Edelweiss Air A340-300 economy class Zurich to San Diego

Edelweiss Air A340-300 economy class Zurich to San Diego

Despite the anxiety I was feeling about the fact that my last day as a corporate employee was only four days away, I was in surprisingly good spirits as I checked out of the hotel and walked over to the main terminal. I was going to be flying Edelweiss Air A340-300 economy today (with a pretty good seat that I paid extra for) and I was very much looking forward to trying out my new Priority Pass membership for the first time.

The theme song from Shaft would have been perfect accompaniment for that walk, as I was feeling cocky and confident about how the day was going to go and nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the hell out of it. Little did I know that there were going to be a few unexpected and awkward twists along the way…

Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Monday, April 30, 2018
Aircraft: A340-313
Registration: HB-JMF
Duration: 11 hours 41 minutes
Seat: 26A (economy class)

Edelweiss Air A340-313 side view
Edelweiss Air A340-313 (HB-JMF) side view illustration by norebbo.com. By far the most colorful aircraft I’ve flown all year.
ZRH-SAN route map edelweiss
Our route from Zurich to San Diego today. It was a long one, and it hurts my back just looking at it.

The full video for this Edelweiss A340 economy class jaunt to SAN – with music courtesy of Epidemic Sound:

Obtaining my boarding pass from a self-service kiosk and then squeaking through passport control was quick and painless – I was still feeling very much like a travel pro at this point, ready to deflect trouble with nothing but a raised hand and a piercing glare (Jedi style).

Even getting through the security checkpoint was a breeze, despite the fact that I have a medical condition which makes going through metal detectors not such a good idea. It’s never a big deal though, and they always pull me aside to do one of those uncomfortably awkward pat-downs where all I can really do is just stare blankly off into space, trying my best to ignore the guy who is rubbing his hands back and forth and up and down across my junk.

As usual, I stood there repeating “I’ll never see this dude ever again in my entire life so it’s no big deal” over and over again in my head. As soon as he was finished doing what he needed to do, I grabbed my stuff with an ashamed “thanks” and that was it. Little did I know of the significance of what had just happened, and if you are feeling clueless as well, don’t worry – it’s all going to make sense a little bit later in the trip report…

Main terminal Zürich airport
Through security and into the main terminal with a slightly modified version of the Shaft theme song running through my head: “Who’s the white nerdy AvGeek who’s not-so-interesting to all the chicks? (SANspotter!) You’re daaaamn right…”
 Zürich airport seating
Even though this looks like a really nice place to sit and relax for a bit, I was on a mission to do some lounge hopping this morning. This wasn’t going to do!
Zürich airport interior design
The interior of this airport is really nice though, even in the main areas such as this. You certainly don’t need lounge access to relax in style here.

Everything was still going smashingly well as I arrived in terminal E and began my quest to do a bit of lounge hopping with my shiny new Priority Pass membership. FYI, my favorite credit card at the moment is the American Express Platinum, which despite its hefty annual fee, is a total powerhouse of a travel card with loads of good benefits.

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One of those benefits just happens to be a complementary Priority Pass Select membership which allows access to thousands of airport lounges around the world. According to them, there are two here in terminal E and you’re darn daaamn right that I was going to check out both.

How I get into airport lounges
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  • Access to over 1300 airport lounges around the world, regardless of airline flown or class of ticket.
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This is where things get awkward again. Little did I know that I actually had to sign up for Priority Pass in order to obtain a card, and you can’t just waltz into any of the participating lounges and wave your Platinum card around thinking that it’ll be enough to get you in. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I did and it confused the heck out of the nice ladies at the front desk of the Aspire lounge. I was feeling confused as well, and I instantly felt the urge to make a stern phone call directly to American Express telling them that they were full of crap and the whole Priority Pass thing was not working as advertised.

It’s a good thing I didn’t though because after the second lounge denied me, I kind of put two and two together and realized that I actually needed a physical Priority Pass card in order for this to work. I felt like a complete idiot, and really bummed that I wouldn’t be able to do any lounge hopping as I had planned.

