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In January I took a trip to Europe to meet up with some friends and tour the Airbus factory in Hamburg, Germany. Also on the agenda was a trip to Miniatur Wunderland, a model/RC world that has multiple regions, including an airport. Right around the time I was planning this trip was when United announced that their Newark-Hamburg flight would be changing to a seasonal schedule. The flight would disappear from the winter rotations two days before my departure.

My backup plan was to fly Portland-Chicago-Munich-Hamburg. For the return, we would be riding with a friend to Berlin and I would take Berlin-Newark-Chicago-Portland as my routing home. I put Chicago in on the return because it got me home a few hours earlier, though it turned out to almost be a really bad decision (more on that later).

United recently started rolling out their Polaris “soft product”, or their onboard service, and even more recently have had their plane with the new seats flying some domestic routes. I had the opportunity to try both the Global First version of the Polaris soft product as well as the business version.

The day before I was set to leave, Portland experienced a record snowfall, making the city come to a hault. Worried that there would be no way for me to get to the airport, I called United and asked if they could put me on the same flights a day later. After a brief hold I was confirmed in business class a day later. I would miss the Airbus tour with my friends, but at least I would get there. One little quirk was the fact I was rebooked not in R-class, the fare bucket reserved for GPU upgrades, but D, a full fare business class bucket, which allowed me to apply another upgrade certificate for United’s Global First product.

I woke up on the morning of my flight to find that the train I typically take to PDX was only running part of the route due to a derailment of another train. I rushed to get ready and get on the streetcar to the closest stop that would connect me to the airport. After a bit of waiting of sub-20 degree weather a train showed up, taking me to the transfer station for the airport. Lots of people looked confused as they were using two trains to go back and forth between the airport but because of that they were using a platform that isn’t well marked and rarely sees action.

Arriving at the airport about two hours after I left home, I had about an hour until my flight boarded so I printed out my boarding passes, because United’s printers at PDX still print on cardstock rather than heat paper, making this aviation geek very happy. I went through TSA PreCheck in a few minutes and was buying a cup of coffee just moments later. I walked up to my gate right as boarding was starting. No de-icing was needed but we did have a delay getting out of PDX for some reason. My original plan was to visit the new Polaris lounge in Chicago but that plan was quickly dashed with what turned out to be a tight connection.

Finally up in the air, I settled in for the four hour flight to Chicago O’Hare. The flight attendants were friendly and lunch service was started shortly after we reached our cruising altitude. I chose the beef option and I’ll let the picture do the talking. It was barely edible. I ended up having a few bites and avoiding the rest, figuring I would eat when I got into Chicago.

Saddest inflight lunch to date.

After the meal service I got a little bit of work done and read before we landed in Chicago. As we taxied to the gate I checked my connection and noted it was on time still, giving me 15 minutes to get to the gate. I made it off the plane, through O’Hare’s neon tunnel, and up to my next gate in about 10 minutes and realized there was no plane parked at our gate, even with a huge line of people already queued for boarding. Turns out we were going to take an hour delay in Chicago but United never posted it until 10 minutes after our scheduled departure. Guess I did have time for a visit to the Polaris lounge. Instead I chatted in the gate area with a friend who happened to be traveling on the same flight but was continuing on to Budapest.

We finally boarded and I made my way to seat 1K, a window seat in front of the pilot rest seat, where I found this.

Yep, a storage compartment was non-functioning. And that wasn’t the only “inoperative” sticker on the seat, another bin did not work in the storage area closest to the window. Disappointing but not a deal breaker.

The new Polaris inflight amenities were stacked on the seat and my first conundrum was figuring out where to put it all. I settled on the foot rest.

After settling into my seat a flight attendant presented the flight’s menu and an amenity kit and asked what I would like to drink.

I asked for a glass of champagne and it was presented a short time later with a chocolate on the side, which is a nice touch. The setup for the plastic champagne cup does seem like it could be easy to knock over with the slightest bump, so United may want to take a look at making it a little more stable on the base.

