I recently had the pleasure of experiencing the new Business Class product just introduced by SWISS International Air Lines across their wide body Airbus A340 fleet.
SWISS launched a San Francisco Zurich service on June 2nd, 2010. Since then, the daily flight has been a runaway success proving extremely popular with business and leisure travelers alike.
So on a rainy Sunday afternoon in March, off I went to check-in for SWISS (LX) 039 between San Francisco and Zurich….
With a 7:25 pm departure, I arrived at SFO’s spacious international terminal at just after five pm and found the SWISS ground staff extremely friendly and courteous as they checked in passengers. (Online check-in for SWISS is also possible at www.SWISS.com and is available from 23 hours to 1 prior to departure)
After walking to gate G100, I was happy to discover the aircraft operating LX 039 was none other than the logo jet ‘San Francisco,’ registration HB-JMJ, painted especially for the launch of the route.
Boarding was smooth and I quickly found my seat, 7D. A flight attendant came by with a choice between champagne and orange juice accompanied with a serving of salted cashews. As I sipped my choice I took a look around the cabin.
Configured in a 2 – 2 – 1 layout, the
Configured in a 2 – 2 – 1 layout, theseats in the SWISS Business Class section were decorated in soothing earth tones. All seats are staggered to allow passengers lie fully flat by extending underneath the seat space in front of them.
My seat had an easy to use console on the left arm rest to choose between two main positions: Take-off & Landing and Bed. An air pillow system, designed by the Swiss firm Contour, allows the seat cushions to be adjusted for comfort with firmer/softer options at the touch of a button.
An amenity kit with toothbrush, eyeshades, slipper socks, ear plugs and personal care products by Valmont of Switzerland was placed in the flat tray built into the seat in front of me along with a copy of the dedicated SWISS Business and First Class in-flight magazine, SWISS Universe.
As is common with the Airbus 340, the take off roll was long, but we were soon cruising at 35,000 feet. After the seat belt sign was turned off, meal menus were handed out and the dinner service began. The menu featured choices from the immensely popular SWISS Taste of Switzerland program that features dishes from various cantons (provinces) of Switzerland. Seasonally inspired, they are prepared by some of the country’s top chefs.
There was a choice between two appetizers (I chose the smoked salmon) and four main courses (I chose the roast chicken with fresh dill). A variety of SWISS and international wines were offered and I enjoyed a crisp Swiss white wine with my meal.
As I dined, I moved my seat into a more relaxed lounge position which made the meal that much more enjoyable. I also had a chance to browse the in-flight entertainment options. The video on demand system onboard all SWISS aircraft features the same choices in all classes, and allows for every video and audio feature to be paused, rewound, and fast forwarded as you wish.
The 10.4” inch screen was perfect for viewing the selection of 22 first run Hollywood and international movies plus 40 television programs and documentaries. In addition, 16 Music channels and more than 300 CDs and 15 games can also be played. An air show provided GPS positioning for the aircraft during the flight, complemented by two cameras – one facing forward and one facing down – giving passengers a bird’s eye view of earth.
After dinner a box of premium Swiss chocolates was brought around by the in flight crew – who told me not to be shy – take as many as you like. I must admit I was not! I made a few selections and enjoyed them along with a cup of delicious strawberry parfait and hot espresso coffee – brewed on board.
Three hours after take-off and it was time for bed. The SWISS Business Class seat does not require you to get up and re-configure it; I simply pressed the button for ‘Bed’ and the seat sank and stretched out into a six foot six inch (two meter long) fully flat bed. A firm pillow and thick blanket kept me warm during the night, and with little turbulence, I slept nearly all the way to breakfast service the next morning. I did wake up around midnight for a cup of hot soup that the friendly crew heated up for me in the galley, where I stopped for a brief chat.
Touchdown in Zurich
A tasty breakfast was served shortly before arrival. Crispy Swiss Rösti was available along with a selection of fresh fruits, plain and flavored yogurts and coffee/tea. The meal was delivered a la carte by the smiling crew. Just prior to landing, more Swiss chocolates were handed out, this time stamped with the SWISS logo.
As we approached Zurich, stunning views of the snow clad Alps passed on the right side of the Airbus 340. It was a very sweet sight as I munched the milk chocolate, and within ten minutes we had touched down. After the excellent meals, comfortable business class seat and free flowing chocolates on board, not to mention the swift, professional and courteous service from the SWISS cabin crew, I was very reluctant to leave my seat when we pulled up at the gate!
Making a Europe Connection
Three SWISS ground staff were on hand to assist passengers making onward connections. All SWISS intercontinental flights arrive at Concourse E, and European flights depart from Concourse A. An underground train connects the two terminals via a five-minute ride through a tunnel complete with stop motion advertisements for tourism Switzerland. The shots are accompanied by mooing cows and jangling bells! Both brought out chuckles from fellow passengers.
Passport control followed and I was processed in less than three minutes by a friendly border control officer. Five minutes after that, I was through security and on my way to my connecting flight that left from A6 45 minutes later. No hassles, no problems, and plenty of time to shop for Swiss chocolates!
From its hub in Zurich SWISS International Air Lines serves 72 destinations in 39 countries across four continents. Onward connects to Africa, the Middle East and points around Europe are a breeze through what is certainly Europe’s easiest airports to transit.
Operating under the airline code LX, SWISS International Air Lines has an all Airbus fleet of 88 aircraft. The carrier joined the Star Alliance network in 2006. The airline recently introduced a new fully flat Business class seat onboard their long haul Airbus 340 aircraft that will be available fleet wide by mid 2011.
For more information and to make a booking, click www.SWISS.com