Well – I didn’t see any gnomes, but I was impressed by a few things.

  • What looked like the same Swiss chocolate I can buy at Costco in Calgary is available duty free in the Zurich International Airport for twice what Costco charges !
  • The doors at the entrance to the bathrooms are stainless steel, well over two metres high and nearly take two hands to pull open as they are really heavy – once inside the bathroom, you certainly do feel secure !
  • They supply little glass boxes for people smoke inside of – the amount of air being pumped through these must be immense, as although they only measure about three or four metres square, even when packed with people furiously puffing away the air still appears clear inside and (from the outside) there is no visible haze. There are similar ones in the new airport in Bangkok (the one with the runways and aircraft parking aprons that are already falling apart even though it just opened ! ), but there the smoky air sort of spills out through the doorways like a low creeping fog. The one thing that is the same, is that it seems a bit comical having these people on display, peering back at you from inside their little glass boxes – it makes me glad that I quit smoking years ago as I wouldn’t like it at all, but then perhaps that’s the point.

I suppose I should also say that Zurich airport is almost brand new, and as such it is one of the most modern and efficient (from a traveller perspective) airports I’ve been to – on a par with KLIA in Kuala Lumpur, Schiphol in Amsterdam and the one in Vancouver and light years ahead of what you see at places like Washington, Seattle, Chicago, Calgary, Edmonton or San Francisco. The gate agents don’t snarl (at least they didn’t the day I went through there), the people assisting and giving directions by the transit trains were friendly and seem to speak just about any language directed at them. The transfer desk agent I dealt with was knowledgeable and friendly, dealt with my problem quickly (I’d missed a connection) and everything I looked at was in good repair. Of special note was that the same Schindler escalators that Calgary transit can’t keep running for more than a day at a time are everywhere, but unlike in Calgary they are working perfectly and have that nice energy saving feature where they speed up from a sleep mode when they sense people accessing them.

One thing they can’t fix is the punctuality of the airlines – my Malaysian Airlines flight left KL late and in spite of it being a 13 hour flight and it also being a nice new 777, was unable to gain back the time and so arrived late. This caused me to miss my connection – and of course my new connecting flight with KLM ran late also as it is winter so flights out of Schiphol are generally delayed as well. In spite of it all, I almost managed to be in The Hague in time for my first meeting – what scuppered me was that KLM managed to loose my luggage between the plane and the baggage carousel, and then to add insult to injury, the KLM agent decided to argue with me about it ! Just additional proof that you really need a good sense of humour if you are going to do much travelling !

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