Since we were delayed quite a bit, I decided I would eat a regular dinner, figuring the entire service would take around two hours. The flight attendant came around to take orders and I decided to have the beef option, a braised short rib with grits and fava beans in a bordelaise sauce. It sounded interesting and slightly different than what United has previously offered in business class. I know, from what I’ve read, the Asian Fusion Chicken Soup is pretty good, but my goal was to see how previous entrees had been spruced up.

After takeoff the single flight attendant serving the first class cabin (five seats occupied with passengers, one by a pilot) came around to offer beverages and he seemed a little disappointed that I only wanted another glass of champagne and sparkling water. The addition of San Pellegrino to the Polaris menu is definitely a welcome change. A short time later the linens were set and a starter of black pepper tuna was offered. It was rather flavorless and the side of quinoa was a confusing addition.

Next up was the carrot ginger soup, which I passed on. I was not really in the mood for soup and was hoping by skipping it the service would speed up a little bit. It did not.

The salad course was next and it was full of fresh greens and carrots. A nice change from previous salads I had tried on United which tended to be less than fresh and in some cases, still frozen.

My main course was delivered shortly after my salad plate had been picked up and another round of wine and drinks was on offer. The short rib was cooked pretty well and the grits had decent flavor to them but the dish overall seemed bland. The fava beans were flavorless and the sauce on top of everything just did not seem to hold up to the altitude.

By this point we were almost three hours into the flight and realized that business class had been completely served while first class still had the cheese and dessert courses to go. I opted for the cheese course because after reading reports, I wanted to see just how much of a downgrade it was and wow, it was disappointing. On pre-merger United planes there was not enough space for the cheese serving dishes so the cheese service had always been lackluster. Served on a single plate with a single serving of crackers and maybe a piece of fruit, I frequently skipped it. On pre-merger Continental the cheese service was actually pretty good. There was usually a nice selection of cheeses, decent fruit options, and an ample serving of crackers. The Polaris service is definitely in the vain of the pre-merger United way of presenting the cheese course. Three types of cheese, none with enough flavor to really warrant a second bite, a sad pile of grapes, and a single package of crackers were put on the tray table. After a few bites I decided I was done.

I skipped dessert, hoping to at least get a few hours of sleep. I asked for one of the new gel pillows and hit the button to put the seat down into a lie-flat position. I really like the new, bigger pillow in tandem with the gel pillow. And the new duvet is a definite welcome addition. I ended up sleeping through breakfast and woke up feeling pretty good. Ironically, there was a blizzard hitting Munich as we approached and ended up holding for another 45 minutes before finally touching down.

My connection in Munich was tight but because the snow had closed the airport temporarily I walked through immigration and straight onto my connection to Hamburg. No time for a shower, but at least I wasn’t stuck.

Overall I think the soft product that United is offering onboard now is an improvement to what they used to have. The new diningware and glassware was a needed change, so I am glad they opted to go with something a little more modern and simple. Besides there being just a ton of stuff on the seat when you arrive, the bedding is a fantastic change. I value sleep the most on long flights so improving the pillows and blankets makes sleeping a little easier. On the ultra longhaul flights United is even offering pajamas now, so I’ll write an update when I get a chance to try those. Lastly is the food. I think it was a mixed bag. The service took way too long and I don’t know if that was because the flight attendants were new at it or if it is intended to take that long. It also seemed odd that the entire first class cabin was served by a single flight attendant. He seemed to do everything, between prepping the food and serving it, he seemed like he was simply trying to keep up. From now on I will opt to eat in the Polaris lounge or in the airport terminal rather than sitting through a 3+ hour meal service when I could be sleeping. Food quality was decent and I think the meal I was served out of Berlin on my flight home (which I will cover in part two) was better. Reading other reports, some people receive great meals while a lot of folks have similar experiences to mine, mediocre food with rather bland flavors. Rotation of menus is something United has promised though and that’s definitely a welcome change.

