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The Swiss First-Class Ground Experience That Stole My AvGeek Heart

Aug. 09, 2019
5 min read
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It’s not often that we dedicate an entire post to a particular flight’s ground experience. If I could, I'd rate my Swiss first-class ground experience a 100 out of the allotted 10 points.

But I can't. So instead, here's some more detail on why this experience should be on every AvGeek's bucket list. And if you haven't had a chance to check out my review on the overall Swiss first-class experience, head here to read about this top-notch product.

Personal Chauffer Transfer

Long-haul, wide-body flights depart from the satellite E gates at Zurich Airport (ZRH). If you're originating in Zurich, though, you'll need to clear security and passport control in the main area of the terminal before catching an underground train to the E gates.

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But not if you're flying in first class (or a HON Circle member). Once you've entered the first-class lounge in the main terminal, you'll be driven to the E gates in a private car.

Your AvGeek experience will begin after clearing private passport control and exiting the main terminal with driver escort.

Your five minutes of fame is mostly spent underground to avoid crossing Runway 10/28. Upon exiting the tunnel, you catch your first glimpse of the E gates and the associated ground operations. On that July morning, I spotted a 10-year-old A330-300 at Gate E19 bound for Chicago (ORD).

You're then driven around the south perimeter of the E gates, where you can gawk at heavies getting prepped for departure. In my case, I saw an Airbus A330-300, HB-JHA, getting ready to head to Mumbai, India (BOM).

This was only the beginning -- the airfield views only got better when I entered the E gates' first-class lounge.

Expansive Terrace

While I could've spent my time in this lounge trying some (or all) of the 1,000-plus bottles of wine, I braved the chilly morning air to hang out on the 3,790-square-foot terrace. The terrace wrapped around the entire lounge and had mostly unobstructed views of the airfield operations.

Seriously, the outdoor deck provided views that AvGeeks dream of. From the south side of the terrace, you could see Runway 10/28, as well as the entire Schengen operation at Terminal A.

From the north side of the terrace, you got great views of the approach and landings on Runway 14.

Since the lounge is on the top level of the E Concourse, it has incredible views of the ground operations, apron and parked planes in the below terminal. And luckily for my inner AvGeek, all the wide-bodies parked at the E gates!

I spent a majority of my time outdoors running around from side to side capturing the latest heavy arrival or special livery takeoff.

Look at that lineup on the south side of the E gates!

And check out the lineup on the north side of the E gates.

Here's a Swiss A321 taking off on Runway 28 bound for Stockholm (ARN).

Here's a Swiss A330 landing on Runway 34 from Dar es Salaam (DAR).

An Edelweiss A340-300 pushes back here with a Swiss A220-100 (HB-JBA) on its way to Madrid (MAD).

A Swiss Boeing 777-300ER heads to maintenance.

Good morning, Air Canada 878 from Toronto (YYZ).

And, hello, 767s from the USA!

If you're just looking to take it all in, Swiss provides binoculars with a map of the airfield for easy reference.

The lounge’s bathrooms even catered to my inner AvGeek, with awesome views of the north side of the airport, as well as Runway 14/32.

Private Bedroom

Staring at planes for hours can get exhausting. In what is arguably the best amenity at any lounge worldwide, Swiss offers two private hotel rooms with en suite bathrooms. After getting my fill of planes, I checked in to one of the hotel rooms.

The double bed was plush and comfortable. There were two bedside lamps with waters and easily accessible power outlets.

The marble-and-glass bathroom was fitting of a five-star hotel.

Aside from the the thin and scratchy towel, my only other complaint was the multiple black scuff marks around the room.

I was advised to keep the curtains closed for privacy, but I’m adventurous. I slowly opened the curtains (don't worry, I was wearing clothes), and the room instantly transformed from an upscale hotel room to the greatest thing to happen to AvGeeks. Ever.

The bedrooms offer the same sweeping views as the terrace outside. My room, named St. Moritz, faced the south side of the airport and Runway 10/28. My hope of getting an hour of shut-eye instantly vanished. Instead of sleeping, I simply lay in bed watching planes.

Overall Impression

I challenge you to find a more quintessentially AvGeek experience. In my mind, the Swiss first-class adventure should begin hours before you board your plane. Do me a favor: If you're lucky enough to have access to the Swiss first-class lounge, get there early and enjoy the views. You'll make me and AvGeeks around the world jealous.

All photos by the author.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases