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72 hours of travelling from London to Seoul in absolute comfort (LX F and OZ C)

72 hours of travelling from London to Seoul in absolute comfort (LX F and OZ C)

Old Aug 17, 09, 7:03 pm
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72 hours of travelling from London to Seoul in absolute comfort (LX F and OZ C)

Introduction

Having flown the "farewell 747" flights in SQ and NH back in March/April (you can find the trip reports for the outbound flight on SQ F here and inbound flight on NH F here), I decided that it was time to try out some new airline/routes when I sat down to contemplate the next trip back home in July. The SQ and NH flights were fantastic, of course, but I had now flown on their F twice each on the flagship longhaul routes and - as they say - variety is the spice of life!

Of all the Star Alliance options, the airline next on my "to do" list was Swiss. They have an excellent reputation for being consistently magnificent in their demonstration of Swiss hospitality and even their old First Class seat is still very much competitive in many ways, despite being well over 10 years old - so, I thought it would be nice to try them in F on a longhaul flight. Although I am aware that they have their fantastic new products on the A330, I couldn't find the reward space needed on the JFK route so I decided to save it for the next time and went for a flight to LAX instead.

And once I found the required space on the ZRH-LAX sector, it was time to decide how to get from LAX to my eventual destination, ICN. It had been a while since I had flown a longhaul sector on Asiana and after their very impressive showing on the ICN-NRT back in April, I decided to give them a try in Business Class on the LAX-ICN sector which was thankfully not under the blackout period unlike all their non-USA departures on my desired dates.

I was well aware that my intended routing of stopping at LAX was literally twice the distance of flying on the very convenient LHR-ICN nonstop, but when the opportunity to experience two excellent airlines in First Class and Business Class presents itself, I would have been mad to turn it down! In order to take advantage of the zone system curiosities, I needed to depart from MXP to fly to ZRH which then meant I had to fly from LHR to MXP first. So, what could have been one non-stop flight from London to Seoul turned into a convoluted journey of LHR-MXP-ZRH-LAX-ICN, with a night's stop at both ZRH and LAX. That said, I don't think I have surprised any of you familiar with my crazy routings between London and Seoul on my previous trip reports!

My itinerary looked like the following:

Flight 1: LH1873 LHR MXP 22JUL Dep: 1225 Arr: 1525 (Y-class)
Flight 2: LX1623 MXP ZRH 23JUL Dep: 1820 Arr: 1915 (C-class)
Flight 3: LX040 ZRH LAX 23JUL Dep: 1310 Arr: 1640 (F-class)
Flight 4: OZ201 LAX ICN 24JUL Dep: 1400 Arr: 1830+1 (C-class)

Overall, it represented nearly 72 hours of travelling. Even by my standards, it was going to be quite exciting! Here is the journey...

==============================================

INDEX

1. An identity crisis - LHR-MXP on LH/BD Y
2. Short but sweet - MXP-ZRH on LX C
3. A lucky preview - Zurich First Class Lounge
4. Understated, Refined, Personal - the Swiss First experience
==============================================
Flight 1: LH1873 LHR-MXP 22JUL (We), A319, Seat 5A
STD: 1225 (On Time) STA: 1525 (On Time)



Pre-flight

I found this flight for a very good price on Lufthansa.com despite only booking it a week before departure. The total price including all taxes was £49 - that's usually the starting point for just the taxes alone when departing from LHR! If I had wanted to redeem a business class reward on this short segment then the taxes/charges would have actually come to nearly £70. It clearly made sense to stick it out in Y, even though I had no Star Alliance status anymore and therefore at a risk of ending up in miserable queues at check-in etc.

This was a route served by Lufthansa Italia, whose operations began earlier this year in February. Given the utter direness of Alitalia, it's hardly surprising that Lufthansa saw an opportunity in the Italian market with some good ol' German efficiency. Last I heard, they were doing pretty well despite being very early days of operation whereas Alitalia seemed to be - as usual - in a permanent state of near-bankruptcy with implacable labour relations and huge losses. Back to the subject at hand... so the flight on LH Italia was therefore an interesting "new" airline to try.

Checking in online exactly 24 hours prior to departure, I found no space in one of the Row 9 exit seats with extra legroom so I had to content myself with a seat in Row 5 which would at least let me disembark early and minimise any queueing. And I was given the option of a mobile boarding pass - this involved receiving a link by SMS or email, which I would then click and retrieve the square type barcode which could be scanned by everyone along the way. As I had never tried anything like it before, it was quite cool to see how it all works. Here is a photo:



My very first Mobile boarding pass!


