Many warned me about the PrivatAir 737 operating as Swiss for the flight between Zurich and Newark. Beyond the geek factor of an all-business class config (my second such flight of this quick RTW trip) the product is actually not all that amazing. The seats are old and the IFE limited. Still, I wanted to have the experience for myself so I could report first-hand on what it was like. They were all pretty much dead on.
After spending my short layover in downtown Zurich on the lake, joining with seemingly everyone else in town heralding the arrival of spring, I made my way back out to the airport for a quick lounge visit and then on to the plane. The lounge in the main terminal area was pretty nice, but the flight departed from a separate section of the airport, a tram ride away. The lounge there is a contract lounge that isn’t particularly bad, but it also isn’t as nice as the Senator lounge in the main area.
Boarding 50ish folks on to a 737 is incredibly quick and easy and we were underway right on time, with a quick climb out and fly-by of downtown as we left the area.
The flight departed around 5pm, meaning it was time for dinner shortly after departure. Perhaps the best part of the flight is that the food appears to be catered up to the Swiss standards. It was quite good and comparable to the meals I’ve had on their regular flights. Except that they didn’t have ginger ale catered on the plane. That was rather annoying, though I also probably didn’t need any more rum so perhaps a blessing in disguise. Having indulged on meats for my previous flights and also downtown I switched to the fish options on the flight. Quite tasty.
After dinner it was time for a nap. My body was starting to fight back against the crazy time zone shifts and it was time to succumb for a few hours. The seat reclined to its angle-flat position and I grabbed the digEplayer to zone out for a bit. I was rather disappointed with the very limited selection of titles – only 10 – on the player. Fortunately I was asleep pretty quickly so that was less of an issue.
A few hours later it was time for second dinner. Really just a small snack served from casserole dishes rather than individually prepared, at least they were willing to offer up seconds (though I found this out after calling it a day on the meal). Tasty enough, but not particularly substantive as a meal.
Not much later we were making the left turn down the Hudson and beginning our approach into Newark, with the sun setting off to the west.
I expected the seat and the IFE to be iffy. That expectation was met quite easily. I also expected the food and crew to be on top of things. Alas, only the food was. The crew was somewhere between standoffish and outright ignoring me for long periods of time during the trip. Part of that might be just in comparison to the effusive and somewhat over-the-top service levels of the Asian carriers, but I really did feel like a second-class customer sitting on the plane for most of the trip.
Overall, the trip probably rates a C+ to B-. The crew was the biggest surprise, while the seat and IFE weren’t a surprise but still dragged down the score. Given another option, I’d avoid the PrivatAir option unless you really want the all business-class option or that’s what works with your schedule/budget. Also of note, the Zurich-Newark route is no longer served by PrivatAir, so it isn’t as much of an option anyways.