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

Aug 9, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

In This Post

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.

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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.