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To New York and back on LX F and SQ F

To New York and back on LX F and SQ F

Old Jan 7, 09, 4:51 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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To New York and back on LX F and SQ F

This is my third trip report on FT. My first two can be found here
VS Premium Economy LHR-JFK-LHR
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...es-halles.html
SAA Business Class LHR-CPT-JNB-LHR
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ack-saa-j.html

I, like many on this site find trip reports interesting to read; a way sometimes to enjoy other people’s experiences, or to find out more before booking a trip. What perhaps is missing is some knowledge of the author. In life, when we hear someone’s experiences we take it in coloured by our how we perceive their views on life to be. With that in mind, I thought I’d tell you about me in a paragraph so as to give this report some context

I am a 30 year old Barrister from London. I enjoy good food and wine and like to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant three or four times a year. I am however, of the view that good food doesn’t have to be expensive, which I hope explains my regular yearning for Nando’s extra hot chicken wings!

I have always enjoyed flying but did so firmly in Economy until approximately four years ago when a decent salary and Flyertalk happily coincided with oneanother. From then on, I realised that Business Class (and here, First) were within my reach using a combination of putting all my expenditure on a single credit card and finding out how best to use miles vs. when is best to purchase an ordinary ticket.

This trip was booked shortly after we returned from South Africa in March 2008. It was our first trip without our son and so the subject of some anxiety. As the months wore on, we realised that our son would be fine with his grandparents, a fact borne out by the calm way in which he waved us goodbye with his trademark flying kiss as we left for Heathrow and he headed off with Nana and Grandad.

New York was an easy choice. Mrs BiH and I like to visit once a year, partly to shop (even though Sterling has taken a recent nose dive) but also because we have been so many times that we feel just as comfortable as we do in London.

In early April I began to look at the ANA *A tool to see what was available. Having travelled in C on our last few trips we decided to give F a try. It was a choice between LX (Swiss) and LH (Lufthansa) and so I read a number of TR’s and views on the two airline’s forums on here to see what the considered view was.

In short, the choice came down to the LH First Class Terminal vs. the LX Seat which unlike LH F is a true singular/pod seat. Whilst the FCT and its trappings seemed alluring, the ‘proper’ LX cabin won and so I booked two F seats to JFK.

Three days later and I had to rebook. I had completely forgotten that I had managed to secure tickets to the NFL game in London on October 26th. £40 later and our flights we were on the same flights a week earlier than originally planned.

A final point before you read on, there are pictures to accompany this report. I only recently found out that you can change the default preferences on FT so that pictures can be seen embedded within a page, rather than a link – if haven’t already, take a look at your preferences and set them accordingly.

All the pictures can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/baggageinhall

Last edited by baggageinhall; Jan 7, 09 at 4:56 pm
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Old Jan 7, 09, 4:52 pm
  #2  
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LHR-ZRH

LX333
LHR-ZRH (4A and 4C)
Airbus A321


Swiss has two flights a day to JFK, one arriving at 12.30 and the other around 3 hours later. The second flight means that most of your first day in NY is taken up travelling whereas the first means a 6am flight from LHR to connect with it. The compromise that we chose was to fly to ZRH the day before and have a night in Zurich before travelling onto JFK the following morning.

After a short taxi ride from West London, we arrived at LHR just after midday. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Terminal 2 was relatively quiet. The last time I was there was the first Saturday of the school summer holiday where the queues were all 40 deep and stretching out of the door.

There was no queue at the Swiss Business counters and we were checked in promptly. We were given the choice as to whether we wanted to check our bags to ZRH or all the way to JFK and chose the later. Our bags were tagged and we were handed four boarding cards for our journey to New York.



Security was relatively quick and painless and once through we headed straight for the LH lounge on the upper level of the departure area. The lounge receptionist had a look at all of our boarding passes and directed us towards the Senator lounge rather than the Business lounge.
The LHR Senator lounge is quite small but was only about 50% full at lunchtime on a weekday afternoon. Mrs BiH had a bowl of vegetable soup that looked quite appetising and I’m told was. I had a smoked salmon bagel and some snacks



The lounge has a combination of comfortable tub chairs and three small circular dining tables with views over the apron. We sat at one of the circular tables and watched the hive of activity around an LH aircraft (later replaced by our LX aircraft to ZRH), a TAP plane to Lisbon adjacent, the edge of Terminal 1 with three UA aircraft and an NZ 777. Seeing the NZ 777 made me a little nostalgic, because to me it represents the acceleration in the decline of the 747. I grew up knowing that the longest routes would be mostly served by a 747-400, the Premier Cru of aircraft. Until the A380 is seen in great numbers, I still consider the 747 to hold that title and New Zealand is as far away as one can imagine from London. Times of course change; my mother speaks of the 707 with the same affection.

We left the lounge at 13:30 walked the short distance downstairs to gate 3, almost immediately below the lounge. On boarding the aircraft, I saw Fabio Capello (the England football team manager) in 2C, it would later transpire that he was travelling to Italy via ZRH. We were amongst the last to board, the few behind us doing a ‘double take’ as they saw Capello.

Pushback was delayed slightly by traffic restrictions in ZRH which meant a takeoff time no earlier than 14:20. A long taxi out to the runway and we were up and out just after 20 past. Service was prompt and efficient, in part due to the fact that there were just 14 passengers in the Business Class cabin. On the A321, like most European aircraft, the Business class cabin is variable depending on the load. LX however kept the partition at row 18 which meant that there was 13 empty rows before a quite tightly packed Economy section.

The cabin crew began service on this short flight 5 minutes after the seat belt sign was extinguished. A drink was offered with a light meal. There was no description of the meal, nor a menu card; it was smoked duck served on noodles and quite tasty.



I had a couple of glasses of Swiss white wine (I forget what it was and didn’t make a note) which was quite fruity and worked well with the quite heavily smoked duck without overpowering it and the noodles. The dessert was a chocolate mousse on cream with chunks of pear at the bottom.

The Swiss intra-Europe seat is remarkably comfortable. They are quite thin in appearance, creating more user space. I didn’t feel crammed in which I did at the end of the trip on Lufthansa (see below).

I shut my eyes for the last 15 minutes of the flight and awoke as we came into land in a very rainy Zurich. The rain was coming down quite hard and I was quite surprised when we parked at a remote stand and a bus came to meet the aircraft. At least the stairs were covered and the bus no more than 15 steps from the bottom.

The journey to the terminal building was short and the queue at Passport control took less than 10 minutes. We walked straight out (our bags were tagged to JFK) and made our way to the railway station.
We went into Zurich and had a lovely dinner before returning to the Movenpick hotel near the airport.

Last edited by baggageinhall; Jan 13, 09 at 3:18 am
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Old Jan 7, 09, 4:52 pm
  #3  
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ZRH-JFK

LX16 ZRH-JFK
(Seats 2D and 2G)
Airbus A330-200

We arrived at ZRH at 7.50 and made our way through Passport Control to the Swiss First Class lounge. On arrival we were told of the two options available to us on leaving the lounge to reach our aircraft at the E gates. We could either take the train which would mean just one security check, or a car which would mean two. I could live with a second scan and so a car it was. We would have to be back at reception for 9.15, giving us an hour and a quarter to enjoy breakfast.




At 9.15 we went to reception and along with two other passengers were escorted to a waiting Mercedes van. A fifth passenger had an S600 all to himself; later on board, I discovered he was the only HON status passenger between the five of us.

The second security screening was fairly quick despite it being the full “shoes off, laptops out, belt too sir’ experience. There was one line for First/Business and four lines for Economy. Once through, we travelled up one level towards our gate.

The gate was a little chaotic as, having arrived from the lounge, we missed the announcement that told us that we had to join the separate ‘boarding pass stamp’ queue before we tried to board. There was a long queue of people being served by two counters, one marked ‘Economy’ the other ‘First and Business’. I thought twice about whether I should just get in the queue or whether I could reasonably walk up to the First/Business counter and ask them to stamp our boarding passes. In the end I chose the latter.

Passes stamped, we joined the F/J queue. Swiss, police the queue well and the few interlopers were asked politely to join the Y queue. The separate airbridge took us to the plane with a second split available to airlines that wish to board their F passengers through a different door than C. It was not in use on today’s flight.

We boarded through 2L and were shown to our seats (2D and 2G). The cabin was almost full, 11 out of the 12 seats were occupied with 1G remaining empty. The cabin attendants took drinks orders from passengers as they sat down. I had a sparkling water knowing that there was a large lunch ahead and a selection of decent wine.

So here we were, in an international First Class cabin for the first time. My initial thoughts were that whilst the seat, its size, pitch and flatness was comparable to the SAA J seat or the NZ/VS Suite, it did feel a little more private and singular. I put our bags into the overhead bin above 2K. Like many premium cabins, the overhead bins in the centre have been removed to give the cabin a bigger, brighter feel.

