More Service than Space: Zurich to Hong Kong on Swiss LX138

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As you may expect for two important finance hubs, Swiss (and indeed Cathay) link Hong Kong to Zurich with a daily flight. I recently travelled on this route in economy class.

At the Airport

Getting to Zurich airport from downtown Zurich was a cinch, as one would expect with Switzerland’s pricy but excellent public transportation system. I had already been issued a boarding pass on an earlier leg of the journey, which as well as the Swiss logo carried those of Lufthansa and Austrian, all owned by the Lufthansa group. This was rather ugly in my view.

Security was deserted so I was through in a matter of seconds. The boarding pass indicated that the plane would leave from the E gates. The first couple of floors in Zurich airport to get to gate E were fine, but once the duty free chocolates and watches dried up, the look of the place became more industrial and it was a long hike – many escalators, a short train ride, a long walk inside the terminal and so on. The place felt depressing, was very busy and badly designed – the ladies’ toilet had a long queue outside, while to get to the gents’ toilet one had to walk upstairs. The passport control had long queues, although these moved fast. Overall, though, the airport experience in Zurich was time consuming and charmless.

Equipment

The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER (registration number HB-JND).

The seats themselves were comfortable enough, with a pair of earphones and sizeable though scratchy pillow on the seat upon boarding. The overall décor of cabin and seats was fairly neutral and gave the cabin a comfortable, cosy feel.

The seatback screen was a good size. The entertainment system had a fair though not enormous range of international choices as well as a lot of Swiss ones. There was a USB socket although mine did not seem to work. The earphone socket was under the screen, which made the already cramped space less functional, as whenever an attendant gave or removed something to my seatmates my cable was in the way.

The seatback literature was separated from the pocket, which meant that the pocket was empty. I think this is a good idea as it makes it less likely one would leave something in the pocket by accident without noticing it.

The ten-abreast seats with a narrow pitch made the plane feel crowded – my right arm kept touching my neighbour, while my left arm kept getting touched by people in the aisle. My seatmates woke me up from what had been a pretty deep sleep to get out to the toilet. I was in seat 36H, which as a back row seat in that part of the cabin meant I could recline comfortably without annoying anyone behind me. But there was for much of the flight when I was awake outside of meal services a queue of passengers for the toilet, beside my seat.

Flight

The economy class cabin was completely full as far as I could see – ditto the business class cabin when I walked through it. The passenger mix had a lot of Europeans – probably more than half of them, to look at them.

We pushed back from gate 35 a little behind schedule, had a very smooth flight and arrived at gate 26 in Hong Kong around twenty minutes ahead of schedule.

Service

The crew in economy seemed all to be Swiss. They were fairly young, friendly, enthusiastic and helpful. I was impressed by their professionalism.

Shortly after takeoff they distributed menus and then the meal and drink service, combined, came in rapid succession.

I woke up when they were collecting wet towels a couple of hours before breakfast. They then served breakfast and later served individual Swiss Frey chocolates prior to landing, which is a signature element of Swiss flights.

Food and Drink

The cabin crew distributed a small paper menu shortly after take off.

The high quality of the food and drink on this flight was what made it stand out for me. There were only two options for the first meal and one for the second, and the presentation was middling. But all of the elements of both meal were perfectly cooked – moist enough without losing  firmness, and with an ideal texture. I cannot remember a better pair of meals on a long-haul flight in economy class. The drinks choices were also good, with generous quantities. I had the meat option for the main meal, but Swiss’ vegetarian options are generally highly regarded.

There was a fair amount of Swiss provenance on display, though the miniature bottle of red wine with my dinner was a Pays d’Oc.

Conclusion

This flight was good in terms of service and excellent meals, but it felt cramped.

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