A couple weeks ago I flew from Zurich to SFO on Swiss, and it was pretty good. Again I didn’t take a bunch of photos, because no matter what photos I take, it’s not going to give you any perspective on the cabin that you can’t find in this post from The Points Guy. Reviews I read going into the flight were definitely mixed – this is not a product people rave about, although with my expectations sufficiently moderated, I definitely enjoyed my flight.
Here’s the first thing you should know going in: luckily Aeroplan doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on Swiss awards, because you’re gonna want to pay $200 to sit in one of the throne seats. As I’ve written previously, these seats were previously blocked for elites, although they were recently made available for purchase only. Now, the seats in the middle with the extra space are blocked for elites, so if you aren’t a fancy Swiss thing, and you’re traveling with a companion, you’re stuck in the not-so-desirable window seat pairs. This could always change, but that’s how the seat maps looked for the flights I checked.
However, once that $200 is paid and you’ve rationalized it by telling yourself that it’s cheaper than a fuel surcharge on Air France, you’re in for a treat. The seat’s nice. It’s the same seat as JetBlue offers in Mint class, only without the door… however, while JetBlue’s seat is sleek if unspectacular, the Swiss seat is very nicely finished. There are tons of storage compartments, the wood trim looks great, the screen is fantastic, and the seat itself is pretty comfortable, provided you get a firmness setting that you like. Sure there’s no door, but… does it really matter that much? It’s not like the walls go all the way up to the ceiling, so the door really doesn’t offer that much extra privacy.
Also, I’m happy to report that I didn’t have a problem with the size of the foot cubby. To make extra room, I took my shoes off, although I soon realized that my socks were super smelly… good thing Swiss includes stylish bright red socks in the amenity kit. Decked out in a green plaid shirt, gray shorts, and red socks, I’m sure I looked amazing during the flight. Anyway, once the shoes were off, I didn’t find the foot cubby restrictive, and I even slept on and off for around two hours, which is a new record for me. It was a daytime flight, but I had had an exhausting week, so I was dead tired even in the middle of the day. All the issues I had with the JetBlue seat – small foot cubby, narrow sarcophagus-like sleeping surface – weren’t issues this time around. Whether that’s due to subtle differences between the seats or just my extra tiredness is unclear, but I found the seat plenty comfortable for lounging and then sleeping.
I normally think amenity kits are dumb, but I like how Swiss gives you a tote bag instead of a stupid zip pouch that you would just throw away. The amenities themselves are fine – I threw all of them away except for those to die for red socks. The kit was waiting at my seat along with headphones, a nice pillow, and a blanket. Shortly after I boarded, they came by with orange juice, sparking water, and champagne on a tray, but I didn’t see them again until meal service started, despite the fact that we had a 1-hour ground delay.
In fact, the service on this flight wasn’t great. I mean, it was fine, but it wasn’t any different than service in economy, except for the fact that they had more stuff to bring out. But once meals were over, the flight attendants mostly stayed in the galley. I had to keep asking them for water, which was annoying. I think the crew probably has it pretty rough on this plane, since there are a ton of business class seats to serve, so they probably don’t have much room for improvisation when it comes to the service flow. Still, just bring me a goddamn bottle of water that’s bigger than 6oz and I’ll leave you alone, I swear.
One other thing: I was really disappointed about not being in the mini-cabin (rows 4 and 5), but it ended up not mattering. The seat is private enough (and I was toward the front of the main business cabin in seat 9A) that I wasn’t really aware of the other 60 or so passengers in the cabin. I suppose the smaller cabin is better and more intimate, but it’s really kind of splitting hairs. Also, 4A is usually blocked, and 5K (the other throne seat in the mini-cabin) has no windows. I’d much rather have a window than be in the smaller cabin.
What else? Bathrooms were fine, and there are a few to choose from, so there was never a wait, despite the volume of passengers. (Maybe because they never gave out any water, no one had to pee?) There were snacks set up in the galley, too, which was good, since I was pretty hungry during the flight.
Oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned the food at all. It was great! Seriously, Swiss killed it with the food on this flight – by far the best airplane food I’ve ever had. One thing I majorly appreciate is that some thought goes into their vegan/vegetarian meals – both meals included a little card about the vegetarian restaurant that Swiss partners with, and apparently it’s the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world. The only thing it was missing was some protein, which is why I was hungry later. The main dish was a vegetable pasta dish that I wouldn’t be disappointed to eat in a restaurant, and the salad had a bunch of stuff in it besides just lettuce and a tomato or two. Plus, they had seriously the best bread I have ever eaten in my life. It was somehow both fluffy and dense at the same time, and the fact that they offered me margarine to put on it instead of butter just made it all that much better. Swiss: come for the bread, stay for the method of transportation that gets you across the ocean in mere hours.
The second “breakfast” meal was even better – it was a vegetable breakfast burrito that was cut into slices, and I would have eaten five portions if I could have. I actually should have taken photos of it, since I realized that there aren’t many (any?) blogs that focus on reviewing vegetarian/vegan meals on flights, and I thought maybe this could be my focus. But I was too busy eating and watching Crazy Stupid Love to get my phone out.
Last thing: there are no air vents on Swiss, so I brought a little USB fan with me after seeing that #thatjohn guy recommend it on Twitter. Thankfully I never needed it – the cabin was pretty mild during the flight, which probably means it was freezing, since I’m always too hot. I still wish they’d install air vents, but I guess it’s to be expected since nothing in Europe is air conditioned.
Lastly, I won’t write a whole post about it, but the Swiss business class lounge in Zurich Airport is probably my favorite lounge I’ve ever been to. I’ve been saying that a lot lately! In short order, I visited the Delta SkyClub in SEA, the Polaris lounge in ORD, and now this – and all three were easily better than any lounge I’d been to prior. The Swiss lounge has great food, a great drink selection, great snacky food if you don’t want a full meal, and even a freezer with mini-cartons of Movenpick ice cream (and a sorbet for yours truly). The views are fantastic, and there’s an outdoor terrace if you want to see the action up close… although if it’s super hot like it was when I was there, you can sit at a high counter along the windows and get the same view you’d get from the terrace. Great bathrooms, too – on par with Amex Centurion lounges. I didn’t realize until I left to go to my flight that there were shower facilities, which sucks because I would definitely have taken advantage. Still, pretty much everything about the lounge was great, so I’d definitely give yourself a little time to check it out before your flight. Plus, if this is just the business class lounge, I’d love to see the first class lounge! There’s also a separate lounge for elite members that has an insane whisky bar, but that’s gonna stay out of reach for me.
Bottom line on Swiss – as long as you shell out for the throne seat, you’ll have a good time. It’s a solid product with not-great service but excellent food, and you’re getting more personal space than in any other business class configuration I know of.