SWISS Airbus A330 Economy Class Review – Montreal To Zurich

After coming off from my last flight, I had just five hours or so until my next flight, which would take me from Montreal to Zurich. Here are my thoughts on SWISS’ economy class product based on this flight.

Swiss A330 1
My plane for the next seven-hours, a SWISS A330. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

Montreal airport and boarding

I’ve previously reviewed Montreal airport so I wont do it again. However, I must say, that YUL is, as far as airports go, a generally enjoyable place to be. On this late-September flight, SWISS operated out gate 59 in the international departures area.

I spent most of my time at the airport sipping coffee, catching up on the news, and even I took advantage of the great views to grab a few avgeek shots.

Air China 787
An Air China 787 bound for Beijing. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

 

Air Transat A330
An Air Transat Airbus A330 was also in sight. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

At just before four, I headed towards gate 59. No less than fifteen minutes later, boarding was announced. And my goodness, it was a chaotic and enjoyable ordeal.

In a very untypical SWISS manner, no indications for priority and general boarding were provided. Instead, an agent yelled at the top of his lungs, ordering economy class passengers to the left, and first and business class passengers to the right of the gate. Though some confusion ensued, it settled down after a few minutes.

Mere seconds after the crowd had calmed down, the very same man started to yell again. Facing the economy class queue, he ordered people seated rows 36 and over onto the plane.

Swiss A330 2
Another view of the SWISS A330 which would bring me on my way home. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

As passengers seated towards the back of the aircraft moved to the front of the queue, much to the annoyance of passengers who had been standing at the front of the line, the man started to yell again. This time, ordering all passengers to board.

While I’m not someone who loves to complain (in-person), I did pass my thoughts to the lady who scanned my boarding pass.

All in all, boarding was an unexpectedly and unnecessarily confusing and stressful ordeal, but by 16:20, I had made it to my seat, numbered 24A.

The seat

Like many on the Airbus A330, the seat featured about 18 inches of width, 32-34 inches of pitch, and was in a 2-4-2 configuration.

Swiss A330 seat 1
SWISS A330 economy class window seat. I found the seat rather comfortable.  Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

As for the finishing, while beige might not by everyone’s cup of tea, I found the cabin rather smart looking. And perhaps more importantly, pleasantly different to the ever-so omnipresent blue and grey tones found on aircraft these days.

The seat featured a prolific, but last generation, AVOD system. In terms of content, I found that SWISS provides a very decent selection of movies and TV shows for viewing. The system could be controlled by both the touch screen and the remote.
SWISS AVOD 1
The AVOD is a bit old, but certainly usable. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
SWISS also offers WiFi throughout the plane, and a USB port at each seat for all passengers. Unfortunately, though, I could not find any universal power plugs.
SWISS AVOD 2
The old-school AVOD system featured an avgeek favorite, the cockpit view of the map. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
In terms of cleanliness, I found the seat and general passenger accommodations to be in acceptable shape. Though, perhaps the cabin was showing its age a little.
There were no coffee stains on the wall, nor any crumbs between the seats, which is a good sign in my books. But, I did find a serviette in the seat-pocket left behind by the previous passenger, which, I guess, is harder to spot for the cleaning crew.
SWISS A330 row
Overall, the cabin was clean, and the cabin was well presented. As you can see, the seats feature nice large, comfortable, headrests Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
As for amenities, each passenger was provided a blanket and a cotton pillow. Both these were of good quality and would prove themselves highly appreciated on this night flight.
Overall, I found the seat to be rather comfy, but like much of the aircraft, showing its age. A big plus was the headrest, which had big “wings” on each side, so to speak.
swiss seat and seatback
I found the pitch slightly on the tight side, but I did also add a lot items to the seat back. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
If I had one gripe about the seat though, it’s that I found the 32″ pitch a little tight. But I think two factors played into that perception. The first being that I had spent the previous eight hours in premium economy, and the second, the seat pocket was packed.

Off we go

At 16:40, the captain came on to the loudspeakers to welcome everyone on board. His first announcement was in French and spoken in a rather literary and unequivocally eloquent manner.

A few minutes after the crew announcements, made in French, English and German we pushed back from our gate for our seven-hour flight to Zurich.

AC 737MAX jest
On our way to the runway, we passed by some grounded 737 MAXs., Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

After a long taxi, we eventually made it to our runway, 24L, and by 17:05, our wheels touched off Canadian soil.  With that, my second transatlantic flight of the day had begun!