Zürich airport terminal E
Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be rejected by two different airport lounges within a span of five minutes? I was feeling a bit red-faced back out here in the main terminal, realizing that I wasn’t really as important as I thought I was.

Thankfully, the people at the Zurich airport understand how fun it is to watch airplanes, and there are some of the best observation decks in the world here. So even though I didn’t have lounge access this morning, I wasn’t feeling completely bummed about it since I was able to get up close and personal with some amazing aircraft from the vantage point of a magnificent outdoor observation deck.

Zürich airport flight departures
A quick check of the boards to see if my flight is on time, but the only thing I learned from this was the fact that there is an observation deck here that I desperately needed to see.
Zürich airport observation deck terminal E
Holy moly – now this is a proper observation deck! Why can’t we have stuff like this in the US?
 Zürich airport Observation deck
If this was in the US, there would be a 16-foot solid brick wall with quarter-inch peep holes every 3 feet. Nah, I’m totally exaggerating. They don’t even build observation decks back home.
SANspotter selfie ZRH observation deck
Pondering life or just focusing on trying to look cool for a selfie?
SANspotter selfie ZRH airport
I obviously wasn’t trying to look cool for this, as the interior portion of the observation deck had a lot of neat stuff to look at and I was deeply mesmerized by it all.

By the time I had my fill watching airplanes, it was getting very close to the scheduled boarding time and I decided to head back inside and get myself into flight mode. The first thing I noticed once I arrived at the gate was how empty it was. The plane was sitting there getting prepped as normal, but I couldn’t help to think how empty it was at the gate area so empty so close to the boarding time. That’s when I started thinking that maybe it was going to be a very empty flight and being in economy class for 12 hours might end up being not as bad as I was expecting. There goes that Shaft music again…

Gate E 35 Zürich airport
Gate E35 today, complete with a dot-matrix printer straight outta 1976. No airport gate would be complete without one!
Zürich airport gate area
Does that look like a “full A340” kind of crowd to you? So far it’s looking as if it’s going to be a light load to San Diego this afternoon…
Edelweiss Air A340 Zurich Airport
“Daaaamn right…” considering that I’ve never even seen Shaft in my life, I’m not really sure why that theme song was stuck in my head so strongly this morning. But that’s a good-looking airplane isn’t it? Damn right it is.
US passport Zürich airport
Pro tip for any first time visitors to SANspotter.com: If I’m taking a picture of my boarding pass and passport at the gate, it means that the really fun stuff is about to happen.

The boarding process began, and things seemed fairly normal – initially. Let me show you some pics before I tell you about the next awkward thing that happened.

Boarding Edelweiss Air A340 to San Diego
Here we go! As much as I like the idea of Edelweiss flying to San Diego, it still seems weird to me. British Airways and Lufthansa makes perfect sense, I can’t help but to wonder how long this is going to last.
Edelweiss A340 Boarding door
“Welcome aboard Edelweiss Air! And watch out for that guy behind you taking a picture of the back of your head!“
Edelweiss A340 Business class
Blue seats. I guess it shouldn’t have been all that surprising considering the color of fhe carpet in my room at the Radisson Blu (Zurich Airport) last night.
Edelweiss A340 economy class
Edelweiss A340-300 economy class.
Edelweiss A340 economy class
Despite the jokes, I think that red and blue is one of the best color combinations ever. This seat pitch though…
Edelweiss A340 Economy class seat pitch
The seat pitch on this bird was a bit too tight for my liking, and I was instantly having some pretty nasty flashbacks from my Air Canada Rouge experience last year.
Edelweiss A340 economy class cabin
Despite how tight it felt back here, I was conflicted because this is a really good looking cabin. Do I hate it or do I love it? Ask me again in six hours…
Edelweiss A340 economy class cabin interior
I was very worried about how I was going to survive 12 hours in seats this tight, but I was really digging the large video screens. Mixed emotions like a mofo as we were sitting here at the gate ready to push off.