As usual, I spent all night packing and tidying my room on the night before departure. I wonder whether I would ever get rid of the habit - it just seems easier to do it all in the middle of the night, rather than set aside time during the day which can be spent socialising with friends and so on. Besides, missing a morning flight has become one of my phobias thanks to a bad experience with an early Eurostar departure and I don't tend to trust myself to wake up early for something with such dire consequences if I don't. So, unless it's an evening departure, I just find it easier to not sleep! There will be plenty of time to sleep onboard the flights and at the lounges in any case.

Getting the bus from Feltham station, I arrived at Terminal 1 around 11:00am. Along the way on the bus, I passed by the large scale model of the Emirates A380 which has long replaced the BA Concorde that used to occupy the same spot. Quite frankly, I'm not a fan - whereas the Concorde was slender, elegant and represented air travel at its most glamorous, the A380 is fat, ugly and 400 Y passengers crowd it out on the lower deck. Hardly representative of any notion of the "romance of travel".



The offending A380 model


Lufthansa moved its operation from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 back in June and I can confidently say that it is a huge improvement over the previous arrangements. With a dedicated area in Zone K (previously Zone R in the BA days) and a dedicated security lane, as well as spacious areas for check-in and bag drops, the departure experience no longer resembles an exodus from a dilapidated third world airport. They seemed to force everyone travelling in Y to use the self-service check-in machines but since I already had a mobile boarding pass, I proceeded straight to the bag-drop where my bags were taken care of by a friendly agent.



Zone K used by Lufthansa-aligned airlines as well as TAP Portugal



Y pax being asked to use the self check-in machine before proceeding to the bag drops



Thankfully, no queues at the bag drop. I would imagine that it could get quite busy during peak hours



The First Class / Star Gold check-in area with its dedicated priority lane to security


Once I proceeded to the (non-Fast Track) security I was relieved to find almost no-one in the queue, which put me in a good mood despite being a "laptops out, belts off, shoes off" slog at the x-ray. After I had reassembled myself and my belongings, I went to Pret to grab something to eat and drink and sat down to phone BMI to make the reservation for my return flight. Those of you familiar with the pain of dealing with the ICC would be amazed to hear that I managed to book, pay and even reserve my seats without any problems, all within 15 minutes! It was definitely a new record for me. The itinerary for the return flight would be ICN-HKG-BKK-OSL on TG, then OSL-LHR on SK. And yes, I'll be writing a trip report for those too



Departure information display - I really like the quality of the flat screen displays



Last edited by stargold; Aug 23, 09 at 7:45 pm
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:05 pm
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An identity crisis - am I flying BMI or Lufthansa?

The boarding gate number was not shown until 12:00pm, and once shown I quickly made my way to Gate 23 which was a fair distance away from the main terminal, past where the SAA lounges used to be. There was a brief wait at the gate holding area before boarding commenced at 12:05pm and the process seemingly finished at 12:15pm. I was surprised to find that the aircraft was a BMI A319, with BMI crew, but Lufthansa seats and Lufthansa catering. A real mix-mash of the two airlines.

First impressions were not great, quite frankly - the "purser" (I put it in quotation marks because he really didn't act like one) was at the door welcoming passengers, while chewing gum. I generally find it a poor showing to be chewing gum at any time while serving passengers, let alone when welcoming them onboard. His body language and the manner of speech was also generally rather clumsy. Clearly I had been rather spoiled by my previous flights on SQ, NH etc where absolute professionalism is taken for granted.


View of the NZ 747 near our gate



XS and XXL next to each other



Long wait inside the airbridge...



The gum-chewing purser



BMI on the outside, Lufthansa on the inside! Note the Italian colour scheme on the headrest cover



The front office



More views of the BD E190 and NZ 747


I sat down in my seat, 5A, and found a good view of the wing and engine outside the window. Seat 5B thankfully remained empty, and looking towards the rear of the aircraft, most rows had empty middle seats. The legroom was surprisingly tight, given that I was on a convertible C seat so this row could have been part of the C cabin - I would have expected at least 34 inches but it felt more like 32.



Legroom was just about acceptable...


