same transfer as me didn’t show up, so I ended up having a Sprinter to myself. Swiss have customised the Sprinter with the same side lamps, seat fabric and wooden accents you’ll find onboard Swiss First – really impressive, even if the concept of shared transfers isn’t so much.

Upon arrival at E Gates, my driver escorted me in a lift directly from apron level to the FCL E reception three floors up, and into what is probably now my favourite airline lounge anywhere in the world. Opened in 2016, this lounge still feels fresh out of the box; it’s a supremely stylish space, with an abundance of natural light flooding in through floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides and a wraparound outdoor terrace.

The first thing you’ll see on entering is an impressive wine cooler, followed by the lounge’s centrepiece – a tended horseshoe-shaped bar, featuring self-serve champagne, whole fruit, sweet and savoury snacks.

To the left is the dining area, initially four booths facing the bar, and then 9 tables for two the other side of the slatted oak partition – all beautifully laid.

The half of the lounge to the right of the bar features 7 grouped seating areas of either armchairs, sofas or chaise longues, some with TVs. There’s a literature stand (yes, featuring actual real physical magazines and newspapers) and a bookable meeting room with conference table for 10 people at the far end. There’s a door here for quick access to the washrooms and day rooms – although these can also be accessed from the other side of reception. Seating areas throughout the lounge feature universal power and USB sockets, and the wifi was fast (although required boarding pass registration at a little podium – an unnecessary faff, even if each device is then remembered for one year). The Breitling clocks dotted around the lounge are smart.

The terrace can be accessed from the seating area side of the lounge. The weather was cool and cloudy prior to my outbound flight so the terrace furniture was not set up, but on my return, sunnier conditions meant cushions were out and parasols were up. The side of the terrace that overlooks the main terminal building runs almost the full length of the E Gates satellite building and is separated from the terraces for other lounges (most immediately the Swiss Business lounge) by low fences.

The washrooms are beautifully appointed with Soeder amenities and an unrivalled airfield view – additional amenities such as dental kits were available on request from reception. I’ll try out the day rooms on my return layover.

Breakfast was a delight, with every dish bursting with flavour and beautiful presentation. I chose a seat in the main dining area, with a view out to the terrace and the end of Runway 32. Service was friendly and mostly professional, although my new member of staff was just a little forgetful. I started with the Swiss traditional bircher muesli and ended with the poached egg Benedict – served with bacon instead of ham, which really worked.

When I later moved to a more comfortable seating area on the opposite side of the lounge, I was approached and proactively offered a drink. My mint tea arrived as a tea bag – call me fussy, and as nice as the tea was, I would’ve preferred loose leaf or fresh mint in this instance.

Last edited by Genius1; Aug 5, 23 at 8:53 am
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Old Aug 5, 23, 8:44 am
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Leaving for my gate was where the Swiss First experience stopped being first class for the first time – there is no escort to the gate, unless your flight leaves from a remote stand in which case you will be driven directly to the aircraft. Thankfully, Gate E57 had a separate Group 1 lane for First and HON Circle passengers only.

Hoping to photograph an empty cabin, I asked at the gate whether I could board early, and once the agent had checked with the crew, I was invited to board straight away. Whilst our gate was equipped with two airbridges, only one was connected to Door 2L. I was warmly welcomed by the cabin crew at the door and escorted to Seat 2K in the second row of the small 8-seat First cabin aboard HB-JHI, a 12-year-old A330-300.

The door crew introduced me by name to the three First cabin crew members, with one of the latter then offering me a mini tour of the seat. This Swiss First seat was introduced in 2009 with the introduction of the A330-300 fleet. An updated version of the seat with a larger IFE screen, higher fixed aisle side walls and a closing door with integrated wardrobe was fitted to the B777-300ER fleet introduced in 2016, and to the A340-300 fleet when refurbished between 2019 and early 2020. The A340 version of the seat doesn’t feature a wardrobe in the door. An entirely new seat, modelled on the Lufthansa Allegris concept and known as Swiss Senses, will be introduced to Swiss First starting with the newly delivered A350-900 fleet in 2025 and later extending to the existing B777 and A330 fleets (the A340 will then be retired).

