IN-FLIGHT DELICACIES will help prepare you to see the sights in Zurich.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Let’s face it. Air travel these days ranks up there with getting a root canal in terms of difficulty, drudgery and discomfort.
Long gone are the halcyon days of the 1950s when flying seemed impossibly glamorous. In fact, starting in 2017, United Airlines’ new bare-bones economy fare will charge you for… using the overhead bins.
Yet at the same time, we hear about people like Raejali Buntut, who was so enthused by the five-star treatment and free food and drink he enjoyed in the executive lounges in Singapore’s Changi Airport that he decided to live there for as long as he could, using digitally altered boarding passes – making it an impressive three weeks before being arrested this past September.
These delicious perks seem way out of reach for the average economy traveler.
However, if you are lucky enough to take advantage of SWISS’s new and improved Tel Aviv to Zurich business-class flight – as I did recently – you’ll gain entry to this seamlessly comfortable world.
Upgrade your ticket to first class on the A330 for a mere $299 and you’ll barely have to see other humans – at the push of a button, a screen goes up between you and the traveler in the adjacent pod. Have a work meeting or a semi-private meal on your own personal table, or just stretch out and have a snooze on your completely flat seat-bed.
Another service to make your life that much easier is premium check-in, wherein airline staffers come to your home/ hotel room to get your luggage and give you your boarding pass. Two baggage handlers came to my Jerusalem home the night before my flight; the whole process took minutes and I was free as a bird at the airport, proceeding directly to the gate. This nifty service will set you back NIS 549, for up to five people with five pieces of luggage.
Having added nine new Boeing 777- 300ERs to its fleet, the flight from Tel Aviv is tailored for the business traveler. The first CS100 Bombardier C series was put into service last summer, boasting new standards for comfort and environmental consideration – reducing noise intensity by 50% – and will serve various destinations in Europe. One hopes this will expand to Ben-Gurion Airport.
SWISS provides all the usual amenities that make the business-class trip so much easier: a separate line for flight inspection; boarding passes issued without waiting in line; a larger baggage allowance; double frequent flyer points; an varied movie and entertainment selection; a tote of products for in-flight use (I especially liked the comfy red socks) and more.
The in-flight meal incorporates fresh, local Swiss products and a wide selection of beverages including champagne.
(Kosher passengers have to make do with the standard wrapped meal; the Zurich- Tel Aviv leg of the trip does offer a small consolation in the form of kosher wine.) Zurich Airport is an international hub and SWISS’s principal center, with destinations all over world. It is not too large, making flight connections is very manageable, with 30 minutes or less required to reach the departure gate check-in counters. Little worry of lost suitcases here, as SWISS’s baggage department is a model of the country’s fabled efficiency.
Put your feet up between flights in one of the three new lounges in Terminal E, as your ticket allows: Senators Club, first and business class (open to frequent flyer members and those in the Star Alliance).
They offer oak floors and stone walls, birds-eye views of the planes and the Alps beyond from the outdoor terraces, lots of Wi-fi ports, cushy seating and work areas designed to provide privacy; first class also has two en-suite hotel rooms and showers.
And of course, there is no shortage of food and booze, if you haven’t imbibed enough on the flight. (The winning combo for me was Bircher muesli, M&Ms and an improvised white wine spritzer, it being morning and “too early for red wine.”) With the new “front cooking,” chefs prepare fresh meals in front of you; choose from among the 1,000 bottles of wine in the first-class lounge and if you’re lucky enough to gain admittance to the Senators Club, sample from 120 types of whiskey (it’s always 5 p.m. somewhere).
The economy passenger in transit is not denied some much-needed rest, as for an hourly rate, Zurich Airport offers compact, hotel-like rooms and a relaxation area with beds. Rooms are equipped with comfortable single beds and a TV, some with a sink.
Arriving hydrated, fresh-faced and relaxed from my flight, beautiful Zurich was just an 11-minute train ride away.
Beyond the charming architecture and outstanding sweets Switzerland is rightly famous for, I was astounded to learn that the city’s water is so clean people regularly swim in it (weather permitting) – something this native New Yorker could never dream of doing in the Hudson River.
While I enjoyed my time there, I have to admit I looked forward to getting on the plane back home and settling in for a serene and pampering ride.The writer was a guest of the airline.