The doors were closed around 20 minutes later and we pushed back and took off at approximately 10.15. Once the seat belt sign was extinguished, the crew began service with hot towels followed by a post take-off drink and nuts and/or assistance with their bed for those who wished to sleep straight away.

I took a glass of Cuvee Louise 1998 to enjoy to with a small bowl of nuts (salted cashews and macadamias). Whilst enjoying that, I was handed the menu for today’s flight and my table was put up and a table cloth laid. Moments later, a small plate of amouse followed.



The veal salami had a wonderfully deep flavour, the raclette was also tasty, however the orange coloured pudding was a little bland.

Once I had finished, my table was set. I finished off my champagne and switched to the Chablis AC 1er Cru Vaillons (Burgundy 2006).



The appetisers were brought out on a trolley and each plate served individually. I chose the Balik Salmon, veal and foie gras triangle and the potato mouselline with mascarpone and truffle.



The salad trolley followed and I opted for a simple salad dressed with bacon, parmesan and some pine nuts though there were a number of other options available.



For my main course, I selected the ‘feature dish’ of Fillet of Venison with quince and ginger jus, accompanied by a potato, leek and chanterelle galette and red cabbage with chestnuts. Sadly, it looked and sounded better than it tasted. In part, because my venison had been cooked all the way through (the chap to my right in 2K got a far pinker fillet). The quince and ginger jus was just a little too sweet for my taste. Overall, an average dish. The wine that I selected with it was excellent; a couple of glasses of Chateau La Tour Haut-Brion 1996.



The cheese trolley was laden with Rolf Beeler’s finest selection. I chose some quite strong Gruyere and a soft, nutty Reblochon. The flight attendant had got the measure of me and assumed (correctly) that I wanted a glass of Port to go with my plate of cheese.



Though almost full, there was still room for an Orange timbale with candied chestnuts (the alternative, a Meringue with Gruyere double cream in a chocolate cup with vin cuit ice cream and a pear fan was just a step too far!) In a stellar attempt to drink most of the wine list, I had a glass of Sauternes which was excellent.



My table was cleared and stowed back into the seat. Those who had taken lunch began to convert their seat into a bed aided by the crew. Whilst I assembled my bed, I was offered coffee, tea or something stronger. Having ‘sampled’ enough from the drinks menu, I opted for an espresso. Swiss have Nespresso machines onboard and it tasted much like a cup from home.



I went to the lavatory to change into the smart Swiss pyjama top which looks more like a rugby shirt. Whilst away from my seat, my espresso had been delivered and I enjoyed it (and another) before getting a couple of hours sleep. As I dozed off, I remembered that the last time I fell asleep on a plane, I was woken several hours later by my then 15 month old son trying to pat my face…

I didn’t play with the IFE, there was nothing that I wanted to watch and I had my iPod for music. Shortly after I woke up a snack was served which consisted of a variety of mini sandwiches. I had a Salmon and crème frache choux bun and an air dried beef ciabatta. This was also a good excuse to try the other red on the menu, a Swiss St-Saphorin.



A little more time passed as we filled out our Visa waiver forms and customs declaration and before I knew it, we were lining up our approach to JFK. It was a fairly short taxi to the Terminal building and the F cabin was out shortly thereafter with the crew holding C back to allow us to exit.

The HON passenger was met at the door by a Swiss employee. She was quite petite and he was much larger, so when she offered to take his bag, he grinned, thanked her and politely declined.

The Immigration hall was empty (a sight I have never seen on arrival in the US) and we were amongst the first to be processed. As we got to the baggage reclaim I spotted our first bag with the other two behind it. It had been a mere 12 minutes since we stepped off the aircraft. I could quite addicted to this…

Last edited by baggageinhall; Jan 13, 09 at 3:19 am
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Old Jan 7, 09, 4:53 pm
  #4  
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New York

Hotel: The Peninsula. We took advantage of their anniversary offer which made every other night $20. The room was quite large with a ‘water bar’ that was restocked twice a day with different bottles from around the world.

