LX183 SIN-BKK 28/JUL A340, 2A, First

Only one jetway was used, and the flight attendant at the door was surprised when I tried to turn left instead of right, but after being allowed a quick look on my boarding pass immediately apologized and escorted me to my seat 2A. The First class seats on the A340 are basically the same as on the MD-11 they replaced, with just some very minor changes. Personally, I liked the seat a lot better than the one on Cathay for it looks more refined and also offers an incredible amount of room for storing or just spreading out things. The ottoman (which now also has its own seatbelt), along with the very large table, enables you invite another passenger to your table for dinner, which is a unique touch. The only aspect where Cathay has the edge is privacy, the Swiss seat is not very good at that, but as it turned out I was the only First class passenger on this sector, so that wasn’t really a concern. Overall, also taking into account the excellent IFE, I’d rank the Swiss seat second best after the SQ SkySuite. While I settled in for this two hour flight, one of the two flight attendants taking care of me offered me my drink of choice (I ordered sparkling water and was served San Pellegrino), along with a Swiss newspaper and the Thai immigration forms. Before doing so, she double-checked if I was really just going to BKK, and at that moment I was tempted to just remain seated and fly through to Zurich. But I was afraid that someone might notice eventually and thus was honest with the crew. In the meantime, the other flight attendant (who turned out to be the one serving me dinner later on) presented me the menu and wine list, which again came in a minimalist design:

menu wine list p1 wine list p2

As you can see, the menu also contains the onward sector to Zurich. Remember that Cathay printed separate menus for NRT-TPE and TPE-HKG. Also, the above wine list was not distributed right away, but only given to me later on when I asked for it, along with the flight attendants apologies for having forgotten it in the first place.

While boarding continued, countless crew members and ground staff walked past me into the front galley and flight deck, while completely ignoring me. There is definitely a lot more commotion here than in the nose of a 747. When the doors were closed and pushback started, my glass was refilled and then stowed away for takeoff, which was slightly behind schedule for no apparent reason. As soon as the seat belt sign was turned off, the previously dimmed cabin lights came back on and I was offered a hot towel and another round of drinks. I decided to switch to champagne and could watch the flight attendant bring out a large, ice-filled bucket, which she placed on the little bar area in front of seats 1DG (you might want to avoid these seats in turbulent weather). She then opened a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte 1996 at my seat, poured me a flute (no regular wine glass as in C) and then put the bottle into the bucket. The San Pellegrino bottle was placed next to it, and the attention to detail showed in the fact that both labels faced me (and not the middle of the cabin). While my large table was pulled out and set up for the dinner to come, I started playing around with the inflight entertainment system and noticed that it was very sluggish and sometimes froze completely. When I told the crew, they suggested that I let it alone while they’d send a reset command, which in the end they did twice with no effect. We eventually decided that it was best to move me to seat 1A, which was done in the middle of my appetizer course, but in no time thanks to the help of the two flight attendants. But let’s go step by step. As you can see from the menu, three appetizers available, and they were all presented to me on a trolley. The salad looked boring, but the salmon and shrimp seemed tasty so I had that, and it was indeed good. The selection of rolls was not as varied as on Cathay, but still decent. I found the food to go quite nicely with the champagne, which was a lot better and frizzier than the “regular” Feuillatte Swiss serve in Business class. When the flight attendant came round to clear away my plate, she asked whether one of the other appetizers also appealed to me, and I said that the Parma ham with Caponata salad had also looked good, and so she brought me that as well. I sampled it, but did not like it as much as the dish I had just had, and accordingly did not finish it. I also turned down the offered refill on the champagne, and the flight attendant thus cleared away my flute but left the bottle in its bucket on the bar “just to let you know that you can always change your mind”. Good to know! To my surprise, my main course order was only taken after I was done the second appetizer, and the beef I chose appeared a few minutes after I had ordered it. In other words: All three options must have been reheated and waiting for me. With this being the case, I wondered why they weren’t presented to me on a trolley like the appetizers, so I could have chosen by the looks. With the main course, the service began to show some flaws. The flight attendant for example had not noticed that I was out of cutlery (having used two sets for the two appetizers) and I had to ask for a new set to tackle my main course. She also asked whether I’d like to have some red wine with my meal, and that’s where I told her that I indeed would like to but did not get a wine list. She got it for me immediately with apologies, and made more than up for the flaw with an impressive wine knowledge that reflected in her well-founded suggestions on the wines I should try. We eventually narrowed it down to either the Argentinean or the Bordeaux, and she immediately suggested that I should just sample both. The two bottles appeared, were opened before my eyes and a full glass of each was poured – "that much for the 'sampling' ” I said. She laughed and told me that I should just drink as much of each as I like, and went on to put the two bottles on the bar as well. I must admit that I liked both of the wines, but neither of the two struck me as being extraordinary. In the end I stuck with the Bordeaux without really knowing why. Maybe it was just because of the fact that it was more mature already… I declined the offered refills though, which should tell you a bit about the quality. As far as the food was concerned, my main course was mediocre with the beef being overcooked and as chewy as the mushrooms. Pity.

