One week, five airlines.

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  • rferguson

    I recently had a little get away from Manchester to Paris, Dubai and Madrid and thought i’d share the experience with you.

    The first leg of my journey was on Air France from Manchester to CDG. This was the only sector for which I purchased a staff travel standby ticket thinking that the flight would be quiet. I was wrong. The airlines are adapting capacity to demand and three daily A319/320 flights had become two daily E190 flights. When I checked in, the ground agent advised she couldn’t give me a seat straight away as the flight was oversold by two. But reassured me that there is ALWAYS a good amount of travellers with the incorrect paperwork unable to travel. Literally as she was saying this, a traveller at the next counter was advised his handwritten UK issued vaccination card was not acceptable as proof of vaccination.

    Lucky for me when I got to the gate the gate agent handed me a boarding pass – for 1A no less. The vacation was starting well. There were four rows of business class in 2×2 configuration exactly the same as economy. I was the only person in row 1. I imagine that the Purser had seen on his iPad I was staff and he very sheepishly passed me a small bottle of water during boarding. Cute.

    After take off, the Purser at the front of the aircraft went straight to the back. I assumed to help the other flight attendant working in the rear before heading back to Business Class and handing out some kind of quick snack box there. Nope, the rear curtain stayed closed for the entire flight. Not even water was passed out to any passengers anywhere on the aircraft. We landed on time at a remote stand and a bus took us to arrivals at 2E. I had handbaggage only and there were no lines or hassles at immigration.

    The next evening I flew Ethiopian Airlines CDG – ADD – DXB. There was no lounge access at CDG (ET had been relocated from T1 to T2E temporarily). CDG – ADD was on the A350 and ADD – DXB was on the 777-300. Most of ET’s A350’s still have 2x2x2 full flats although a couple have 1x2x1 seating. All the 777-300’s have 2x2x2 full flats. I was welcomed on board with a glass of champagne. I had seat 1A and the seat next to me remained vacant which IMHO is a better result than a 1x2x1 deal. The odd thing I found about the service on ET is they do not have printed menus. I’m all for this provided there’s some other means to access the options – IFE or MMB or an app. But no. The crew basically ask ‘do you want beef, chicken, fish or pasta’. You’d be there all day if you wanted to know what cut of beef, what was the chicken served with etc. I opted for the fish and it was a good choice, salmon with vegetables. The food was great, no trays, tables individually laid up and food plated. There was a smoked salmon starter (which was un-mentioned during the meal order) and also a choice of salad or soup. Service was well paced and there was the option of ‘breakfast’ before landing which I skipped. From what I saw it was just a pastry anyway.

    We landed on time in ADD and I headed to the Cloud 9 lounge. I was really impressed with the lounge. Modern, airy, plenty of food options plus the highlight – a traditional Ethiopian Coffee service. The ADD – DXB flight featured an older hard product but I still found it very comfortable and fortunately the seat remained free next to me again. The service was actually a little more elaborate on this four hour flight than on the longer CDG-ADD sector I guess because of the timing. For example, there were pre dinner drinks.

    From DXB – ZRH I flew Swiss. I had never flown Swiss before and was looking forward to experiencing their product. I have to say – overall I wasn’t blown away. Everything seemed very ‘basic’ and a little cheap if i’m honest. The crew were lovely yet overwhelmed. And the service was not well thought out at all.

    The flight was on an A330 with 45 seats in business class. During online check in I was fortunate enough to nab a ‘throne’ seat which LX usually charge a hefty amount to pre book. I had access to the Ahlan lounge in DXB which I have to say was excellent. Way better than the closed Lufthansa lounge offerings.

    This flight departs DXB at 01:25. And arrives in ZRH at 06:15 with an airborne time of around 6hrs. Not unlike BA on similarly timed short overnight flights they offer a light snack after take off followed by a ‘room service’ style ordered breakfast. My goal was to sleep, so I indicated i’d have neither. I thought that the idea would be to maximise the sleep of customers but I was wrong. The lights stayed on the entire first service, meal carts out in the aisle and with only three crew serving 45 J class passengers (they were later joined by the Purser) the service was SLOW. A whole two hours before landing the lights were again turned on. This time for breakfast. The clatter or trolleys in the aisle again so in the end I though i’d might as well give up on sleep and have breakfast. Not overly impressed at all.

