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The Springleaf Aviator’s Trip Report: Round Trip From Singapore to Zurich

Updated: Dec 25, 2022



 

It was a honeymoon long overdue; after being married for almost a year, I was finally able to plan for an overseas trip with my wife to one of the most beautiful countries in Europe: Switzerland.


For the trip we opted for a special arrangement: flying economy from Singapore to Zurich, and on business class from Zurich back home, after all, as my wife had to endure the burnout from covid-19 as a nurse at a children’s hospital, I felt it was only right to give my wife a little treat and to celebrate the end of our honeymoon.


Our plan for the honeymoon put us on the journey across some of the most scenic destinations in Western Europe: after landing in Zurich, we would take a trip to Munich and stay for 4 days, visiting local attractions like Neuschwanstein Castle and taking a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. After that, we would travel back to Zurich and spend the next 8 days of our holiday there, taking day trips out to Zermatt, Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald.



Cost


Due to that our trip was hastily put together at the last minute, and with post-Covid demand surging in Singapore, ticket prices on Singapore Airlines were unfortunately sky-high even for economy class (in excess of $3,000 per person in economy). Hence we opted to go for another airline with a good travel and layover time and with a reputation that can rival that of Singapore Airlines: Qatar Airways.


Oddly at the time, the cost of an economy-business hybrid ticket was only $4,300 per person, which was slightly higher than that of SQ’s economy class ticket, making it quite a sweet deal for us. Purchasing of the tickets was seamless and straightforward, and the site was easy to navigate. However, at the time, due to the dynamic situation of COVID, we had to do a lot of background checks on the existing COVID-19 restrictions in Qatar, Switzerland and Germany.



At Changi Airport Terminal 1, Boarding and Takeoff


Opting for a 2am red-eye to Doha, we arrived at Changi Airport at 10.30pm, where the queue at the check-in counter for Qatar Airways at Terminal 1 was already spilling over to the adjacent counter; the need for extensive validation of vaccination requirements made the check-in process considerably slower. Nevertheless, after about 30 minutes queuing, we checked in our luggage and went through immigration into the transit area. Unfortunately, with most of the shops at Changi Airport closed due to still-suppressed passenger volumes, there was not much to do other than wait, and I decided to indulge in a short session of night-photography of a Korean Air Dreamliner parked at gate D34.


Finally, boarding commenced at 1.20am, with the equipment being used a 2 year old Airbus A350-1000, (A7-ANS). Boarding was relatively smooth, with embarking taking place in an orderly fashion. Onboard the aircraft, the flight attendants with their iconic burgundy uniforms ushered us to our seats 18E and F, as the iconic melody of Qatar Airways’ theme played overhead. Normally I would have opted for window seats, but given that it was in the dead of night, with little options to spot anything, I decided on selecting the center aisle, a decision that I would regret at the end of the flight. Despite being the red-eye flight, the A350-1000 was filled almost to capacity, with nearly every seat being occupied.


Soon, boarding concluded and we pushed back from the gate, as the in-flight entertainment system began to play the flight safety video courtesy of various football clubs (AS Roma, FC Bayern Munich and FIFA) to commemorate the upcoming FIFA World Cup being hosted by Qatar. While the safety video was rather long by most airline standards, we were given a long taxi route to Runway 02L. Of course, as an aviation geek, the in-flight camera provided an interesting (abeit dark) vantage point of the long taxi to the threshold. Before long however, her twin Rolls Royce Trent XWB-97 engines were powering the A350-1000 down the runway and into the skies, a feeling I have not felt for nearly 3 years ever since my last trip in 2019.




Economy class on the A35K


Seating-wise, it was relatively spacious despite it being economy seating. The cabin was lit by warm tones of indigo and burgundy, and the noise of the Trent XWB-97 turbofans powering away just a few meters away was largely dimmed out, thanks to Airbus’ trademark soundproofing and acoustics. The in-flight entertainment was very modern and futuristic, with significant thought going into the ergonomics of passenger utilization of the system.


As our flight took off at roughly 2 am Singapore time, there were no immediate in-flight meals to be served in economy class, so I opted for a nap before breakfast service, though it was a slight challenge as there was a very young flier on-board, so point to note to always have a set of noise canceling ear plugs or headsets for such occasions!



