Switzerland is known for many great things: Cheese, chocolate, candies, knifes and lots more. But is SWISS‘ business class product good enough to be also mentioned here? That’s what our editor Dennis Schäfer tried to find out on his flight from Johannesburg to Zurich in an Airbus A340-300. Learn more below.
No problems occurred when checking in online. Since I booked a discounted business class round trip fare from Vienna to Johannesburg and back and this was the inbound flight, the first leg of our flight went from Johannesburg to Zurich. The second leg was a European business class flight from Zurich to Vienna. I also booked an additional flight from Vienna to Tegel on a separate ticket. Luckily the check-in agent was able to check my luggage through from Johannesburg via Zurich via Vienna to Berlin. I didn’t have to queue for that at all since there was a separate business class check-in.
Unfortunately there is no fast track security at Johannesburg airport. And since the queue was long, it took me a good amount of time until I was through security and passport control.
Hand luggage rules for business class passengers are as usual: 2 items of hand luggage plus a personal item (or other items specified on SWISS’ website).
Checked baggage rules: You are allowed 2 items of baggage, each up to 32 kg with a maximum size of 158 cm (width X + height Y + depth Z) per item.
SWISS amongst various other airlines works with a contract lounge called Aspire Lounge at Johannesburg airport. I would have really enjoyed the lounge but unfortunately it was very full, probably at around 100% capacity. Every seat and table was taken and the noise level was pretty loud which made it tough to spend a long time in the lounge.
The lounge itself is spacious and offers a good variety of food and drinks.
The toilets were clean and the lounge also offers showers. Overall a good lounge but not worth arriving for earlier.
The lounge was conveniently located, very close to the boarding gate I boarded from. It took less than 5 minutes to get to the gate.
The boarding area felt a bit cramped and crowded. The were two separate queues, one for business and first class passengers (plus Star Alliance Gold, HON and Senator status holders) and one for economy class passengers. Boarding was supposed to start at 18:50 according to the boarding pass, however when I arrived at the gate at 18:40 boarding had already begun.
Unfortunately at these specific gates, boarding is done through transfers buses. The ride took about 5 minutes.
Departure after boarding was delayed by about 30 minutes because of traffic congestion. So I sat just more than an hour in the airplane before it took off.
I did not see any upgrade offers at the gate. Looking around, the business class felt like it was at 100% occupancy.
Cabin & Comfort
SWISS’ business class in the A340-300 consists of an alternating 1-2-1 and 2-2-1 configuration. On the left side of the cabin the seats alternative between a single ‘throne’ seat with lots of privacy and space and 2 seats next to each other.
While the throne seat is probably the best seat in the cabin, the window seat on the left side of the cabin in the 2-2-1 row is probably the worst seat. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no direct aisle access. The design and layout of the seats and the middle console make it extremely hard to get to the aisle without waking up your seat neighbour.
The business class cabin consists of a total of 47 seats. There are only 2 toilets available for those seats. With almost 100% occupancy I had to wait for the lavatory to be available every time I wanted to use it.
The bathroom itself is very similar to the economy class toilet. The only difference I found were the additional amenities. Those additional amenities were however only added at some point in the night. In the evening before sleeping there were no amenities. I would have really liked a mouth wash in the bath room but it was not part of the amenities they provided.
The lavatories were well maintained throughout the flight.
SWISS equips their long-haul business class exclusively with lie-flat seats. The seat itself is very comfortable in my opinion.
The seat has several configuration options, for example you can adjust the lumbar support. I was also able to adjust the seat cushioning which I really liked. I was surprised by the massage functionality of the seat, however it didn’t do much unfortunately.
The tray table comes out of the upper part of the middle console. Generally speaking the middle console takes a lot of space. On the other hand it offers lots of privacy. Great when you travel on your own, not so good when you travel as a couple. At that upper middle console you can also find the adjustable reading light, another light that has 2 different lighting options, your headphones and your water. In front of you there is a small compartment where you can put your amenity kit for example and a small water. In the middle between both screens there are two hatches on top of each other. These don’t give much storage space, at max it can fit one or two magazines or newspapers.
The area where you can put your feet is quite spacious. It is not narrow at all and offers lots of space for your feet. Unfortunately there is no space for the pillow and the blanket that are on your seats when you board. Therefore they ended up on the floor. Not the most hygienic way but there is absolutely no other space to put them except on your lap.
The blanket was very comfortable on the skin and has the right thickness and therefore is warm enough during the flight. The size is also great. I was able to cover my whole body and I am 1.90m tall. The pillow is very comfortable and fluffy. It works perfectly fine with the seat and its headrest in my opinion.
There were no seat mattress covers and no sleep wear was provided.
The amenity kit is pretty average and contains an eye mask, socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm and ear plugs. There were no slippers, no headphone covers and no creme provided on this flight. The socks were of a good quality.
One thing I noticed is that the seats feel pretty old already with marks and scratches:
Food & Service
After boarding and before take-off I had the choice of an orange juice with crushed mint leafs, a champagne or water. About 30 minutes after departure flight attendants handed out wet towels. I recently flew Singapore Airlines economy class from Manila to Singapore and I must say that the quality of the towels was better in Singapore Airlines’ economy class than in SWISS’ business class. Not that it makes a huge difference but it’s just something I noticed. After that an aperitif was served. I opted for champagne.
SWISS’ food quality is excellent. They offer an extensive choice of food and beverages during the flight.
Pre-starters in the form of nuts & wine were served 40-45 minutes after departure. The actual starters came about 80 minutes after departure. The main dish was only served 110 minutes after departure. With our delay of 30 minutes, we were starving by the time the food came.
Food quality was great however and I really enjoyed all dishes. I choose the air-dried beef as a starter and the beef tenderloin as a main. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked and better than the filet I had the day before in a restaurant in Johannesburg! I didn’t get breakfast as I wanted to sleep as long as possible.
I also really liked the fact that you were offered Nespresso coffees during the flight. I’m a big fan and therefore ordered one in the morning.
In general the service was nice. My flight attendant was very attentive and took my jacket right in the beginning. She also offered passengers to take photos of them and their partners. That was very nice however felt a bit like a guideline from the airline rather than just being nice since she offered that to every passenger. Nothing to complain about however, I was happy with the service.
Entertainment & WiFi
SWISS is offering a variety of entertainment options including movies, series, music, games etc. The screen is quite big and offers a touchscreen functionality. There I never really needed the remote from the middle arm rest. Only once for additional service.
SWISS also offer WiFi on their flights. You can also access the WiFi through signing into your iPass or Boingo accounts. Here are the in my opinion very unattractive and outdated WiFi options:
- Check-In & Boarding
- Cabin & Comfort
- Food & Service
- Entertainment & WiFi
SWISS offers a good business class overall. I think the cabin will need an update pretty soon for the airline to stay competitive and relevant. The soft product is pretty nice and I don’t have many things to note here. Therefore I feel SWISS can really push their quality with an updated cabin.