My annual visit to Montreux (and the French Alps this year) had me once again on SWISS Airlines nonstop from JFK to Geneva and back. It is one of my favorite flight options to Geneva since it is one of only two nonstops from the New York area. Not having to make a connection somewhere else in Europe saves quite a bit of time — though I did enjoy my routing via Istanbul once year on Turkish Airlines.
SWISS service is always consistent and they offer solid gluten-free options onboard. Business class offers full-flat beds which make a world difference for getting in a fair amount of sleep before arrival. Departure from JFK was uneventful. SWISS uses Terminal 4 and business class check-in had no one in it and our bags were soon priority tagged and a friendly agent directed us to priority security and the SWISS Lounge. Now, priority security was a bit of a misnomer on our day of departure since it was a single entrance for first and business class passengers but Delta Sky Priority was also funneling into the line at the end (when you reached the first TSA agent checking documents). It made for a rather uncoordinated pile-up before lining up once again to actually go through screening. There was a single checkpoint open and it took probably close to 30-45 minutes to make it through since everything was moving at a snail’s pace. Not quite a premium travel experience and not really the fault of SWISS since the TSA should have more screening lanes open during peak departure times. I honestly think the regular lines were moving faster and should have just jumped on there instead — or finally go through my interview for Global Entry/TSA Pre.
Once we arrived at the lounge, we were warmly welcomed and settled-in. Having been there many times before since other airlines use it in addition to SWISS it was familiar. It is a typical SWISS lounge but does offer great views of the control tower and aircraft movements — so perfect for an aviation geek. There are decent food and beverage options including self-service bar with an adequate offering of wine and spirits along with hot and cold food items. The lounge is beginning to look a bit tired and for some reason all of the outlets in the seating have been removed so charging was relegated to the high bar-type seating or a shared powerstrip that had been placed in a corner. The carpeting was also well-worn and showing its age — hopefully a refresh is soon on the horizon. A couple of vodka and sodas later and we were ready to head to the gate.
We were welcomed onboard and quickly found our seats. Amenity kit, blanket, noise cancelling headsets and pillow were already placed at the seat. Pre-departure beverages were offered as boarding commenced with a choice of water, champagne or orange juice along with menus and a selection of newspapers and magazines. My gluten-free meal was confirmed when I was handed the regular menu and we were soon on our way.
Since this is an overnight flight service is relatively quick to allow travelers to maximize sleep. A round of pre-dinner cocktails were offered and then the meal service quickly started. It was more of an abbreviated service more or less served on a single tray (a minor pet peeve of mine, since an express menu option was offered).
The gluten-free option was the ever-present breast of chicken over spinach with tomato sauce with grilled asparagus, carrots, zucchini, squash and rice. It was served with a side salad, an Udi’s gluten-free roll and a fruit salad. It was actually not bad and a nice piece of chicken (better than most) but I do wish that the U.S. airline catering companies would reach beyond the standard chicken breast with tomato sauce when planning gluten-free meals when coming from the United States. How about a nice piece of beef? Just saying.
Breakfast was an Udi’s blueberry muffin and fruit salad which was fine given I slept for nearly five hours and I am not much of a breakfast person anyway.
The regular menu was as follows:
Seasonal salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Roasted beef tenderloin with red wine sauce accompanied by baked potato, green beans and baby carrots
Grilled chicken breast in caramelized onion sauce with polenta and sugar snap peas
Seared halibut with herb beurre blanc accompanied by potatoes, broccolini and glazed baby carrots
Älper Macaroni — traditional Swiss macaroni gratin with cheese and potatoes
Selection of Swiss and International Cheese
Crème brûlée cheesecake with raspberry sauce
Prosciutto with melon, cheese and dessert
Passengers select from a menu of choices of cold and hot beverages with a choice of breads, pastries, yogurt and fruit prior to sleeping.
Champagne and White Wine
Duval-Leroy Brut (France)
Plaisir Weiss 2016 (Switzerland)
Schug Chardonnay 2015 (USA)
Pinot Noir Classic 2016 (Switzerland)
Château Paloumey Cru Bourgeois 2011 (France)
Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 (USA)
Check-in at Geneva is always painless with dedicated premium check-in. There is a dedicated priority lance for security that is accessed by a scan of your boarding pass and never has more that a couple of people in front of you so you are through in a matter of minutes.