    I then flew ZRH – FRA again in Swiss J. The crew were again incredibly friendly. The product was – meh. A tiny tray with the tiniest little half sandwiches you ever did see. But, the flight was only about an hour.

    I spent the night in FRA catching up with friends before flying LH from FRA – MAD. Firstly, the scenes at FRA airport were shocking. Immigration lines of inbound passengers that would honestly put LAX or JFK to shame. Thanks to my TP gold card I was able to access the Senator lounge but the offerings were sparse. Packaged fruit and snacks, not much ‘real’ food. On my way to the gate I passed the LH Business Class lounge. I’m not exaggerating when I say there was a line of at least 25 people to get in there. When I got to the gate there was an announcement that boarding would be delayed by approximately 20 minutes with no explanation. After a while boarding started and I took my seat in 2A. Once boarding was complete the captain advised we were still waiting on a pushback tug. After around twenty minutes we were finally on our way. It was an 09:30 departure and breakfast was served. It was actually pretty decent. There were printed menus. Breakfast was served on a large tray with a starter of cold cuts and cheese, some fruit, and a hot choice between ‘hearty egg dish’ or crepes.

    I completed my necessary last few days of quarantine in Madrid before flying home on Iberia on the direct flight to MAN. I think the IB lounges are pretty good and the one in the 4S terminal that serves UK flights has also now reopened. The flight trumped AF – the crew actually came through economy with glasses of water. There was no food or beverage for sale on board – it had to be pre-ordered.


    Seven sectors in one week, fantastic achievement and great to read that such itineraries are possible and without any major delays and or cancelations. Out of interest, how many (if any) covid tests did you need along the way?

    Many thanks for sharing….


    rferguson, please don’t take this personally but this is a general question for reflection.

    In 2021, while we hope (but cannot be sure) that we have left the worst of the pandemic behind and in the light of evident climate change issues across the globe, is it responsible to take seven flights through multiple airports in such a short period of time for what appears to have been discretionary travel?

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    I’d agree with you on the Swiss (ex DXB) experience. I feel the interion in Business on the new(er) 777 which are mainly used on the USA routes is a better hard product. the A330s being used on DXB route are quite dated and the can be a bit worse for wear.

    In the past Ive flown to DXB with Swiss ex ZRH on a 2 person promotion for all in €1800 in total which is just about what this experience is worth.

    Service can be a bit hit and miss.


    rferguson, please don’t take this personally but this is a general question for reflection.

    In 2021, while we hope (but cannot be sure) that we have left the worst of the pandemic behind and in the light of evident climate change issues across the globe, is it responsible to take seven flights through multiple airports in such a short period of time for what appears to have been discretionary travel?

    Is it responsible? Maybe not. Is going to a packed bar or club in the UK reponsible at the moment? Probably not. Is eating meat five time a week responsible? No. Drinking too much booze, smoking cigarettes, speeding….

    I am a bit of a sad old git. The one thing in life that gives me more pleasure than anything else is getting on a plane. For some people it’s booze, others drugs, for many an excess of food or sex. For me, my ‘drug’ is travel. And i’ve been deprived of my fix for a year and a half now. So, do I feel guilty about being irresponsible and going on a bit of a binge? Not ONE little bit. Not one. I’ve worked exceedingly hard during the pandemic as a nurse and for me this was a huuuuge treat.


    Tom, after due reflection and consideration my belief is that rfergusion did absolutely the right thing in taking advantage of circumstances and taking this holiday.
    However what annoys be almost beyond forbearance is that the opportunity did not come my way.


    I have no problem with this. In 2020 I went through 15 countries across 4 continents, did a transatlantic roundtrip in a day, and many other things through 2021.

    Let people enjoy their lives.

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    Thank you very much for your trip report.That’s a fun itinerary and i’m very glad to hear the connection worked out. More importantly though i hope that you got to get a much needed relaxation.