So yeah, time for more awkward stuff. The first thing that was really weird was the fact that even though it was quite obvious that the flight was going to be very empty, there was someone in the seat adjacent to mine (an aisle seat I paid $25 for). Throughout the entire boarding process, people slowly came onboard and sat down in seats with no one else around them, but there I was sitting shoulder to shoulder with a complete stranger on a very empty airplane as the main boarding door was closed. How the hell does stuff like that that even happen?

Edelweiss A340 safety card
Awkwardly taking a picture of the safety card like a total dork. It’s even more awkward when you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with a complete stranger on a very empty airplane, and I’m pretty sure the guy was getting nervous about me as I tried to get the composition just right.
Edelweiss A340 safety card
The fact that he didn’t bolt like a flash of lighting to an empty seat when I flipped over the card to take a picture of the other side was reassuring though. That must’ve meant that he thought I wasn’t completely off my rocker!

It was about the time we were sharing nervous small talk when yet another really awkward thing happened. My phone buzzed, alerting me to a DM from my Instagram friend @travelswithamandeuce that simply asked “are you the one with the red shoes?” I immediately thought that he was sitting right behind me without me even knowing it, which caused me to pop my head up and look around the cabin to see if I could spot him. I didn’t see anything, so I was curious as hell as to how (and where) he spotted me.

Edelweiss a340 economy class
Poking my head into the aisle to see if I could spot @travelswithamandeuce waving at me from somewhere within this plane.

Long story short, he was the guy who cupped me at security. Whoa. Talk about an awkward first meeting! We didn’t even recognize each other at the time, and it was only after he saw one of my real-time Instagram stories about boarding this flight that he realized it was me. Now, I’ve had some awkward first meetings in my life, but this one tops them all. So even though our encounter was less than 30 seconds, it’s hard not to think that he knows me more than most people (male or female) ever will. Lol!

Realizing that the flight was nearly empty helped to wash away the feelings of embarrassment, and I bid adieu to my seatmate as I jumped across the aisle to an open row with a vacant window seat. Just as I was sitting down, the cabin crew made an announcement that anyone wishing to upgrade to business class could do so for the price of 800CHF. I’ll admit that I was tempted, but since I had a entire row to myself I figured it wasn’t necessary and I decided to stay put.

SANspotter selfie Edelweiss a340
Claiming an empty row all to myself (#winning!). I was definitely feeling the #agonyofdefeat with that seat pitch though.
Edelweiss Economy class hand wipes
Hand wipes. In a bright red package of course.
Edelweiss Complementary earbuds
Ugh! How are these complementary earbuds not blue? Virgin America had purple earphones, so there’s no excuse for this!

The two girls sitting behind me were making me second-guess my decision to switch to this row though because they would just not shut up. Seriously, it was just nonstop talking with hardly any breaks to stop and take a breath. I thought for sure that I would not be able to stay put, which was OK given how empty the flight was. Finding a new (and much quieter) seat wasn’t going to be a problem if they pushed me to my breaking point.

Edelweiss A340 wing
And then she was like no way I can’t believe she said that and I’m all like it’s true! Like oh my god can you believe it? I can’t imagine how some people can be so rude and unaware of their surroundings. I mean, like, how stupid do you have to be to know that you’re super annoying and you don’t even know it?“ – Said the girl sitting in 27A to the girl in 27B
Edelweiss Video entertainment main screen
With all the commotion going on behind me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hold my position here in row 26.

After an approximate 40 minute wait at the gate due to airport congestion, we were finally on our way to San Diego. The two girls were still yapping away behind me though, and I was pretty sure that I was going to have to make a run for it as soon as we took off and reached cruising altitude.

Edelweiss A340 Departure and take off from Zürich
And then I found out she lied to me and I just couldn’t believe it because I thought she was my best friend and I was all like no way someone is gonna treat me like that and…” Yup. She talked through through entire departure sequence (and I don’t even think she took a breath the entire time).

