CHECK-IN I checked in online for my 0850 flight from London Heathrow to Zurich at swiss.com and chose seat 27A, just behind the wing on the A321. Most of the other window seats had been taken, especially the ones in the middle and towards the front of the aircraft. I then printed my boarding pass. (Swiss passengers can check in online up to 23 hours before departure.)
I took a taxi at 0520 to Paddington station from where I caught the 0555 Heathrow Express train service to Terminals 1, 2 and 3. (Trains depart every 15 minutes and a standard single ticket costs £16.50. From November 1, free onboard wifi was introduced for all passengers.)
It is quite a long walk (about 12 minutes) to the check-in area at Terminal 2, where this flight departed from earlier in the year. However, Swiss moved to Terminal 1 in June, where check-in counters are situated in Zones F and G. I checked in my one piece of luggage at 0630, and the clerk printed me a new boarding pass after taking my print-out. I then headed up the escalators to security. There was a bit of a queue, but I didn’t have to wait longer than about seven minutes to get through. I was in departures by 0645 and decided to kill an hour by drinking coffee and reading in the Caffé Nero upstairs.
BOARDING Boarding was scheduled for 0805 but the gate didn’t appear on the departure screens until 0825. At 0835 I made the eight-minute walk to Gate 9, and at 0850 passengers in rows 20 to 37 were called for boarding. A good selection of free newspapers was available for all passengers by the entrance to the plane, and I helped myself to a copy of The Guardian.
THE SEAT I was in my window seat (27A) in good time, being one of the first to get on board. On this A321, seats are upholstered in Swiss’s smart pale grey leather, and are configured 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F) across both economy and business, although the middle seats in this class are kept free.
Economy seats have a 30-inch pitch, 18 inches of width and a 4.5-inch recline. Business class seats offer a little more space, with 32 inches of legroom, 20 inches of width and a six-inch recline.
On this occasion, business class occupied rows one to eight, with row nine just in front of the exit, being for economy. Small overhead screens displayed the flight information, and estimated time of arrival, which was 1102.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? On this flight, row ten was in economy, so seats in this row would have been a very good choice as they are by the exit and are configured 2-2, meaning they offer more privacy for people travelling with a companion and plenty of extra space to stretch out in. (Seats in row 25 also offer these benefits.) Middle seats, as usual, are best avoided as don’t offer direct access to the aisle or views out of a window. If you want a window seat, avoid those in rows 15 to 22 and they are above the wing. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the back of the plane tends to be the noisier and bumpier and those sitting here will tend to be served food and drink last. However, on such a short flight, simply choosing your preferred window or aisle seat is your main priority.
THE FLIGHT The plane started taxiing at 0925 and take-off was at 0940, meaning we were running 50 minutes late. The captain came on to announce that the flight would take 65 minutes, and at about 1000, free refreshments (tea, coffee, orange juice, water and croissants) were brought around.
ARRIVAL Landing was at 1055 (1155 local time) and the process of disembarkation, immigration and baggage collection went smoothly. I was shortly in arrivals and heading for Zurich airport station on the lower level. Trains run frequently and the journey to the city centre only takes about ten minutes.
VERDICT Although the flight was 50 minutes late, it was a good value-for-money service – Swiss is a great airline for skiers, being one of the only carriers not charging extra to check in skis*.
* Swiss allows one set of winter sports equipment (A or B) free of charge. (A: one pair of ski boots, one pair of ski sticks, one pair of skis. B: one snowboard, one pair of snowboard boots.)
PRICE Internet rates for return economy class flights with Swiss from London to Zurich started from £97 in December.