A few weeks ago I flew Boston to Zurich in Swiss business class. It was my first flight on a whirlwind trip to Asia. I documented the trip’s booking in this post.

I was excited to try out Swiss’ business class product for the first time. Swiss isn’t the most generous in releasing award space, so the scarcity increased my expectations.

How was the service? Does the seat recline to a fully flat position? Did the food measure up to other premium cabin standards? What do you need to know if you fly Swiss Business Class?

I arrived at Boston-Logan from Washington-Reagan at 6:30 p.m. with my one bag, and made my way to the international terminal. The terminal was an absolute madhouse, as most flights to Europe depart within an hour of each other. I made my way through security and headed down to the Lufthansa lounge, which is shared with partner Swiss Air.

The receptionist took my boarding pass and directed me to the business class lounge across the hall. First class passengers were only allowed in the main area. You can read about the first class area in this post.

The business class section was small and very underwhelming. The lounge area was a bit crowded, as we were sharing the space with Lufthansa passengers headed to Munich. Almost no one was sitting at the bar-style tables, which is where I set up shop.

The food selection left a lot to be desired. There were only a few snacks to munch on, none of which looked appetizing.

The drink selection was a bit more extensive. I just grabbed a seltzer water and began working on a few blog posts.

At 8:45 p.m., an hour before scheduled departure, a general boarding announcement was made for our flight. I took the elevator up to the main level and made my way to the gate.

Boarding began at 9:00 p.m. with first and business class passengers. I was one of the first in line, but had to be pulled aside by the gate agent to verify my Chinese visa. After everything was sorted out, I made my way onto the plane.

Swiss 53
Boston (BOS) – Zurich (ZRH)
Depart: 9:45 PM on Monday, October 21
Arrive: 10:55 AM on Tuesday, October 22
Duration: 7hr, 10 mn
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300 (three cabin)
Seat: 11G (Business Class)

I was in 11G. Image from seatguru.com

At the door to the plane, I was met by two cheery agents who directed me to my seat on the left side of the plane.

A single seat that I couldn’t snag!

On my flight, business class was arranged 1-2-1, 2-2-1 in a staggered configuration. Immediately after booking the itinerary, I called Swiss to select my seats in hope of snagging a single by the window. Unfortunately, I had to settle for the middle portion, though it was by no means a bad seat. There was ample overhead space for my Red Oxx Sky Train carry on. I stowed it and plopped down for the exciting ride ahead.

The seat was spacious, and at no point did I feel like I was infringing on my seatmate. There was ample leg room too. I’m 6’0″ and there was plenty of extra space to spare for someone like Scott. The video screen wasn’t enormous, but it was perfectly fine.

Seat light with power port and headphone jack.

The seat controls were a simple-to-understand diagram, directly to my left.

In the small storage compartment directly in front of me was an amenity kit. It had an interesting design, but the metallic build didn’t make me want to save it for future use.

Inside were the usual suspects: toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, eye mask, socks, and lip balm.

At 9:25 p.m., the flight attendants came through the cabin and distributed menus for both dinner and breakfast.

While we were deciding on meal selections, the flight attendants came around with a tray of orange juice, champagne, and water. I elected for a glass of champagne.

At approximately 9:35 p.m., the cabin lights were dimmed heavily. We pulled back from the gate and began to taxi to the runway. We took off almost exactly on time.

I was looking forward to a quick dinner. I wanted as much sleep as possible on this flight: the flight duration was short and I wanted to be refreshed upon touchdown in Zurich. Unfortunately, we had been in the air thirty minutes without seeing a single flight attendant. I was getting a bit anxious, though soon realized the delay when I heard a slight commotion behind me in the economy cabin.

Someone was clearly ill on the plane. Out from behind the coach curtain was a man who was pale as a ghost hooked up to a blood pressure monitor. He was being escorted up to first class by another passenger who looked like a doctor and two flight attendants. After the passenger settled in, meal service began quickly.

The business class cabin was served from the back forward, so I got my meal before most others. I had the chicken saltimbocca which was dry though otherwise fine.

I hurried through my meal and was given dessert. Though I wanted to maximize sleep, who am I to turn down vanilla mousse with berries? It was simple and delicious.

After finishing dessert, towelettes and bottles of water were distributed throughout the cabin.

At this point, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth before turning in. It was only slightly bigger than your average lavatory. There were bottles of face lotion and various bathroom amenities by the sink.

It was time to play with the seat controls and grab as much sleep as possible. I put the seat into the “recline” setting, but it was a bit awkward on my neck. I also made the mistake of activating the massage function of the chair. It felt like my seat had a poltergeist, and wasn’t the least bit comfortable. I don’t recommend it.

Giving up on reclining, I put the seat into the fully flat position. I can confirm that the seat does go flat (180 degrees), but that isn’t the most comfortable position. Tilting the headrest up slightly was better for me, as it compensated for lack of a firm pillow.

As the seat reclined to fully flat, my feet fit into the compartment under the video monitor. It was fine for me, but taller passengers would feel restricted. After some tossing and turning, I settled in to a side position which gave more range of motion for my legs. After beginning to watch The Great Gatsby, I closed my eyes over the Atlantic and tried my best to get sleep.

I got about 2.5 hours of sleep before being aroused by breakfast preparation at 9:20 AM European time. I checked the video monitor and were about to fly over the tip of France.

As mentioned above, breakfast orders were taken at the start of the flight along with dinner choices. You can order a la carte, and I took full advantage. I had a smoothie and cappuccino to drink. For my meal, I elected for a croissant, fresh fruit, and plain yogurt.

The smoothie was absolutely delicious. Though they didn’t specify the fruits used, it tasted mostly of apples and pears. It was the perfect cold complement to my piping hot cappuccino. The rest of the meal was simple continental breakfast: hard to screw up.

I finished my meal at 10:00 AM Zurich time. Flight attendants quickly bused my tray and we began our slow descent. The plane had a smooth landing and we arrived at our gate about ten minutes ahead of schedule.

How I Did It

I booked this flight as part of a nine segment US Airways award to Asia, connecting in Europe both ways for only 90k miles in business class. The award relied on US Airways’ cheap award chart and their agents allowing extremely lax routing.

Don’t miss out on collecting US Airways miles with the US Airways Premier World MasterCard® with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase. This card will soon disappear during the American Airlines/US Airways merger.

Overall

Seat: My seat was comfortable for lounging, though it was one of the “worst” in business class because it was in a middle section. If flying Swiss, try to nab one of the single seats. The singles have more arm space and a bit more privacy. The actual preset “lounge” position was a bit awkward for my tastes, so you might need to play with the seat controls for optimization.

Food: The dinner service was fine but nothing extraordinary. I liked the a la carte style for breakfast, and the beverages (especially the smoothie) were a hit.

Service: All flight attendants were warm and kind. They tried their best to make up for the time lost due to the sick passenger.

Bed: The bed went fully flat, though I preferred the head portion slightly raised. The pillow was a bit thin for my tastes, but the blanket was comfortable. Taller folks might have issue with the smallish foot compartment used for sleeping.

In Flight Entertainment: I didn’t scour the selections extensively, but they had quite a few new release movies. There was more than enough entertainment for a quick hop across the Pond.

Recommendation: I really enjoyed Swiss and hope to try them out again on a longer flight (perhaps Europe to Asia?) where sleep isn’t the paramount goal. The seat was very comfortable, though you will want to snag a single if traveling alone. Couples will enjoy the paired seats, as there is plenty of arm room for both partners.




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