Usually when I fly from Dubai to North America, I fly via Frankfurt or Munich. I had read good online reviews about Swiss Airways as well as the Zurich Business Class Lounge so I decided I would try something different for a change and see if the Zurich Business Lounge would live up to expectations. Unfortunately, if connecting between non-Shengen destinations through Concourse E, the Zurich Airport experience can be quite disappointing.
Upon arrival in Zurich, I found Concourse E to be a nice size for connections. The distance between gates was minimal and the security check was well organized and efficient. The Terminal was also very nice, well organized, and appeared to be quite new. Our flight into Zurich was late due to air traffic in Dubai (not the fault of Swiss airways), so I was very impressed when on arrival there were two people with stands set up at our arrival gate to assist people with missed flights or tight connections. Unfortunately, Concourse E is a satellite stand-alone concourse that needs to be accessed from Concourses A/B/CD via Skymetro.
I had a four hour layover so I was not worried about my connection but I did find it very difficult to find the business class lounge. There were clear signs for a “Panorama Lounge” but it was not clear which airlines the Panorama Lounge served and whether Star Alliance Gold status would allow me inside. Eventually I climbed the stairs to give it a try and discovered that all airlines other than Emirates appear to be served by the Panorama Lounge in Concourse E. It is unfortunate this was not better signed on the main floor of the departures terminal as I am certain others have had the same difficulty as me in finding it. I suspect the reason for the unclear signage is that the Panorama Lounge is an airport “pay lounge” that just happens to provide certain airline customers access (the airline essentially pays the lounge on your behalf).
My first impression of the Panorama lounge was that it was beautiful. Floor to ceiling windows showcased the Swiss Alps and I was treated with an orange and purple sky due to the morning’s rising sun. Unfortunately, upon check-in to the lounge, I was told that we only had one hour of free WiFi and would have to purchase the next hour for 6.90 CHF (nearly US $8!!)
I also discovered the washrooms were outside the lounge and that no showers were available. Furthermore, magazines and newspapers were for lounge reading only and the seating quickly filled up. The view was certainly enjoyable but one hour of free WiFi is inconsistent with the offerings from other lounges and completely unacceptable for a long layover from my perspective.
The food and beverage selection was similar to that offered by Lufthansa in its Frankfurt and Munich Lounges but with no draught beer available on tap. I had a very nice cappuccino, banana, fruit juice, and enjoyed the view but after my one hour of free WiFi ran out I lost interest in the Panorama Lounge and stopping over in Zurich’s Concourse E in the future.
As much as I love the Zurich airport, and as much as I loved the view of the Swiss Alps at sunrise, I cannot recommend Zurich’s Panorama lounge in Concourse E. The design is nice, the staff were friendly, and the Concourse is efficient for international connections, but due to the lack of free WiFi, showers, and limited beer selection, I am not sure I would choose Zurich as an international connecting airport again.
It is worth noting that Emirates also offers a lounge in Concourse E and Swiss Airways apparently has far superior lounge offerings for Star Alliance member airlines in the main Concourse buildings. I have not experienced these lounges yet so am unable to comment on their quality, but the Panorama Lounge was certainly inferior to most other European transit lounges I have been in.
As busy as the Frankfurt and Munich Lounges can be, I must say that they have better services on offer and will continue to be my preferred international connection choice in Europe going forward.
Note for Star Alliance Gold members that are NOT traveling in Business Class+: the Panorama Lounge does not allow entry. Meaning that there are no lounges in Terminal E for Star Gold members … You have to go to the ones in Terminal A (which is so far away from Terminal E that by the time you get to E it is pointless to return just for the lounge).