Whilst the A330 currently doesn’t feature the most modern seat in the Swiss fleet, it is supremely comfortable and entirely elegant. Forget the fake wood of Emirates; here it’s solid oak – and it feels like it too. Never have I opened an aircraft storage compartment so satisfactorily. With just 8 seats and no overhead bins above the centre seats, the cabin is light and airy. The forward bulkhead is unusually covered by a curtain, creating a residential feel to the space – particularly when the two matching galley curtains are also closed in flight. The rear bulkhead features a smart world map, with Zurich pinpointed in red.

Each seat has a dimmable reading lamp and subtle accent lighting around the TV, an electronic privacy divider that extends as far as the seat cushion base, adequately-sized (but low resolution) IFE screen with integrated ‘do not disturb’ indicator, two deep side storage compartments (one with a power socket and the other with a USB socket, the retro IFE controller and seat control panel) and an adjustable ottoman that can be used for buddy dining. There’s a slim literature pocket adjacent to the ottoman.

Whilst the seat can be fully adjusted from the touchscreen seat control panel inside one of the storage compartments, there are also four pre-set position buttons (of very satisfying quality) ahead of the table holder.

To note, Seat 2K is the only seat in the cabin with a personal overhead air vent; I assume this is a crew rest requirement, but it makes this seat my pick in the cabin. It’s also worth noting that the seats are set at a fairly high position, meaning you have to bend down slightly to see out of the window.

Upon boarding there was a wrapped cushion on my seat, with an amenity kit on the side ledge (in its own dust bag). Own-brand headphones could be found in the main storage compartment (branded headphones would have been preferable), and two clothes hangers on the ottoman (something more airlines could provide – Swiss even offer them to each passenger in Business). I was swiftly offered both PJs (by Zimmerli) and slippers; the PJs came in a fabric pouch.

The excellent crew continued pre-departure service with the offer of a drink of my choice, herbed nuts (really smartly presented with a linen serviette and spoon), a large hot towel on a tray, and menus.

With boarding complete (and the adjacent Seat 2G remaining unoccupied), the cabin was secured for departure, and we pushed back 7 minutes behind schedule for our all-too-short 5h40 flight to Dubai.

Each seat’s table is a proper affair; incredibly heavy solid oak, and more than large enough for two to dine together. It is also the perfect size to showcase the male amenity kit; a useful Bally bag, containing La Prairie products and all the usual amenities, with the more unusual additions of a comb, shoe horn, tissues and – oddly – herb drops. The crew were kind enough to also offer me a female kit to take home, which swaps the comb for a folding hairbrush and the shoe horn for a vanity kit.

The two First washrooms at the front of the cabin didn’t appear to feature any special amenities at first glance, although the hand towels were fabric rather than paper, and the soap (from a regular dispenser) smelt the same as that in the lounge. Two different types of La Prairie cream (with unknowable but surely life-enhancing effects) in large bottles were placed in the washrooms after takeoff. The washrooms were immaculate – as was the rest of the cabin – throughout the flight and featured handy seats for changing into PJs on night flights.

Soon after takeoff the Matre de Cabine, Claudia, introduced herself and spent a long while chatting to me, making me feel truly welcome. Without a doubt the crew onboard this flight were the best I’ve ever had.

Lunch service commenced with my table being deployed and laid with a cloth and then an amuse bouche being presented, alongside my chosen drop of sauvignon blanc. Naturally, I was shown the bottle, offered a taste and the wine was then poured at my seat. The amuse bouche was something cheesy (described properly by the crew, but I appear not to have noted what it was) – not usually my preference, but in this instance quite palatable. I think the wine helped.

My table was then fully laid for lunch; I particularly liked the wooden salt and pepper cellars. Three-in-one bread was offered in a personal basket; this is nothing short of a gimmick (that BA have deployed for years in Club World), and I’d far rather individual higher quality bread. In this case, however, the bread was pretty decent.

The fillet of Balik salmon is an almost mandatory starter in Swiss First and was served alongside my chosen second starter of smoked trout mousse. Both dishes were light and flavourful.