Despite the boarding process finishing in good time, we sat for quite a while longer still parked at the gate. The doors eventually closed at 12:40pm and we made our way to the runway where, after waiting for a few other aircraft to depart, we took off at 12:55pm. The seatbelt sign was turned off after 10 or so minutes and the lunch service began soon afterwards.

Video of the take-off here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhl7Qe97QVE



Climbing to cruising altitude



Bright red engine - quite striking!
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:07 pm
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In Y, the lunch service consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich, a bar of chocolate and a biscuit with a fruit filling. A choice of drinks was offered free of charge, including wine - good to see LH maintaining some service over and above the LCCs. The aforementioned purser stayed in C while two other male flight attendants served the Y cabin, who were incidentally much better than the purser.

The ham sandwich was okay, not great - the cheese filling in question was cream cheese rather than something like cheddar, which would have made much more sense. I liked the paper tray that the snacks came in - it was Lufthansa Italia design with the Italian flag motif stripe.



Lunch offerings


After lunch was finished and the waste collected away, the rest of the flight was pretty uneventful. I typed out some emails on my Blackberry (in flight mode, of course) and gazed out of the window occasionally. However, when it was time to use the bathroom, I got a nasty surprise - there were only two toilets for the entire aircraft, one at the front for C and one at the very back for Y. There was a queue of 5+ people by the time I reached the back and it was getting rather crowded in the galley area, with many frustrated sighs and huffs after a while. Really, I expected more than one bathroom for 100+ passengers...

Before long, I could see the Alps outside my window and I realised it was nearing the end of the flight. It was rather an uneventful flight overall, and for £49 I really couldn't complain despite minor annoyances. The aircraft was set to arrive on time, the food was edible and the seat comfort was acceptable.



View of the Alps without the snow


Video of the landing here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nitst6M8u8



One last look at the BMI A319...


We landed on time at 15:20 and taxied to the gate where I disembarked quickly at 15:30. My first time in Milan - and gosh, it was a really old looking airport. Walking towards the immigrations control, it really felt like a time warp back to the 80s. It really caught me off guard because I haven't really been in any airport recently that felt quite so old.



Making my way to the passport controls



An Emirates A330, presumably bound for DXB?


There was no-one in the queue when I reached the passport controls and I went to collect my luggage at the belt. Still in a time-warp daze, I made my way to the departures level where I found the Swiss check-in counters for my next flight.
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:15 pm
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Flight 2: LX1623 MXP-ZRH 22JUL (We), Avro RJ100, Seat 2F
STD: 1820 (On Time) STA: 1915 (On Time)


More of Milan airport...

After quickly clearing customs, I proceeded to the Swiss check-in desk on the departures floor. As I made my way, I continued to feel like I'm stuck in some sort of film set for an old airport scene - dark corridors, questionable colour schemes and a maze-like layout with no thought for passenger flow.

Once I reached the Swiss check-in desks, I found that they were still closed - the flight departed at 18:20 and I guess they don't expect people to turn up more than 2 hours early for a European flight. As there was already a queue forming even for the Business counters, I stood in line and looked around. There were some huge fashion advertising posters on the windows - interesting to look at, but why not leave the window open to let in more light? The terminal clearly needed it...



Oversized advertising posters blocking the light


I had to wait around 10 minutes until the check-in desk opened soon after, at 4pm. After the person in front was checked in, I proceeded to the counter where there was a little problem checking in for my connecting flight. Apparently, the ZRH-LAX flight was closed from check-in, which meant that the luggage tag would print "NOTOK" on the label. Although I've seen it a few times, I never knew what "NOTOK" meant - apparently, it means that the passenger is not properly checked in for one of the tagged flights, and they presumably wait to load the bag into the container until the go-ahead is given for the passenger.

The check-in agent instead suggested that I tag my bag only to ZRH and collect it there, to check it in for the LAX flight. I wondered whether LX offered a "night-before check-in" but she wasn't able to advise one way or the other - I decided to see what would happen once I reached ZRH. Naturally, I also had to wait until I reached ZRH before I could receive the ZRH-LAX boarding pass.

Otherwise, the check-in agent was quite charming and competent - no complaints there. She also advised that I was eligible to use the Fast Track once I reached security, and wished me a pleasant flight as I gathered my belongings and thanked her. I made my way towards the security check, which was down some escalators - but not before being faced with a huge poster of the latest Dolce & Gabanna "Italian swimmers" advertising. Nothing like a huge poster of men with perfect bodies to make you feel inadequate!