There is also the new seat, which is available on the 777-300ER that United will soon be flying between San Francisco and Hong Kong and Newark and Tel Aviv. That seat is all-aisle access and will definitely be a nice change for people traveling alone and has the potential to offer a more restful flight since no one will be climbing over you in the middle of the night.

Stay tuned for part two where I’ll talk about my business class experience on Berlin-Newark-Chicago-Portland.

After our move to Portland last year, I decided to match my United 1K status to Alaska Airlines. At the time, there were rumors that Alaska was matching top tier statuses from other airlines with their Gold 75K status, so I gave it a shot. A few weeks after submitting the match I received my credentials in the mail and sure enough, Gold 75K was what they gave me.


Since then I have not had much of an opportunity to fly on Alaska. Most of trips early in the year were to places they don’t fly or where their prices were not competitive. But recently Alaska Airlines has started offering flights between Seattle and Milwaukee and it has been perfect for my work trips. The flights are operated by Skywest using Embraer E-175s, a regional jet that doesn’t feel like a regional jet. They can hold normal sized carry-on bags in the overhead bins, they have tall ceilings, and for most carriers, they have a first class cabin.

My first trip on Alaska’s new Skywest E175 service was a return from Milwaukee to Seattle on the second day the flight operated. I had been upgraded to first class shortly after booking. The only seats available were the set of two in the bulkhead. Not my favorite seats, but I was not going to complain. At the airport, there was an agent helping customers use the kiosk as well as two agents helping at the counter to check bags and print boarding passes. All were very friendly and seemed excited about the new service. I arrived with a little more than an hour until boarding but with PreCheck, I was through security and at the gate very quickly. Not much more waiting and they were already announcing boarding for families with children under two and those needing extra assistance. Then active duty military were called and first class. Walking onboard I got a good whiff of “new plane smell” which, I have to say, is like new car smell just a bit more expensive.

The flight attendants had already placed small Dasani water bottles at every seat and were greeting passengers as they boarded. They both seemed excited about the new planes, the new service, and just happy to be there. It was refreshing. The plane did not take long to board and we pushed back from the gate right on schedule, the captain telling us it would be right at four hours until wheels down in Seattle. I was actually seated next to a pilot who explained that for the first few days of service, Alaska and Skywest were flying an extra crew to operate the return flight just in case there was a storm or other delay that would cause the original crew to time out and cancel the flight. He was gracious and answered all of my questions about the E-175 and the Skywest service for all of the different carriers. It seemed like he enjoyed his job and was happy to be able to fly the E-175 for multiple carriers now.

Shortly after takeoff the flight attendant visited each passenger, asking them what they wanted to drink and whether or not they would be having dinner. I asked for an Alaskan Amber and mentioned that yes, I would be having dinner. I expected to hear choices for dinner but none were presented. A short time later and the Alaskan Amber and plastic ramekin of nuts was delivered (the nuts had been heated). A little while later and the dinner was placed in front of me. The meal consisted of a sandwich, in this case chipotle chicken, a salad, and a cookie. The meal was ok. I am not a fan of those sandwich rounds used for the bread but other than that, it was fine. I will say that I found the portion to be a little small for a flight of four hours. United, on Chicago-Portland in first, serves a large portion meal followed by an ice cream dessert.


On the next flight I took, Seattle to Milwaukee, the meal was a similar sandwich and salad affair but the sandwich was a “Cuban”. I put it in quotes because it had pickles, cheese, and ham but that’s about where the similarities between what I ate and a what Cuban sandwich is end.

 
Let’s talk about the seat for a minute. It’s a simple first class seat with a power outlet for each passenger. The headrest is adjustable and the recline is nice. Other than that, it’s a basic seat. There is also supposed to be WiFi and streaming entertainment but neither of these have been available on any of the flights I have been on, though I am told it is definitely coming.


