Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

Flight Log: December 2009: LX64

Zurich (ZRH) - Miami (MIA)

I boarded the Airbus A330 via Door 2L and took the short walk to Seat 3K. Although this was my first and probably only time on a Swiss A330-200, a type in the process of being withdrawn from service, I already knew that the First Class cabin contained three rows of four seats and therefore occupied the whole of the space between Doors 1 and 2. I was immediately struck by several other differences compared to the A340. As well as the additional row of seats, the cabin had a much darker appearance, the dominant colours being deep shades of brown and blue. Further, the attractive presentation area at the front of the A340 F cabin, where open bottles, an ice bucket and snack items are usually left, was absent in this layout. I fairly quickly decided that I preferred the A340, but didn't in any way allow the thought to spoil my anticipation of what was to come.

The friendly cabin crew quickly introduced themselves, hung my jacket and offered newspapers, magazines and a welcome drink. I enjoyed a glass of the Cuvée Louise 1998, which was soon supplemented by a selection of pre-take off snacks, comprising a sauerkraut pastry, a piece of goat's cheese and a rather yummy scrambled egg mousse with crispy venison pieces. Due to extra screening at the gate in the wake of the recent incident near Detroit, boarding of the remaining passengers was slow and we were nearly twenty minutes late in pushing back. Despite the massive interchange that takes place at Zurich every lunchtime, with aircraft departing en masse for most points on the network, take-off followed quickly thereafter. As we made our way out to Runway 16, the Captain welcomed us on board, apologised for the delay and made the TSA-mandated announcement forbidding the forming of standing groups during the flight.

As we climbed out of Zurich, the cabin crew wasted no time in getting service underway with a round of hot towels. I raised my eyebrows a little when I noticed that the next move was to set the tables. "Surely another libation is called for first," I thought to myself. I needn't have worried. Apparently that was the plan, but the intention was to set the glasses down on the tables rather than squeeze them into some unoccupied corner of the side console. In any event, I had a further serving or three of the Pommery, with some nuts to nibble on. As all this was taking place, I discovered another most unwelcome difference compared to the A340: no AVOD! The in-flight entertainment - both audio and video - played on pre-set cycles and could not be started and paused on demand. Disappointing, but it couldn't be helped.

In the initial stages of the flight, we passed over Fontainebleau, Chartres and Bayeux in France, taking our leave of Europe by overflying Jersey. As the starters trolley made its appearance in the port aisle, my mouth was already watering with anticipation, so while we await its arrival on the starboard side, this is perhaps a good time to share details of the menu:

Selection of appetisers:   Pommery Cuvée Louise 1998 

Smoked trout mousse


Turbot and porcini terrine with tandoori king prawn


Breast of quail with mushroom duxelles and pickled pumpkin 

  Adrian Mathier Cuvée Madame Rosmarie Mathier AOCV 2008, Valais, Switzerland (Petite Arvine, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner)

Dried bean and tomato terrine

  Fournier Pere et Fils Grande Cuvée La Chaudouillone 2006, Sancerre, Fance (100% Sauvignon Blanc) 
Loch Fyne smoked salmon fillet    Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand (100% Chardonnay) 
Parsnip and apple soup    
SALAD    Jean René Germanier Cornalin AOC Valais, Valais, Switzerland (100% Cornalin) 
Selection from the salad trolley     Château Bahans Haut-Brion 2004, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France (73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc) 
    Sarmento Vineyard Sequana Pinot Noir 2007, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, USA (100% Pinot Noir) 
Roast fillet of beef with black walnuts, Ricola herb and red grape jus, Valaisian pie with leek, apple and cheese    DESSERT WINE 
Corn-fed chicken breast, apricot cream sauce, Valaisian rye-flour potato gnocchi, winter vegetables   Albert Mathier et fils SA Ermitage Flétrie 2006, Valais, Switzerland (100% Ermitage) 
Pan-fried fillet of John Dory, grilled scallop, saffron sauce, squid ink linguine pasta, blanched lettuce   Grahams Tawny Port 10yrs, Douro, Portugal
Mushroom stroganoff, potato roesti and broccoli    
Choice of vegetables     
Selection of Swiss artisan cheese     
Toblerone trio    
Gommer Tätere - flan with coriander seeds, Tarocco oranges, condensed milk ice cream    
Sprüngli chocolates and pralines     
Espresso and a selection of coffees and teas     

