Since its introduction to the market, the business class experience on Swiss International Air Lines’s Boeing 777 planes has been written about extensively.
Award availability is generally good and Swiss doesn’t levy fuel surcharges, so many bloggers have documented their experiences of the product.
As a result I came into this flight giddy with excitement, eager to find out if Swiss 777 business class lived up to the billing.
Swiss International Air Lines | LX138
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Cabin: Business class
Route: Zurich (ZRH) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Time: Departing 10:40pm and arriving 4:30pm the next day
Duration: 11 hours 50 minutes
As I boarded the flight and made my way to my seat, our flight attendants for the night stood in formation, ready to greet passengers as they came on board.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the business class section was the stunning cabin finishes, which looked just as sleek and polished as the airline’s promotional photos. In terms of design, it really is a seamless transition from the Senator and Business Lounges in the airport terminal to the aircraft cabin.
I’ll write another post about the seat selection process on Swiss business class, since it can be quite the deceivingly nuanced topic. In a nutshell, the best seats in the house are the “throne” seats, much like on Brussels Airlines. These seats give you the most surface space and privacy.
However, the throne seats are spaced apart every other row, so they aren’t ideal for couples travelling together. After much thought, Jessica and I decided to put our affection to one side for 12 hours so that we could individually experience the throne seats by ourselves, albeit two rows apart – seats 15K and 17K.
I briefly settled into my seat, where I found the amenity kit and blanket waiting for me. A flight attendant came over to hand me a welcome drink, the business class menu, and my choice of newspapers. I opted for orange juice over champagne, since the Amrut I had downed back in the Whisky Club was still doing its job more than convincingly.
I went over to Jessica’s seat to chat with her for a while, during which time the cabin mood lighting was turned on, surprisingly soon after boarding was complete.
Business class was just a shade under half full, with most passengers opting to sit near the front of the cabin (or in the business class mini-cabin consisting of two rows right behind first class). The two seats in Row 16 between me and Jessica remained empty, which would prove convenient later on.
Upon returning to my seat, I played around with all of the seat’s features. The throne seats naturally have a lot more storage space than regular seats, and there were lots of nooks and crannies with little buttons to press. Note that I’m describing the “K” throne seats on the right side of the plane (15K, 17K, etc.) – the seat design of the “A” seats on the left side is effectively a mirror image.
The seat back pocket was located on a panel on your left hand side.
You had a storage compartment right under the in-flight entertainment system, where you could store some small loose items.
Then you had so much surface space on your right hand side, in addition to a small storage rack.
Beneath the surface space was another small compartment, which could be latched shut. It was perfect for keeping my shoes and socks secure during a long flight.
The large partition that separates your seat from the aisle also serves as a “control panel” of sorts. Here you’ll find a bottled water holder, the reading light, a headphone jack, and a small clip and coat hanger. The earphones are also presented to you here.
The seat controls, located under a flap at the base of the control panel, were extremely intuitive to use. Unfortunately, however, the entertainment controller at my seat was broken and displayed a frozen image the entire flight.
There’s also a huge storage rack that pops out from the control panel. While this is a great place to keep your valuables secured during the flight, I know many people who forget to check all the nooks and crannies before leaving their flight and end up losing stuff. If this sounds like you, exercise caution!
You press a small button on the control panel in order to pop out the tray table, which can be folded over.
Lastly, the USB port and power outlet is located in front of the armrest on your left hand side. It’s pretty nifty that the power outlet supports North American, UK, European, and Swiss outlets.
I thought the business class seat was great in just about every way. The finishes are beautiful, the controls ergonomic, and if you can snag a throne seat, the amount of storage and surface space available almost makes you feel a bit spoiled.
As we began our pushback, the safety video began playing. I always find different airlines’ safety videos pretty interesting, especially in recent times when seemingly every airline is trying to make their videos more “fun”. It always brings a chuckle, though I do question whether it actually helps people pay more attention to the videos.
During this time, I perused the business class menu. The menu included some light reading material about Switzerland and its gastronomy as well, which I always appreciate.
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I also opened the amenity kit, which contained a sleep mask, socks, earplugs, lip balm, and a dental kit. Swiss uses a reusable tote bag for its amenity kits, which is commendable. In my opinion the lack of a “fancier” amenity kit is balanced out by the environmental effort. (Says the man who likes to fly around the world for fun, I know.) They could definitely fit more items in there though, especially stuff that would be useful on a long flight such as a little bottle of lotion.
Our takeoff roll was smooth, and pretty soon we were in the air. I was dying to use the restroom during our ascent, so as soon as the seat belt sign turned off I made my way to the lavatories at the front of the main business class cabin.
The bathroom was quite nice, with lots of amenities to help passengers freshen up.
After settling back into my seat and while waiting for the meal service to begin, I browsed the in-flight entertainment (IFE) selection. Since I prefer to watch stuff on my iPad during long flights, I didn’t watch anything on the IFE console, though as you can see below, there’s quite the selection of Hollywood movies and TV shows to scroll through.
