Roger Federer does it. Madonna does it. And even Snoop Dogg does it!
These are just a few millionaire celebs who take to the air on Swiss International Air Lines - in the forward cabin, that is. The business and economy cabins are shared among people like you and me. And this spring, it was Newly Swissed's turn to experience the airline of Switzerland firsthand!
Our journey started the night before take-off as we checked our luggage at Zurich Airport. The pre-flight luggage drop came in very handy because we were going to take the train to the airport on the day of departure. And the last thing we wanted was to haul those suitcases full of Swiss souvenirs on public transportation...
— Newly Swissed (@newlyswissed) May 15, 2014
The purpose of our trip was to cover the ingenious Zürich Meets New York festival. In between events, we would talk to the Swiss community in the Big Apple about their experiences living abroad. And one big surprise visit to the top of a famous landmark was still looming... But more on that later!
And so we ventured through customs at Zürich Airport - Newly Swissed style!
At gate E, our excitement peaked as we spotted the airplane that would take us across the Atlantic. Call us geeks, but there is something really cool about these large "birds"! Alas, the shutter on our Canon DSLR camera barely got a moment to rest...
Of course, the life of a travel blogger requires constant connectivity. "Wait! Just one more tweet before boarding..."
— Newly Swissed (@newlyswissed) May 16, 2014
Boarding Call for Newly Swissed
A generous assortment of Swiss and international newspapers and magazines was available prior to boarding the plane.
Sure, your author is quite obviously a digital native. But nonetheless, I still appreciate a good old newspaper or an interesting magazine for my long-haul flights. (In fact, I am the first to notice when an airline cuts back on those free publications, so just in case, I will bring my own...)
SWISS Taste of Switzerland
Every month, the meals served in the business class cabins are inspired by a different Swiss canton. Lucky us: Our flight was during the month of Appenzell, a canton known for its unique traditions.
It felt like a bonus that even some of the snacks and beverages in coach were inspired by Appenzell - including the popular Quöllfrisch beer and the feisty Appenzeller cheese. Other Swiss products included butter from Floralp and ice-cream desserts from Mövenpick!
When I ordered bottled water, I thought that the flight attendant asked a very "Swiss" question: "With or without?" As anyone who has lived in Switzerland would know, she was inquiring whether I preferred water with or without carbonation (I chose "with").
Above the Clouds with Bligg and Baschi
"Swissness" can not only be found in the food, but also in the entertainment choices on the personal LCD screen. There are music channels featuring Swiss artists like Bligg or Baschi. A number of recent movies and documentaries with Swiss ties helped us pass the time aboard LX 018.
I watched "More than Honey" (highly recommendable), the drama "Am Hang" (surprising ending) and a hilarious comedy act by Divertimento, Gate 10!
The many entertainment choices on SWISS surely must have contributed to the repeated nominations by World Travel Awards... Or could it be the notion which Mamiko summed up nicely as we deplaned at Newark? "On SWISS, the journey is the destination!"
The Empire State Building
Once in New York City, one of our highlights was the visit to the Swiss International Air Lines headquarters. This is also the surprise I mentioned above, because the office is located in no other Manhattan skyscraper but the Empire State Building! What a cool address to have, right?
After meeting with Thabea, the General Manager of Marketing for the Americas, she suggested we take a look from the top. As you can imagine, yours truly did not hesitate for a second!
Thanks to the airline being a tenant of the building, we received a special treatment and were allowed to skip all the tourist lines...
— Newly Swissed (@newlyswissed) May 21, 2014
Breakfast à la Carte
On the way home, the business class on the SWISS Airbus A330 was something else. Having never had the privilege of an upgrade before, I was stunned by the sheer amount of legroom (a luxury on an airplane). And by the many smaller extras: Each seat has a built-in massage function, as well as several settings for lumbar support. Did I mention beverages served in drinking glasses made of, well, glass?
We were very happy with the courtesy of the flight crew and the quality of the food in economy. But that was before my return leg in business class...
Sure, the flight crew was equally friendly and attending. But one "classy" sign of courtesy made all the difference: I was personally attended and addressed by last name.
When it came to ordering breakfast, I felt like a newbie: In business, the breakfast is actually à la carte! So at some point after dinner, a crew member stopped by to take my breakfast order. Everything from fresh fruit to breads or müesli can be requested. Choices, choices...
When I woke up after a brief but deep sleep in the stretched out lounge seat, there was my breakfast. I suppose that the meal was not quite as excellent since the catering for our flight was done in the US (where is my Nespresso when I need it?). No complaint here, as this was still much better than any breakfast I had ever tasted on an airplane.
Before I knew it, the captain announced the impending landing in Zürich. And I have to confess: Hearing the announcement in Swiss German made me feel all warm and fuzzy... There is something special about being greeted in the native tongue after a trip abroad.
Back in Switzerland, a Warm Welcome
A hot towel was handed out prior to landing, which was a really nice touch (no pun intended). Maybe it is the reflex of a travel blogger, but the dormant smartphone was switched on right away in order to sync all the social activity we had missed during the night...
And guess what? While en route from JFK to ZRH, SWISS social media had sent this very personal welcome tweet:
— Swiss Intl Air Lines (@FlySWISS_US) May 23, 2014
Without trying to sound overly cheesy, thanks to the experience on SWISS, we learned the true meaning of the proverb "Time flies when you're having fun"...