Breakfast meal was simple but comforting - a warm mutton curry served with flatbreads, a fruit salad and a cup of granola with yogurt. Not soon after the breakfast trays were cleared then the sun began to rise over the Persian Gulf as we began our descent into Doha. It was then I regretted sitting in the center aisle seat, as the landing in Doha was in broad daylight, despite it being about 5am in the morning. Nevertheless, I filmed the entire landing experience as the crew buttered that landing on Runway 34R at Hamad International Airport.



In Hamad’s transit terminal


Upon disembarking, my wife and I took a tour of Hamad’s transit terminal. Its interiors were vast and spacious, with monorails running the length of the vast terminals to get passengers to different points at the airport. Despite it still being the early hours of the morning, the terminal was already packed with passengers, with many of the cafes having queues of people for their morning dose of caffeine or breakfast. With 3 hours to kill, we decided to queue for some lattes, given that the in-flight breakfast was rather substantial. But with no available seating in the cafe, we sat near a partially exposed window overlooking the airport apron. For plane spotters, Hamad International Airport is not the most ideal of locations due to many obstructed windows at the general areas outside the individual boarding/disembarking gates. But through the limited windows of the terminal, one can catch glimpses of numerous Qatari aircraft parked at their gates. At about 7.30am, we made our way to the boarding gate (), where one of Qatar Airways’s rare albino livery Boeing 777s, A7-BOA sat parked. After a slight delay in boarding, we crossed the sky bridge into the aircraft, and we were directed to seats 41A and 41B, and of course, I selected the window seat on the starboard side of the aircraft, where I had an endless view of Qatari aircraft taxiing or taking off. Soon, the aircraft’s GE90 engines roared to life and powered the aircraft down the runway, into the skies.


Economy class on the Boeing 777


Unlike the A350 we had flown in earlier that day, the cabin product aboard the Boeing 777 was somewhat lackluster compared to its Airbus counterpart. While comfort was still there, it’s in-flight entertainment system was significantly more dated, offering significantly less options compared to those on the Airbus A350. The seating too felt it had going through significant amount of usage, and it’s air conditioning and ventilation left some amount to be desired, as at the window seat, it became significantly warm as the mid-afternoon sun was began heating up the interior wall panels. Nevertheless, the flight was still relatively comfortable for the 5 hour flight to Zurich.


Midway through the flight, lunch was served. Feeling a little peckish from the red-eye the day before, I opted to go for a beef stew with mashed potatoes, simple before definitely a hearty dish for a sleepless flight to Zurich, as there was an unfortunate shouting match between two disgruntled passengers the over-reclination of a seat, which prompted some intervention from the cabin crew.

We made our way across the deserts of the Middle-East, crossing over Central Europe and eventually we were descending over Austrian airspace. The descent was smooth, with very clear weather throughout, offering picturesque views of the Alps and the Swiss countryside. Soon, we touched down at Zurich Airport, ending our marathon trip from Singapore to Zurich. As the aircraft parked at the gate, I had a chance opportunity to snap an aircraft rarely seen here in Singapore: an Edelweiss Airbus A340-300, rounding up the trip from the Little Red Dot to Switzerland.


While this was a honeymoon trip, I did snag some opportunities to spot at Munich and Zurich Airport. Check out my other article here: The Springleaf Aviator's Spotting Adventure


Amenities at Zurich Airport


Have bought my first ever business class ticket for the return trip back home, I was definitely excited to experience business class for the first time. We arrived at Zurich Airport relatively early, partly because I had to sign my job acceptance offer at my new job, and draft my resignation letter to my previous company. With nearly 3 hours extra to kill before checking in, I decided to had to Observation Deck B to do some plane spotting , and boy did this location not disappoint, but I shall save the details for my other article.


After checking in, we headed to Terminal E, which is reserved for international flights, and is only accessible via the airport train. But before that, we grew our already large hoard of Lindt and Laderach chocolates at the main terminal before hopping on the airport train. Upon reaching Terminal E, we decided to visit the business class lounge at Zurich Airport. There are several of them, but for those flying Qatar Airways, you are eligible to enter the Aspire Lounge, which is open to all passengers (free for business class and above). Unfortunately a lot of the lounges are reserved for Swiss or Star Alliance partners. The Aspire Lounge is located on the second level of terminal E, and offers a panoramic view of the eastern apron of Terminal E, where several wide body aircraft were parked. Given that we arrived near the middle of the lunch crowd, the lounge was relatively busy. Me and my wife managed to get some seats, before proceeding to help ourselves to the generous buffet spread. The meal was sumptuous and filling, but we decided not to indulge ourselves too much as we were expecting a really heavy dinner in Qatar Airways Business Class Qsuite.



