AT the end of the trip, I feel like I’m leaving an old friend.
I want to stay, gossip a bit, ask about a birthday. The Swiss are noted for their efficiency, but Swiss hospitality is a whole other experience – especially if all you’re used to is the comparatively watered-down version at some first-class hotels.
But flying first class on Swiss International Air Lines is something else all together. The experience starts at check-in. I was flying Dubai to London, and transiting in Zurich. In Dubai, the girl was polite and slightly chatty, in London, rather more businesslike but polite nonetheless.
Not much of a lounge person, I stopped merely for a quick quencher, and returned to the delights of Duty Free.
Having boarded once the crowd had eased, I was quietly and rather expertly settled in my seat with a glass of champagne – no sparkling rubbish, thank you. Comfortable as an armchair upright with a movable ottoman to put my feet up or invite a friend over, it really only became superlative once I’d opened it out completely, and lain flat on it, stretched out with a fairly generous amount of space on either side of my ‘bed’. Around the seat were sockets for a laptop, two magazines and plenty of storage space: pockets on the sides, receptacles next to the armrest and under the ottoman.
Plied generously with champagne, I perused my menu – and refused everything, opting rather impetuously for chocolates, although the nouvelle cuisine on offer, all halal, did look rather tempting.
I did try some chicken breast with a sort of balsamic sauce on the way back, and it was truly like being in one of my favourite fine dining restaurants – indeed, the cabin attendant was able to discuss the merits of the wine list with the seasoned proficiency of a sommelier.
Once I was served by an amused member of cabin crew, I knew I’d made the right decision – champagne and Swiss chocolates, heaven. The combination let loose enough endorphins to nullify any of the normal discomforts associated with pressurised cabins and air-conditioned air, and, my bed having been discreetly made up while I went away to explore the contents of my amenity kit, which thoughtfully added lip balm to the usual socks-eyeshades-toothpaste combo. Rather luxuriously, all the toiletries were from top-notch and pricey Swiss brand La Prairie – and all worth it.
The type that travels with three books (I don’t even have a TV), a personal entertainment system with a myriad channels is rather lost on me – but a quick glance at what’s on offer satisfies me that there’s more than enough movies or telly to choose from should I want it. A nice selection of current hits mixed with some mid-90s on the audio was fine enough entertainment.
Despite having had a sandwich fixed for me in the middle of the night – uncomplainingly and with a smile, no frowns because I missed dinner, I was still hungry for breakfast the next morning. And the omelette, amazingly, didn’t taste stale at all. I might have skipped the muesli if I’d known, but having tasted it, I’m glad I didn’t. For once in my life, I actually enjoyed the odd combination that seems to send so many expats into raptures.
Zurich airport was rather easy to transfer at, despite a train transfer (no transit visa is required). I didn’t have too much time to look at the shops but ended up making some purchases anyway!
Several of these facilities, you might argue, can be had with other airlines, but few can match the level of service. All through, it was the attitude of the cabin crew that made the difference – rather than the charisma bypass that’s so common even in premium classes, the crew seemed genuinely motivated to make my flight as pleasant as possible.
Mile-high Review by Clark Kelly
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