The crew recommended I try the spring salad; a fresher or more nicely presented bowl of salad would be hard to find anywhere.

The spicy char consomm rounded off the starter selection. Whilst a little salty, the presentation of this dish was outstanding for one prepared 35,000 feet up in the air.

My main course of veal tenderloin was equally creatively presented. Perhaps the veal was slightly overcooked if I’m being picky, but this dish was bursting with flavour.

If the Balik salmon is the mandatory starter, then the selection of Swiss cheese, on today’s flight from the canton of Lucerne, is the mandatory penultimate course. Creatively presented, everything was superb, although the packaged crackers were a slight let-down (perhaps a catering error).

For dessert I opted for the Felchlin chocolate crmeux tartlet – divine, accompanied by a glass of the dessert wine.

I concluded lunch with a mint tea, with which I was offered a chocolate from a selection box. Interestingly, I noted that the passenger in 1D buddy dined with the passenger in 1A, proving that the concept of dual dining is not just theoretical, even in this era of being typically glued to IFE screens.

With such a short flight time, I only watched a few episodes of Superstore with lunch and a documentary about London’s Bond Street later in the flight. As you would expect from an unrefurbished 12-year-old product, the IFE was a little dated and slow to respond to commands. The screen, being so far away from the seat, is not touchscreen, meaning the handheld rather worn controller had to be used, exacerbating frustration. Wifi vouchers were handed out to all First passengers for a complimentary 2x50MB of use; this is incredibly stingy as even BA give First passengers unlimited complimentary usage. A further 50MB cost almost GBP16; needless to say, I passed. There was no full flight or uncapped option.

I took a nap after lunch. The crew made up my bed on request with a pillow, duvet and thick mattress pad; a bottle of Swiss-branded water was placed on the side. The seat is the perfect width and length for a solid rest.

As we approached Dubai, I asked for an espresso to keep me awake into the evening; this was served with a praline. At this time I was also gifted a Swiss-branded coffee mug by Claudia as a gift from her and her colleague Daniel who had been attending to me for most of the flight – a lovely gesture from this truly excellent crew, which ended an equally excellent flight.

The arrivals experience in DXB was the weakest part of the overall Swiss First experience on this leg of the journey. First passengers are not met at the aircraft, and instead have to make their own way to the immigration hall (a short train ride from Concourse D to the main T1 building). Once at the immigration hall however there were agents with name boards for all First and HON Circle passengers, who escorted each of us separately to a private immigration checkpoint where, in my case, there was only one person ahead being processed. From there, I was on my own again. This of course is very much a first world problem, but if Swiss are going to offer a ground escort, they might as well make it consistent. Don’t make the same rookie mistake I did and join the taxi queue thinking it’s the Uber queue; ignore the queue and exit the terminal to find the pick-up point for Uber.

Soon I was enroute to my hotel for the next three nights, reflecting on an overall outstanding experience, only slightly let down by an inconsistent ground escort at the E Gates in ZRH and on arrival in DXB.

Part 2 continues below.

Last edited by Genius1; Aug 6, 23 at 1:50 pm
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Old Aug 5, 23, 2:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Genius1
Not sure if I would call it creative. Looks quite class presented to me.
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Old Aug 5, 23, 10:28 pm
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Thanks for the extensive detailed report. I'm looking forward to Part 2.
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Old Aug 6, 23, 2:25 am
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Great report and very timely for me - flying a similar route with Swiss in F soon so very helpful!
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Old Aug 6, 23, 4:34 am
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La Prairie products in the washrooms and amenity Kit are long gone….
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Old Aug 6, 23, 6:21 am
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Didn't have the La Prairie products on my flight from ZRH to SIN in F 2 months ago
Your pics clearly show them
Have they started loading them again??
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Old Aug 6, 23, 1:44 pm
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InterContinental Dubai Festival City

The InterContinental Dubai Festival City opened in 2007 adjacent to the mall of the same name and is located only a ten-minute drive from the airport.

Pulling up at the entrance, I was offered help with my bags and was quickly checked in in the expansive but slightly impersonal lobby, thanks to a second member of staff appearing promptly at the IHG Elite desk. I was advised of my upgraded room category and confirmed the Ambassador late check-out of 16:00 on my final day.

