Chasing the A380: Swiss First Class Lounge Chicago

Filed Under: Awards, Swiss

I got to Terminal 5 about 75 minutes before departure, only to find Swiss check-in completely deserted. I briefly had one of those “oops” moments where I questioned whether I didn’t convert the time properly, showed up on the wrong day, or something else.

I weaseled my way up to the check-in counter, where the agent had my boarding pass waiting for me and said “you’re the last passenger to check-in.” I was surprised so asked if I had missed the cut off, to which she responded “you’re in first class. What cut off?” Love it!

Check-in counter

I headed straight to security, where the regular queue was a mile long, though fortunately the premium security line was a more reasonable 15 minute wait. I was in line behind the rather spunky Aer Lingus crew, and I have to say, I kind of want to fly them now.

Security line

I was chosen for the full body scanner, and as usual requested a private pat down instead. When you get a private pat down the TSA agents carry your belongings to the screening room for you, and one of the agents tried to place my bag on top of my laptop. I asked him nicely not to do that and explained it could damage and scratch my laptop to which he responded “really, your laptop is going to be damaged?” At this point the other TSA agent snickered at him to be quiet, and I asked “am I being unreasonable to not want my laptop to be scratched?” The other guy quickly jumped in and said “of course not.” At least one person was reasonable…

After a most pleasant three minute massage (the only thing missing was spa music and a relaxation fountain) I was on my way. The Swiss lounge is located just past security. At the entrance I was pointed left to the first class section, where I met my friend since he had a different inbound flight.

It’s worth noting that I took the same exact flight on Swiss back in 2009, and you can read that review here. Last time the lounge was pretty awful, featuring nothing more than rabbit food (not that you really need a meal before boarding an international first class flight, but it’s still nice to be given the option if you want to sleep aboard).

This time they had changed the setup of the lounge. Not only was it remodeled, but they changed the layout as well. Instead of just having a few seats, they added some dining tables to the lounge, and substantially improved the food selection.

First Class Lounge

Dining table

The lounge now also featured a real buffet, including salad, appetizers, and even a menu with a handful of options.


Drink selection

Snack selection

Wine selection

The menu read as follows:

Obviously the menu isn’t worth ruining my appetite over prior to an international first class meal on one of my favorite airlines, though the waiter convinced me to go with some shrimp, and in preparation for heading to Germany I figured I had to have a pretzel roll.

Pre-flight snack

Given how late I got to the lounge we had only about 20 minutes before boarding was announced.

On the whole I was impressed at the improvements they’ve made at this lounge since the last visit. Kudos!

But the real highlight would be awaiting us aboard the flight to Zurich.

  1. The shrimp skewer looks like the same appetizer on UA’s p.s. flights I think excluding the balsamic glaze.

  2. Can you write a post at some point explaining your reasoning for always opting out of the full-body scanner? Are you worried about the potential radiation? Are you trying to make a point to the TSA about the absurdity of their “security theater”?

    I don’t have any problem with your decision (unless you said you did it because you are worried about some TSA agent seeing a naked body image, then I’d say that’s a bit irrational!), but as someone who doesn’t opt-out, I’m just curious as to your thinking (and to make sure I’m not missing some reason I’m not aware of that should make me think twice about not opting-out). It just seems that many of the more active travel bloggers out there all opt-out all the time, and I don’t know why.

  3. Lucky was lucky at check-in! I remember being at Barcelona running around the old terminal to help my sister find where to check in for her EasyJet flight to Paris. By the time I made it to the new terminal for my flight back to the US, I was cutting it close. I was actually the last person to check a bag, and the guy behind me was cursing up a storm when they turned him away.

  4. If I was a female I would opt out, but as a male, really don’t get the point of opting for the pat down, which is far more intrusive and time consuming.

  5. I was in this lounge recently. Isn’t the menu just listing what’s on the buffet? From my experience the waiter just cleared plates.

  6. The funniest thing about people who request a putdown is that they all complain about being “molested” or “violated” although they made the decision to do it. The amount of radiation even from backscatter body scanners is negligible, about the same amount as two minutes of flight at cruise. The millimeter wave ones don’t emit radiation, yet people still say it’s a health risk. Whenever I see a body scanner I do my best to get in that line.

  7. Actually I took the full body scan at this same location. They then did a pat down. I had not set off any alarm. They said that’s the way they do it. I told them what’s the point of doing a full body scan if I still get a pat down!

  8. Before this spirals out of control, I was not trying to start a debate about opting out of the body scanner…I just don’t think I’ve ever read Lucky’s personal reason for doing so, and as he mentions it in many trip reports, I was just trying to satisfy my curiosity.

  9. scanners are proven to be highly unefficient and thus represent only another STUPID way to hassle people at airports in the name of Freedom, Liberty and perhaps even Happiness that derives from being safe of evil terrorists…

    Get real guys, travelling in, to and from the USA is an objective nightmare to no end!

  10. @Andrew: X-Ray exposure is cumulative and involves risk. When lower risk alternatives are available, I utilize them. This is why I personally opt out.

    That and, I enjoy the look on a stranger’s face when I quietly whisper “Your hands, they’re like tiny 5-legged Aliens sliding up my oh, oh, ohhh.” as he runs his hands up my legs.

    @Lucky: I have similar experiences with TSA agents trying to place my bag and/or shoes on my unscathed Macbook Pro. I’ve improved my odds by identifying my laptop inconveniently late during the item collection process. Then I politely ask them to allow my laptop to travel alone. For agent who are heaven-bound, they honor it graciously. And for those few who don’t, I like to ask if they enjoy unnaturally hot weather.

  11. I’m pretty sure CX uses the Swiss first class lounge in ORD (don’t know why they don’t use the BA lounge instead).

    Is the buffet only available before the LX flight or while the lounge is open? Though, I guess I can always eat in the BA lounge, if I’m that desperate.

  12. @Curious George- Yes, Cathay uses the Swiss lounge in ORD. The buffet is available before the Cathay flt also. I think Cathay uses the Swiss lounge because it is close to their gate, although I think the BA lounge is close also. Also, it may be a money issue.

  13. The lounge itself doesn’t look too large, so I’m guessing even with Cathay using it, it doesn’t get too crowded, huh?

  14. @Andy B- Actually the lounge is divided into a 1st class side and a bus class side. What you are seeing above is the 1st class side. The food is the same for both sides. When I was there for a recent Cathay flt both sides were crowded. As soon as a flt left it cleared out though.

    Cathay passengers also have access to the SAS bus lounge which is big but not as nice as the Swiss 1st lounge.

  15. Have you ever flown Aer Lingus? Product is fairly standard but the service was always great. With new terminal and US customs/imigration pre clearence at DUB its becoming my fav way to get from east coast us to europe.


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