Business check-in, once opened



Air Moldova - never seen them before!



The aforementioned offending poster


Once I went down the escalators to the entrance of the security, there was a separate lane for Fast Track with someone to examine the boarding passes. I showed mine and went past the double doors, to be greeted with a scene that almost made me want to kiss my Business Class boarding pass. There were huge snaking queues waiting for the slow-moving x-ray machines on the non-Fast Track side, but I was able to join the front of the queue at the nearest X-ray because that's where the Fast Track corridor came out onto. I figured I saved more than 40 minutes of queueing - despite having loads of time until departure, I'd much rather sleep in the lounge than stand in the queue. I really, really hate queueing with a passion. Anyhow the whole process only took 5 or so minutes in total.

Once security was taken care of, I walked through the duty-free shops with some of the fanciest Italian fashion brands that you'd see on Bond Street in London. Following the signs towards the Lufthansa lounge, I was at the entrance of the lounge by 16:20. There were two separate sections to the lounge, one Senator lounge and one Business lounge. Normally, I would only be able to access the Business side with only a Business Class boarding pass and no Star Gold status, but I showed the receptionist my e-ticket confirmation of the connecting flight in First Class and she invited me to use the Senator side.

I walked in and - at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man - I disliked it instantly. Seemingly nothing about this airport was appealing to me, not even the lounge. It was tiny - 20 seats at most. The furniture were the old-style Senator lounge blue leather sofas and the whole place felt quite dull and dingy. I suppose one can't expect too much from a lounge where only a handful of European flights depart from, since most people wouldn't spend a huge amount of time here. Still, it was definitely on the lowest end of the lounge satisfaction scale. At least there were some free seats when I arrived - having to stand would have been the final straw!

There was a small variety of snacks on a trolley, most of them already gone. I tried a ham sandwich which was - you guessed it - underwhelming. There were at least some crisps (potato chips to the non-Brits) which they couldn't really get wrong even if they tried. I also found a selection of soft and alcoholic drinks as well as a "proper" ground espresso coffee machine (rather than the drip coffee that usually sits in the machine for hours upon hours). As I was getting quite hungry, I assembled a small plate of snacks and sat down on one of the sofas.

After firing up my laptop, I found that the WLAN was not free. Thankfully, it was operated by T-Mobile which meant I was able to use it with my T-Mobile UK username. After surfing the net for a while, tiredness from the all-nighter crept up on me and I ended up sleeping right in the middle of the lounge, with my head tilted back on the sofa. I just hope that I didn't snore...



Follow the signs...



It's a rather small lounge - less than 20 seats. Could get very crowded at peak times.



As you can see from the sofa, they're the "old style" SEN lounge furniture



One of the last few bits in the snack selection - generally pretty underwhelming



Peanuts, olives, and potato chips



Various drinks, both soft and alcoholic



Thankfully at least a "proper" coffee machine



Cookies/biscuits and fruits



Newspapers and departure info screen


All in all, I would say that one should aim to arrive at MXP as late as possible when flying on LH or LX. In my case, I had to leave plenty of room for delays as I was on separate tickets for the connection at MXP, but had I been connecting on the same ticket, I would have been quite happy to have skipped the lounge altogether.
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:20 pm
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At 17:40, sufficiently bored after the snooze, I made my way to the boarding gate which turned out to be a bus gate. Argh! When the gate agent saw me taking pictures, she told me to stop - I wasn't sure why, but I thought it was best not to annoy them so I put away the camera. Boarding was scheduled to commence at 17:55 and it did start on time - the sooner I left Malpensa the better! There was a 10 or so minutes' wait on the bus while we waited for it to fill up.



The dreaded bus gate


After a brief drive, we pulled up next to the Swiss Avro RJ100. Now, it's the first time I've seen one of these aircraft up close, and the nickname "Jumbolino" sums it up perfectly - 4 engined, and very cute! I don't often get to fly on regional jets so it was a nice change of scenery for me in that regard.

The Swiss paint job looked great as they always do - I really love the clean lines of the plain red on white. Effortlessly classy, and they can probably keep the same design for the next several decades without it looking old. Most fellow passengers made their way up the steps to the cabin immediately, but some (including myself) stayed outside a little longer to take photos of the cute aircraft.



swiss - schweitz - suisse - svizzera - svizra. No wonder the cabin crew speak so many languages!