My Classic Suite on the 22nd floor was the expected one category upgrade from my booked Premium room. The suite was large certainly too large for one person and started with a cloakroom off to the left of the entrance, and a spacious living room comprising desk and chair, chaise-longue type sofa, armchair with ottoman, and dining table comfortably seating four people.

A Nespresso machine and one lonely bottle of water was to be found on the TV console, whilst the minibar, kettle and two further bottles of water were in a cabinet adjacent to the dining table. There was no Ambassador mineral water, although with filtered bottled water being provided (also in the bathroom), there wasnt really any need for it.

The bedroom, accessed through a sliding door, featured a very comfortable king-size bed, further armchair, dressing table and stool, and a walk-in wardrobe behind the headboard (complete with two of the previous guests socks at the back of a shelf). There was a power socket on one side of the bed only, with no USB sockets or master light switch. One of the bedside lights didnt turn on to full brightness automatically, and the switches around the suite were so brightly lit at night that I had to find random objects to place in front of them. Whilst were on the subject of electricity, I found the strip lighting above the windows in both the bedroom and living room to be incredibly bright, with no dimming option. Robes and slippers were available in the wardrobe. There was no turndown service.

The bathroom was spacious and smartly designed with dark green tiling and plenty of lighting. To the left as I entered was a separate room for the toilet and bidet, ahead was the basin and refreshingly post-pandemic a full range of amenities, whilst to the right was a wet room with walk-in powerful shower and ceiling-filled bath. Amenities were mostly in large bottles and by Byredo, now the brand standard at most InterContinentals. The body wash was running low (again super annoying that these things arent checked properly between guests), but housekeeping replaced it on request the following day and also provided some small individual bottles to keep me going in the meantime. There were no hooks immediately outside of the wet room, which meant I had to hang my towel actually inside the room itself. There was also no magnifying mirror.

The view from the room was decent if somewhat flat and sandy, with the ever-continuing construction of the city visible in the distance on a clear day and the nightly light and fountain show much closer just 22 floors below. Some of the windows were a little smeary from previous guests viewing the spectacle.

Overall, I was happy with my suite, even if it did feel a little clinical (mainly due to the harsh lighting) and was starting to look a little battered around the edges (I dont think the hotel has been refurbished since it opened).

Four floors above my room, the Club InterContinental lounge provided a welcome respite from the Arabian heat as well as expansive views over Dubai Creek to the Mohammed bin Rashid Library and Burj Khalifa beyond.

Arranged over a series of five connected rooms, the lounge curves around the buildings main tower and is smartly decorated in a classically understated way. From reception, the first room offers lounge seating and contains a small library as well as a printer.

The second room offers dining seating mostly in tables for four, although there are some tables for two at the side of the room and by the windows.

Next up is the buffet room with a large central island station and three further stations around the side, and beyond that is a further dining room matching the previous one.

The final room offers more lounge seating, with a small bar at the far end and a handful of additional dining tables along the windows. Theres also a bookable boardroom off to one side at this end of the lounge (2 hours use is complimentary).

The lounge has its own washrooms, as well as one shower for those arriving ahead of their room being ready. As comfortable as the lounge appears at first glance, it severely lacks power sockets (most sockets which are available are 5 amp sockets for lamps), but the staff supplied an extension cord on request. I also found there was an imbalance of dining tables to comfortable armchairs; more of the latter were needed.

Breakfast consisted of a reasonable buffet selection, augmented by a decent la carte menu (via QR code), from which I was offered multiple selections. Across three mornings I sampled the lamb sujuk shakshouka, a customised omelette and the Asian tapsilog, all of which were of high quality. Coffee, served at my seat, was notably excellent.

Full waiter service was offered for afternoon tea, comprising a three-tiered stand of finger sandwiches, patisserie selection and scones. It was great to see loose leaf tea being served.

The buffet returned for the evening canap service, with an at-seat drinks and nuts service and the offering of three special canaps including one hot item. Off-menu cocktails were available on request. The staff seemed quite keen for guests to leave the lounge once canap service had ended, with the lights being turned up abruptly on the dot of 20:00.

