From Boston to Zurich I traveled on SWISS onboard an aging yet nevertheless comfortable A330-300 in business class. While SWISS business class, particularly on the A330, represents a below-average product these days, I quite appreciated the superb service onboard and still managed a few hours of sleep on the short transatlantic crossing.
SWISS A330-300 Business Class Review
My destination for the weekend was Zurich and I was in Boston. I could have saved my miles and flown United via London (the easiest upgrade in the system), but the SWISS flight made sense because it provided an extra hour of sleep and a morning arrival into Zurich. This flight costs 60K points via Air Canada Aeroplan, 73K via United Airlines MileagePlus, or 63K miles via Avianca LifeMiles. Taxes fees ex-USA are cheap ($5.60), though Aeroplan and Avianca add on modest processing charges of about $25.
I checked in online and used the Lufthansa Lounge prior the flight. Boarding began at at 9:10 pm, about 40 minutes prior to scheduled departure.
Boston (BOS) – Zurich (ZRH)
Thursday, October 20
Depart: 09:40 PM
Arrive: 11:05 AM+1
Duration: 7hr, 25min
Distance: 3,745 miles
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 10D (Business Class)
Onboard, a trio of very cheerful flight attendants smiled and welcomed me onboard.
Booking this at the last minute, I ended up an aisle seat in the center section. SWISS utilizes the Thompson Aero Vantage seat for its longhaul business class seats fleet wide and the cabin is comprised of 45 business class seats arranged in an alternating 1-2-1, 2-2-1 pattern. A mini-cabin of just two rows sits behind first class, fowled by a galley and lavatories, then eight rows of business class.
So-called “throne” seats are available in the even-numbered A seats.
Each seat has a universal power outlet within easy reach as well as a USB-A and S-video (talk about modern…) port.
Seat adjustments are made via a control pad near the armrest. That includes a massage function and an ability to make the seat cushion firmer or softer.
While I don’t find these seats bad, I rank them below average in comparative terms and particularly find the aisle seats lack privacy and do not have a lot of room in the footwell. They are also quite narrow.
To make matters worse, SWISS’s bedding is atrocious (a blanket more suited for economy class).
Nevertheless, after dinner I slept…and slept like a log until the pink mood lights were turned on for breakfast.
SWISS has so much potential to make its product more competitive as it retrofits its fleet with new “Swiss Senses” seat. Hopefully when it does so, it will also update the bedding. Honestly, flying SWISS feels like flying was 10 years ago…because that is exactly what SWISS Business is like. Somehow I find the seat much more tolerable on narrow body aircraft (like on the JetBlue or SAS A321) and that may well be because of the bedding.
IFE + Wi-Fi
SWISS continues to offer absurd wi-fi pricing (though I recently experienced a glimmer of hope). Charging CHF39 (about $42.50) for 120MB of wi-fi is wholly uncompetitive.
The screen on the A330 is quite small, but SWISS offers a fairly easy-to-use interface and features a generous selection of movies, TV shows, games, and music. I was not in the mood to watch anything, but did utilize the moving flight map.
Noise-cancelling headphones are SWISS-branded and worked reasonably well.
I like how SWISS displays connecting gate info on individual IFE screens in a format that looks straight out of 1990.
Two lavatories are located between the business class mini-cabin and larger cabin. They included face spray and herbal lotion from Soeder.
The business class amenity kit included a Victorinox-branded (the maker of Swiss Army knives) black tin with contents including:
- socks (red in color)
- toothbrush + toothpaste
A very simple kit with no skin products. Sticking with the SWISS branding, I’d love to see at least some Ricola and a nice comb or brush, plus perhaps a Rolex watch (joking).
Food + Drink
Upon boarding, passengers were offered a non-alcoholic sparkling elderberry juice or a glass of sparkling wine. I found the elderberry juice refreshing.
Menus were also disturbed. They included not only a listing of food choices and separate wine list, but also a card for breakfast that you filled out with the breakfast items you wished to eat prior to landing.
An abbreviated meal service began promptly after takeoff. No nuts were served with the beverage. I ordered a glass of 2019 Gally Assemblage Rouge AC Valais, a red wine from Switzerland.
Meals were served on a single tray, including an appetizer, bread, cheese, and main course. Appetizer choices included:
Burrata with maple balsamic vinegar, grilled artichoke, roasted red and yellow cherry tomatoes
Balik salmon with sweet chili and lime dressing, Asian slaw, Japanese-style pickled cucumber and toasted black sesame
Main course choices included:
Seared beef tenderloin with wholegrain mustard sauce
Roasted fingerling potatoes, sautéed spinach and cabbage with bacon
Thai red curry with shrimps
Jasmine rice and baby bok choy
Gnocchi with pomodoro sauce and charred broccolini
I chose burrata for my appetizer and the beef tenderloin for my main course. The appetizer hit the spot and I found the maple balsamic vinegar to be delicious. The beef main course was of course cooked well-done and not the highest grade of beef, but the wholegrain mustard sauce was quite nice. Cheese is always excellent on SWISS.
Finally, I concluded dinner with dessert including a chocolate brownie cake, a piece of Swiss chocolate, and a decaf espresso…and a grapas tasting (not for me…).
