LCY-GVA-PRG-ZRH-LHR 21 June-23 June 2011 on Swiss by Bruce

My team’s quarterly meeting was in Prague this week. Several direct British Airways flights from LHR, but I wanted Star Alliance miles and I also wanted to arrive into PRG before noon so that I could catch a 14:00 walking tour. The only option was a 06:50 departure from LCY (London City) on LX (Swiss). Because it takes me 2+ hours to get to the other side of London, I spent the night at a Travelodge near the airport and was able to walk over and arrive at 06:15 for the 06:50 departure. Security was magnetomers only. Swiss-like timeliness – boarding was organized. No jet bridge, we walked 20 yards to the Avro RJ100. I had 8F with no middle seat passenger. Surprisingly quiet, despite being right next to the engines. Good legroom. The seats on the right side seemed to be installed too far to the left. There was a three inch gap between the arm rest and the wall which made for really comfy leg and shoulder room.

In flight service was a pre-wrapped muffin and a drink tray with water, coffee, wine and Coke or Diet Coke. We landed 10 minutes early under sunny skies and were shuttled from the aircraft to the terminal in a bus. Swiss immigration took 10 minutes, followed by a long walk to the other part of the terminal. I made a quick stop for souvenirs and then a bus to the plane. It turned out to be the exact same aircraft and the same crew. And my same seat!

We pushed back on time and were wheels up a few minutes later. In-flight service was a cheese sandwich (not individually wrapped) with same limited drinks. After cleanup, the crew passed through the aircraft with a chocolate basket. Swiss Air-labeled chocolate bars. I greedily took two and saved one for the Mrs. We landed in Prague 15 minutes early. There was no immigration and I was out to the taxi stand a few minutes later.

For the return, I went with the electronic boarding pass option. I arrived PRG at 13:45 for 14:50 departure. Very quick security took only two minutes with six baggage scanners open and three magnetometers. The combined SkyTeam/Star Alliance lounge was open with salads sandwiches and and other nibbles. Self-serve beer, wine and a soda fountain. At the gate, boarding did not start until 14:35 (it was scheduled for 14:20). Very un-Swiss! Worse, it was a gate rush. They did let a special assist passenger go first at least.

The aircraft was a Fokker 100 operated by Contact Air with Star Alliance livery. Doors closed at 14:45, ten minutes of waiting and then wheels up at 14:56. Very nice legroom and super great recline – 5 inches back. I slept the entire one hour flight. Zurich was an apron stand with shuttle bus.

I found the Swiss Lounge at Zurich even though I only had five minutes. They had drinks but no food with a voucher for only one hour of free wi-fi. I stole a bottle of beer but had to toss it at the security line because I wasn’t going to guzzle it and also I didn’t have an opener. Magnetometer that I did not alert. (Which was odd, because I found my camera battery in my jeans pocket later.)

The gate area was a zoo. Very crowded. Boarding passes were scanned and that led into a corral that in turn went to a shuttle bus that went to the apron. We climbed up a flight of stairs onto an Airbus 320 that soon became completely full. Extremely small seat, 9A. Absolutely no legroom and a tight fit with a middle seat passenger. 90 minutes I could handle, but more than that would have been very uncomfortable and cramp-inducing. Again with the sandwich service and a plastic cup of soda followed by the chocolate basket.

One completely new feature on this aircraft. After the safety video, the screens remained down with a live view from a camera that must have been mounted on the landing gear doors. We could see out the front of the plane as we taxied and then a look down at the ground after takeoff. At altitude, this switched to a boring slideshow of Swiss Air offerings and such, changing back to the ground over London and then Heathrow runway. Me likey!

Summary: Good service and three out of the four seats were very comfortable only to be completely lost on the final leg. I do understand using the shuttle bus instead of a jet bridge to maximize airport space, but it doesn’t respect elites very nicely. Boarding could use some Swiss efficiency. Decent lounges. Final score: B.

Total Trip Cost: $ 308.82
Actual Airfare: $ 110.40
Actual Miles Flown: 1727
Yield: $ 0.064 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 198.42, 64.25% of ticket price

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