ZRH – JNB – GRJ

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  • LuganoPirate
    Participant

    Finally made my first flight since mid March when we came back from South Africa.

    Mrs. LP drove me to a deserted Zurich airport. Only the desks were open and less than a third were manned. Bit of a queue for security even for the premium lane but took no more than 5 minutes.

    Straight to the lounge through an almost empty duty free shop and an empty concourse. All the shops, cafes and restaurants were closed.

    Lounge in A was about half full, and they had set aside a section for F and Senators, but no-one checked who went to sit there. Before entering you had to disinfect your hands and they had set up a one way system in and out. Normal food and drink selection. I was there about 40 minutes before heading off to the gate.

    Departure was from “D” as the “E” terminal was closed (as were all the other lounges in A).

    During my walk I passed not a single person. Straight up to immigration and to the gate where boarding had started. Despite lanes for Business and Gold’s no-one seemed to take much notice and it was a general melee with some people distancing and many not. However, to travel to South Africa you needed a negative C19 test so i guess we were all Covid free??

    And here treatment was the same for all – no matter class of travel. I was in Business as F was full, and am actually glad I did not spend the extra since all the benefits on the ground had been eliminated.

    Now the strange thing. A bus pulled up with LX288 on it, and we all had to board the bus. About 50 of us. We were all masked but impossible to social distance, though I stood by a seat and the door and stuck my bag in such a way only one person could stand behind me. I just wonder why Swiss, with all their commitment to hygiene etc did not provide 2 buses, or at least board us at a gate – after all there were plenty of empty gates available.

    We then drove about 5 minutes to the plane and boarded via the stairs. I waited at the foot of the stairs till they were clear so I could just walk up and one. Seat 4A in the small cabin behind First, and we all had to keep our masks on throughout the flight, and only remove them for eating and drinking. Normally I don’t eat on the flight, but as it was a 1650 departure and you could remove your mask, I took everything but did not touch it.

    The flight had a total of 50 pax on a 340 seater 777 and while normally I look forward to an empty flight, this was very sad. The hostess told me on her last flight to New York, there we only 7 pax!!

    I managed a few hours of sleep before landing at 4am (ugh) to a deserted JNB airport. I was among the first off and just before immigration was a port health official. He checked the C19 cert. and took the health declaration before allowing me to join the queue – of 5! From aircraft to exit took just 10 minutes – a record. The airport was empty, all restaurants were closed and with a 7 hour wait I decide to see if i could get a deal at the Intercon just opposite. I paid more than I wanted but it was the best thing I’ve done. I had a good 5 hours sleep, a shower and chnage of clothes.

    Back to the airport at 1015 for my 1110 flight with Safair. Health declaration presented and through security. No queue. I then popped into the Bidvest lounge for a glass of water and a tea, and then off to the gate. I had priority boarding and there was a seperate queue, so it was very fast. Safair allow you to pay to block the middle seat for R.750 which I did, but I think I was the only person who did so as the flight was full and I could see no empty middle seats. A large “Blocked Seat” sticker was fixed by the hostess to my middle seat.

    It was my first time with Safair and I was impressed. More legroom than Kalula (now in business administration) and easy to book and keep the middle seat free. If and when Kalula fly again I’ll now fly Safair instead.

    I arrived to an equally empty George Airport picked up my Hertz car and headed home. I hope this will be of some help to those considering travelling to South Africa? All in all though I was not looking forward to the journey, but in the end it passed well and without incidence and 4 days later, I am, touch wood, still – no i won’t tempt fate by saying it 😉 😉

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    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Now the strange thing. A bus pulled up with LX288 on it, and we all had to board the bus. About 50 of us. We were all masked but impossible to social distance,

    Is anyone able to explain why full bus to aircraft is used instead of direct boarding from a gate in this situation. Agreed in normal times, a gate would cost the Swiss more than a remote stand, but from a practical Covid 19 protocol, why cram 50 people onto a bus?

    Glad to hear another forum member has managed to fly long haul. Your comment LP:

    “The flight had a total of 50 pax on a 340 seater 777 and while normally I look forward to an empty flight, this was very sad. The hostess told me on her last flight to New York, there we only 7 pax!!”

    …..is indeed very sad and makes one wonder how on earth the major airlines can continue flying (even with cargo) with such low passenger numbers.

    5 users thanked author for this post.

    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    …..is indeed very sad and makes one wonder how on earth the major airlines can continue flying (even with cargo) with such low passenger numbers.

