You know that moment when the airline sends you text saying your flight’s being delayed by half an hour? Then, suddenly its back on time? Well our “SWISS operated by Helvetic” flight from Zürich to BHX on Sunday afternoon (LX424) went through just that. It wasn’t exciting, it meant nothing. We were due to fly back on an E190, nothing thrilling there.
As the bus collected us from Gate D51 – it went a fair distance around the terminal. I couldn’t see any parked-up E190’s. But there were three CS100’s.
My interest suddenly spiked – could it be that the Helvetic had gone technical? Were they going to put us on a CS100? The bus parked between two of them – HB-JBC on my right and HB-JBG on the left. Surely it would be JBG?
15 minutes they kept us on the bus, air con at full blast (it was 25C+ outside), then the doors opened and we were allowed out and on to HB-JBG. It was like my Christmas and Birthday wishes all rolled in to one! I have been trying to wrangle all sorts of ways of getting a flight on one for weeks.
The video above of an Edelweis A320 – I’ve never seen anything pushed back that fast and that far – backwards all the way down the length of the terminal and then out of sight!
SWISS is a smart and tidy airline, they have a certain style and a certain charisma, not dissimilar to Finnair. Neatness, simplicity, purpose, is imbued into every aspect of their DNA – from the main terminal buildings, to check in and the staff, both in person and in appearance. You cannot help but feel they’re a lot better than a common LCC or some budget airline. Some airlines try to make you feel this way and fail, but not SWISS. They don’t come over as stodgy or pompous, just effective, more caring, classy.
And that’s how the CS100 feels as you get on board. The 2-3 seating is generous, a wide seat, plenty of leg room for someone of 6ft. High ceilings, massive – and I do mean massive – overhead bins. On top of that the leather finish in grey and the neat cloth head rests, the chrome finish, it just adds a touch of class.
I was in one of the twin seats with my better half trying not to laugh at my somewhat over-excited glee at being on the CS100. 15A (they run A,C, then D,E,F for reasons that remain a mystery), is a window seat, just in front of the rear of the wing, with two windows easily accessed.
The windows are large, with the chrome push-pull going up into a recess at the top. it’s novel, but I noticed across the aircraft that many of them just weren’t staying put – when pushed up they slowly fell down, both taxiing and in flight. There is a reason this happens, explained later.
Comfortable, easily adjusted for tilt, plenty wide enough – they looked like they might be 19″ at the hip, they were certainly wider than me and the arm rests were far enough apart that you could only use one, depending on which way you leant.
The ZIM tray is a neat, attractive quality item that comes forward on a light but strong aluminium arm, and slides back and forth into place.
The tray arm splits the seat back and two elastic pockets are available for storing small items like a mobile phone. The main storage for the sick bag, duty-free mag, safety card and Swiss magazine are moulded into the seat back at the top, looking very neat and tidy.
Overhead the traditional knob-dials for the air flow controls are simple and effective. The most notable thing is a smart-phone sized horizontal LCD screen, which plays video and offers up information, but passengers have no control over it.
I’m going to be blunt. Disappointing is the only thing I can say here. The weather was calm, there was no turbulence.
First off the PA system is awful, the microphone is too sensitive and picks up everything, The speakers are stereo above your head, and reproduce every last sound with tinny, over trebled, callousness that is not pleasing to the ear. Worse than that, the background sound masks what the user is trying to say.
On taxiing I though the whole aircraft vibrated far too much, being above the main gear and behind the engine I was prepared to let that go on the ground – but nothing changed when we were airborne. The entire aircraft vibrated harshly and constantly. In my younger days I raced classic cars – the first thing a racing driver notices is the feel of a car – and the one thing car manufacturers still do, is look to communicate vibration and response through the base of the spine and buttocks – more about a car’s handling is communicated to you this way than through the steering or pedals combined.
The CS100 felt like a badly set up sports car. The vibration was harsh, constant, the sound levels high, and were the main cause of the window blinds falling down.
In fact I would say that it is without a doubt the worst vibration, sound and distortion I have ever experienced on a modern aircraft.
After a 90 minute flight it was positively tiring, tedious and annoying. To be honest I was shocked at how poorly insulated and prone to it the aircraft was. All the sophisticated looks and branding do not make for a great flight when it feels like this.
The aircraft was far from fully laden. There were only 59 of us on board, and barely ten checked bags – three of those were ours after ten days away. Would that have made a difference? I doubt it.
SWISS have helped Bombardier a great deal, and lots of improvements and solutions have been introduced as production has moved on, that’s part of how industry works on projects like this. I’d like to try a newer aircraft and find out if these issues are still prevalent. Right now, if I was a company manager, I’d be making a case for something to be done to dampen the vibration issue down. As it is, it really isn’t very good, seriously taking the shine off what is otherwise a very nicely designed and presented aircraft.
Visually the CS100 looks fantastic “in the metal” inside and out. As an option for a 4 hour trans-Europe flight, I’m not so keen and would much prefer the serenity of an A320. Bombardier still have some work to do.
Of note, some of the trim was looking less than ideal. the chrome finished over head bins and window handles, were tarnished and didn’t look like they would last six months never mind a year. It’s a lovely looking aircraft, but it seems to be lacking the high level of quality I’d have expected.
Look and appeal of the interior 8.5/10
Look and appeal of the exterior 9.0/10
Overall flight and enjoyment: 6.0/10