Overall, Alaska’s E-175 offering is a great option to get from the Pacific Northwest to Milwaukee. The food leaves a little to be desired but it’s non-stop from Seattle (I do wish it left a little earlier) and the operation seems to be pretty solid. I have taken thes flights between Seattle and Milwaukee about 5 times so far and the only inconsistency I’ve noticed is in the flight attendant service. I think this will work itself out once they are used to operating for Alaska on the E-175s, but there were a few times where the crew did not know how to operate some of the equipment or handle the service. Definitely nothing that is a deal breaker for me. I am just happy to have another option where I do not have to connect through Chicago.

 

I have never been much of a writer of airline trip reports. Most flights, I end up not keeping track of a lot of the details, food options, and interesting tidbits. However, on my most recent trip to Prague and Berlin, I decided to take a few pictures and keep a few notes from the experience. The trip was done in United’s recently revamped BusinessFirst cabin as well as their domestic first class cabin and Brussels Airline’s economy cabin.

Austin-Chicago

The first segment of the trip was Austin to Chicago on a United Express CRJ-700 (operated by GoJet Airlines). These aircraft feature a small first class section as well as Economy Plus. These aircraft do not have any entertainment so I spent the flight reading and watching a couple of shows on my phone. They also do not have ovens so the crews do not serve meals in first class. Instead, first class customers are given a snack box that contains things like Rondele Spreadable Cheese and Milano cookies.

We actually ended up arriving in Chicago about 30 minutes early, but things went downhill from there. I knew something was up when we taxied to the “penalty box” and sat for about ten minutes. The pilot announced that we were a little too early and were just waiting for a gate to open up. These kinds of things happen and I was not too worried since we still had a decent amount of time to make our connection. But we sat. And sat. And sat. Over an hour later we made it to a gate and were deplaned. While I stood on the jetway waiting for the gate check bags to arrive I overheard our pilot talking to the rest of the crew about the plane that was occupying our gate and the circumstances for our delay. Apparently, the previous aircraft’s pilot was claiming a maintenance issue as a form of protest against a new pilot contract with United. Whatever it was, it forced us to run to our next gate and come very close to missing our connection.

Chicago-Brussels

Our Chicago-Brussels segment was operated by a pre-merger United 767-300. We were seated in the business class cabin which features lie-flat seats in a forward/backward configuration. United has recently renamed business class “BusinessFirst” which is what business was called on Continental Airlines. I had picked the backwards facing 6A and 6B because the reviews I had read stated that they were fairly quiet, being just behind first class and the furthest seats from the mid-cabin galley. The first thing I noticed when I walked on-board was the attitude of the crew. Every single crew member had a smile on their face and were greeting each passenger as they boarded. That was a good sign of things to come.

United BusinessFirst on the 767-300

United BusinessFirst on the 767-300

After settling in, the flight attendant offered us champagne, water, or orange juice and handed us each an amenity kit and a dinner menu. The new United amenity kits are slightly smaller than what Continental provided but bigger (and better) than what pre-merger United offered. The skin care products are by philosophy and are a welcome change.

My expectations for plane food, even in business class, are relatively low. I know that making a gourmet meal at 35,000 is a near impossibility and do not keep any illusions that the meal will be amazing. What I do look for is something that is edible, fills me up, and has some element of flavor. The main courses for this flight was as follows:

Grilled Pork Chop – Green peppercorn sauce, shiitake mushroom bread pudding, white asparagus, and broccolini

Osso Bucco-style Breast of Chicken – Chanterelle mushroom ragout, garlic polenta cake, and broccolini

San Francisco-style Cioppino – Seared hake and grilled shrimp in tomato-seafood sauce with mixed vegetables

Spinach Cannelloni – Four cheese sauce and roasted tomatoes with Parmesan cheese

None of the options really jumped out at me so I decided on the grilled pork chop. The quality was about what I expected. The meat was a little overcooked but the sides were quite good, particularly the mushroom bread pudding. I had trouble taking pictures of the food due to the low light in the cabin, so I have not uploaded a lot for this part of the trip.