The registration of today's aircraft - HB-IXX



At the risk of sounding repetitive, cute!



"The four little engines that could"?



Up the steps - how do they handle wheelchair passengers, I wonder?



As I entered the aircraft, I was warmly welcomed by the Maitre de Cabine (equivalent to the Inflight Supervisor on SQ, Chief Purser on NH, etc) who showed me to my seat, 2F. The layout was 2-3 and the middle seat on the right side was blocked. The seats themselves were made by Recaro and I liked the design as well as the comfort - since there was no need for an IFE screen, the upper half of the seat contained the magazine space and the legroom was therefore better. Not that the legroom was tight to begin with - it was much more generous than my previous flight.



Two rows of C today. My seat mate had not yet arrived.



Very decent legroom - this is more like it!



Aforementioned seat design with the magazine space on top


We taxied out on time and took off at 18:27. One thing I found interesting is that the captain announces over the PA, "Cabin crew, take-off in one minute" which I haven't heard on other airlines before. Later I would also hear "Cabin crew, landing in ten minutes" from the cockpit as well - intended for the flight attendants, but quite cool nevertheless.

Here is the take-off video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC-6GP6c7Ik

The engines were surprisingly quiet even at full thrust, at least when heard from seat 2F. Nothing like the deafening turboprops where your ears go numb after a long take-off roll. Given that the BAe 146 were famous for their quiet operations, it's not surprising that Avro RJs, being the successor to the 146, would also be quiet.

Soon after, the drinks and snack cart was rolled out and each passenger in C were given a choice of beef or cheese sandwich. I decided to go for the beef, and received a pretty substantial looking sandwich with plenty of filling inside. Alongside the sandwich a choice of drinks was offered and I opted for orange juice, which was given out with a bottle of water as well. All with a smile from the excellent MdC - so far, Swiss were making a very good impression of the quality of their service onboard.

Sandwich tasted pretty good but the slightly sour taste of the coleslaw in the filling took me by surprise - I was almost quite sure that something had gone bad, but later realised it's just the normal taste of the coleslaw and stopped worrying. In any case, despite being quite hungry earlier on in the lounge I was no longer in the mood to eat the whole sandwich but made a decent stab at it.
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:23 pm
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It was really an extremely short flight from Milan to Zurich and the actual flight time was barely 40 minutes. To receive a sandwich and a full drinks service, even taking into account being in Business Class, was quite impressive. When I turned my attention to the view outside, I was greeted with a slightly cloudy but nevertheless expansive view of the Swiss Alps beneath. It kept me interested for the remainder of the flight, taking photos and enjoying the views of the mountain tops that - it's the summer - only had a little bit of snow on top.



The beef sandwich served in C



Tiny specks of snow in an otherwise green mountain top



A bit more snow at this end



The view would have been even better if it was less cloudy, but I can hardly complain...


In no time at all, it was time to start our descent and the seatbelt sign was turned on, but not before a nice bright red square of Swiss chocolate was handed out. A small but nice touch. We actually flew over Zurich Kloten airport along the way but had to overshoot in order to approach it from the correct direction - at one point, as the aircraft was turning, I got a very nice view of a small river too.



Thank you for flying Swiss!



Zurich Kloten



A sweeping view of the river, some fields and small villages


The landing video is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sC-21Jmp3c


We landed on time at 19:10 and quickly taxied to the gate in Terminal A. My first time in Zurich airport in more than 10 years - it was all quite exciting. Many of the passengers appeared to be on a connecting flight, and I hardly saw anyone waiting for their bags at the belt when I made my way to the baggage reclaim. Thankfully my bags came out very quickly, by 19:25 and I was out past the customs inspection in no time at all.

Overall, considering the very short length of the flight, it was a surprisingly good flight once I left the 80's-style Malpensa airport behind. The aircraft was cute, the service was excellent and the food/beverage was very satisfactory for a 40-minute flight. It was my first encounter with Swiss International Air Lines (I had only flown Swissair previously) and it put me in a very positive mood in preparation for my next flight, the long haul First Class to LAX.

Some more photos:



An Austrian Arrows aircraft parked near ours at ZRH



Our pilot busy with paperwork...



