I have been awaiting this day my entire life. Flying in First Class has been a dream of mine since the first time I've boarded a plane. This was a rather last minute trip as I was allowed extra days off from work and had miles to spend in my non-requalification year as Swiss Senator. I figured that the most cost effective use of my miles was a First Class trip to Central Africa, which starts at 65,000 miles one way + fuel surcharge and taxes. Therefore, I booked a holiday to Kenya and Tanzania, in First on the outbound segment and in Business on the return (as I thought the lounge in Dar Es Salaam would probably not be anything special compared to the Swiss First lounge in Zurich).
I arrived at Zurich airport at 6:00, despite a 9:55 departure, to enjoy the lounges to the fullest. I checked in at the Swiss First/HON check-in lounge, which is a nice private area, already giving you the impression of exclusive service expected from First class. This is followed by a separate security queue reserved for First passengers, before entering the lounge.
Then, I first spent some time at the newly renovated A lounge which is nice, but cannot be compared to the E lounge with its magnificent terrace. The A lounge features a nicely stocked grappa bar and an a-la-carte restaurant, as well as showers, a smoking room and a meeting room. I decided to have breakfast at the A lounge and it was delicious. I then booked a private car transfer to the E lounge, where my flight was departing (the service is naturally included in the ticket). The transfer was one of the points I was most looking forward to, and was amazed to have this exclusive access on the airport ground.
Once at the E lounge, I decided to have a proper meal at the restaurant (you will notice in this review that I indeed have a large appetite). The beef tartare and the lamb was excellent, as you can see from the preparation. I was fascinated by the amazing views from all parts of the lounge, including the restrooms. The terrace was also a highlight as it was a beautiful warm morning in Zurich. The service was impeccable and always had someone filling my wine glass before I was even done, at these early hours of the morning. The lounge also included private sleeping rooms, available on a first-come, first-served basis. There was even a telescope to observe planes!
I then proceeded to walk to the gate which was 2 minutes away and arrived just on time for boarding. The process was smooth and efficient. I was warmly welcomed by the Swiss crew who are always very friendly and relaxed (which I find nicer than Lufthansa’s stiff and overly professional FAs). The amenity kit was nice, but the real highlight was the swiss-made La Prairie creams which are extremely expensive (for example, a 50ml bottle of the Caviar skin cream retails at 464CHF).
Before takeoff, I was served a glass of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle champagne which was incredible (and I am really not a champagne fan). The cabin interior looks very modern with a large screen and a comfortable seat. There is also a divider which can be extended for additional privacy. Another thing to note is that the crew handed out WiFi vouchers for 50MB. An amazing moment of this experience was when the pilot came to do a round to greet all First class passengers. I then proceeded to ask if it was possible to visit the cockpit, which is something I had never done before. To my great surprise, he accepted and showed me the control deck. I couldn't believe it and was so excited, but couldn't even imaging that this wouldn't even compare to what would come later…
After taking off to a beautiful view of the airport, the crew installed the table, which is humongous. As I was waiting for the starter, the pilot came to see me again and we had a lengthy discussion about our respective lives and careers. He is a 9 year Swiss army veteran and a 31 year loyal Swiss pilot. After a nice chat, I was astonished that he invited me to join the crew in the cockpit for landing in Nairobi. There is literally no way by which he could make me any happier and prouder to be a loyal Swiss customer! We’ll get back to this later.
After the pilot returned to the cockpit, I was offered amuse bouches and then a first course, which I could select from a tray. I opted for Swiss' signature dish, the famous filet of Balik salmon, alongside with a scampi cocktail and a selection of delicious Swiss cold meats. Paired with the Chateau Haut-Bailly Grand Cru Classé 2011, I was more than satisfied! I really like that Swiss serves olive oil with the bread, which is a small touch, but one that in my mind sets it apart from big brother Lufthansa.
For the main course, I selected the veal tenderloin with truffle sauce, which has to be the best steak I have ever had on a plane. After, I was served a platter of cheese, paired with a 2006 Chateau Suduiraut 1er Cru Classé, a white dessert wine. Both the cheese and wine were again spectacular. Finally, I made a bit of room in my stomach for a chocolate cake with praline ice cream. An amazing end to my meal as I was enjoying views of Pelješac, lake Orhid and, later, the Greek Islands.
I then explored the Flight Entertainment system, which seemed decent, as it had a good selection of recent movies. There was also a special section for pride month, which I though was a nice gesture. I decided against watching a movie and instead napped for a few hours, in order to process all that food and wine. The bed was comfortable and I slept without any issues. What was really nice was that, as only 4 out of 8 First class seats were occupied, the flight attendant made each of us separate beds on the unused seats. It was a proper bed with a real pillow and comforter. Pyjamas were also distributed.
After the nap, I was again surprised by a dessert platter, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although it is really something I could have skipped given the amount of calories I have consumed today. If I count correctly, I have been served 10 different courses, including my time at the lounge and on the plane, with each course being a true culinary wonder.
At last comes the realization of a lifelong dream. As the first officer made the announcement that we have begun our descent, I have been invited to join the cockpit. While being amazed about what was in front of me, the captain, who gave the commands to the first officer for this flight, was answering all my questions. They kindly gave me their pilot hat and sunglasses for a nice selfie. While amazing, the pictures below don't really give justice to this amazing experience. Everything from the sunset on landing, the feeling of seeing the ground in front of you and being able to follow the communications with the control tower was amazing.
After landing, the jetbridge in Nairobi was out of function (no suprise according to the crew) and so we disembarked using the stairs. There was a separate bus for Business and First class passengers which brought us to the unimpressive arrival lounge (it is clear we are no longer at Zurich airport!). After clearing passport and visa control, my bag was the first to be brought on the belt.
Overall, this was without doubt the best flight (and day) of my life. Many thanks to Swiss, the pilots and the entire crew for the amazing service and unforgettable experience! It certainly reaffirmed my loyalty to this airline :)
There really isn't much negative to say about my flight - I hope to have the chance to fly Swiss First again in the near future