I comforted myself with some jazz music from the inflight entertainment which was working fine at seat 1A. Note though that the noise-canceling headsets that Swiss offers in First class are of inferior quality compared to the ones in Cathay First or Business. In fact, even my own Sony set is more efficient in fading out the engine and aircon noise. But that was no biggie as the A340 cabin in general was fairly quiet compared to the 747 and most of all the triple seven. I also looked forward to the cheese course, only to face another disappointment: It was the same tiny little dish as in Business class. A very small amount of cheese, all pre-plated and not very nicely presented. (Yes, the presentation was alright for the shorthaul ATH-ZRH flight in Business, but you’d think that they can come up with something a bit better than that in this case.) But the cheese course also brought one of the highlights of this trip, the excellent, 20 years old Calem port, which was offered in a regular red wine glass and not the little port glasses Cathay serves the precious liquid in. I loved this port, and must admit that I treated myself to a second glass of it, making sure that my blood alcohol level was where it’s supposed to be after a First class flight! I sipped on my glass long after having munched on the fruit dessert, and somehow felt sad about the fact that the port bottle had not joined its siblings on the bar next to the champagne bucket. But then again, maybe that was a wise precaution by the flight attendant! She did ask me about a digestif though, which I declined. When I was done with the port, the flight attendant offered me coffee, but I asked for a herbal tea instead and was served a very nice, ritzy silver teapot on little silver tray. But alas, this ain’t Cathay, the tag of a Lipton peppermint teabag peeked out of the pot. But fortunately, this ain’t Cathay, a large box of Swiss Sprüngli pralines also appeared and after double-checking with the flight attendant that she would not tell anyone, I had a number of chocolates that will go unmentioned here. Let’s just say that I love Swiss chocolate and hadn’t had any for two weeks…. Descent into BKK had already started when my table was cleared away and the Maître de Cabine came round for a little chat. He also offered me a First class amenity kit, which upon later inspection turned out to be a complete disgrace as it only offers the same measly contents as the Business class kit (toothbrush, earplugs, socks, eyeshades), just in a larger and thus less handy bag. No cosmetics whatsoever, nothing nice at all. Yes, there’s a choice of three La Prairie products available in the First class lavatories, but still… Every other F amenity kit I have seen or gotten is better, even Lufthansa’s. It seems as if the “tangibles” in Swiss First are slowly eroding away. What I really liked about the flight though was the honestly caring service, which seemed a lot more intuitive and individually colored than on both Cathay and Singapore Airlines. And there’s something about being able to speak in your mother tongue that just makes you instantly feel at ease (readers coming from other small “linguistic islands” will probably be able to relate to this feeling).

We landed on time, and I was the first one off the plane and through immigration. The bags were delivered quickly (though this time not strictly by priority tags), and I bypassed all the dubious transportation touts before hopping into a licensed cab into town.

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