    So Swiss & LH currently have a great sale from Spain to Sao Paulo for just about €900 in business class so i booked BCN-ZRH-GRU-FRA-BCN and the positioning flight from MUC.
    3wks ago i flew Swiss ZRH-GRU and service was perfect. F was full and just 8 Seats were empty in business class. Full dinner service was finished about 90mins after take-off. I was impressed. The crew was fantastic as well.
    My problem with swiss continues to be the seat. A few years ago i flew J for the 1st time on the A330 and found the seat so thin. I thought to myself that it was probably very old and left it at that. I didn’t sleep well.
    This flight to Sao Paulo was on the 777 and i found myself extremely uncomfortable too. I’m 176cm and weigh about 71kgs but damn is that seat uncomfortable. The pillow was also so thin so i had to use the light jacket i had too. The pillows and blankets on the unoccupied seats had already been grabbed by other passengers.

    I also found myself constantly hitting the edges of the seat when turning. At this point i’ll be actively avoiding LX on long haul not unless i’ve no intention of getting any sleep.

    On the return leg i flew Lufthansa to FRA on the 747-8 and that seat + the thin Mattress LH provides are heaven compared to the LX bed.

    I’m i the only one that finds the bare bones of the Swiss J seat leaving much to be desired.


    If ‘handwritten UK issued vaccination card was not acceptable as proof of vaccination’ how do you get a non-hand-written one?


    @rferguson, thanks for this and I’m glad to read that you enjoyed your travels. I was a bit surprised to read that in AF on the E190, no inflight service at all was offered to passengers in either business or economy. How recently was that flight? I have flown on AF with work a few times recently in April, May and June and the on the last AF E170 flight operated by Hop from CDG to EDI the standard business class meal was offered. Have to say have also taken a few AF flights in business between AMS and CDG during those months and on these it was only drinks and a packet of chocolate covered nuts.


    Interesting report RFerguson, thanks. Like you I can’t wait to travel by air again (it’s been 10 months now) and it looks like it will finally happen next week flying CPT-FRA-MXP with LH.

    I fully agree with what you say about Swiss’s product. Brilliant crew but a very dated cabin far surpassed by the like of Emirates and Qatar. Waking everyone up for breakfast is a nightmare, and at least LH take orders after takeoff the quietly and discreetly serve breakfast to those who have requested it turning on only the overhead seat light.

    After what you wrote I’m now dreading going though Frankfurt. When Mrs. LP came down in March, she went to the (empty) Senator lounge where there was tea/coffee and some cake and sandwiches. When going back to her seat an attendant rushed up to her telling her she had to eat outside the lounge, which really made a nonsense of the whole thing. She was traveling in First but there was no First class lounge and no priority boarding. She was the only First passenger along with two other large German businessmen. She followed them to the very crowded gate and prepared to join the queue when one of the Germans suddenly shouted out (in German) “make way, make way, First class passengers coming through”. She meekly followed them as the crowds obediently parted as if it was Moses crossing the Red Sea!!

    I’ll let you know our experience next week.

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    @barelybagold – yes, it does seem an oddity on my AF flight to receive no catering at all. Reading other online reviews, AF seems to have resumed service onboard short haul flights. To be honest the Purser could have made a PA about lack of catering before I boarded. I was literally the last passenger to board as was on standby.

    – sorry, forgot to answer your question upthread about COVID tests. I had one PCR test the day before leaving MAN for CDG (£70 for same day). As I was only spending one night in Paris this test also covered me for CDG – DXB. When I arrived in DXB I was tested on arrival (PCR). There is no charge for this. I was dreading a huge wait as they were swabbing 300-odd from my flight but I can honestly say i’ve never seen such efficiency. It was so quick. I didn’t need a COVID test at all to enter Spain from UAE as a vaccinated tourist. In Madrid I did a lateral flow test (25 euros). And of course I purchased my day 2 post arrival PCR (£37).

    – Yes, Swiss was a disappointment. I was expecting ‘Swiss efficiency’ and it was anything but. I don’t understand the concept of taking a meal order for pre arrival breakfast before departure if you are simply going to wake up the entire cabin anyway. The pillow and blanket were really disappointing too. They just don’t seem to get the ‘night flight’ concept. Which is odd as the service flow has obviously been designed with maximum sleep in mind. I hope your FRA experience is better on the day you travel. Looking forward to hearing about your travels.

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