Swiss International Airlines has proudly put its national identity at the forefront of its inflight business class product, discovers Nick Walton on a recent flight from Zurich to Hong Kong.
Part of the Lufthansa group of airlines, Swiss International Air Lines – known simply as Swiss – is the flag carrier of Switzerland and operates scheduled services in Europe and to North America, South America, Africa, and Asia from its bases at Zurich Airport and Geneva Airport.
We checked in online but had to check in our luggage at Zürich Kloten Airport, Switzerland’s largest. The charming airline staff were very helpful, allocating us our desired seats and directing us to the alternative Senator Lounge as the one near our gate was under renovation.
After a walk through the maze that is Zurich’s ever-expanding airport, we arrived at Terminal A’s Senator Lounge, which was a mixed experience. The spacious retreat features a main floor with lounge seating for approximately 60 passengers, with an additional café-style area at the back, and stairs that lead up to a chic cocktail bar that also doubles as the lounge’s smoking area. Facilities also include basic shower suites which can be booked in advance.
Unfortunately, the lounge was in a real state when we arrived, with more than half the tables covered in used plates, glasses, and litter, making it hard to find somewhere to settle in. Staff eventually emerged from behind the scenes to tackle the mess an hour into our visit.
Two full bars on the main level are complemented by great Swiss wines and beers, as well as snacks, soups, and salad ingredients. A single heated pasta dish looked like it had been on display for quite some time.
Swiss International operates an Airbus A340-300 aircraft to Hong Kong in a three-class configuration. The Business class cabin’s 47 seats are split across two cabins in a rather curious 1-2-1, 2-2-1 configuration that gives some passengers a good 30 percent more space than others. It’s well worth booking ahead for one of the spacious single window seats on the aircraft’s right side which, despite not being one of the spacious ‘throne’ seats on the left, have more room for feet when in the reclined position.
The latest generation of Swiss business suites really gives the sense of being on a private jet and is great for long-haul travel. Seats feature little in the way of storage but have USB and AC in-seat power and regular headphone sockets, which are easily reached in a panel at shoulder level. At two metres long, and with innovative firmness and massage features, the seats offer both a very comfortable sleep and a well-appointed workspace at 38,000 feet. Signature noise-reduction headphones are included, as is a basic amenity kit.
We were welcomed onboard with glasses of Duval- Leroy Brut Champagne, hot towels, and menus. Swiss collaborates with acclaimed Swiss chefs to create locally-inspired cuisine for all classes. On our flight, we were offered salmon tartare with horseradish cream, beetroot, and goat’s cheese; followed by a choice of corn-fed chicken breast with a Sbrinz sauce and potato purée with truffle; perch meunière with lemon and sundried tomato butter, or artichoke with an orange and ginger sauce and couscous.
This was followed by tiramisu Tentazioni with salted caramel crumble and complemented by both Swiss and international wines and Swiss chocolates. A quick option is also on offer for passengers looking to make the most of the night flight.
The airline’s inflight entertainment system has an adequate selection of both new releases, classic movies, and television shows, but is a little clunky to navigate. Business class seats feature a monitor with smartphone and tablet connectivity if you’d prefer to watch your own media.
This is probably where Swiss starts to stray. While cheerful at Zurich, the crew quickly went into a robotic mode that limited interaction and replaced elegance with utility, much as you would expect in economy class. In an attempt to hurry service and allow guests to relax on the long night flight, service was rather systematic, and then crew all but disappeared as the lights were dimmed.
Swiss International continues to innovate and offers a very comfortable if not straight forward approach to long-haul business class travel, but one that is proudly laced with plenty of touches of home.
Swiss International Business class tickets, Zurich to Hong Kong return, from US$8,009 per person.
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