Across all three services, the buffet selection changed subtly each day. Whilst service wasnt always as proactive as I would have liked (primarily I think due to the team being quite new when I stayed), there were some good examples of personalisation, including the reception team remembering my name when I walked in and out, and evening drink preferences being remembered between nights. I found it odd that the team would hand out TripAdvisor cards as service concluded on more than one occasion, actively encouraging guests to review their experience. Im in the business of trip report writing, so clearly like reviews, but I dont want to constantly be reminded to write one when Im still staying at the property in question. The team were quick to resolve an issue on the first morning when my key card wouldnt let me back into my suite.

I didnt use any of the propertys restaurants or bars during my stay, but theres a comprehensive selection of five to choose from; all-day Anise (which is also where breakfast is served), CHOIX (Pierre Gagnairs lounge), Karam Al Bahr (the choice for seafood), Pierres TT (the hotels fine dining offering by the eponymous chef) and Vista (bar and casual dining).

The hotels pool area is shared with the adjoining Crowne Plaza and feels a little dated. Shallow and deep pools are offered, along with a smaller relaxation pool, childrens pool and outdoor jacuzzi. As well as a bar, complimentary pool service is offered, with cool bags containing bottled water, an apple and cold towels offered to all guests.

The male and female changing rooms (which are for IC guests only) each feature a sauna and steam room, and the same Byredo amenities as the rooms. As you would expect, a spa and fitness centre are also offered.

When it came time to check out, I was able to do so in the lounge and the staff invited me to continue using the lounge until I needed to leave for the airport very welcome with a 16:00 suite check-out and a flight not leaving until 01:15. I was asked to rate and review my stay for the umpteenth time and offered help with my bags down to the lobby when the time came to finally depart.

I enjoyed my stay at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City. Whilst the hotel is not the newest or flashiest in the city by some distance, it offers a solid if slightly corporate experience and a thoroughly decent lounge. Some might be put off by its location relatively far from the main attractions, but in a city as spread out as Dubai, travel is always going to be needed. On which note I will leave you with some images of my few days exploring Dubai before heading to the airport to board Swiss First home.

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Old Aug 6, 23, 1:47 pm
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Somewhat disconcertingly, the Swiss app had been showing my flight as boarding complete for the entirety of the day before the actual departure. This was unnerving enough for me to triple check Id got my dates and times right always slightly challenging with a very early morning departure time. Having been unable to generate mobile BPs, I guestimated the time that the check-in desks would open (having been unable to find the official time anywhere on the Swiss website), and so arrived at DXBs Terminal 1 a little over three hours before departure at around 21:45 local time. I headed to the single Swiss First and HON Circle desk first, from where I was escorted all the way to the front of the queue for immigration. From there I was on my own to go through security (where there was no Fast Track but also no queue) and catch the automated people mover over to Concourse D.

My first stop was the Lufthansa lounge located on the level above the main concourse. This lounge is split at reception between a Business lounge straight ahead and a Senator lounge to the right with shared washrooms, showers and lockers in the middle. Sadly, unlike some of the Lufthansa Groups outstation lounges in the US, there is no First Class lounge or dedicated area.

I stuck to the supposedly more premium and slightly larger Senator lounge, a simple square-ish room with a mix of high-top table, dining and armchair seating (with plenty of power sockets) all in the signature Lufthansa design palette. A small business nook and printer is located immediately to the right as you enter, and there are a few relaxation lounge chairs in the far left hand corner. The buffet was still being set up for the evening flights as I arrived and looked to have an average selection of cold and hot options.

I didnt stick around for long, however, as Swiss First passengers are also invited to use the third party Ahlan First Class lounge, just a few minutes stroll down the corridor. Operated by Dubai International Hotel, the lounge is similar in style to Emirates lounges and is a much larger space than the Lufthansa lounge, although suffers from the same lack of outside view (all views being internal to the terminal).

