For my flight from Dar es Salaam I had been pondering a number of options, but eventually settled on a United award booking using Swiss Airlines. While Dar es Salaam isn’t exactly a Star Alliance hub, it does get a five-times weekly service with Swiss Airlines, which gets there via Nairobi. Swiss does not have local traffic rights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam but brings passengers from both destinations into their Zurich hub.
Since I ran out of things to do in Dar es Salaam and felt I had spent enough time at the Holiday Inn Dar es Salaam, I arrived early at the airport. The current airport can best be described as a ‘dump’ even using the low standard of African airports. Since the check-in hall is so small (I would have to wait for check-in for another hour) I did a pit stop at the upstairs restaurant which had probably seen its best times a solid 60 years ago.
Once check-on started, it went though the usual plethora of document checks but it was all actually friendly and very quick. I wanted to add my Aegean Star Alliance Gold status to the boarding pass, but the agent refused saying it came back with ‘impossible’. She seemed to genuinely try so I did not do anything about it and since this was a business class award I would have lounge access.
And what a lounge it is – it’s seemingly hated by all departing premium passengers and it’s bad. The snacks and toasted sandwiches are gross, the internet is slow and the interior design resembles a funeral hall. But at least the power did not go out while I was there.
While the other two flights of the day came with major delays, the Swiss flight would be on time – like right on time! Boarding was early into the jet that was already half-full of sleeping people who had come out of Nairobi.
The seat options in business class were mesmerizing – literally every row has a different layout, with 1-2-1 mixed with 2-2-1. For a night flight it makes a huge difference if you are sleeping halfway into the aisle or have an immediate seat neighbor to climb over. Every single seat had its pros and cons. My automatically-selected seat was in the mini business cabin and was downright horrible, leaning into the aisle and being close to the lavatory and kitchen.
Thankfully the flight wasn’t full, so I got a nice seat on the pilot’s side, with just one seat on the left of the aisle. How odd is that seat layout, though!
Boarding was done early but the pilot announced some more wait time in order to not arrive too early, since Zurich Airport only allows approaches after 6AM. We eventually made it into the stormy skies of Dar es Salaam and headed north.
Dinner service started right away and it seemed that some passengers had chosen to eat on the prior leg, as just a few passengers ate at the same time as me (about midnight local time, which is late). I liked the appetizer of the grilled tuna but thought the main course was truly bad. I remembered that from my Swiss First Class flights – the entree is often horrible, while the appetizers are good.
Service was joyful and courteous. After dinner I filled out my breakfast menu and selected not to be woken up. The flight time is just under 9 hours and I was hoping to get some sleep.
The seat transforms into a lie-flat but it is narrow – like really narrow! It also felt like an angled lie-flat seat and the back of the seat seemed somewhat tilted upwards.
After some back and forth I managed to lie down on my stomach and fell asleep, only to be woken by the pilot’s announcement of our descent into Zurich.
As for breakfast, there was just enough time for a smoothie and yogurt; we were at 10,000 feet just when the flight attendants started to collect the items.
Since there were no pajamas, there was no changing to be done to get ready for landing. Somehow I always seem to be the last person in the cabin to get out of their pajamas.
Arrival was on time into busy Zurich Airport. That day the Lufthansa cabin crew were on strike and Swiss bore the brunt of the re-bookings. The security check, escalators and train ride really added up and it took me 45 minutes to reach the lounge close to the A gates for my Berlin flight.
I had been to the Swiss Business Class Lounge a number of times before and it was as crowded as I have ever seen it. It had some good breakfast items and coffee, though.
My connecting flight to Berlin was operated by Edelweiss – a Swiss subsidiary with a lower cost labor force. I had the impression that the business class catering and the seat configuration would be exactly the same…
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