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Tried and Tested: Swiss RJ100 business
BACKGROUND Swiss relaunched its London City to Basel route in May (see online news April 24) with a twice-daily service operated by RJ100 jets. In Basel Felix Rodel, Swiss manager for the UK and Ireland told Business Traveller that the RJs will soon be replaced by the quieter, more fuel efficient 115-seat Bombardier C-Series aircraft.
Besides the new Basel service, Swiss already flies from LCY to Zurich up to seven times a day and to Geneva up to four times a day but no longer serves Basel from London Heathrow.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Euro Airport Basel via the local bus at 1610 for my 1805 return flight to London City (click here to read the outbound flight review) in business class with Swiss. I had already printed my boarding pass at London City that morning and had no baggage so after a quick scan around the quiet terminal went upstairs towards departures.
There was no one in the security queue of which there were two lanes open. I had my boarding pass scanned and then emptied my pockets into the tray and was through in no time. I turned right towards gates 1-59 and passed through the duty free shop, resisted the lure of watches and chocolate, before following the signs to the business lounge.
THE LOUNGE The Swiss lounge at Basel is a very impressive room, circular in shape with windows all around and a domed ceiling. The centre piece is a water feature with its own wooden bridge, the sound of running water giving the space a relaxing feel.
I checked in with the receptionist and made my way upstairs. There is enough seating for 200 people, but it seems like more, with the majority located upstairs where there are arm chairs and black leather sun loungers around the perimeter windows and more armchairs in the centre around the elevator. There is also seating around the central self service bar for dining and a small business centre behind the bar which is quieter and has power points and some fixed computers.
The central bar has champagne, wine, draft and bottled beers, soft drinks, a coffee machine and a selection of spirits, as well as snacks and fruit. On this occasion there were also sausages available with bread. There is also Movenpick ice cream in freezers on the ground and first floor. There are international newspapers and magazines available to pick up.
I poured myself a beer and sat on one of the sun loungers overlooking the runway. You can unplug the lamps to use as a power point but I opted to read. There is also a bar and another self service area on the ground floor and the third level was closed on this occasion. I logged in to the wifi on my phone (user: Hasta, password: Lavista) but it cut out every time I shut the phone down. I later treated myself to one of the ice creams and waited until 1800, when I made my way towards gate 21. There are no in lounge announcements.
Access is for First and business class passengers on Swiss, Lufthansa and Star Alliance carriers, Miles and More and Star Alliance Gold members.
BOARDING Gate 21 was a short walk from the lounge. I passed through passport control and boarding commenced at 1815 but was not announced in English, so I simply jumped in line and assumed this would be OK. I was straight through and walked over to the aircraft.
THE SEAT I was again in seat 2F, the window seat in a bank of three. The middle seat is not sold for added space. I again chose to jump forward to 1F once boarding was complete though. This flight was considerably busier than the outbound, with economy looking around 80 per cent full and five customers in business. The cabin is looking a little tired but is soon to be replaced when the new aircraft come online and the seats are dark leather and comfortable enough for this short flight.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The RJ100 is configured 3-2 so if you want added space choose to sit in C or F as AB are both sold in business class. The front row is certainly preferable as it has added space and you are the first to be served, therefore I would opt for 1F or C, depending on your preference of aisle or window.
THE FLIGHT I had my jacket taken as soon as I sat down and was offered a bottle of water and a freshener towel. Newspapers were offered (Financial Times and International Herald Tribune). A storm was coming in as we pulled back and we took off in to it at 1845. The seat belt sign remained on until 1910 as we encountered a great deal of early turbulence. Once we were allowed to get up I found that the toilet at the front was out of order, so I had to go to the rear.
Drinks were offered at 1920 with a light dinner of a salad with air dried beef, cucumber and croutons with a tomato dressing (to see a picture visit our pinterest page here). There was also a slate with two cheeses, one soft Brie-like, the other a creamy semi-hard cheese and warm bread was brought round in a basket with butter. The dessert was a gooseberry trifle which was delicious. I had a can of Swiss beer with dinner and was offered another drink at 1940 but opted for a coffee and a Swiss chocolate. From what I could see economy passengers received a small sandwich and chocolates.
ARRIVAL We crossed the channel and began our descent at 2000 (1900 local time) and landed at 1915. Passport control had no queue but I still had to snake around the line before passing through with ease. I was back on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) by 1925 in what was a very easy arrival process.
VERDICT Having flown quite a few European sectors in business class as of late I would say that the personal benefits of flying to London City, as well as some of the nicer touches like authentic Swiss food, beer and chocolates set this carrier apart from its competition.