The SWISS Lounge was busy but there was plenty of seating and there was a good selection of food and beverages though I did not really indulge since I was not really hungry. After a relatively quick visit we made our way towards the departure gate. The flight departs from the C Gates which require going through passport control and a secondary check before entering the gate area. Passport control was extremely quick and at the gate there is separate secondary checks posts for first and business class passengers. We were soon in the waiting area and boarding was announced shortly thereafter. The aircraft from these gates are parked at remote stands so it requires a transfer to the aircraft via a bus. There was a dedicated bus for business class and Star Alliance elite passengers which offered enhanced seating and we were soon at the aircraft.
Once again a warm welcome and we were soon settled into our seats. All amenity items were again at the seat and pre-departure beverages were served as menus were distributed. While the crew on the inbound flight was good, this crew seemed a bit more engaged and could not do enough to make sure you were comfortable.
The return flight offered a more comprehensive meal service that started with warm nuts and cocktails. The meal was served in separate courses and started with a lovely turkey breast and carrot salad (which I have had on SWISS short-haul and loved), a massive crudite selection of carrots, celery and zucchini and a side salad with balsamic vinaigrette (French dressing was also offered as it was gluten-free). Gluten-free bread was also offered and since it is served in a sealed bag, the flight attendant warmed it in the oven which was most appreciated since the texture when cold (as I have had many times) is gritty not all that pleasant. The main course was a fillet of perch with wilted spinach and ratatouille accompanied with saffron rice. I actually skipped the cheese course and had a small fruit salad for dessert. A fabulous Swiss red wine was constantly refilled throughout the meal.
The pre-arrival meal was a substantial presentation of sliced grilled chicken breast accompanied with a nice Israeli salad with a side of French dressing, more gluten-free bread and a fruit salad. I most definitely did not leave the plane hungry and it was nice to have some different options.
The regular menu was as follows:
Thin slice of poached veal brisket with fig mustard and herbs
Balik salmon with avocado, cucumber and ginger, wasabi vinaigrette
Seasonal salad with French or Italian balsamic vinaigrette
Beef tenderloin with red wine and shallot jus
Chicken breast with jus, lemon hummus, chickpeas with purple curry, aubergines
Pike perch fillet with smoked sturgeon sauce accompanied with potato with saffron and rosemary, champagne cabbage
Red curry with coconut, potatoes, long beans, oyster mushrooms, peppers and basmati rice
Herdern Schlosskäse, Bonaparte and scharfe Maxx with pear bread
Chocolate and nougat slice with crunchy muesli and calamansi pearls
Ice cream by Mövenpick
Lamb’s lettuce salad with egg
Traditional Swiss cheese quiche
Champagne and White Wine
Duval-Leroy Brut (France)
Cuvée Weiss 2016 (Switzerland)
Vermentino Bolgheri DOC 2016 (Italy)
Exclusiv Rouge 2015 (Switzerland)
Château Tour du Haut-Moulin 2012 Cru Bourgeois (France)
Il Blu 2011 (Italy)
Arrival into JFK was on-time though unfortunately the SWISS arrival from Zürich was still occupying our gate so we sat first on an inactive runway and then nearer the terminal for approximately 25-30 minutes until the gate was free. A bit or an inconvenience but not the end of the world — though by the time we finally disembarked a host of other flights has arrived including an Emirates A380 which made immigration a bit chaotic. Thankfully there were quite a few electronic passport control stations though the line to hand your receipt to the customs agent snaked through the area but all in all took about 25 minutes or so. The luggage hit the baggage belt around 10 minutes after we made it through customs and thankfully SWISS always gets the priority bags out first so we were soon on our way.
SWISS offers a solid product on the ground and in the air and their gluten-free service is definitely among the stronger options out there. Stay tuned for my upcoming posts on my gluten-free dining experience in Switzerland and France — there are a ton of new options (and some old favorites) that I am excited to share.