Soon the call to board was announced for Qatar Flight 96 to Doha, and we slowly made our way down to the boarding gate, but not before snagging an opportunity to head to the observation Deck E to snap an Emirates A380 painted in her 50th Anniversary colours taking off.



Business Class on the Boeing 777


Unfortunately due to the ongoing covid restrictions in Qatar, we had to once again don our masks as we entered the air bridge to the Boeing 777-3000ER, funnily enough, was one alphabet down the registration from our previous flight: A7-BOB. This time, we were kindly ushered by the flight attendants into the business class cabin, to our seats 16 and 17K. Upon reaching my seat, I was almost immediately served with a complimentary glass of fine champagne, alongside with the menu for the flight to Doha.



As we waited for our clearance for pushback, I took the chance to explore Qatar Airways’ business class perks. Firstly, their amenity kit was truly top notch, with an array of facial creams, lotions and sprays, courtesy of Diptyue Paris, as well as ear plugs, an eye mask and a complimentary box of Läderach chocolates. All in all, the amenities kit was an excellent companion to the entire travel experience.


As we were departing in the late afternoon, I had selected the window seats to watch the daylight departure out of Zurich, a decision I never regretted as the views were fantastic, and managed to film a short reel of our takeoff roll down runway 28.



As the aircraft powered into the skies above Switzerland, I confirmed my dinner order with the air stewardess. As an aperitif, I got myself a glass of aperol spritz. Not long after, my first course was served: a sumptuous bowl of cream of mushroom soup, alongside with bread and croutons, a perfect beginning for a long flight at 35,000 feet. Next up, a delicious appetizer of flatbread with classic Arabian dips (hummus, moutabel and tabouleh) was served. Following that, veal cheek with herb jus, which was simply divine, and served with a side of potato mash, carrots and asparagus. And finally, a decadent chocolate mousse and a glass of port wine to finish off the 4-course meal on a sweet note, though, I should probably remind myself not to over indulge on alcohol on my next business class flight.



The business class seating on board the Boeing 777 was very spacious , with the Qatar Airways being one of the few airlines in the world to offer full flatbed options in their business class seats, which is an amazing perk for those looking to get some shuteye. However, one minor issue was that the bed tapers under the entertainment system, which somewhat restricts the amount of feet movement when in the fully flat position. But otherwise, the seat was comfortable and given that I had a little too much to drink, I found myself dozing off straight away.


After dozing off for pretty much the whole flight, I was woken by the pilot’s announcement that we were approaching Doha with a 45 minute delay, no particular thanks to an air traffic controller’s strike in Germany that delayed a lot of flights out of Zurich. As we descended out of the darkness towards the bright lights of Doha, the flight was bumped by occasional turbulence, though our landing was a little rough (see the video below).




Business Class Amenities at Doha’s Hamad International


As a result of the compounding delays, it seemed like our flight missed our gate time slot, and we had to disembark on the airport apron, where a bus carried us into the international terminal. With numerous delayed flights jamming the airport at Doha, we had to go through an additional security screening, to find most of the terminal crowded with passengers despite it being 2.30am in the morning. We slowly made our way to one of Doha’s business class lounges - the Al Mourjan Business Lounge.


The Al Mourjan Lounge was a sprawling open space with a bar, a buffet section, and hundreds of upholstered seats catered to the general traveler as well as those traveling for business. The washrooms were not spared the fine details and service, complete with bathrooms and towels that were changed out regularly by an army of cleaners and service staff. In its Center a long water feature adds the relaxing sound of trickling water to give a sense of comfort and hospitality. Unfortunately, a side-effect of the compounded delays was that the business class lounge was extremely crowded, with me and my wife only being able to find a seat after 15 minutes of searching. Furthermore, most of the buffet meals had run out, leaving only a few scraps of food for those who had just arrived.



