LX182 ZRH-BKK 17/JUL A340, 4B, Business
I had managed to pre-assign a seat in the 2 first rows of Business class that are in a seperate “mini-cabin” right behind the First class cabin. Despite this being a Saturday in the middle of summer holiday time in Switzerland, the airport was relatively quiet when I got there around 9pm for the 10:40pm departure. Check-in was quick, and the agent pointed out to me that the Terminal 1 lounge complex was currently undergoing renovation and expansion works in preparation for the opening of the new “Airside Center” in mid-September. I asked him whether the Terminal E lounge was still open, suggesting that I might just go there since the flight was leaving from “Midfield” anyway. The Swissport-employed agent gave me a puzzled look and explained that he’d never heard of such a lounge before. I explained the matter to him and left, sighing and thinking that if Swiss must really outsource the ground handling at their home base, they should at least ensure that the people checking in their passengers know about the services offered.
The E lounge was of course open, and the views it offers over the entire airport were very nice in the thunderstorm unleashed outside. I enjoyed some drinks and satay while surfing the WLAN provided (at a charge, but I had passes) and eventually noticed that the flight got more and more delayed. Later, the captain of the flight would explain that due to the thunderstorms most incoming flights were late and we therefore had to wait for connecting passengers.
Anyway, boarding was finally called and I settled into my “new” Business class seat which can be turned into a fully flat bed, although at an angle.The design is somewhat similar to the new LH beds or the SQ Spacebed. The crew on this flight struck me as both unfriendly and uncoordinated. I had boarded later than most, but we had to wait at least 30 more minutes for our allotted take-off time. Despite there being plenty of time, nobody seemed to bother with offering me what I had missed: A newspaper, a pre-departure drink or the hanging of my coat. I was just completely ignored by all the crew members continuously rushing past me. I finally dared asking for the storage of my jacket and a glass of water, but while my requests were acknowledged, they went unfulfilled. After waiting a good 15 more minutes, we started pushback and I flagged down the Maître de Cabine (as the head flight attendant is called on Swiss) and just handed him my coat, saying “store this now”. In all fairness it has to be said that the flight attendant who “forgot” me came by later in the flight and apologized.
When we finally took off 90min late and in the middle of the night (how does that comply with ZRH’s ever-so-strict curfew?), I was not really happy. Along with the new LX amenity kit, which looks quite stylish but contains only eyeshades, socks, earplugs and toothbrush, the menu for the flight was also passed out. It’s design can be described as “minimalist” or “bland”, depending on one’s attitude towards LX. The leaflet on the wines however is a perfect example of how measly the LX premium cabins have become. Anyway, here’s what was on offer:
I requested the Lucerne platter and was presented with a single tray containing the entire meal except for dessert. What used to be known as the “quick meal” had now become the regular service on nighttime flights. The salad was small and unspectacular, but the Lucerne platter was really tasty despite being a cold dish (which I did not derive from the menu). The only problem was that it was appetizer-sized and not really a main course. Not having had dinner and expecting it instead of a “midnight supper”, this clearly wasn’t enough for me, so I asked for a second serving and also got it. Having missed out on the champagne and having sticked to water until now, I decided to have a glass of (okay) port with the cheese course, which was tiny with only three mini hunks of cheese. When I finally got ready for dessert, most people around me were already getting ready to sleep and the cabin crew made it obvious in their behavior that they were not happy with me being “out of synch”. In other words: No smiles for me. I still enjoyed the tasty and compared to the main course substantial dessert, but by the time I drank my after-dinner tea got too tired to ask for the Lindt pralines that were previously offered to other passengers.
After the meal, half-liter water bottles were handed out and I played around with the inflight entertainment system a bit and found it to be very nice with a huge selection of on-demand audio and video. Unfortunately, it is still a bit unreliable and freezes for a minute or so every now and then. I watched a mediocre movie called “Spartan” and then extended the seat to its lie-flat position for some sleep. At first it felt odd to lie at an angle, and I had to get used to tightening my leg muscles to prevent myself from sliding down while at the same time “relaxing” as to fall asleep. I managed to sleep for roughly 5 hours, which is a lot better than what I was able to do in the old MD-11 Business seats.
Hot towels were passed out and then breakfast was served around 90min out of Bangkok, and it was quite large and also good. After the measly supper service, I was happy to see that they had hot dishes on offer now, but I still chose the ham and cheese assortment which really can’t be bad. A variety of breads was offered, and the crew seemed to be a bit more relaxed and friendly now. Maybe the prospect of a free day in Thailand cheered them up, this being one of the countries where their shrinking salaries still buy the world.
While I was filling in the forms required for immigration into Thailand, we started our approach into hot and humid Bangkok and touched down at Don Muang about an hour behind schedule. The outside temperature was around 33C, but that did not halt people from playing on the golf course between the two runways at BKK a fact that never ceases to amaze me. I left the plane with a very good impression of the new Business seats and IFE, but being very disappointed with the onboard service and the attitude of this particular Swiss crew. Luckily, I was now looking forward to five segments on Cathay Pacific.
Note: Somebody over on airliners.net took pictures of precisely the dishes I had on this flight, and I publish them here in total infringement of any intellectual property rights. It’s interesting to see that what was my main course is listed as a starter on the ZRH-HKG flights these pics come from.