From reception, a long corridor is home either side to a paid-for Timeless Spa, washrooms, showers (two for each gender), smoking room, prayer room and play area. The washrooms and showers were clean but are reasonably basic with unbranded amenities; the latter featured some particularly horrid wire clothes hangers, but were suitably bright and had all the necessary features such as a hairdryer, bath mat and towels. I was proactively offered a dental and shaving kit when requesting a shower (only for photographic purposes).

At the top of the corridor, the main lounge space is a square focusing mainly on the buffet, semi-open kitchen and dining seating. The buffet was far more extensive than Lufthansas offering, and everything looked of pretty decent quality, with some notably attractive desserts.

I cant vouch for how the buffet food tasted, however, as the only thing I ate came from the la carte menu, which was offered to me in either physical or QR code form as soon as I sat down, along with my choice of drink. I chose the dim sum basket, which was a perfect snack before my flight. Service was attentive throughout the lounge, with the staff quick to clear empties and eager to receive that all-important TripAdvisor feedback.

Around the corner from the main dining area is a comfortable lounge area with individual armchair seating arranged in pairs; seats here all featured power sockets within each side table.

Additional armchair seating is available in front of the tended bar, beyond which is a secondary lounge area including a couple of massage chairs at the very far end. You might notice a mop in one of the photos below this was needed because one very careless passenger (who shall remain nameless) knocked and consequently smashed his glass of water all over the floor.

Whilst not the most luxurious of spaces (and a far cry from the Swiss First lounges), the Ahlan First Class lounge offered a decent space to wait for my flight and was very quiet after flights to Doha and Riyadh had been called via the automated system which announces all T1 departures. Whilst Swiss send only their First passengers here, other airlines such as Qatar Airways and Saudia permit all of their premium class passengers to use the lounge, hence why at some times the space may be busier than others.

Boarding at Gate D20 took a short while to get started, but when it did it was an orderly affair with First and HON Circle members invited to board first through the combined First and Business lane. Whilst the gate was equipped with two airbridges, only one to Door 2L was in use. I was welcomed onboard at the door and found my own way to my seat back in familiar 2K, having moved at online check-in from 1A to benefit from the overhead air vents. HB-JHE, an A330-300 delivered new to Swiss in 2010, was the aircraft flying us back to ZRH that night. Clothes hangers had been pre-placed on my seats ottoman, with headphones (a slightly older style to those on the outbound flight) located in the side storage compartment and PJs and amenity kits offered by the crew shortly after, along with my choice of pre-departure drink. My chosen champagne was served alongside a bottle of Swiss-branded water on a smart metal tray.

Given the short flight time and late hour of departure, I changed into PJs in the washroom before pushback (although as always for safety reasons keeping my shoes on until after takeoff). Upon returning to my seat, the friendly crew served a salmon amuse bouche and bread sticks.

Menus were shortly offered and dinner orders taken, with each option being explained an additional unlisted main course was also available as a special. The wine list was the same as the outbound flight. A hot towel completed the pre-departure service, just as the Matre de Cabine was announcing our flight time of 6h30; he also stopped by each passenger in the First cabin for a personal introduction.

Once we were airborne, the friendly but slightly rushed cabin crew handed out wifi vouchers and were soon laying tables for those passengers who wanted to eat. Normally I wouldnt eat in the air on such a late (or early) departure, but I was keen to sample the Swiss First outstation catering.

A personal bread basket featuring three different types of warm bread was offered, along with butter and olive oil. The tabbouleh salad with seared scallop and tomato hummus was fresh but pretty average, although I was pleased to be offered more bread without asking.

The roasted pepper soup with Parmesan crisps was hot and comforting, but not overly flavourful.

I went off-piste for my main course and chose the special pork tart; this was nicely flavoured but quite small portion-wise, and so I also asked for the vegetables from the chicken main course. The French red (Chteau Pontet-Canet 2014) was pleasant.

The pineapple crumble tartlet was the undoubted highlight of dinner, accompanied by a glass of Grahams Tawny 20-year-old port.

Chocolates were offered from a selection box to end the service, which I enjoyed along with a mint tea. A bottle of water was placed by my seat as part of the turndown service, which was proactively offered.

