After a rather skimpy 5 hours of sleep on a slightly hard seat (all you can get on a flight that's barely 6 hours long!), it was time for breakfast. The french toast was prettier than it looked (which was very pretty), but at least-- in true Swiss fashion-- the hot chocolate was tasty.
Upon checking out the actual route flown, turns out this flight also skipped the usual, shorter/more efficient routing over Iran and Ukraine, instead going west over Saudi Arabia, the Mediterranean, and western Turkey, just like the inbound (except in reverse!). Still not sure why both of my flights took the longer routing rather than the shorter one on this trip, but given that it was a pair of Geography dorks hanging out all weekend, t'was definitely something to note.
The 6:30am arrival meant that Zurich Airport was deserted, virtually everything closed, on arrival. Took a few empty-airport pictues to kill time, then waited for the PrimeClass Lounge to open. Like all of the lounges inside Terminal E, it has some amazing views of the tarmac from the outdoor patio, a basic but tasty breakfast spread in the typical European fashion, and plenty of comfortable seating, including a bunch of high-backed chairs that offered surprising privacy.
Stayed there for an hour until the SWISS Air Lounge opened, which had slightly nicer furnishings and fresher (but still basic) made-to-order hot food. In contrast to the PrimeClass Lounge's high-backed, very private chairs in a few years, the SWISS lounge had a more airy, more business-like feel throughout most of the lounge, with a dedicated quiet area for those who needed privacy/working space. Comfortable as well, just in a different way than the PrimeClass Lounge. The long entryway lined with an extensive selection of free-to-take magazines in the SWISS Air Lounge was also a nice touch, as was (or rather, will be) the whisky bar when it re-opens.
Next flight was an old United 767-300ER for the flight to Newark International Airport. To my surprise, service* was excellent, just as good as Air Canada and SWISS Air had been. While it was a bit early for lunch, the beef shortrib served after taking off was actually quite good-- much better than the "pizza" that was served before landing. Of the three different business class seats experienced this trip, the United Polaris seat was the best** of the three, with the most modern screens, a serviceable in-flight map, an extensive TV and movie selection, and the most comfortable when laid flat.
* = this was a good crew from United. Inconsistent/poor service is a hallmark of all the US carriers compared to their foreign counterparts.
** = assuming you can grab a seat further away from the aisle, as opposed to closer to the aisle. Much like SWISS Air, some seats are definitely better than others.
A sunny afternoon awaited in New Jersey, super quick powered-by-facial-recognition Global Entry, and a nearly as quick walk from Terminal B to Terminal C and the just-reopened United Polaris Lounge (literally just opened the day before!). It was much appreciated having access to United's fancy international business class lounges again, including a proper full service meal. The Polaris dining room food was a tad bit too salty for half the dishes-- but tasty enough. The buffet ended up similarly underwhelming, more bland than salty at least? The shower rooms were a bit rough on maintenance (but still had ample hot water once I figured out the showerheads) but considering it was literally their second day in operation, the service wrinkles are forgiveable.
Final flight of the day was on a bigger Boeing 777-200ER, again with the proper Polaris seats. Wasn't hungry, but nibbled at the Thai chicken that seems to be frequently on offer. As usual it was tastier than it looks (and it looked downright awful today). They're slowly restoring service as well, with both sorbet in actual glassware finally returning, along with the pre-arrival cheese plate (woohoo!). Ended up being a solid flight back to LAX, and not a bad way to end a very long day.