For a recent flight to Africa, I decided to redeem Aeroplan miles and fly Swiss. I was able to score a “throne seat” in Swiss Business Class for the long-haul between Los Angeles and Zurich. Though overall a good flight, Swiss has a few areas where it could make improvements.
You can redeem cash or miles for this flight. Swiss award availability is pretty hard to come by outside their own loyalty program. That being said, if you’re a bit flexible, you’ll likely be able to find some award availability last-minute. I ended up booking this flight just over a week before departure.
I redeemed 105,000 Aeroplan miles to fly from Los Angeles to Zurich to Frankfurt to Johannesburg. Normally, business class between the United States and Africa costs 75,000 miles. However, one leg of my trip from Frankfurt to Johannesburg was booked in Lufthansa First Class. Thus, the trip cost me 105,000 Aeroplan miles. With cash fares in the $8,000-10,000 range, this mileage redemption was a good deal in my book.
I arrived at the Swiss, Lufthansa, and Austrian check-in counters about four hours before departure. After confirming my flights, I was issued a boarding pass and made my way through LAX security. Security moved slowly and was crowded given the large number of international departures that afternoon. However, with access to the premium cabin security lane, I was through in about thirty minutes.
Non-First passengers have access to a Star Alliance Lounge. So, I made my way there, checked-in with my Swiss boarding pass, and settled in. The lounge was crowded at first, however, once a Lufthansa flight boarded, the lounge cleared up. My favorite area was the outside terrace overlooking the airport.
Inside, there was a balcony off the main lounge area where you could overlook the terminal. It was relatively crowded and popular at all times I was in the lounge.
For those that wanted to eat, the lounge offered a buffet spread of food and drinks. It was plentiful and replenished multiple times.
The lounge is shared by multiple flights departing at similar times. This led to a bit of crowding. However, the lounge cleared up once Lufthansa’s A380 departed. Even then, you’ll likely find yourself wishing for a bit of privacy.
On the other hand, there was a decent amount of access to power outlets, which can sometimes be a problem in other lounges. I was relieved to find that a fair number of seats had access to some juice for those looking to get some work done before a flight.
I ended up leaving the lounge about half an hour before boarding started to stretch my legs around the terminal. Boarding started about 45 minutes before departure and was quite orderly. Business and First Class passengers were invited to board first.
Swiss outfits their 777s with a whopping 62 business class seats. 10 of these seats are located behind their eight First Class seats between doors one and two. The other 52 are behind the second set of doors.
Swiss’ business class is in a staggered configuration. The footwell of the seats are located in the armrests of the seat in front of them. Thus, “throne seats” fare formed by the windows which have the footwell in the armrest of the pair of seats in front of them. In the center, the seats are staggered with one being closer to the aisle and one being offset by a table. In terms of seats, the throne seat offers the best overall privacy, access, and storage.
Normally, it costs a pretty sum to reserve a throne seat, marked by Swiss as a “privacy seat”. In this case, that cost was $199USD. However, 48 hours prior to departure, Swiss releases all throne seats for free. So, 48 hours before departure (yes, I set an alarm to remind me), I logged on and snagged a throne seat for free.
Getting a window seat with direct aisle access was a joy on this long-haul flight. Furthermore, the throne seat was one of the best seats I’ve ever had in business class.
Just after settling in, I found there to be a fair amount of storage. Next to the window, there was a large counter where you could easily store some books or a laptop for the duration of the flight. There was also an open storage compartment.
In the console underneath the large surface, there was a closed storage compartment.
Under the entertainment screen, there was a small cupboard.
Closer to the aisle, there was another storage compartment that was closed.
The seat controls were located on the console closest to the aisle. There were a few simple controls, but were located in just the wrong spot. When lounging, it was very easy to hit different buttons that would move the seat. I had to readjust several times.
Then, in a compartment hidden in the armrest, there were more seat options and remote control for the IFE.
When I first settled in, I found the seat to be much too hard for my liking. After exploring the seat, I found the panel under the armrest which controlled the firmness of the seat cushion. I adjusted it to the softer setting and felt much more comfortable. There was also a massage feature in the seat, although I didn’t really care for it much.
In addition, there was a power outlet in the console as well.
Multiple reading lights were present. One was located as a little box light at the back of the seat. There was a more traditional business class reading light that could be pressed and turned on. In addition, there were standard reading lights in the overhead panel.
When it comes to privacy, this seat is the epitome of private. With direct aisle access and a number of panels separating you from the aisle, you’re more likely than not to remain undisturbed on a long-haul flight.
