A while back, Swiss announced that they were going to start charging business class passengers to reserve throne seats. To refresh your memory, Swiss crams 5 seats per row into their 777, in a staggered 1-2-2 configuration. That means that each row has a single “throne” seat with a huge amount of room on either side of the seat. Of course this is the seat that any sane person would want to book, since it has more space and is more private than any other seat on the plane. It’s basically a first-class-lite option, since the amount of personal space is almost equivalent to what you’d get in first (although the pitch is smaller and the space for your feet is pretty small).
Previously, as explained in the article linked above, most of the throne seats were blocked for elite members, leaving mostly undesirable paired seats, some even without aisle access. When I booked my flight on Swiss, there were three throne seats available, all toward the back of the cabin. I managed to grab 15K, which was the best one available, although 4A is really the best business class seat on the plane. The reason: first, there’s even more room due to it being a bulkhead seat. More importantly, Swiss has a two-row mini cabin behind first class and then a very large business class cabin behind that. Getting into the mini-cabin would make for a much more pleasant flight, and of the two throne seats to choose from, 4A is a clear winner given that 5K is missing a window.
Just for shits and gigs, I set a seat alert on ExpertFlyer for 4A, and I made sure to exclude blocked seats but to include paid/premium seats in the alert. I fly longhaul business class so rarely, it would honestly be worth a few bucks for me to upgrade to the best seat in the house. That’s why I was excited when they announced that they’d start selling access to the seat in late March, since I figured it would be my only shot to get it. In general, I’m opposed to business class cabins where there’s such a massive disparity in seat quality that some seats are legitimately worth more money than others, but buying access is preferable to needing elite status that I’ll never conceivably earn.
Anyway, I got an alert early this morning that 4A was available, and I called Swiss customer service on my way into work to see if I could reserve it. I had my credit card out, since I assumed I’d have to pay for it, but the agent confirmed it for me without requiring any payment. Score! (Also, both times I have called Swiss’s customer support line, I have connected to a rep on the first ring. Are you listening, Aeroplan? THE FIRST RING.)
Anyway, here’s my theory: Swiss has unblocked all those seats, but they haven’t yet instituted the fee structure. This is what the seat map looks like for a flight around the dates of my flight – contrast this to the seat maps in the One Mile at a Time article linked above, where all the best seats are blocked.
Even though ExpertFlyer is showing it as a premium seat, Swiss isn’t currently taking payment for it. That presents a window of opportunity for anyone who got in on the transatlantic business class availability that Swiss had a few months ago. If you have a flight coming up and were hoping to get one of the throne seats, definitely check and see if you can book it for free before it either gets re-blocked or costs a bunch of money.
The bottom line is that no rule is ever set in stone, so always set alerts and assume you might get lucky. Speaking of Lucky, he flew Swiss in first class due to a similar blip during which the rule that only elite members can book Swiss first class with points wasn’t in force. This is another one of those situations. It’s not applicable to very many people, but if you happen to be in this particular circumstance, you could end up with a previously unavailable seat for free.