London Heathrow to Zurich – British Airways

by Continental Club on May 28, 2009

The subject of ‘policing’ often crops up, just as much in the pub as in politics. It’s criticised for its leniency in some quarters and its heavy-handedness in others. Achieving a happy-medium is always going to be tough given the wide variety of subjective viewpoints which it generates.

The British Airports Authority, now known as BAA plc and in charge of the security operation at Heathrow, would appear to be in something of a schizophrenic mood when it comes to the policing of their Heath Robinson-style trays, scanners and arches at Terminal 5 however.

A couple of weeks ago, one of their constables of the conveyor belt decided to apply a zero-tolerance approach to some mashed potato which, inexplicably, appeared to be a liquid or gel in his black and white eyes. Confiscated it was and the poor passenger proceeded veg-less.

Meanwhile, the policing of the system’s Fast Track lane is rather more liberal. Approaching the guardian of the tensa-barrier, he simply said ‘Fast Track, Sir?’ And I simply said ‘Yes.’ Despite the fact that I did, of course, have the appropriate authority in my pocket, the simple utterance of an affirmative seemed to do the trick and I was through and out of the other side in 90 seconds. Whilst undoubtedly quick, one assumes that this somewhat laissez-faire attitude might ultimately cause one or two problems, but I shall leave you to ponder what those might be.

Lounges apart, Terminal 5 presents a never-ending selection of opportunities to liberate currency from your credit card, as long as you can manage to avoid gassing yourself with the stomach-churning aromas eminating from the fast-food outlet at the head of the North escalators.

When boarding is announced, it’s pleasing to see that gate staff are finally getting the hang of boarding by row number and priority/at leisure boarding for shiny cardholders and business class passengers. A little more work to do on this though, as Club World passengers were summoned to this flight – which as a short haul operation was, to be accurate, offering a Club Europe cabin.

The jetty pre-assessment of the crew suggested ‘good-not-great’, which again proved to be reasonably accurate. During the short, early-morning flight, service extends to a hot sandwich in EuroTraveller, and a tea and coffee run. With the humungous Sofitel breakfast still heavy on the belly, the sandwich was politely declined and coffee accepted instead. Which was, to be honest, pretty rotten but at least hot and wet.

Arriving early into Zurich, it was a short walk to the airport’s transit system, and one of those little things that gladden the heart every now and again; in this case, the high-speed video welcome from Heidi as the train shoots down its subterranean tube. It’s not the smoothest of rides however, so Heidi is a bit jiggly:

Passing through immigration and customs is fast and typically-Swiss in its efficiency, before exiting into the arrivals concourse. The quickest and best value way to reach the city is by train, and the station is a short walk across the forecourt and into another terminal area which is built above the platforms.

Tickets can be purchased from machines which take cash only, and cash or card. There’s a bank and an ATM in the vicinity, and a ticket office for advice, information or more complicated requirements than can be fulfilled by the machines.

Particularly good value is the Zurichcard at a cost of CHF38, which affords unlimited tram and train travel for 72 hours within the Zurich canton, as well as numerous other attraction entry and travel benefits. I couldn’t immediately see a button on the machine for the card (which is oddly only available for either 24 hours or 72 hours, but not 48), so the ticket office was called upon instead.

Trains leave for the city every 10-15 minutes, with a variety of train types to be seen as the airport is on a mainline route. Some are sleek InterCity style models, others more run-of-the-mill double-decker commuter contraptions.

All are clean, comfortable and spacious and take just 15 minutes to reach the city centre; look for Zurich Hauptbahnhof on the platform information boards.

Final verdict for British Airways Euro Traveller: 7.5/10. There’s not a lot of scope to shine on these shorthaul flights, but with seats no narrower than Club Europe and the same on-time departure and arrival as the front of the aircraft, there was little to consider unsatisfactory with the service. T5 was a breeze to get through (although BAA’s security shenanigans are trying) and the service on board was friendly. The British Airways short haul seat remains one of the more comfortable too, in my opinion.


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