Thankfully the cabin service started nearly immediately after we departed, which shut the girls up enough to think that I would be able to stay put – at least for a while. Drink orders came first, and while I was sipping on my water, I started to think that it was odd that the cabin crew didn’t make a welcome announcement at all. They just jumped right into things, which didn’t really bother me any since I was getting pretty hungry by this point.

SANspotter selfie edelweiss Air
Miss 27A back there doing a fantastic job of annoying the hell out of SANspotter.

The lunch service came within minutes after the drinks, which consisted of a vegetarian dish or something with sausage in it. My apologies for not being able to remember exactly what it was, but there were no menus distributed. They simply rolled up to my seat, asked me what I wanted, and that was that. Oh, I went with the vegetarian dish by the way.

Edelweiss economy class lunch
Lunch is served! The initial presentation looked decent for economy class fare, but I wasn’t going to know for certain until I ripped that tinfoil lid off and dug in.
Edelweiss Air economy class lunch
It ended up being some sort of lasagna dish, which was actually quite good.
SANspotter selfie edelweiss meal service
Anthony Bourdain I am not, so my apologies for not being able to describe this meal with a brilliant string of colorful adjectives that would make you stop whatever it is that you’re doing to stand and applause. Rest in peace Tony. You inspired more people than you could have possibly imagined.

I watched episodes of Will and Grace during the meal service, which was a bit difficult since the person sitting in front of me reclined their seat back the full amount and I ended up staring at a video screen mere inches from my face. Welcome to economy class!

Edelweiss air to San Diego
Wrapping up the lunch service as we made our way out over the Norwegian Sea.
Edelweiss air lavatory
Loo check. Are you as disappointed as I am that the toilet isn’t blue?
Edelweiss air A340 economy class cabin
The walk back from the lavatory reveals exactly how empty this flight was. Anybody who wanted a full row to stretch out and sleep got one!

The cabin lights dimmed slowly over the next hour or so, with nearly everybody drawing their window shades closed. Except for the woman sitting in front of me. She was dead asleep, and it ended up that her window shade was the only one left open in the entire cabin – and it was highly annoying. That’s when I decided to go for it, and I reached forward between the seat and the wall and shut it for her (thinking that she wouldn’t even notice). But wouldn’t you know it, it woke her up and she immediately looked around wondering what the hell had just happened. Of course I didn’t say anything and just pretended to be asleep. Yeah, I’m sneaky like that.

It was right about then that I realized that things were not going all that well. You see, my flight over to Europe a few days ago on Lufthansa wasn’t all that uncomfortable actually, and I guess I was kind of expecting the same level of comfort for this Edelweiss flight back to San Diego. But it was worse. Much worse. The seats on this particular aircraft were so hard and uncomfortable that I simply couldn’t find a position which didn’t make my legs fall asleep in less than 10 minutes. Combine that with the fact that the seat pitch was painfully tight (I’m talking Air Canada Rouge tight), and it was pretty much the most uncomfortable economy class I’ve ever been in.

Thankfully the flight attendants came through the aisles every now and then with trays of drinks, and taking shots of water or apple juice every hour or so was a nice break from the pain and discomfort.

Edelweiss air Economy class drinks
Fine Swiss apple juice to dull the pain. I should have asked for straight scotch instead.
SANspotter selfie edelweiss
This is my “I can’t feel my legs” look.
Edelweiss air A340 dark cabin
I wonder who else in here is in as much pain as I am?

Then the ice cream came. I wasn’t really in the mood for ice cream due to the fact that I couldn’t feel my legs and my back was killing me, but ice cream is ice cream and I did what I could with it.

Edelweiss air Mid flight snack
What is it about ice cream that has the power to dull severe discomfort? I dunno, but I think I’m going to need a bucket of this stuff…
Flying from Zürich to San Diego
Really? Just let me off here guys. I’ll hitchhike the rest the way home.
Edelweiss air Sleeping in economy class
Dead bodies everywhere.
The guy who leaves his window shade open
Yup, all that light is coming from one rogue window up there on the right. The flight attendants didn’t seem to care though and it was like this for the rest of the way to San Diego.
Flying over Alberta Canada
Canada, eh.