Dining: (i) Our second trip to Per Se was as magnificent as the first (ii) The Modern was sub par food with sub par service

Last edited by baggageinhall; Jan 7, 09 at 5:18 pm
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Old Jan 7, 09, 4:53 pm
  #5  
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JFK-FRA

JFK-FRA
SQ25 (Seats 3C and 3D)
Boeing 747-400


During the course of our stay, I noticed that the flat fare from JFK to Manhattan was now valid in the opposite direction and so rather than book a car for our return journey, the concierge at the Peninsula hailed one for us. The journey took a little over an hour and we arrived at JFK T4 in good time.



The Singapore Airlines First Class check-in desk was busy so we were ushered over to one of the Business Class desks where we were checked-in promptly and our bags tagged to LHR. The printer spat out our boarding passes and the lady was just about to hand them to us when she realised that she had printed them on a SQ Business Class card. She had to get up and walk over to the FC desk to get some burgundy FC passes.



She then told us that she couldn’t print our boarding passes for our Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to London. I asked why and she said ‘she just couldn’t’. It didn’t seem like a pain at the time, but it would prove to be a minor irritation later.

We were directed to the Virgin Clubhouse and I managed to spy three other names on the list of SQ F passengers at the desk. Someone had handwritten in big letters ‘SQ F pax ONLY’ at the top of the list.

The lounge is split into three sections, one has restaurant style seating, the middle is mainly comfy sofas and the section by the windows has individual chairs and tables along with a great view of the Terminal 4 apron. We sat by the windows and enjoyed some drinks whilst we read the newspapers and magazines on offer.

The Virgin serving staff were a mixed bag. Most were unobtrusive and attentive making sure that a glass that was down to its last quarter prompted a ‘would you like another’. A couple tried to avoid serving anyone by refusing to make eye contact. There was one who was rather flamboyant and insisted on introducing himself (a 3 minute spiel) to anyone who sat in his service area. I wouldn’t mind, except it was always the same 3 minute drill and at a volume so loud that half of the lounge were forced to listen each time.

We both resisted the urge to eat in the lounge (though the food looked good) knowing that we had a veritable feast awaiting us onboard.

Around 45 minutes before departure time, there was an announcement in the lounge that we should make our way to security and to the gate. The priority lane was fairly quick and the gate area was empty when we arrived.

We were greeted at the door of the plane by a member of the First Class cabin crew, who then escorted us to our seats. It was a light load in F with just 5 seats occupied. I had a couple of glasses of water as I played with the seat and we pushed back on time to join an enormous queue of planes waiting to take off. Eventually, 50 minutes after we left the gate, we took off.

The effect of sitting in the dark for almost an hour was that I began to feel a little sleepy. I couldn’t sleep however, my BTC Lobster Thermidor and glasses of Krug and Dom Perignon would go to waste!



I soldiered on, starting with a glass or two of Krug and some mixed nuts.

My table was set and the caviar was served:



A couple more glasses of Krug and I forgot all about being quite tired. The caviar was of average quality with little or no discernable flavour. It was followed by an Oriental clear broth:



The broth refreshing and went well with the glass of Chardonnay that I had selected. Next up was a Caesar salad which was fine save for some quite questionable ‘parmesan’ shavings. They tasted of something that was probably ‘parmesan styled cheese substitute (warning, does not contain cheese)’.



Next was the main course. I had ordered the ‘Book the Cook’ Lobster Thermidor. It looked great and tasted fantastic, as good as many I have had on the ground. I had a glass of Dom Perignon with it; it seemed the obvious choice.



The other options, had I not ordered in advance were (i) steak, (ii) wok fried lamb chops, (iii) chicken fettuccine, (iv) Tom Yam seafood noodles and (v) four cheese quiche. I rounded off my meal with the warm molten chocolate cake and a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.



I couldn’t manage anymore and so passed on cheese and fruit. The Steward serving Mrs BiH and I suggested making up 3A and 3K in to beds whilst finished desert. We took him up on his offer and both asked not to be woken for breakfast. He told us that the other three passengers had said the same to him and therefore he would wake the entire cabin as late as possible.

I changed into the pyjamas provided and slept until we were about half an hour outside Frankfurt. We landed on time and were quickly at our assigned gate.

Last edited by baggageinhall; Jan 13, 09 at 3:19 am
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Old Jan 7, 09, 4:54 pm
  #6  
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FRA-LHR

FRA-LHR
LX 47xx (Seats 3A and 3C)
Airbus A320


On leaving the aircraft (the upper deck and main Business cabin were held back to allow us off first) I instinctively looked for a monitor to find out which gate our flight to London was leaving from. I then remember that we didn’t have a boarding pass and so we walked to the transit desk where we waited in line for a few minutes. On receiving our boarding passes I was told that we could use any of the Business lounges. When I enquired whether our inbound SQ F boarding passes would permit entry to the F lounge I was told it wouldn’t.