United Airlines BusinessFirst Pork Chop

United Airlines BusinessFirst Pork Chop

After finishing the main course, the flight attendants came around with the cheese carts. The selection was ok and I picked a few that looked good. Looking at my watch I realized that service was going on hour three and I really needed to get some sleep since we would be landing in five and a half hours. I passed on the ice cream sundae service, made my way to the restroom, and changed into my Lufthansa pajamas from our trip to Germany a couple of years ago. I converted the United seat to a bed, put in my earplugs and pulled on my eyeshades, and slept for close to five hours.

When I woke up the crew was preparing to serve breakfast so I changed back into my jeans and shirt and prepared all of my carry-on stuff for arrival. When the breakfast tray came it consisted of the normal transatlantic breakfast, yogurt, some fruit, and what was essentially a plate of cold cuts. I think this is really where United could improve its BusinessFirst service. First, the fruit was close to being inedible. The pineapple was turning brown and the rest of the fruit was melon. Throw some strawberries or grapes in there. Second, why serve cold cuts? I know it’s more substantial than the croissant that used to be served but it’s just as underwhelming. I just decided to eat the yogurt and pass on everything else.

Before we had left Chicago I had spoken with the purser about arrival service in Brussels. He let me know that he would contact the airport staff there and ask that they meet me when we deplaned. When we arrived, there was a United employee waiting at the aircraft door. He asked what it was we needed and when told about the shower quite bluntly said, “we only sometimes provide that to United Global Services members” but added that I could talk to the United employees at the ticketing desk. I knew we had to exit security anyway to make our connection so I told the employee thank you and walked to the ticketing desk.

I greeted the ladies working the ticketing desk and described what I was looking for, the arrival shower service that United offered to their business class customers. At first I received a couple of weird looks, then they told me that this was a service that they only offered to Global Services members and even then it was rare. Now, I had spoken with a couple of United employees before the trip and both had assured me that there was arrival service for BusinessFirst travelers. Since this trip, I’ve been told that Brussels screwed up and I should have been given a room at the Sheraton across the street from the airport.

Anyway, back to the trip. Since it was now clear that getting a shower would be a near impossibility, we looked for a deserted restroom, gave ourselves a “sink bath”, changed, then found the luggage lockers and locked up our bags, and headed into Brussels via the train.

Four Hours in Brussels

When I booked this trip, the most desirable connections to Prague were also the most expensive, leaving us with a six hour connection in Brussels. Not wanting to spending that time hanging out in the airport, we paid the 10 Euros each to take the train into town.

We visited the Grand Place and the Mannequin Pis (who, oddly, was dressed up for the Fourth of July), but most importantly, we paid a visit to Poechenellekelder, a great little beer hall with outdoor seating. We enjoyed a couple of Belgian beers before realizing how tired we were from only five hours of sleep and decided to head back to the airport.

Mannequin Pis - Dressed up for the 4th

Mannequin Pis - Dressed up for the 4th

Brussels-Prague

We knew that we would have to check our remaining carry-on due to European carriers being much more stringent regarding the size of luggage brought on-board. After the most efficient check-in and security experience I have ever had, we were walking to the Brussels Airlines lounge in the “domestic” Terminal A. There are a number of lounges, including an SAS lounge, controlled by a single access point. We were given the option of visiting any of the Star Alliance lounges and opted for the Brussels Airlines one just to see what it was like. On entry we were handed two WiFi cards that were good for one hour of access each. Besides the great tarmac views, the lounge was rather stagnant. All of the lounges share a bathroom located near the security desk. After reading other reports on the lounge, it definitely seems that the SAS lounge would have been a better choice.

