After over 7 months of planning, it was finally the departure day for our Northern Europe and Russia Cruise. The cruise would not start till the coming Monday, but we decided to arrive three nights early so we could visit and explore Copenhagen, which is where our ship the Regal Princess would depart from. Before booking anything else, I booked our round trip business class ticket from Los Angeles to Copenhagen on Swiss Airlines. Originally, the plan was to fly on Air Canada via Toronto, but Swiss Airlines had a much better price in business class.
Since traffic is always a mess on the 405 freeway, we decided to leave early for the airport. Even tough our flight was not until 7:30PM tonight, right after lunch, we gathered up our luggage and headed out to the Van Nuys FlyAway Bus terminal. When we arrived at Van Nuys FlyAway, we had a 30 minute wait until the next bus to LAX would depart. As it got closer to our bus’s boarding time, more and more people arrived to catch the next departing bus for the airport. After everyone was boarded, the bus pulled out of the terminal and headed for the 405 freeway. Surprise surprise the freeway was already a mess going south towards the airport. It was a total crawl heading to the airport. Once we arrived at the entrance to the departure level of LAX, we hit the “Uber Jam”. 90% of all private vehicles had a Uber or Lyft sticker on their windshield contributing to the messy traffic on the departure level.
Our FlyAway, finally made it to Tom Bradley International Terminal, which is where Swiss Airlines departs from. It takes nerves of steel and creative driving as a FlyAway or any bus driver to maneuver and weave in and out of traffic to get the bus parked at the white curb to offload passengers. After collecting our luggage and thanking and tipping our driver, we headed inside the terminal. Since we were more than 3 hours early for our flight, I thought the check-in desk for Swiss Airlines would not be open, but it turned out that Lufthansa was handling all Lufthansa Group Airlines, which Swiss is a part of. Since there was a Lufthansa flight departing before our Swiss flight, the check-in counter was open and the check-in agent did not say anything about the 3 hour rule and checked us in.
With our boarding passes in hand, we headed to the north entrance to security but we were told that all premium class passengers need to enter through the south entrance. Once we got to the south security check entrance, the lines looked deceptively short, but it took us an hour to get through security. The “premium line” had absolutely no effect in speeding us through. From what I could tell, the regular lines were moving faster than the premium line. It also did not help that the security line that we were in had to call in the “experts” to take a look at the x-ray of a bag of one of the passengers ahead of us. It is times like this, I wish I had booked with United so I could use TSA Pre Check which I get through my Global Entry, but unfortunately United does not fly to Copenhagen.
Once we were through security, we headed directly to the Star Alliance Lounge. At the check-in podium of the lounge, we were given See’s Candy and a small card to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Alliance. We found seating at one of the high top tables near the food buffet. While the lounge looks exactly the same as when I visited 2 years ago, the food on the main buffet has improved in both variety and quality. I don’t think they could fit more items onto the buffet even if they wanted to. I made myself a plate and poured myself a glass of champagne to wash it down.
My parents and my grandmother made themselves some noodles from the noodle bar while I went around filming and taking pictures of the lounge. This was the first time, I had a video camera with along with my usual camera. I really don’t know how others do it but it was really cumbersome for me to both film and take pictures. I went through the lounge first with the video camera, filming in 4K, and then I went through again with my camera taking still shots.
While the lounge has not changed since I first visited in 2014, none of the furnitures looked nor felt outdated or worn. Air New Zealand, who manages the Star Alliance Lounge, seems to be doing a good job in cleaning and maintaining the lounge in top shape. I did not see any paint chips or dings on the walls which are common sight at lounges that are not well maintained.
Since my first visit to the Star Alliance Lounge in 2014, I have been ordering a mojito at the lounge bar. The mojito was advertised as their special drink the day I visited in 2014. Back in 2014, the bartender prepared my mojito with fresh mint and lime all properly muddled to release the essential oils from the mint and the lime before adding the rum and club soda. I ordered the same drink in 2015 when I visited and also during today’s visit. It is not easy to find a bar or a restaurant that makes mojito’s with fresh mint anymore. Most will use a mint flavored syrup and just garnish with a tiny piece of mint leaf.
