VLC-ZRH-STR: making a 10-minute connection!
So much for "Swiss punctuality."
Posters on a certain frequent flyer message board often like to say how efficient, punctual, and reliable SWISS is, along with their partner Lufthansa. I guess it's the national reputations of Switzerland and Germany influencing the perception of the national airlines. Though if you look at the statistics, Iberia has been the most punctual airline in the world the past few years, the stereotype of Spanish people being lazy and tardy notwithstanding.
So I had confidently booked a 45 minute connection in Zurich Airport, for my flight from Valencia to Stuttgart. It was a way to maximize my work day, yet still arrive in Stuttgart the same evening.
When I got to the airport, however, I found out that the flight was delayed 35 minutes! And the check-in agents refused to look for alternate possibilities, telling me that I had to go to Zurich to be rebooked. How does this make sense? What if it became so delayed that I would be stranded in Zurich while in Valencia I could just go home?
So I was left with little choice but to head through security and cross my fingers that it would all be resolved in Zurich.
The Valencia lounge, Sala VIP Joan Olivert, is undergoing renovations, and only the second floor is accessible. I actually prefer the second floor with its open feeling and natural light to the first floor, which I always found quite dark.
Typical of Spanish lounges, the food offerings more substantial than crackers and peanuts and potato chips are found minimart style individually wrapped and on display in a fridge.
I just took some crackers, chips, and packaged tomato puree and olive oil for the crackers. It's quite a nice combination.
Finally we boarded our delayed flight. Now, I had thought that SWISS meals were being upgraded with the quiches I had on other flights earlier this year, but on this flight, we were back to the same slightly dry roll with either meat or cheese.
The customary basket of SWISS chocolates came around.
Prior to landing, to my surprise, the TV screens switched from showing looping SWISS ads to showing connection information. It showed the flights with short connections, like mine, and which gate we were departing from. It also showed which flights were already too close to hold, and whose passengers were already rebooked on an alternate flight. I felt sorry for the Hong Kong passengers who had to trek all the way to the E-gates (another terminal, connected by train) in only 10 minutes!
Helpfully, these screens were alternating with a map of the airport, with a graphic showing our parking position. Turns out my connecting flight was just across the way!
Indeed, I walked just a few steps to the opposite side to board. I was too late to get any overhead space on this Fokker 100 (there are posts in the middle of the overheads which make the space utilization very inefficient). So I had to put my carry-on suitcase under the seat in front of me, and my messenger bag behind my feet. Not sure how that was allowable...
We were in the air less than 30 minutes, but the friendly and efficient flight attendants were still able to serve water and chocolates.
This flight was actually operated by Helvetic Airways, so the flight attendants were dressed in a different uniform - more "dirndl" in fact!
So I did make my connecting flight within 10 minutes after all. But never again will I attempt a 45-minute connection on SWISS when the second flight is the last of the day, nor will I book an international connection under an hour, unless I want to be extremely stressed.