About ten minutes before boarding, we walked to the gate and waited. Being in coach on this segment, I figured it would be the normal boarding scrum that we have experienced on carriers like Lufthansa and Austrian. Surprisingly, Brussels Airlines made a call for business class passengers and Star Golds. We made our way to the gate and were allowed to board before the rest of the plane. Nicely done Brussels Airlines!

The flight itself was uneventful. Brussels Airlines charges for just about anything, including water, unless you are in one of their two premium products (Economy.Flex and Business). We landed in Prague a few minutes early and received our bags at baggage claim and start our adventure in Prague.

Up Next…

In the next installment I’ll give you a quick tour of Prague, express my love of Berlin, and show you what the BusinessFirst product looks like on United’s Boeing 757-200s.

This is second half of this trip report.

After a few weeks exploring all of Germany it was time to make our way home. The last city we visited was Munich and we would begin our trip home from the city’s airport, Franz Joseph Strauss International. Our return journey was slated to be MUCZRHJFK/EWRAUS. The long-haul Swiss flight, ZRH-JFK, would be on one of Swiss’s newly retrofitted Airbus A330-300s. It is the only aircraft in their fleet to be fitted with their newest first class seat.

Swiss

One thing I failed to mention in the previous post was the fact that Swiss is actually a Lufthansa subsidiary and operates as a separate airline. As such, the ground services, onboard product, food, and lounges are very different from each other and it is obvious that Swiss is catering to a subset of the Lufthansa market.

Munich’s Franz Joseph Strauss airport sits a good 45 minutes away from the city by train and at €10.80 is one of the more expensive airport trains out there (I’m looking at you London Heathrow). Once inside the airport, Lufthansa handles the check-in and baggage movement for Swiss and as a first class passenger on their subsidiary, one is entitled to use the Lufthansa first class check-in, security checkpoint, and lounge. Check-in was fairly smooth, though there was a slight problem with Jessica’s ticket, but it was fixed and the agent was very apologetic. Security was just as smooth, though I did experience something I’ve never seen before. One of the security officers stopped me, had me remove my camera from it’s bag, take a picture and prove that a photograph was taken. While over the top, it makes more sense than taking a giant x-ray of me.

After a slight chuckle over that fun experience we walked to Lufthansa’s first class lounge and were promptly greeted and given a quick tour of the facility. We were also informed that since our flight would be leaving from a remote stand a car would be arranged to take us to the flight. The lounge is noticeably smaller than the first class terminal in Frankfurt but the same amenities remain. We decided to have breakfast in the restaurant and enjoyed a number of items, including their granola and yogurt, and eggs cooked just the way you like them.

Around 10:00am a Lufthansa assistant came and escorted us to the car, a Mercedes S-Class. A five minute drive later and we were at the aircraft with the driver taking our hand luggage onboard for us. This was a short flight, maybe right at an hour from gate to gate but Swiss managed to serve a continental style breakfast and I think the flight attendant was a little disappointed that I was not hungry and passed on the offering.

On arrival in Zurich we walked up some stairs and followed the sign to the Swiss First Lounge. It’s a modern, bright, and airy facility that one does not have a problem envisioning as “Swiss”. There are not as many amenities as the Lufthansa lounges but there is still a restaurant, a full service bar, a self-serve bar, showers and bathrooms. The check-in procedure to the lounge is a bit strange, you show the attendant your boarding pass and then they ask you what time you want to proceed to your flight. Not knowing what to expect I chose the second to last time available.

A couple of hours later and we headed to the desk where the agent told us to be at our designated time. We were five minutes early and the agent said they weren’t ready yet and asked if we could come back in a few minutes. This struck me as odd but we went and sat down for a few more minutes before once again walking back to the front desk. This time there was a driver waiting for us and another couple and she escorted us down an escalator to a security checkpoint. Our luggage was checked and then we were escorted to a van that took us across the airport and dropped us off outside of a second checkpoint. So we were able to skip the train ride (that is inside of security) and instead undergo two security screenings? Something just seems weird about the way Swiss has that van system set up.