About 30 minutes before boarding time, we gathered our belongings and headed out to the gate. While departing the lounge, the attendant at the podium asked if we wanted more See’s Candy and gave us a handful of the single piece boxes. As we were walking to our gate, we met up with the Swiss crew who were also heading to the aircraft to prepare for our flight to Zurich. Since there was still some time left, I went around the terminal taking pictures of the aircrafts parked around our gate. Unfortunately the gate where our aircraft was parked was terrible for getting a good picture of the aircraft that we would be flying on for the next 11+ hours.
Shortly before boarding time, Lufthansa employees came by with placards with row numbers for economy class passengers to line up behind. First and business class passengers lined up at the gate just behind the boarding pass scanner podium. After a short wait in the boarding line, boarding commenced starting with the first class passengers followed by business class. After my boarding pass was scanned, I walked down the single jet bridge which being used to board the plane.
Once at the aircraft door, the purser looked at my boarding pass and directed me to the correct aisle and told me to turn right. There was also a flight attendant on the jet bridge. Not not really sure what his role is but on our return flight, there was a flight attendant in the same position. I found my seat and after fumbling to film with both the video camera and the regular camera, I put my backpack up in the overhead bin and sat down. My grandmother joined me shortly after boarding with my parents. Both of my parents sat in the middle row while my grandmother and I sat on the right side window and aisle seats.
At each seat, a bottle of water and amenity kit were waiting along with pillows and blankets. Headphones in sealed plastic bags were hanging on the hook with the clothes hanger. Shortly after we sat down, one of the flight attendants came by with pre poured pre departure drinks. I chose a champagne and my grandmother went with an orange juice. Menu’s were distributed on the ground along with hot towels. I would have thought the hot towels would be distributed before meal service but I guess Swiss likes to do things a little differently. The hot towels were the flimsy small kind which I think are meant to be single use.
Once everyone was boarded and counted, we pushed back and the mighty GE90 engines came to life. Once both engines were powered up, we taxied to the southern runways for takeoff. Currently, one of the southern runways is closed and only the one furthest south is used. While waiting for takeoff, my vide camera ran out of power so I had to switch to my regular camera to record the takeoff from LAX.
Once we were up in the air and the flight attendants released for their jump seats, inflight service commenced with orders for dinner taken by one of the flight attendants. The gentleman sitting behind my grandmother and I in one of the “throne seats” must have been someone with high status with Mileage and More, since the flight attendant took his order first before going through the cabin front to back taking orders for the main course. My grandmother and I both got our first choice which was the beef. The drink trolley followed shortly. I ordered a glass of the Swiss White Wine which the flight attendant served with a ramekin of nuts and also a glass of water.
The purser came by shortly to place white tablecloths on the tray tables. I think the order should be switch around and the tablecloths put on the tray tables before the drink service. If one is sitting in one of the throne seats, there maybe plenty of space to place the drinks and nuts on the two center tables, the two seaters just did not have enough space without using the tray tables so my grandmother and I had to try and hold up two drinks and a ramekin of nuts so the purser could place the table cloth our tray table. Also, since the tray tables come out and slide across the center console before lying flat, I felt that we were constantly moving our drinks and ramekin around to not spill anything.
The flight attendant who took our meal orders came by with the cart containing the meal trays and appetizer. She took out both appetizers on offer tonight to show us what they looked like before asking us which one we would like. My grandmother and I both went with the dried beef appetizer. After placing our trays along with the appetizer on our tray table, the flight attendant presented the bread basket for us to choose a bread. The basket also contained butter and olive oil along with a small container to pour the olive oil in. While the salad looks a little sad in the picture, this is due to the lighting in the cabin. The salad was crisp, fresh and tasted great with the oil vinaigrette.
Once I was through with the appetizer, one of the flight attendants promptly cleared the plate away. My wine and water glasses were also constantly refilled throughout the meal service. Neither glasses ever went down more than half way before being refilled. the bread basket also came by multiple times throughout the meal. Halfway through the meal, I decided to change from wine to Diet Coke. I’ve been drinking since the lounge and it was starting to have an effect on me.
After the drink change and refill of bread, it took a bit longer before my grandmother and my main courses were hand delivered. The beef was a little overdone but still tender and flavorful. The main course was definitely plated and nicely arranged vs just a heat and serve meal. The potato was was nice and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I skipped the two peppers that came with the main course. The sauce for the steak, which covered the whole bottom of the plate was plentiful and delicious. It went well with both the steak and the potato.
