RTW to Bali: Swiss First Class Lounge in Zurich

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So we landed at Zurich Airport in Switzerland. The challenge was to get to the Swiss First Class Lounge which involved taking the train to another terminal. We saw this flight board with some information but, in reality, we were just following the rest of the people on our flight.

Signage

Signage

As I recall, we took a few wrong turns, stopped in one of the many Swiss Business Class lounges to ask where the First lounge was, but eventually we made it there! I’m not sure if we had to go through the security checkpoints that we did, but it wasn’t at all busy and the Swiss workers were pleasant (unlike our good old TSA).

Entrance to the First Class Lounge

Entrance to the First Class Lounge

Actually, before we went upstairs to the lounge, we stopped by the check-in counters nearby to have our boarding passes printed out. Back in Bali, the Thai check-in agent only gave us boarding passes for DPS-BKK and BKK-ZRH. This took a while because there was apparently an issue with our tickets – something about Thai Airways “holding” our ticket so the Swiss agent couldn’t do what she needed to do with it.

After about 10 minutes of phone calls, the Swiss agent printed out our boarding passes without e-ticket numbers. She said that she’d fix the situation and get us our real passes before we left.

No e-ticket, no problem

No e-ticket, no problem

Well we had something; so we went upstairs to the First Class Lounge.

Spiral stairs up to the Lounge

Spiral stairs up to the Lounge

We checked in with an agent at the desk who informed us that we would be shuttled to our gate at 12:15 PM; boarding time was 12:35 PM. I asked her about Wifi and shower suites. She handed us a piece of paper for the Wifi and told us to just ask whenever we needed the shower suites.

As we always do when we get into a lounge, we made a bee-line to the seating area near the food! đŸ˜€

Main seating area by the food, of course

Main seating area by the food, of course

Plenty of seating

Plenty of seating

Snacks at every table

Snacks at every table

Power plugs for everyone

Power plugs for everyone

I liked the lounge a lot. Enough seating and space. Great views of the tarmac with huge windows to let lots of natural light in. The decor was simple – muted tones with clean lines. We came to find out that nothing Swiss Air-branded was ostentatious in any way. It really fit the elegant feel of the airline perfectly.

And, most importantly, the food was yummy.

The whole buffet and beverage area

The whole buffet and beverage area

So many small bites

So many small bites

More small bites

More small bites

Must. Have. Coffee

Must. Have. Coffee

Beverage options

Beverage options

Wine and champagne

Wine and champagne

New dishes that were put out around lunch time

New dishes that were put out around lunch time

The variety of food they had was great. They were mostly small bites so it was easy to try everything. Joann and I were really happy with the quality of food. The dish with the roast beef and asparagus was a great bite, so much so that I went back for about four more. đŸ˜‰

After indulging in plenty of food, we both caught up on emails and such with the free Wifi. I also got one nice shot of a big aircraft from our window seats.

A beer and a view

A Swiss beer and a view

Singapore Air A380

Singapore Air A380

After a few minutes of just resting and digesting, it was definitely time to shower. Another shower in an airport lounge… I could get used to this!

I went first, asking the agent at the front desk to unlock the shower suite door for me. The shower suites were inside the restrooms, but they are well isolated. The men have two suites while the women only have one.

Shower room

Shower room

Another welcomed rainfall shower

Another welcomed rainfall shower

Bulgari amenities

Bulgari amenities

The shower felt amazing after being on a plane for 11 hours and then transiting through the airport. I was definitely spoiled by all the rainfall showerheads we used throughout the entire trip. I want one for our house now!

After a while, I came back out and Joann took her turn in the women’s shower suite. We went separately so we wouldn’t lose our window seats; the lounge was starting to fill up as lunchtime was approaching.

Not shortly after Joann’s shower, we went over to the sit-down dining area. We weren’t particularly hungry and we would be getting a full meal on our upcoming flight, but we wanted to sample as much as we could!

There was only one waiter serving the whole area so initially it did take a while, but we placed our order and hoped it would come soon as our 12:15 PM shuttle time was almost upon us.

Simple pasta dish

Simple pasta dish

BLT

BLT

The meal was good, but nothing creative like the little bites they put out in the buffet area. However, you can’t really go wrong with pasta and a BLT so we were happy we tried it.

Before we knew it, the agent from the front desk was standing over us telling us that it was time to go! She looked pretty ticked that we weren’t at the front desk on time. The Swiss must not mess around with their time and it was probably because there were other passengers to be shuttled.

We scurried to gather our things and head towards the elevator to the ground floor where the van was waiting on the tarmac. We had three other First Class passengers with us so it was a tight fit. Joann and I could definitely feel their stares as they were all older business men and we were just a young couple on a joyride.

VW van for First Class passengers

VW van for First Class passengers

Nonetheless, we enjoyed a nice shuttle to the Swiss and Lufthansa departure gates. It was really cool driving almost underneath the Swiss widebody jets. Not often can you say that you’ve been driven on the tarmac of an airport!