The only thing that could take my mind off my numb legs and throbbing back was to do a bit of business planning, which consisted of trying to figure out what I was going to do the first day of self-employment next week. It kept me busy for a couple hours, long enough for them to start coming through with the breakfast service.

Thank God I made it through the night alive – I was really worried for a while, especially since this flight had not been going as well as I expected it would. Don’t get me wrong – the service had been excellent so far, but the seats I pretty much hated.

SANspotter selfie window view
The cabin lights are turning on, which is pretty good news for me and the 15 other passengers on this flight. We survived the night!
Edelweiss air A340 wing
More blue and red. I just can’t get away from this color combo!
Edelweiss Flight to San Diego
Flying west of San Diego with an hour and a half to go. Geography makes my head hurt sometimes.
Edelweiss air A340 Cabin mood lighting
The cabin mood lighting eventually turned from orange to purple, which meant that breakfast was about to be served. Bring it on! (please and thank you)
Edelweiss Economy class breakfast
I really couldn’t tell you what this was, but I didn’t matter much to me. It was food, I was hungry, so I ate it.
SANspotter selfie edelweiss breakfast
Questioning whether or not I will ever be able to walk again. That’s some pretty heavy stuff to think about over breakfast.

The descent into San Diego began shortly after they cleared my breakfast tray, and I was so numb at that point that I didn’t even care that there was a thick layer of clouds hugging the coastline of Southern California and I wasn’t going to be able to get a beautiful and sunshiny series of pics for the approach and landing. “Screw it… just get this damn plane on the ground!”

Edelweiss pre Landing snack
That’s pretty cool – I definitely wasn’t expecting a pre-landing snack, and the fact that it had an Edelweiss logo molded into it made it even better.
Edelweiss Approach into San Diego Airport
It’s looking pretty gloomy out there, and not at all typical of the normal sunshiny approach into San Diego.
Edelweiss Arrival into San Diego
A quick check of the in-flight map revealed that despite what this looks like, no, we are not diverting to Seattle. I’d imagine there were some very disappointed Europeans on this flight once they realized they flew 12 hours for this.
 Flying into San Diego on Edelweiss air
How much you wanna bet that most of those people down there on I-5 are looking at our plane thinking “E d e l…huh? What the hell is that airline?”
Edelweiss Arrival into San Diego
Welcome to San Diego! Ok, which one of you knuckleheads turned off the sunshine for our European guests today??
Edelweiss A340 arrival San Diego
I’m happy to report that my legs were still fully functional, though a bit numb and angry at me for what I had just put them through.
Edelweiss air A340 cabin arrival
That dude in the blue looks rough.
Edelweiss air A340 business class
Another pro tip: If you find yourself on an Edelweiss A340 in economy class, and they offer you an upgrade to business class for 800CHF, you take it and thank them profusely as they swipe your credit card.
Edelweiss air San Diego review
My sincerest apologies for not being able to conclude this trip report with any of that typically gorgeous San Diego sunshine. This livery deserves so much better than these gloomy overcast conditions!

Well, that’s it folks. This was a flight that I had been looking forward to for a very long time and I’m so very glad that I finally had the chance to do it. The announcement that Edelweiss Air (an airline most non AvGeeks have never heard of) would be serving San Diego with nonstop flights to Zurich last year came completely out of left field and took me by complete surprise – and as a matter of fact, I am still in disbelief they’re actually flying here! Let’s just hope those load factors improve and that the low number of passengers on this particular flight was just an anomaly, because they may not be fine here for long if these planes are flying this empty all the time.

I’d also like to hope that I don’t run in to any more of my Instagram buddies as awkwardly as I did during this trip. Getting felt up by strangers is perfectly acceptable in certain situations, but chatting about travel and airplanes over a beer or two is always a far less weird way to meet someone for the first time. Always.

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