Once I was finished with my main course, I nibbled a bit on the cheese on the cheese plate but other than finishing the grapes, I left most of the cheese other than poking at it. One of the flight attendants walking by cleared away my tray once she saw that I was finished. After what seemed like quite a bit of time since my tray was cleared away, the dessert course arrived, which was cheesecake with fruit garnishes. I had a cup of coffee to go along with my cheesecake.
As soon as I was finished with my dessert, the plate was promptly cleared away and was shortly followed by Swiss Chocolates which the Purser brought around the cabin. When I asked him if it would be ok to snap a picture of the box of chocolate, he promptly presented a new untouched box of chocolate for me to take pictures of. After taking couple of shots of the box of chocolate, I grabbed three pieces of chocolate from the box. I finished up the rest of my cup of coffee with the chocolate pieces. By the time I had finished the chocolate and last drop of coffee, three hours had passed since the meal service started. Both my mom and dad skipped dessert and went to bed and I barely made it through the whole meal service without falling asleep.
Service was flawless but three hours of meal service seemed a little excessive. From what I could tell, the vast majority of the business class passengers had the same idea as my parents and decided to sleep instead of waiting for the full completion of the dinner service. As soon as the table cloth and remaining drink glasses were cleared away, I reclined my seat into sleep mode to go to bed. While I was fidgeting around getting comfortable, a male flight attendant who I had not seen during the flight so far, came around handing out bottled waters to business class passengers.
While the seat was 180 degrees flat, it was not very comfortable to sleep in. I did doze in and out but even though I was tired and sleepy, I kept dozing in and out due to the uncomfortable pressure points on my back. After couple of hours had passed in a semi sleep state, I got up and went to visit the bathroom, followed by the galley to see what was available for snacks. A cart, was setup with snack items and bottled waters. I grabbed a nut mix just before heading back to my seat.
Since sleep was elusive due to the uncomfortable seat, I decided to browse through the inflight magazine, which contained information regarding Swiss fleet towards the back of the magazine. I spent the rest of the flight until the lights were turned on for breakfast, trying to get comfortable by playing with the different recline settings of the seat. The pillow that was provided was not very big or plush so it did nothing to help with getting any rest. This was completely opposite of the best sleep that I had ever had on an airplane which was on United’s Business First cabin last year to and from Lima Peru.
About 90 minutes before landing, the LED lights were set to gradually brighten for breakfast service. No tablecloths were used for breakfast service. A tray with empty plates and other service items were placed on my tray table followed by drink orders. I went with coffee and orange juice. While dinner service started from front to back, breakfast started from the rear of the business class cabin. Shortly after getting my meal tray and drinks, the other flight attendant who was operating the trolley with the breakfast food, came to our seat and explained what she had on offer. My grandmother and I both had the cheese and cold cuts along with a bowl of muesli topped with fruit salad and finally a cheese omelet served with spinach and tomato. We were also presented with the breadbasket with contained assorted breakfast pastries. I along with my grandmother grabbed a croissant. The flight attendant looked at me and asked: “Thats it?” She looked quite disappointed that I was only having one pastry so I grabbed a chocolate croissant as well.
The breakfast food items all tasted great. While I was eating my omelet, the flight attendant who served my grandmother and myself came by with the muesli and offered me more which I gladly accepted. Surprisingly, while the omelet lacked in the presentation department, it was really good! I was so full with the second serving of muesli and all that I could not finishing everything including the second piece of bread that I took to make the flight attendant happy.
Once I was done, my tray was cleared away and I began to gather up all of stuff that I took out during the fight and put them back into my backpack for landing. Shortly before announcements were made about landing, the Purser came by and asked my grandmother if she likes chocolate. She nodded yes and the Purser presented my grandmother with a unopened box of Swiss Chocolate as a gift. The gift was a complete unexpected surprise and my grandmother thanked the Purser profusely for the thoughtful gift.
Inflight service concluded with one final hot towel service before the cabin was prepared for landing in Zurich. It was really overcast over Zurich during landing but there was no turbulence and the approach was very smooth, but the landing itself was the roughest landing that I have experienced so far flying. Taxiing to the E terminal was quick and in no time we were parked at the gate ready to disembark the aircraft.