The most interesting thing to me on IFE consoles is usually the airshow, and Swiss did not disappoint in this regard.
You could easily pan, zoom, and rotate, and my eyes were glued throughout the flight to a series of awesome default views, including this “command centre” view…
…this overhead view…
…and this rotating view of the world’s time zones, accurate down to the odd half-hour time zone here and there.
The meal service began about 20 minutes after we hit cruising altitude. For the starter, I chose the quail galantine with green pea purée, which was served on one tray together with the salad and cheese plate.
It was my first time eating anything like it, and I quite enjoyed the combination of flavours that arose from a mixture of quail, bacon, and green peas both mushed and in the flesh. The salad was pretty standard, while I also nibbled on some cheese, which was delightful.
The crew also came around to pour us drinks, and I asked for some more orange juice. Upon finishing my appetizer, the empty plate was replaced with my main course: beef tenderloin with fregola sarda, a type of Sardinian pasta.
Truthfully, the beef was a bit stale, although the sherry sauce tasted great and masked any deficiencies. I also really enjoyed the fregola sarda. Overall, it was a wholesome meal, and it was to be topped off with some delightful financier cake with strawberry and rhubarb compote.
I was offered the choice of coffee or tea to go with dessert, and I opted for tea since I intended on getting some sleep soon. One thoughtful touch I liked was the little dish that came with the saucer for placing your used teabag.
A crew member also came around offering Swiss chocolates and pralines, and of course I couldn’t resist.
The service was polished and friendly, and I especially enjoyed how the crew member serving me would say “voilà!” after laying down every glass and plate. Having said that, I was slightly disappointed that everything was served on one tray, rather than course by course. I suppose I came in with high expectations, but that’s a small detail I feel Swiss could improve on in order to make their service more personalized.
After I finished my main course, I put away my tray table, set my tea and dessert aside on the huge surfaces of my throne seat, and reclined my chair to get some work done on my laptop. About 20 minutes later, I decided it was time to get some sleep, so I put my seat into bed mode.
This is where one huge downside of the throne seats became apparent: because the ottoman in the area for your feet is sandwiched between two business class seats in the row in front of you, it’s actually really cramped. It was quite uncomfortable to bend my legs while lying down.
Thankfully, since the row between me and Jessica was vacant, I decided to go over and sleep in seat 16K instead. While this seat itself is inferior to the throne seat since it has less space and no direct aisle access, the “foot cubby” is actually much larger, since it occupies the large volume underneath my surface space back in 15K.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the cramped ottoman in a throne seat versus a non-throne seat. If you aren’t too tall and your feet won’t reach the very end of the cubbies, this might not be a big deal. But if you’re the kind of passenger who struggles to fit in economy seats and therefore looks towards business class, this has to be a consideration when selecting seats.
The bed is very comfortable, and with adequate space to bend my legs, I got about six hours of decent sleep, waking up with about two hours to go until arrival.
I went to disturb Jessica for a bit. It turns out she had actually stayed awake the whole time watching movies on the in-flight entertainment console, and she was only now on the verge of dozing off. Either her sense of timing needs improvement, or Moana was just that good.
With about an hour and a half until our scheduled arrival time, the crew began their breakfast service. Breakfast was presented on one tray (which is more understandable), and was quite appetizing – the mini-omelette with asparagus and salsa was especially tasty.
I wanted to relax a bit more, so I moved the tray over to the surface on the right hand side, and put my chair in recline mode as I worked on the breakfast. There really is an incredible amount of space in the throne seat!
The crew also passed out immigration cards for Hong Kong ahead of our imminent arrival.
Disappointingly, the captain came on the PA not long after breakfast was over, informing us that air traffic at Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok International was backed up quite a bit, and that we’d be maintaining a holding pattern for another 40 minutes. At least that gave Jessica some more snoozing time.
Another episode of The Blacklist on my iPad later, we finally touched down in a rainy Hong Kong. Our taxi to the gate was relatively quick, and before long we disembarked via the door at the front of the plane, which entailed a jealousy-inducing walk through the beautiful Swiss First Class cabin.
Business class on the Swiss 777 is unarguably a fantastic way to fly. The cabin and seat finishes look stunning and channel that same “Swiss” factor of low-key elegance as the airline’s flagship lounges in Zurich. The seat features are equally impressive, with so much storage and surface space, especially if you can nab a coveted throne seat.
Having said that, I think the product might have been just a tiny bit overhyped in the past. There are a few regards in which I think Swiss falls short of the mark and which I’d like to see them improve. For example, providing bedding for passengers when they sleep, or serving meals course by course rather than all on one tray – these are things that many business class products out there offer. If Swiss can get a few more of these little details right, that’ll really elevate them to one of the finest choices for business class travel.