I had absolutely no hunger when breakfast came around (prompting this question), but I ordered it anyway for purposes of this flight review. No hearty selections like eggs were offered, but the croissant and pain au chocolat were admittedly hot and delicious. The orange juice was Tropicana, not fresh-squeezed, and the mango smoothie was a bit too sweet for my taste, but I loved that the Chobani Greek yogurt was plain (though it still had a bit of sugar) and I also appreciated the cappuccino.
Yes, I ate most of it:
> Read More: Why Do I Even Eat Airline Food?
Maybe next time I’ll have the willpower to skip breakfast…
While true that I find the SWISS business class product underwhelming overall, I though the service aboard was spectacular.
The ladies working the cabin were witty, kind, attentive, and gracious. Instead of being looked at with skepticism for taking pictures, I was welcomed to do so and one flight attendant even posed for a picture.
What impressed me even more is that flight attendants let passengers sleep as late as possible: breakfast did not begin until an hour prior to landing…and every seat was taken in the 45-seat cabin. That required some serious hustle, but the flight attendants pulled it off flawlessly, even offering refills on coffee and tea (to be far, many passengers did sleep through it).
Arrival Into Zurich
I landed at a remote gate and took a bus into the terminal.
There, I found one of the worst lines for passport control I have seen in many years in the Schengen Area. As annoying as that was, it was great see travel rebound so ferociously.
I cannot say that SWISS offers an above-average or even average product in business class when its seat is dated, bedding poor, internet prices outrageous, and food only fair. Even so, the service saved this flight. Flight attendants were simply perfect and that made the flight a joy. Despite the seat, I would not hesitate to fly SWISS again on the A330.
Under the “seat” section I think you meant comprised instead of compromised
Correct. Thank you.
Victronix? It’s Victorinox.
Excellent report. Flew LX from JFK to ZRH and back in Swiss Business for the WEF in January. LX provides a very average experience overall, but for the crew and the catering. Otherwise, the product on board the A330-300s are increasingly dated. Have flown LX a lot and have never been on a flight that has left on time, either.
I’m glad you enjoyed your flight (and I really appreciate the review), but I personally can’t stand this product. I’ve – within the last couple of years – flown transatlantic Star Alliance business class on United, SAS, Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss, and I firmly believe that Swiss is dead last, followed by Austrian. I just can’t stand the seats. Extremely narrow and tight, and almost always with non-funcitioning air pillows, effectively turning your seat into a bench. I recently had the option of flying business class on Swiss or bulkhead economy+ (with a seatblock next to me) on SAS, and picked SAS. The new business class seats on Swiss can’t come soon enough!
Love reading your blog. You hit the Swiss experience dead on. Nothing to add. I lived in Zürich for 7 years and flew Swiss non stop (Asia, North America, Europe). When their business class first appeared on the market (10+ years ago), it was fantastic (yet Singapore airlines did and still does retain the top spot). It’s a pity they are not retrofitting fast enough because the service of the airlines is top!
How do you always get the empty cabin photos? Do you ask to board early to get pictures?
I’m glad you noticed! 😉
No, I did not ask to board early. I pride myself in not giving any indication I am writing a review. Instead, I line up far too early like a gate lice fool. But at least I have a good reason for it!
“when its seat is dated, bedding poor, internet prices outrageous, and food only fair.”
And yet, you slept like a log and ate everything off your plates for both meals…I’d say for an overnight TATL, it did what it was supposed to, and then some.
I’m not convinced the passport queues are due to travel rebounding in itself, umber of flights and passengers is still far enough below pre covid levels that there is no excuse for such inconvenience at passport control. As regards Swiss Airlines, seat is outdated but I’ve been in many J cabins over the years where the seat has been amazing but everything else was a far cry from what I have experienced with Swiss Airlines. Tjanks for this article, is is very refreshing to see someone post a genuine review that acknowledges what really makes a pleasant flight. Getting very tired of reading about fully lie flat, direct aisle access, board from lounge etc. Nonsense, without the crew and service the seat and boarding is absolutely zero consolat.
When the lights come on can make a real difference in how I enjoy a flight. On reasonably short night flights eg ord London (or last week we did syd kl and sin syd) lights have come on over 2hrs before landing eg 4/5am. Combine with long dinner service and sleep can be really cut short.
The hard product was out of date when I flew it least in 2018. The meal service ditto and the beef supplier appears to have not changed over the years – still overdone and shoe leather. A single plate J class dinner and the wine list is pathetic. Never saw what the big woo about LX J class was about.
Everyone is woke these days but it still surprised me that “Menus were also disturbed.” 😀
it’s not an “S-Video” port, it’s a Panasonic proprietary port that can be connected to 30-pin connector on iPhone 4S and earlier iPhone, iPod and iPad for watching content on iDevices.
Still old, but not that old.
And I totally applaud Qatar and ANA for adding HDMI input to their IFE system so people can use their own entertainment on big IFE screens.
Was there a chip in your grapas tasting glass? It appears to be the case from the picture?
The alcohol would immediately sanitize any cuts. It’s fine.