One last look at the Jumbolino



Almost no-one waiting for their bag!
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:30 pm
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A most excellent, if unexpected, evening at the Swiss First Class Lounge

Once I came out into the Arrivals Hall, I scanned the area to look for the Departures floor. I found out online at the lounge in MXP that LX do indeed offer Night Before Check-in, which meant I was able to check-in my luggage and receive my boarding pass today for tomorrow's flight. Very useful all around, since it meant I will be free of my bag until I arrive at LAX.

While passing by the Y check-in, I was surprised to see that there seemed to be no longer any normal check-in desks but instead the increasingly ubiquitous combination of the self-service machines and bag drop desks. If the passenger is able to use machines easily and there are no hiccups with documents etc, then yes, the kiosks can work very well. But how about the elderly or others that are not able to use the kiosk quite so easily? Really I think there should be a choice of going to a normal desk rather than forcing everyone to use the kiosk... but then again, I realise that cost base is a big concern especially in today's business climate.



"When is daddy arriving?"



The kiosks and the bag drop counters behind


Of course, I knew that there would be no such problems for my check-in experience today at the dedicated HON Circle / First Class check-in island. I found the entrance easily enough, and went inside to find a very calm and relaxed environment with a row of four check-in desks. The layout was not the normal "me vs. you" divide across the counter, but instead a more welcoming environment of standing alongside the check-in agent at an angle. It's a small difference and many people may not think much of it at all, but I personally think it's the small touches like this that add up to an exceptional product.

I was checked in immediately by an agent who was free. My bag was taken away by her colleague to be weight on the scale somewhere else, while she discussed the flight timing and my seating preference on the flight, making sure that I had the correct documents and confirmed that I have an onwards connecting flight at LAX to ICN. The whole encounter was very relaxed, civilised and welcoming - I could not pick any fault with the service or the arrangement whatsoever. The only possible improvement would be the First Class Terminal at FRA where a PA takes charge of the whole process while you enjoy the lounge, but this was more than good enough.



Doorway from the main terminal



Nicely done - spacious and very civilised



"Enjoy your flight!"


Once my boarding pass was issued and my bags tagged with the HON priority tag, the check-in agent wished me a good flight and I was on my way. It was now 19:30 and I decided to see whether they would let me check out the First Class Lounge a night early. The first hurdle was the boarding pass check, and I nearly didn't make it through but I promised the person checking that I will leave the secure area immediately if the FCL refused me entry. So, she eventually let me through after a brief period of consideration.

Then it was quite simple to find the lounge - just needed to follow the signs for "Swiss First Lounge". Once I reached the reception, I presented my boarding pass and asked whether, since I arrived on a connection, I might be able to access the lounge even though I am departing tomorrow. Like the boarding pass checker, the receptionist had to think about it for a while, and then eventually said "I'm not sure whether you should really be allowed access, but the lounge is quite empty anyway so please come in". Woohoo!

I should note at this point that the lounge on top of my "to-do" list is the First Class Terminal at FRA, simply because it is such a great concept and I really want to experience the sort of seamless check-in and lounge experience that you could only imagine for a luxurious private jet terminal. However, I also heard excellent things about the Swiss FCL at ZRH and couldn't wait to try it out for myself. First Class Terminal will have to wait, for now...






Follow the signs for the Swiss First Lounge...



Staircase (or you can use the nearby lifts)



Reception desks
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:33 pm
  #8  
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Once inside, I spent the first few minutes figuring out the layout of the lounge. Immediately upon entering the left side of the reception, there is the dining area. Continuing on, I found the main seating area with a buffet and beverage station. Along the side corridor, there were the gents' and ladies' bathrooms, shower rooms and the two day-rooms.

On the right side of the reception, there were two further seating areas as well as a meeting room. The medium sized seating area had a small beverage station, whereas the small seating area only had a fruit corner. And immediately behind the reception desk, there was a row of private enclosed work areas with a desk, chair and a laptop ready for use.

It was smaller than I had imagined, but given that only HON members and First Class passengers on Lufthansa/Swiss could use the facility, there wasn't too much danger of overcrowding. Certainly during my stay that evening, I never saw much more than a total of about 10 passengers.

The decor was very tastefully minimal with comfortable black sofas and neutral tones throughout. Some might say boring, but I really like this type of simple interior design that is easy on the eyes and comfortable to use, rather than space or furniture that looks great but not so relaxing or comfortable. And in a humorous twist, each table had three cocktail glasses with peanuts, Lindor chocolates and - wait for it - gummy bears!