3 hours of comfortable rest later (during which I was very thankful for the personal air vents), I was woken by the crew with the offer of an espresso and a hot towel. Instead of contorting myself in the washroom to change out of my PJs, the crew offered the use of the Door 1L area behind the privacy of a curtain; I wish this was possible on all flights!

A selection of continental breakfast items were offered from a tray, with hot options delivered by hand from the galley. Knowing the delights of the Swiss First lounges awaited in ZRH, I just opted for the fresh fruit and Bircher muesli, along with a bakery basket.

We arrived onto stand in ZRH at Gate E23, with connecting gate information displayed on the IFE screens for those passengers departing within the next few hours. As you would expect, I had scheduled a significant layover to take full advantage of the excellent Swiss First ground experience, which started with private disembarkation through a dedicated airbridge to Door 1L and all First passengers being collectively met by ground staff ready to drive them over to A Gates (in a shared minibus). With plenty of time before my flight to LHR, I declined this service and instead made my own way through the E Gates connections security and up to the FCL E.
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Old Aug 6, 23, 1:48 pm
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I was welcomed at the reception of the FCL E and advised my flight would be departing from a remote stand, and that I would therefore be driven to my aircraft from FCL A. Im not sure why Swiss arent able to drive passengers directly from FCL E (to non-Schengen destinations) as this would be a much smoother experience.

That first world problem aside, my first stop in the lounge was one of the two day rooms. These are available solely on a first come first served basis, and youll want to try and snag one if you can, because they really are quite special. Forget the claustrophobic windowless bedrooms of the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First lounge; the Swiss day rooms (or at least, the St Moritz one I used) feature floor-to-ceiling views of the airport, a Hstens queen size bed, and an ensuite shower room to rival those of top hotels (featuring the same Soeder amenities as the washrooms). Whilst the bed doesnt have bedside tables as such, there is an easily accessible shelf with reading lights, still and sparkling Elmer water, chocolates, universal power and USB sockets. A suitcase stand, clothes hooks, hangers and small TV are also provided.

Whilst the bed was supremely comfortable, as is almost always the case with hotel rooms there were a few things not quite right; no slippers were provided, the toilet paper was hard (is that too much information?), there was no hook near the shower for a towel, and the shower door didnt clear the shower mat when opened. All that being said, the day rooms are a truly impressive addition to an already impressive lounge just dont forget to close the curtains, as the lounge terrace is immediately outside!

After a nap and a shower, I headed over to the FCL Es dining area for a light second breakfast the granola was beautifully presented and tasted just as good.

For lunch, I opted for the tasting menu with recommended wine pairings a concept I hadnt seen in an airline lounge before, but one that definitely worked.

Each course was a delight but notably the beef main course and jelly-based dessert. Totally unique, fabulous flavours and brilliant presentation meant I overlooked the slightly stern waiter neglecting to serve my champagne with the sorbet. I was offered a coffee to conclude lunch.

Swiss dont offer an escort within the terminal, and so I took the automated people mover over to A Gates, passing through immigration on the way to enter the Schengen part of the terminal.

Aside from its entrance from check-in, the FCL A has a very discreet entrance off the main departure lounge concourse, down a long clinical corridor. On entering the lounge, I was advised the transfer to my aircraft had been booked for 15:05, 25 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time of my flight. A document check was completed at the dedicated desk within the lounge, before I then headed through to the main lounge area.

The FCL A shares the design of the FCL E and Check-in Lounge and has all the same amenities as its E-based cousin, minus the day rooms, terrace and, sadly, any sort of a view.

Over by the windows overlooking the check-in hall is the main seating area, including three pairs of armchairs, three semi-private TV nooks seating four each with a sofa and two armchairs, two L-shaped sofa pairs in the corner which would be great for families, and a stocked literature stand.

The rear windows are home to the dining area, behind the lounges centrepiece tended bar. The dining area has a small semi-open kitchen, and a very limited self-serve buffet of soft drinks, beer and a small selection of snacks. The menu is the same as that in the FCL E. The friendly staff will offer to serve you whatever you want anywhere youd like in the lounge, and I was approached as soon as I sat down with the offer of a drink.