About fifteen minutes later we were boarding the aircraft. A friendly Swiss flight attendant greeted us and asked if she could help us with any of our items. A few minutes later and she was back with an amuse bouche and a beverage. The amuse bouche consisted of poached leeks, a lightly fried cheese, and a savory torte. My stomach was already getting excited for what was to come.

Pre-departure Amuse-bouche

Pre-departure Amuse Bouche

The new Swiss seat is a great way to fly. It has a large ottoman and an enormous video screen. If you are in the middle section there is a large divider that can be raised to separate you from the person next to you. With only eight people in first, it is a very private cabin with a very personal feeling service.

SWISS First Seat

Swiss First Class Seat

SWISS First Legroom

Swiss First Class Legroom and Entertainment

Our flight was right on time and after a climb that gave some impressive views of the Swiss Alps the flight attendants were quickly going through the cabin making sure that every passenger was taken care of. A set of pajamas were handed out in case we wanted to nap and the same flight attendant asked us if we’d like to dine together. On Swiss’s aircraft, the first class seat’s ottoman also has a seatbelt that allows it to be used as a second seat for dining with your travel companion. The table was then set and lunch service began, with large menus being distributed.

Table Setting

Swiss First Class Table Setting

Appetizers

Appetizers - Balik Salmon, Watermelon Gelatin, and Venison

Salad

Salad Course

The first two courses were great and I was having to pace myself. The flight attendants are constantly doing their rounds, filling up wine glasses, asking if we’d like more of a particular item, and just making sure everyone is happy. The soup was a cold gazpacho and it was flavorful, with a bit of heat at the end. For my main course I had chosen a Swiss specialty, Schnitzu. It is essentially schnitzel but the Swiss use pork rather than veal and bread it more delicately. Alas, they had only loaded two of that dish on board so I decided to have the rack of lamb instead. It was good, though a bit dry.

Chilled Gazpacho

Chilled Gazpacho

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

By far, my favorite course of the meal was the cheese course. The selection of cheeses was fantastic and the gruyere choice was particularly tasty. It was tart with that pungent bite that I love and I enjoyed it so much the flight attendant saved some for me for just before landing (I’m sure the immigration officer at JFK loved that).

Cheese Plate

Cheese Course

The dessert course was nothing spectacular, a chocolate cake with raspberry mousse. It was flavorful and sweet and topped off the meal, but it was not something I vividly remember like the gazpacho or the cheese course.

Around the time we made landfall over Canada the flight attendant offered us ice cream and I gladly accepted, along with a cappuccino. The inflight entertainment system is loaded with a disappointing selection so I made due watching Wall-E. There is a hook-up for your iPad or iPod but you need to have an s-video connector as they only have one on-board for the first class cabin. When they came around with pre-arrival snacks, the flight attendant brought me more of that gruyere that I was so enamored with and I thanked her.

We landed right on time at JFK and that was pretty much the end of the Swiss experience. There is no escort from the plane to immigration or holding back of other passengers. I didn’t really care as we were still some of the first folks off of the plane and only had a ten minute wait at immigration.

Overall, I would say that Lufthansa’s ground handling, especially at their hubs, outshines Swiss without question. Swiss’s new first class seat definitely beat Lufthansa’s old style first class seat, though with Lufthansa receiving new first class seats fleet wide I’m sure it will be a dead heat between the two. Food wise, there were things I liked about both airlines but I thought Swiss’s presentation was better and enjoyed my meal on them more than Lufthansa. Both crews were equally fantastic and I never had a moment where I felt the service lacked on either flight.

If you are looking for a way to spend miles in the Star Alliance and especially if you want to spend some time in Europe either to or from Asia, it is a great value for a great experience.

If you are looking for some help with a reward booking or want more information on the Swiss or Lufthansa products, feel free to contact me.