Once we got to Terminal E, the driver wished us farewell and we took the elevator upstairs to the main area of the terminal.

Elevator up to the main floor of the terminal

Elevator up to the main floor of the terminal

It was time for the best flight of our lives…

RTW to Bali: Thai Airways Royal First Lounge in Bangkok

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During our approach to Suvarnabhumi Airport, I started to think of what other travel bloggers had mentioned regarding the Thai Airways Royal First Lounge in Bangkok. I had heard it was one of the best First Class lounges in the world. Needless to say, I was excited.

We landed and deplaned first. With eager eyes, we stepped into the artificial light of BKK and this was the first thing we saw:

Our chariot awaits!

Our chariot awaits!

The Thai Airways buggy that shuttles First Class passengers through the airport! Hilarious yet totally awesome. Our ride was at MOST 60 seconds, but it was still nice being driven past the onlookers and escorted to the front of whatever line we came to. Joann and I just laughed at how funny we must have looked in that little golf cart.

Our driver and another F passenger

Our driver and another F passenger

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RTW to Bali: Cathay Pacific Lounges in Hong Kong – The Wing & The Pier

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We were the first to disembark the plane and it was early (around 5am local time) so Joann and I had a leisurely walk in a quiet Hong Kong International Airport to the our first destination – The Wing, one of Cathay Pacific’s 4 lounges at HKG.

The Wing

hong kong cathay pacific lounges

Front entrance of The Wing

Upon entering, the Cathay lounge attendants took our lounge invitations that were printed in JFK and welcomed us with smiles. I immediately asked about a shower and they directed us to the end of the long hallway where another attendant would assist us.

hong kong cathay pacific lounges

The long hallway leading to the shower rooms

Luckily, there were two shower rooms available so we both went right in. Showering in an airport; who would’ve thought? It was perfectly refreshing and just what we needed after a 15 hour flight, especially with the elegant facilities and amenities.

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RTW to Bali: JFK & British Airways First Class Lounge

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Round the World to Bali in First Class. This is where the trip begins.

JFK Terminal 7 Check-In

Joann’s Dad dropped us off at JFK Terminal 7 which is mainly used by British Airways and United Airlines. It was around 11:00pm so it wasn’t busy at all. We went around the corner to the Business & First Class check-in counters, which are separate from the Economy Class counters in the main area of the terminal.

After a long wait behind a large family with lots of bags and only one counter open, we walked to what I thought would be the quiet security checkpoint. To my surprise, it was closed. We had used it last time and it was so much easier as we were the only ones passing through. This time we were steered to the regular security checkpoint that was moving painfully slow (dreadful, I know!).

British Airways First Class Lounge

After security, Joann and I made our way upstairs to the British Airways First Class Lounge. It’s located through the same doorway as the Business Class Lounge; it’s just a separate area.

For me, this lounge wasn’t great at all. The alcohol options were a bit better than its Business counterpart but it was much more enclosed and tighter-feeling. The Business Class Lounge that we used last time was brighter, more airy, and had a better overall feel to it. No worries though, we only had a short time to wait until our 1:30am flight and nothing was going to spoil my mood!

british airways cathay pacific first class lounge

Self-serve bar

british airways cathay pacific first class lounge

Spirits

british airways cathay pacific first class lounge

Some sandwiches & snacks

With 5 minutes left to go before scheduled boarding time, I told Joann that we should head down to the gate. Basically, I was just giddy to get on the plane and start enjoying our first international long-haul First Class!

$63 to Chicago: ORD United Club

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After landing in the Concourse B area, we went to the closest United Club which was near Gate B6. Using the membership I received when I was approved for the Chase United MileagePlus Club card 6 months ago, we went upstairs and found a comfortable seat.

It was only 9am so the club was fairly empty. There was a meager breakfast spread – plain cereal, plain bagels, yogurt, and some donut holes. There was an espresso machine with some passable coffee.

united club ord chicago o'hare

Plenty of Seats

I know it doesn’t sound very exciting and, to be honest, it’s not. In my experience as the casual traveler, these airport domestic lounges aren’t really worth the price of admission ($40-50 for a day pass). They’re certainly handy if you need to take care of some business before your flight or if you have kids and want a better waiting area than the gate, but otherwise, they’re nothing more than a quieter space than the terminal and a more comfortable seat.

If I flew more 75,000 miles or more a year and spent much more time in airports, then maybe my opinion would change but after flying ~45,000 miles in 2012, I wouldn’t pay a $400+ yearly membership for these lounges.

What I would do is gain lounge membership as a credit card perk, like I did with this Chase MileagePlus Club card. It carries a hefty annual fee of $395, but that was waived when I applied. I definitely won’t be renewing this card next year. I basically just wanted to have a one year trial of the United Club. It’s a nice perk while traveling, but I can live without it. I just wanted to give my thoughts on domestic airport lounges.

After about 30 minutes in the lounge, our friends’ flight had landed and we met them outside the club and proceeded underground to the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) subway…