In bed mode, the seat was long enough for a comfortable rest. However, the footwell was a bit tight and left little wiggle room for your feet. Unless you tend to toss and turn, you’ll likely sleep just fine. The only time I was disturbed was when I changed sides and my feet got a bit uncomfortable in the footwell.
Waiting at my seat was a blanket, a pillow, a pair of headphones, a water bottle, and an amenity kit.
As far as amenity kits go, this was pretty bad and reminded me of my flight on Air New Zealand a few months ago. The contents were very basic and very simple. Compared to Delta One, I would hardly call this amenity kit “business class”. The hard metal case was the only part of the kit that felt “premium”.
The headphones were decent. As far as noise-canceling headphones go, they were neither the best nor the worst. The audio quality was OK, and I didn’t experience any problems with hearing my films on the long-haul flight.
One of the most important parts of a flight for me is the entertainment system. I like having a good source of entertainment to catch up on films I missed in the past. As more airlines remove seatback screens, it’s becoming more important to me to choose an airline that offers inflight entertainment.
I appreciated the large and clear screen.
Swiss offered a good selection of inflight entertainment. I found the controls easy to use and was able to find movies I wanted to watch. In terms of content, it wasn’t as extensive as Delta Studio or Singapore’s system. However, there was enough unique content that there were films I hadn’t seen offered on other recent flights.
WiFi was available and was data based, although it was a bit pricey. 220MB cost CHF 59 (just short of $60). If WiFi is important to you, you’ll find far better pricing on other carriers like Lufthansa.
As part of pre-departure, I had the choice between a glass of water, champagne, or orange juice. I went with a glass of orange juice.
Thereafter, flight attendants offered passengers menus and a breakfast card. I appreciated how I received a pen with my breakfast card to mark my selections. Few airlines actually offer that.
And this was the breakfast card:
30 minutes after takeoff, flight attendants came around with drink carts and nuts.
Then, 70 minutes after takeoff, flight attendants came around with appetizers. The salad was simple and underwhelming. Meanwhile, I chose the beef for my appetizer. The bread was cold and tasted stale. I found the presentation of the beef to be well-done and the taste was just fine.
And then, about two hours after takeoff, I finally received the main course.
I’m normally a fan of spinach. However, the creamed spinach wasn’t something I would write home about. I found it too salty and it didn’t work well with the fish. The fish was also incredibly small for the main dish. For comparison, volume-wise, there was more beef in the appetizer than fish in the main course.
After that, a strange thing happened. My dish was cleared and it seemed the cabin was prepared for passengers to sleep. I never received a dessert. It seems only a few passengers were asked if they wanted a dessert. Granted, my dish was cleared three hours after takeoff so I wasn’t very eager to wait for a dessert.
Overall, this meal took far too long for a transatlantic redeye.
Then, after about five hours of sleep, it was time for breakfast. I woke up just as the breakfast service started. Within minutes of waking up, a flight attendant offered me breakfast.
My first thought: “that’s it?” I selected the English breakfast and a Danish pastry. As far as breakfast service goes, this was a tiny portion for business class. On the other hand, it wasn’t very good so I didn’t eat much. The tortilla was too “wet”. Unfortunately, the whole dish was saturated with all the juices that just made it soggy. The best part of the meal was the pastry.
This was by no means an outstanding crew. They weren’t proactive when it came to offering refills. Two flight attendants serviced my aisle through the flight. In addition, they didn’t seem to engage much with passengers, instead seemingly just going through the motions. I did, however, appreciate how they proactively offered suggestions of beverages to pair with the meal.
I’d also comment that the meal service took too long. I suppose when you have 62 passengers to take care of, it takes a while. In that case, I think Swiss should have more flight attendants working in business class.
Would I fly Swiss again across the Atlantic? Yes. Would I choose Swiss 777 business class over Delta, Lufthansa, or KLM? No.
The amenity kit felt too basic for a premium long-haul flight. The service was slow. Furthermore, I was disappointed that they didn’t offer me a dessert.
On the other hand, the throne seat became one of my favorite business class seats I’ve flown in. By far, having a throne seat was the best part of this flight. The privacy was exceptional and I always enjoy having direct aisle access. Storage wasn’t an issue. Moreover, being able to adjust the seat firmness was an added bonus.
Have you flown Swiss long-haul business class? Would you fly Swiss’s long-haul business class? Let us know in the comments!