    She also told me that it’s thanks to freight they are carrying that makes the flight profitable. It seems air freight delivery is up more than 10 fold. Swiss have a near daily LX288 flight to JNB, but only once a week – Thursday – carrying passengers.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    She also told me that it’s thanks to freight they are carrying that makes the flight profitable. It seems air freight delivery is up more than 10 fold. Swiss have a near daily LX288 flight to JNB, but only once a week – Thursday – carrying passengers.

    Indeed LP.

    Earlier this summer I reported on the growing number of airlines who were operating passenger-cargo flights.

    Lately matters have developed with a number of airlines who, with such low passenger volumes, are gaining revenue from cargo.

    A prime example of the latter is how the Gulfies are operating those flights to Australia which are restricted to carrying very few passengers. Hence not only do they sell high value tickets (most seats sold are for business class) but they also gain from carrying freight.


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    A prime example of the latter is how the Gulfies are operating those flights to Australia which are restricted to carrying very few passengers. Hence not only do they sell high value tickets (most seats sold are for business class) but they also gain from carrying freight.

    Yes Alex, I had a wander round the aircraft as I’d developed a leg cramp (first time ever on a plane!) and First was full, Business I’d say just over half full and in Economy you could count them on two hands – literally. People were stretched out in rows to themselves and separated front and back by at least one row in each direction. If you could be sure of that seating, you’d have to question if its worth paying for business?

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    SimonS1
    Participant

    The point about freight is certainly true. In 4 flights in last month (London-Dubai-Nairobi return) the flight has been held right up to departure to ‘load remaining freight’.

    However on every flight I enjoyed the ‘new business’ experience of 4 seats to myself. All for £527 return.

    What I thought would be a test of endurance at airports was actually a most pleasant and near deserted experience. Nairobi particularly surprised me. Strict social distancing on the buses, and every shop/office/mall etc I entered had a compulsory hand gel and temperature check.


    cwoodward
    Participant

    Cathay Pacific has temporarily removed most economy seats from a number of B777 aircraft and is using the space for freight. These aircraft are multiple daily flying to AU and NZ and there is a new daily flight also to Pittsburgh which is not a normal CX destination. These aircraft are also to other CX destinations and I suspect also to the UK.


    SenatorGold
    Participant

    Is anyone able to explain why full bus to aircraft is used instead of direct boarding from a gate in this situation. Agreed in normal times, a gate would cost the Swiss more than a remote stand, but from a practical Covid 19 protocol, why cram 50 people onto a bus?

    Out of interest, why does a gate cost more than a remote stand? I know there are some airports, e.g. Entebbe where the gates never seem to be used and I’ve wondered if that was a cost thing. At one time, at Dubrovnik BA would never use a gate even when available in preference for a remote stand.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Out of interest, why does a gate cost more than a remote stand? I know there are some airports, e.g. Entebbe where the gates never seem to be used and I’ve wondered if that was a cost thing. At one time, at Dubrovnik BA would never use a gate even when available in preference for a remote stand.

    Presumably ANY airport service making the passenger experience more efficient, costs someone. Airport car parking is no different to aircraft parking. Closer and easier access to the terminal, incurs higher parking costs.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Out of interest, why does a gate cost more than a remote stand? I know there are some airports, e.g. Entebbe where the gates never seem to be used and I’ve wondered if that was a cost thing. At one time, at Dubrovnik BA would never use a gate even when available in preference for a remote stand.

    Yes it is a “cost thing.” Hence LCCs use bus transfers as much as they can.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    SimonS1
    Participant

    Out of interest, why does a gate cost more than a remote stand? I know there are some airports, e.g. Entebbe where the gates never seem to be used and I’ve wondered if that was a cost thing. At one time, at Dubrovnik BA would never use a gate even when available in preference for a remote stand.

    Yes it is a “cost thing.” Hence LCCs use bus transfers as much as they can.

    I think in practice there are many reasons, cost included. Locos like to use front and rear stairs, which gets the aircraft emptied and boarded more quickly.

    Also in some places remote parking means no need for a tug, plus jetties don’t cope well with smaller aircraft (I don’t think I have every seen the jetty at Gaborone used since the new airport opened).

    Sometimes in fact you get a combination of both….like Nairobi – disembark on a jetty, down stairs onto a bus which then takes you to arrivals area in a different part of the airport.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    DavidSmith2
    Participant

    Fortunately, at Accra, I have always boarded via a walkway for longhaul flights (London, Jo’burg). Some of the regional carriers have a bus transfer. I don’t know if their costs are more reasonable, or whether, with a 747, it would be worth the extra cost anyway?

    Still planning to fly to London in mid-December if UK lockdown permits, for 3 days. THis time it should be an A350 though so we’ll see what that brings!

    2 users thanked author for this post.
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