After an hour of lounging, where I had some time to do some editing, we slowly made our way through the terminal towards our flight back to Singapore. At the airport, we were notified that our aircraft back to Singapore had been swapped from a Boeing 777-300ER, to the Airbus A350-900, A7-ALZ, this time, bearing the “One World Alliance” special livery. On checking our new seating number, I was mildly disappointed that I was moved away from the previously selected window seat to an aisle seat, but on the flip side, I would be seating with my wife on the “couple’s suite” in the Qatar Airways’ iconic Qsuite. We were guided by the flight attendants to our seats 4D and 4G. Soon we pushed back from the gate, and soon, in the still darkness of night, the aircraft was powering down Runway 34R, and took off for our long trek across the Indian Ocean back to Singapore.



Qsuite on the Airbus A359


The Qsuite is Qatar Airways’ flagship business class product, and in my opinion, one of the best business class seats offered. The pod-styled suites are adorned in layers of burgundy and deep purple tones, giving the setup a luxurious feel, with cushions and silk/wool blankets provided, as well as a set of pajamas for the long flight. Its entertainment system was updated and modern, much like the one we enjoyed on the flight from Singapore to Doha, with hundreds of movies available on demand for the customer’s viewing.



Probably the most iconic feature of the Qsuite was its fully reclinable seat into a bed, with ample space from head to toe. Paired with the luxurious pillows, blankets and the comfortable sleepwear provided, I quickly fell into a deep sleep , and wound up sleeping through nearly 5 hours of the flight (which I regretted as I suffered a severe jetlag for days after). The seat itself also maximized the amount of storage space available, with a small storage area for phones, books and your passport, as well as a shoe cabinet. There is even a charging point for electronic devices, including laptops (not that it was much use to me since I slept through most of the flight). For those seated in the middle section, the two suites are separated by a retractable divider that allows couples to enjoy the company of each other, ideal for a honeymooning couple like us.



As the aircraft was crossing the Indian Ocean, I decided to help myself to a nice Qatari breakfast of beef koftas served with a bean stew and other Arabic sides dishes, a rich and hearty meal after a long night. Soon, it was bright and sunny as we made our descent into Singapore, trekking across Tuas, Harbourfront and Downtown, circling around Changi, to line up for Runway 20R. This aircraft, much like the other A350s of Qatar’s fleet, is equipped with in flight cameras. From the bird’s eye view from the camera mounted on the tail, the forests of Johor slipped away from view, and the waterfront of Changi Beach appeared on the horizon. In full view of many spotters down at Changi Beach waiting for Aircalin’s A330-900neo’s arrival that day, my flight soared over Changi Beach and made a smooth butter landing on Rumway 20R, concluding my long honeymoon, and my first ever experience riding Qatar Airways.




Afterthoughts


Being named as the World’s Best Airline in 2022, Qatar Airways certainly lives up to its name, especially in their more recent cabin products, providing the best of Qatari hospitality. The Qsuite was definitely a major highlight of the trip, and provided a level of in-flight luxuary that I highly doubt I can come back from. While the business class experience at Doha Airport was a slight letdown, undoubtedly, Qatar and Qatar Airways has provided a great travel experience for myself and my wife, and if we should ever decide to travel again, odds are that Qatar Airways will be a good candidate for the long haul flights!


While my review of the Business class lounge at Doha was quite critical, in fairness, it was during a time when many European airports were plagued by delays and strikes, resulting in many delayed flight clogging hubs like Doha. So if you happen to be in Business Class flying or transiting through Doha, do get the lounge a try, as for all you know, your experience might be much better than mine!


 

About the Writer:


Gavin graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2019 with a honours degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and a 2nd Major in Food Science and Technology. He now works in GSK, a major pharmaceutical company in Singapore as a process engineer, where he supports the research and development of production of new medicines.


As a COVID-spotter, Gavin began planespotting in July 2020 using his trusty Olympus EM10 camera. Over the course of the many months of spotting, he has honed his photography and editing skills, drawing inspiration from many other seasoned spotters. In September 2021, Gavin joined the APP team as a writer, capturing aviation news and developments, from Starlux’s inaugural arrival in Singapore, to the 2022 Singapore Airshow.