Opposite the bar and to the left of the entrance is some open luggage storage, behind which are some individual work booths, a printer and the lounges washrooms.

Up the stairs at the rear of the lounge is a smoking room with small external area, meeting room for 6 people (known as Bern and featuring an Eames lounge chair in the corner) and the walkway to the transfer (or limousine) service.

Whilst the FCL A is undoubtedly stylish, it lacks the wow factor of the FCL E, primarily due to its position in the terminal building and consequent lack of views. This is entirely understandable, however, given most First passengers are just passing through on their way to what is undoubtedly Swisss flagship lounge in the E Gates, with those staying in A Gates travelling short haul either as an HON Circle member or connecting from a long haul First flight.

The transfer to my flight back to Heathrow was one of the highlights of this trip and my first time ever being driven privately to an aircraft. The Mercedes E-Class was a supremely comfortable way to cross the apron, and it was just downright cool drawing up at the foot of the stairs to my A220 and being met at their base by the Matre de Cabine. I could certainly get used to that, although was somewhat relieved that the rest of the passengers hadnt made it to the aircraft yet to witness my ostentatious arrival.

HB-JCN was the 4-year-old A220-300 flying us the 1h20 over to Heathrow that afternoon. This was my first time flying on the A220, and I was impressed. Configured 2-3 throughout (although with a sold configuration of 2-2 for the 10 rows of Business on todays flight), the smallest Airbus with its oversized windows is a super little aircraft. One particular innovation is that each window blind has foam on its side closest to the glass, acting (whether intentionally or not) as a sort of automated window cleaner. Small screens built in to the overhead passenger service units show basic flight information, an inflight map, and the video for the safety demonstration.

For such a small aircraft, the washrooms are surprisingly spacious. Unlike the Helvetic-operated E190 on my outbound flight, I was pleased to see that mainline Swiss short haul aircraft feature Soeder hand lotion in the Business washrooms (together with additional wipes).

Seat 1A had the expected amount of bulkhead legroom, and as I settled in, the first of two buses of passengers arrived outside, and the crew started handing out bottles of water and wipes.

Once airborne, and with great views of Zurich off our port side, dinner trays were served from the trolley (beef salad was the choice that afternoon), warm bread was offered from a basket together with a choice of drink. An offer of hot drinks and chocolate from a basket concluded dinner. I was addressed by name throughout the flight, which is impressive for a short haul business class product.

We landed onto Runway 27L at Heathrow, and parked at Gate A17 in Terminal 2, very close to immigration. As is more often than not the case, the eGate I used didnt like my passport, and so I had a short queue to see a real Border Force officer.

That concludes my trip to Dubai, and with it my first experience of Swiss First. Despite a slightly dated onboard product (a function of the A330 versus the A340 or B777) and inconsistent ground escorting, I was impressed with the superbly designed and catered Zurich lounges, friendly and professional staff at all stages of my four journeys, inflight catering (particularly outbound from Zurich) and the overall effortless nature of the experience. One to remember and hopefully, repeat.
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Old Aug 6, 23, 7:47 pm
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The gulf between the SEN/C lounges in ZRH and F is hugggeeeeee. There's basically no meat in SEN and C and no champagne at all.
BArb's CCR vs GF difference is so much smaller.
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Old Aug 7, 23, 5:56 am
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Great pics!
Was there an amenity kit on the return leg and did it have La Prairie products like the forward leg?
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Old Aug 7, 23, 2:59 pm
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Originally Posted by Genius1

Looks like a great flight in Swiss F. Love the coffee mug gift !
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Old Aug 7, 23, 3:54 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum
Not sure if I would call it creative. Looks quite class presented to me.
Thanks for all of the comments!

Originally Posted by chris63
La Prairie products in the washrooms and amenity Kit are long gone.
That's sad to hear - they were a great inclusion!

Originally Posted by ianassum
Didn't have the La Prairie products on my flight from ZRH to SIN in F 2 months ago
Your pics clearly show them
Have they started loading them again??
Originally Posted by ianassum
Was there an amenity kit on the return leg and did it have La Prairie products like the forward leg?
Read the first line of the trip report ... Flights were in May last year.
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