I didn't have too long to wait. As ever, the trolley was beautifully presented and I decided to sample the trout mousse, the terrine and - of course! - the delicious Loch Fyne smoked salmon. Departing slightly from the menu order, I then had a very acceptable salad (freshly mixed on the trolley) and then a helping of the soup. I'd chosen the fish main course and this also proved to be most agreeable, accompanied by a glass of the Sancerre. I then declined the offer of dessert and went for a selection of the cheeses, washed down with a glass of port. Finally, I rounded off the meal with a cappuccino.

While I had certainly enjoyed my previous experiences of on-board dining in Swiss F, I nevertheless felt that the airline had managed to raise its game even further on this flight, the quality of the food matching that offered by parent company Lufthansa. I wondered whether it was simply a consequence of this being my first experience of Swiss F ex-Zurich, the airline's home base. One notable event during the course of the meal occurred when a cabin crew member said to me, in a friendly manner: "Can I just ask, are you taking the photographs for a magazine, or just for your own use?" I replied, perhaps over-informatively, that I certainly wasn't doing it for a magazine, but that they were likely to show up on my website. I figured that it couldn't possibly do me any harm, in terms of the already high standard of service being maintained! "OK, thanks - good to know!", she replied.

With the lack of on-demand movies, I couldn't be bothered trying to fit in with the inflexible fixed cycle and instead amused myself by listening to some of the audio programming, reading and playing the interactive games. There was an ice cream round after a decent interval had passed, but I didn't partake. As the seat-belt signs came on over Newfoundland due to mild turbulence, I won £1 million on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. If only it had been for real! I had a light snack of apple juice and some crisps at one stage, then promptly proceeded to win another million. I was obviously getting greedy! For the record, the menu gave the choice of snacks available as:

Selection of soups    
Seasonal salads    
Swiss cheese    
Fresh fruits    

As we proceeded ever further down the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, the time inevitably came for the second meal.

Pan-fried veal escalope, balsamic jus, polenta bramata, rataouille
Salsify quiche with truffle oil
Selection of sweet delights

It seemed that only one other passenger had ordered anything and the crew member appeared a little desperate when she reached me. She seemed genuinely relieved when I asked for the schnitzel and persuaded me to try a little piece of the quiche as well. I confined myself to drinking tea with this light meal, in view of the fact that there was a rental car waiting in Miami with my name on it. I agreed to complete a survey form.

All too soon, it was time to tidy up the cabin for arrival and settle into our seats to watch the red sunset over Florida. With the turn onto final approach occurring just off-shore from South Beach, I got a pretty good view of the area that I would be spending the next couple of nights in. Touchdown was at 1806 local time and it didn't take overly long to get parked up at the allocated gate.

Overall, as alluded to above and as reported on the survey form, my verdict was definitely favourable. Despite the larger F cabin, the less agreeable colour scheme and lack of AVOD, this was my best Swiss experience to date. The food was of the very highest standard and was matched by truly wonderful service from a friendly, dedicated and thoroughly professional cabin crew team. What a superb way to end a year filled with some unforgettable Star Alliance flights!

Date: Mon 28 Dec 2009
Aircraft : Airbus A330-200
Scheduled dep : 1305
Actual departure : 1323
Scheduled arrival : 1750
Actual arrival : 1813
Cabin : First
Seat : 3K

Linked reports from same trip: -

Miami Beach

Florida Gulf Coast

Flight Log: UA922