Main seating area: It has the main drinks section as well as the buffet selection.




There is a nice tarmac view outside.



Medium seating area: There are some of the drinks offered in the area but no food.



Artwork based on Swiss aircraft



Small seating area: It has the sofas, and a small fruit corner but no drinks or other food.



Some sofas near the entrance / reception desk



The obligatory Peanuts / Lindor chocolate / Gummi bears on each table


After a full day of running around airport terminals and flying, what I needed first more than anything was a good shower. I went through the gents' bathroom door and found three more doors inside: one led to the toilet and two doors each contained a shower suite. After requesting access from the reception and the door unlocked, I went inside.

It was a full-size shower suite with a shower, basin and toilet. Tastefully decorated in neutral coloured tiles and fittings, it was a very relaxing atmosphere indeed. I found a basket of Bvlgari toiletries and other amenities on the basin which was a nice touch. The oversized shower head had a great water pressure and I relaxed immediately as soon as the hot water hit my back. It was one of those moments when you're quite convinced that a nice hot shower is the answer to all of life's problems.



Bvlgari amenities




Nice shower with a good water pressure



Toilet and basin inside the shower room
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:35 pm
  #9  
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Feeling like a completely new person (with only a hint of exaggeration), I left the shower suite and went back to the main seating area. After plopping down my carry-ons on a sofa, I went to the buffet area to explore the offerings. There was a selection of hot food in the buffet area as well as more nibbles in the open refrigerator, and a pretty comprehensive selection of drinks including a choice between Perrier Jouet Brut or Rosť champagne. With a glass of the rosť in hand, I went back to my seat to relax and watch the tarmac area for a while.



Buffet area



Dishes offered:
- Barbecued meatballs
- Fried zucchini with thyme
- Poached fish on tomato ragout



Ready-prepared plates of small bites and dessert / Cheese board



One of the dessert plates



Coffee machine



A separate Nespresso machine with a selection of different capsules





Perrier Jouet Brut and Rosť



Red wines (left to right) -
1. Baron de Ley Reserva 2003 Rioja
2. Clavien Pinot Noir de Sion 2008
3. Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz 2004
(Sorry, forgot to take pictures of the other drinks)
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:36 pm
  #10  
 
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Keep it up! Looking forward to the rest of your report.


Halothane
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Old Aug 17, 09, 7:46 pm
  #11  
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Once I finished the flute of the rosť, I noticed that it was already past 20:00 which meant they started the Pre-flight Dining service where you are able to enjoy a multi-course dinner of freshly cooked dishes in the dining area. I walked over to the dining area and one of the waitresses came round quickly asking whether I would like the menu for the Pre-flight Dining. I replied yes, and she brought the menu, with a glass of Swiss chardonnay and a bottle of sparkling water that I asked for.





Restaurant area



Bar counter inside the restaurant area



Table setting



Menu



... in detail


Impressive menu, for sure. Speaking as a person not good at turning down enticing food, I was really tempted to order far too much, but I managed to control myself (for the time being!) and decided on the cucumber spaghetti salad with shrimps and the guinea fowl breast. The waitress serving me was attentive and took my order quickly, after which I started reading my copy of Economist that I hadn't yet managed to start on.

Quite soon, the first dish arrived. Somehow, I missed the "cucumber" part when I read spaghetti, so you could imagine my surprise when I received a spaghetti made from cucumber rather than pasta! Apart from the initial surprise, the dish itself was fantastic - the cucumber was very refreshing and simply screamed "summer" in the perfect way, while the prawn was a decent size and grilled nicely. And as you can see from the photo, it was really well presented.



Cucumber spaghetti salad with shrimps


Next to arrive was the "Guinea fowl breast on spring onion risotto with hay flower sauce and ratatouille". I tried the risotto first - it was wonderfully creamy and flavourful and I could have quite happily had more of it. The comfort food factor was right up there with a big tub of Haagen-Dazs - when feeling unhappy and down, a big serving of this risotto would cheer me right up! Then I tried the guinea fowl which was excellently cooked and still moist, tasting really quite excellent with the finely chopped ratatouille on the side. Overall, a resounding success and I loved every mouthful. As before, it looked great too.