The service

No more than 15 minutes after takeoff, the crew started the service which started with a snack consisting of rosemary breadsticks and a drink.
Swiss snack
To start off the service, a nice little snack was provided. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

While my Perrier was standard, and I think that’s a good thing, I have to say, that as far as breadsticks go, the epitome of blandness, these were rather tasty. They weren’t too salty, nor disgustingly processed, instead, they served as basic but delicious amuse-bouche

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SWISS view
The snack was swerved alongside a lovely view. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
At 17:44 a purser came onto the speakers to inform passengers of the upcoming “late lunch, or early dinner, however, we wished to have it.”  He also listed our meal options as chicken with rice, or tortellini with tomato sauce.
Although I’d eaten chicken for lunch on my previous Air Canada premium economy flight, I was somewhat appealed by the idea of comparison.
Twenty minutes after the announcement was made, my meal was served.
Swiss dinner 1
This is how my tray was presented. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre

In front of me sat a tray consisting of mixed veg salad, bread, Babybel cheese, some cake, and of course, my chicken dish.  To accompany the meal, I had some red wine to drink, although I know that the notion of red wine with chicken is a contentious one.

SWISS meal 2
The chicken dish was rather flavorful and of good quality. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
I started with the chicken which, to be honest, beat my expectations for an economy class dish. The meat was not overcooked, and the sauce provided a nice peppery taste to the dish. Like on my last flight, I skipped the carrots but, overall, it was a wonderful dish.

Moving to the salad, although I do not particularly fancy ranch dressing, the leaves and vegetables were of the freshest quality. I also had a nibble of the bread and cheese, which were both good. Though I must say, I wish SWISS offered a Swiss cheese instead of the commercial French one.

SWISS meal 3
SWISS uses metal cutlery, which is I think is a nice touch in economy. Not to mention, this practice helps use less plastic. The little bowls containing the bread, salad, and cake, were reusable plastics. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
The same has to be said for the French wine, which was inoffensive, but unmemorable. While Switzerland might not be well known for its wine, the vineyards of Neuchâtel are home of one of Switzerland’s best-kept secrets.
To finish off my meal, I devoured a delectable piece of cheesecake.
SWISS view 2
Like the previous snack, dinner was served alongside a beautiful view. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
Overall, I’d rate this meal rather highly, and perhaps better than the meal I generally enjoyed in premium economy earlier in the day. As far as economy class meals go, this one edged on the side of excellent.

The second half of the flight

After enjoying a conversation with my seatmate over dinner, I decided to get some sleep.  I slept solidly for more than three hours, which I think speaks to the comfort of the seat.
At 22:58, one hour and fifteen minutes before landing, I received a little breakfast box consisting of orange juice, yogurt and preserves. With the box in my hand,  a warm croissant was offered as well. To drink, I had coffee.
SWISS breakfast 1
I found this breakfast rather perfect for a short transatlantic flight. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
While light and simple, the breakfast hit the spot. Admittedly, I think a lot of airlines get breakfast very wrong.
At one end of the scale, some airlines offer a full breakfast with eggs and meat. After a few hours of sleep, I find that I’m never hungry enough for that. Moreover, full breakfasts, when done wrong, are rather unappetizing.
On the other hand of the scale, some airlines offer something sweet, like cake or a muffin. While this might be more appropriate considering hunger levels, it can also come across as cheap.
Here, I think SWISS made a good choice. Breakfast was not only fresh and easy to eat, fresh, but featured some variety as well.
About 40 minutes before landing, a crew member came around with a basket of chocolates, a SWISS tradition. While the crew was coming around the cabin, the captain also gave us an update on our flight.
SWISS chocolate
SWISS tradition dictates that all passengers receive a chocolate before landing. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre
At 06:20, we landed in Zurich, and I had crossed the pond twice in less than a day.

Final thoughts

In truth, this was a good, if not very good, flight.

The seat was comfortable, I slept for a few hours, the food was tasty and plentiful, while the staff was friendly and professional.

What more can one ask for a short transatlantic hop?

My one complaint is, of course, the ground experience in Montreal. Particularly, the boarding procedure. The issues faced were not only avoidable but also easily mendable with the introduction of a simple sign. I think a small investment and a reiteration of the boarding rules would go a very long way.

All things considered, I certainly would not hesitate to fly SWISS again.

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