I checked again at the Business lounge and was told that it was the only lounge that we could enter. I did think about asking at the F lounge but when I realised that it was almost back where the transit desk was, neither of us could be bothered to move.

We grabbed the only seats we could find around a table overflowing with cups and plates, a few of which were cleared away half-heartedly whilst we were there. The food and drink selection was poor, there was a massive queue for the lavatory and it was packed. I’m afraid it left a lasting impression and a poor one at that. If I was travelling in C, I would actively avoid Frankfurt.

At the boarding time printed on our BP’s we left the lounge and made our way to the gate where we proceeded on to a bus that drove around FRA to a remote stand. A couple stepped out of a Black Merc just as our bus arrived at the aircraft. Our doors remained shut until they had made their way up the stairs and onto the aircraft.

The short flight to London was full in both classes. It might just be the new Recaro seats on LX but I felt more claustrophobic in the LH cabin. Lunch was served and was typically Germanic fare



We arrived on stand at Terminal 2 and made it out to the arrivals hall very quickly. Our bags were the first off along with 4 hours with HON tags.

Home within forty-five minutes to a big hug from the boy who had apparently missed us but was playing it cool!

Last edited by baggageinhall; Jan 13, 09 at 3:20 am
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Old Jan 7, 09, 4:55 pm
  #7  
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Postscript

Flying First Class has ruined me. As I finish this trip report 2 and a half months after travelling, we have already booked 2 F seats to SFO on BA as a part of their 50% sale late last year.

I am also travelling to India next month. Whilst I briefly thought about travelling LX C to Delhi, I decided that I fancied seeing the FRA First Class Terminal and so am flying LHR-FRA-DEL-MUC-LHR in F. There will also be a two side trips on Jet (9W) and Kingfisher (IT) in C and Y. As I will be travelling alone, those trip reports will be replete with a far greater number of photos.

Until then...

Last edited by baggageinhall; Jan 7, 09 at 5:25 pm
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Old Jan 7, 09, 6:24 pm
  #8  
 
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Just finished reading this TR and your others, fantastic read. Some pointers

1. Great sense of humour, don't know if it was intentional but had a few chuckles to myself.
2. Thanks for pointing out that images can be embedded into posts, no longer will I have to open 20+ images in new tabs!
3. Thanks for putting the airline name after the code, there's nothing worse than assuming everyone here knows what every code stands for
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Old Jan 7, 09, 7:15 pm
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Great trip report. Thanks so much for sharing.

Onedog
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Old Jan 7, 09, 10:07 pm
  #10  
 
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Thank you! Really nice report. Glad to hear that you found the Pen and Per Se to be of exceptional quality. Two of my favorite haunts in NYC! Next time there, skip the Modern and try a dinner at Convivio in Tudor City Place.
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Old Jan 8, 09, 10:28 am
  #11  
 
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Excellent report.
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Old Jan 8, 09, 10:40 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by Furton View Post
Just finished reading this TR and your others, fantastic read. Some pointers

1. Great sense of humour, don't know if it was intentional but had a few chuckles to myself.
2. Thanks for pointing out that images can be embedded into posts, no longer will I have to open 20+ images in new tabs!
3. Thanks for putting the airline name after the code, there's nothing worse than assuming everyone here knows what every code stands for
Thanks for the various compliments. The humour is entirely intentional; it's an added bonus when it's both noted and appreciated!

Secondly, thanks for those who clicked on this when the title was mistakenly set (by me) as 'Preamble' rather than what it has been changed to.
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Old Jan 8, 09, 10:55 am
  #13  
 
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Thanks for an interesting trip report.
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Old Jan 8, 09, 12:31 pm
  #14  
 
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Excellent report baggageinhall.

A shame your LX meal wasn't up to scratch. They look like they are worth a try in F though.
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Old Jan 8, 09, 3:01 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by Moomba View Post
Excellent report baggageinhall.

A shame your LX meal wasn't up to scratch. They look like they are worth a try in F though.
Leaving aside the dodgy main course, I would fly them again in a heartbeat. Had we not taken advantage of the BA sale for our trip in October, the plan was to fly Swiss First again.

Annoyingly, they don't have an F cabin to India otherwise I would have taken that over LH next month.
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