Now, it would normally be time to choose dessert and finish the meal. But sensing that I have some space left, I thought - "It might be nice to try the fish!" Not out of pure gluttony as one might reasonably conclude, but simply to try different dishes and report back for my readers, you see? The poor waitress was awfully confused when I asked for the fish instead of ordering dessert - she couldn't seem to comprehend that I could possibly want the fish after finishing the previous two courses. She understood eventually and walked away with a smile to repeat the order to the chef - I have no idea what she said behind the closed kitchen doors, but it wouldn't surprise me if it started with "You won't believe this, but he still wants more food..." while laughing.

The fish arrived pretty soon after, and it smelt absolutely wonderful by way of an introduction even before I saw it in front of me. When I tasted it, I'm glad to be able to report that it tasted just as good as it smelled. Perfectly cooked and moist, the only very minor complaint was that the bed of onions was a little oversalted, but overall it was truly a joy to eat.





After the empty plate was cleared away, there was really no space left for any more food except perhaps a small dessert. The peach tiramisu sounded like the best middle ground between the sorbet (too light) and trilogy of chocolate parfait with fresh raspberry (too heavy), so I asked for that and a glass of white port to go with it.

A very generous serving of the white port arrived first, which tasted exactly like what I had in mind. I've really grown to love port in the last year or so and I can quite happily sip on several large glasses on a quiet evening. It horrifies my housemate of course, who insists that port is only a post-meal drink... but when it tastes so good, I can't just save it for after meals!

And soon after, the peach tiramisu arrived. Excellent presentation as I have now come to expect, and it tasted very nice too - although it could have done with a slightly stronger punch from the espresso. Yes, I am picking very small faults with what is otherwise a perfectly nice dessert.



White port



Homemade peach tiramisu


Relaxing at the table for a while afterwards, I reflected on the dinner service on the whole. Firstly, it's a great touch to be able to order freshly cooked dishes from a menu, rather than eat from the buffet station which is not always ideal when the food may have been prepared a long time ago. Moreover, each and every dish was well presented, flavoursome and perfectly cooked. The setting of the dining room was also very nice - good lighting, nicely sized tables and table setting like a normal restaurant. And finally, the service from the waitress was also excellent throughout, with very good attentiveness and a smile with every encounter at the table.

Overall, it was a great way to eat before a night flight so that you can maximise sleep time onboard (or, in my case, probably in order to eat two great meals instead of one). Today, of course, I wasn't going on a flight that evening, so I still had the opportunity to digest it all over a good night's rest before eating tomorrow!

Meal over, it was now around 21:30 and I moved back to the main seating area for another glass of the Perrier Jouet rosť. Afterwards, I decided to call it a day at the lounge and head to the hotel, so I thanked the lounge receptionist and received instructions on how to reach the arrivals hall again. After a disastrous first attempt at getting the hotel shuttle bus (i.e. the wrong bus - must be the champagne!), I waited 45 minutes for the next one and finally boarded the correct bus.

On the bus, the fellow passengers started chatting and one guy, it turns out, overslept and missed his flight to Toronto that morning. Rather than being allowed to fly on the next flight, KLM said he had to buy a new ticket!! I thought most airlines just laughed at you a little bit and then put you on the next flight - my fears about oversleeping and missing flights was proven correct. Once we reached the hotel, I checked in and then met up with Mr. Oversleep for several beers at the hotel bar until 1am, mostly drowning his sorrows at having to fork out 800 euros for a new ticket (!!). I returned to my room and just collapsed in bed.

What can I say? The visit to the FCL was a really great way of spending the evening relaxing, eating and drinking. Overall it was a great day of flying around and (unlike some fellow passengers) without missing flights by oversleeping. The real deal was still waiting, however - the flight to LAX tomorrow!

(To be continued soon...)
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Old Aug 17, 09, 8:39 pm
  #12  
 
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great TR so far, looking forward to the rest
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Old Aug 17, 09, 10:55 pm
  #13  
 
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Originally Posted by stargold View Post
XS and XXL next to each other
Great report, looking forward to the rest! ^ Although for the above line, I actually spent some time running airline codes through my head before I realized what you meant
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Old Aug 17, 09, 11:06 pm
  #14  
 
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Fantastic report so far and very, very well written. I kept saying to myself while reading that I really need to try LX sometime. The photos are great and I'm really looking forward to the next parts you post.
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Old Aug 17, 09, 11:39 pm
  #15  
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Great report ^ Thanks!
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