The Swiss first-class ground experience that stole my AvGeek heart
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During the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips. However, we have resumed the publication of new, previously unpublished flight, hotel and lounge reviews, from trips taken before the lockdown. To help keep you entertained — and maybe inspire you — we are also republishing a selection of our most popular reviews from 2019 and 2020, including the one below, which was originally published in August 2019. We hope this will help you choose once we’re all ready to start booking trips again.
It’s not often that we dedicate an entire post to a particular flight’s ground experience. If I could, I’d rate my Swiss first-class ground experience a 100 out of the allotted 10 points.
But I can’t. So instead, here’s some more detail on why this experience should be on every AvGeek’s bucket list. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out my review on the overall Swiss first-class experience, head here to read about this top-notch product.
Personal Chauffeur Transfer
Long-haul, wide-body flights depart from the satellite E gates at Zurich Airport (ZRH). If you’re originating in Zurich, though, you’ll need to clear security and passport control in the main area of the terminal before catching an underground train to the E gates.
But not if you’re flying in first class (or a HON Circle member). Once you’ve entered the first-class lounge in the main terminal, you’ll be driven to the E gates in a private car.
Your AvGeek experience will begin after clearing private passport control and exiting the main terminal with driver escort.
Your five minutes of fame is mostly spent underground to avoid crossing Runway 10/28. Upon exiting the tunnel, you catch your first glimpse of the E gates and the associated ground operations. On that July morning, I spotted a 10-year-old A330-300 at Gate E19 bound for Chicago (ORD).
You’re then driven around the south perimeter of the E gates, where you can gawk at heavies getting prepped for departure. In my case, I saw an Airbus A330-300, HB-JHA, getting ready to head to Mumbai, India (BOM).
This was only the beginning — the airfield views only got better when I entered the E gates’ first-class lounge.
While I could’ve spent my time in this lounge trying some (or all) of the 1,000-plus bottles of wine, I braved the chilly morning air to hang out on the 3,790-square-foot terrace. The terrace wrapped around the entire lounge and had mostly unobstructed views of the airfield operations.
Seriously, the outdoor deck provided views that AvGeeks dream of. From the south side of the terrace, you could see Runway 10/28, as well as the entire Schengen operation at Terminal A.
From the north side of the terrace, you got great views of the approach and landings on Runway 14.
Since the lounge is on the top level of the E Concourse, it has incredible views of the ground operations, apron and parked planes in the below terminal. And luckily for my inner AvGeek, all the wide-bodies parked at the E gates!
I spent a majority of my time outdoors running around from side to side capturing the latest heavy arrival or special livery takeoff.
Look at that lineup on the south side of the E gates!
And check out the lineup on the north side of the E gates.
Here’s a Swiss A330 landing on Runway 34 from Dar es Salaam (DAR).
An Edelweiss A340-300 pushes back here with a Swiss A220-100 (HB-JBA) on its way to Madrid (MAD).
A Swiss Boeing 777-300ER heads to maintenance.
Good morning, Air Canada 878 from Toronto (YYZ).
And, hello, 767s from the USA!
If you’re just looking to take it all in, Swiss provides binoculars with a map of the airfield for easy reference.
The lounge’s bathrooms even catered to my inner AvGeek, with awesome views of the north side of the airport, as well as Runway 14/32.
Staring at planes for hours can get exhausting. In what is arguably the best amenity at any lounge worldwide, Swiss offers two private hotel rooms with en suite bathrooms. After getting my fill of planes, I checked in to one of the hotel rooms.
The double bed was plush and comfortable. There were two bedside lamps with waters and easily accessible power outlets.
The marble-and-glass bathroom was fitting of a five-star hotel.
Aside from the thin and scratchy towel, my only other complaint was the multiple black scuff marks around the room.
I was advised to keep the curtains closed for privacy, but I’m adventurous. I slowly opened the curtains (don’t worry, I was wearing clothes), and the room instantly transformed from an upscale hotel room to the greatest thing to happen to AvGeeks. Ever.
The bedrooms offer the same sweeping views as the terrace outside. My room, named St. Moritz, faced the south side of the airport and Runway 10/28. My hope of getting an hour of shut-eye instantly vanished. Instead of sleeping, I simply lay in bed watching planes.
I challenge you to find a more quintessentially AvGeek experience. In my mind, the Swiss first-class adventure should begin hours before you board your plane. Do me a favour: If you’re lucky enough to have access to the Swiss first-class lounge, get there early and enjoy the views. You’ll make me and AvGeeks around the world jealous.
All photos by the author.
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