SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW BASICS:
Cheers: Mini-cabin that offers additional seclusion and privacy, connection efficiency at the Zurich hub
Jeers: No hot meal offered for second service, despite nearly 10-hour flight length, aging and clunky IFE
Overall: A leading long-haul business class product from an EU carrier, needs a few updates to make it more competitive in the future
FULL SWISS FLIGHT REVIEW
For my most recent visit to the USA, I decided to go with Swiss International Airlines. This decision was influenced by two factors; first, Swiss has again been awarded the 2014 “Europe’s Leading Business Class Airline” at the World Travel Awards. Second, and more importantly, was the price. I managed to grab an online special for US $2,000 return from Prague to Seattle (via Zurich and Chicago) – this was an offer too good to refuse.
Having arrived with a 40-minute flow-control delay on my flight from Prague, my 1:20 connection in Zurich turned into a 40-minute marathon dash through immigration and onto the E-gates. Luckily, thanks to Swiss efficiency, this was all completed in 15 minutes from gate to gate and I still had a chance to enjoy the Business Class lounge. I should mention that the lounge used in the E-gates (long-haul flights) is not of the same quality as the one used in the main gate area; it is rather small and cramped (especially during the long-haul afternoon rush). The redeeming factor though is the outside terrace, which offers a panoramic view of all the happenings on the ramp. I’m sure most AvGeeks would be thrilled to spend a few hours here.
As the flight was very lightly loaded, I was fortunate enough to secure 4A in the mini cabin located behind first class (these seats are normally reserved for top-tier frequent flyers). Swiss has a rather interesting layout within their business class cabin. The layout is designed such that the first row is 1-2-1 while the second row is 2-2-1, and then it repeats. The single seats are generally reserved, once again, for top-tier frequent fliers but are worth it if you can get them. On the left-hand side the single seats resemble a throne due to the layout of the two seats behind it.
Following an on-time departure, the crew began the service some 20 minutes after takeoff. The drink service was completed from a classic cart and there was a range of pre-packaged snacks on offer (I am not a fan of these, as it cheapens the whole “business class experience” for me).
My steak for the main was cooked medium (which is the way I prefer it) and was very juicy and tender.
For dessert we had a selection of sweets and cheeses from the trolley. I, for one, am a fan of this service delivery method, as it reminds of the glory days of air travel, and allows for more interaction with the crew.
About two hours after lunch we were offered Movenpick ice cream. This was an impressive service, as it was served straight from the tub and onto actual ice cream cones, something I have never come across on an aircraft before.
As this was a daytime flight I decided to explore the entertainment options. This is one of the weaker points of Swiss business. The system used on the aircraft is about 5-10 years behind todays systems and as such it is a very “clunky” and at times unresponsive system (on my return flight, the crew had to reset the system no less than four times). The screen size is also not up to the standards of many business class products out there. Despite this, I still managed to watch a few new releases and TV shows.
The second service was conducted approximately two hours prior to arrival. There was a selection of cold salads, meats, and cheeses which were plated from a trolley. It was a bit of a let down; given the length of the flight, I would have expected a second hot meal or a more substantial offering from the trolley.
Arrival into Chicago was on-time, but not before the crew distributed the legendary Swiss chocolates – this is my favorite part when flying Swiss.
Overall, Swiss delivers a solid business class product in terms of on-board comfort. In order to continue to be the leading European business class airline, I feel they need to improve not only their ageing IFE system but also redesign their catering – in particular on transatlantic flights. I am sure that once they bring their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft online in coming years to replace the A330/A340 fleet, we will see a fresh, new, and once again leading European long-haul business class product.