Pat's Travel Reviews

SWISS A320 & A321 European Business Class Review

I have flown on several SWISS International Air Lines flights in Business Class the past few months. I flew on the A321 from Zurich (ZRH) to Rome (FCO) and on the A320 from AMS to ZRH and a few flights between Moscow (DME) and Zurich. Along with their newly acquired C series by Bombardier (A220 as of a few weeks ago), SWISS Flies the A321, A320, and A319 almost exclusively on their European routes (they fly a few on some shorter flights to Northern Africa like Cairo and maybe Marrakesh). The seats for the A321 and A320 are the same so I am sure the A319 will also be the same. The Bombardier (A220) seats and layout may be different, however, the service on all of SWISS’s intra-European flights are the same regardless of aircraft type. The only thing that will change would be the meal served based on flight time and distance.

SWISS is typical of most European Carriers (and all Western European Airlines) in that their Business Class seats are the exact same as the Economy Class seats only with the middle seat left vacant. In SWISS’s case there is no tray table over this middle seat, rather, it is just left unoccupied giving it the appearance of Economy Class. The one thing that is nice about SWISS, unlike many other airlines with this Business Class set-up, there is actually more leg room. At first I thought it was only the design of the forward seat, but after the second flight I realized the leg room was noticeably better and I switched seats from the bulkhead (which I usually like) to a non-bulkhead seat on subsequent flights. I couldn’t find anything on the SWISS site stating this, but according to Seat Guru, SWISS’s Business Class has 34″ of pitch compared to 31″ in Economy. Now, like with other carrier’s that have this 3×3 layout in Business, the cabin can be extended or retracted based on loads. I am not sure at what point the seat pitch is lessened.

I took two flights out of Moscow and in both cases used the SWISS Lounge at Domodedovo Airport. Not quite sure why SWISS has an individual lounge at DME when Austrian also has a lounge there and Lufthansa recently closed theirs (a Star Alliance Lounge makes more sense). The SWISS Lounge at DME is a far cry from the SWISS lounges at ZRH or really any other SWISS Lounges (used Aspire Lounge in AMS). It is a small lounge, but does have food (hot) and drinks (small bar area), has free Wi-Fi (code has to be sent to your phone), however, no computers (which would bypass having to get code), and no boarding announcements are made. Unless someone was feeling nostalgic for the Soviet Union, the worst part is the staff. I have actually visited this lounge a few other times the last 3 or 4 years and it has always been the same. Most of the staff are very unpleasant. Exactly what you would have expected ten years ago. The most disappointing aspect of this is that the service in Russia has improved tremendously the past ten years. Especially in the aviation sector. The staff at check-in was pleasant and helpful (and usually are). Just never this lounge. Most of the time in Europe, like the Aspire Lounge in Amsterdam, you will use a third party lounge. Now, as bad as the lounge is in Moscow, the SWISS lounges in Zurich and I am sure other Swiss Airports are very nice and among my favorites. SWISS has recently remodeled their lounge in Terminal A at Zurich Airport.

In all cases, Business Class and Star Alliance Gold boarded first or had their own priority lane. On every flight a small bottle of Henniez Water and a Refreshing Tissue towelette packet was waiting for you at your seat on arrival, however, a pre-departure drink was never offered. As I said, there is no difference between the two cabins other than a curtain that can be adjusted for loads (flight from AMS had 9 rows in Business Class with 36 passengers and on to Moscow 6 rows with 24 passengers – both A320’s). SWISS has had some very competitive Business Class fares lately and most of the flights were full or close to it (something I haven’t experienced much of within Europe). Besides having less leg room, the bulkhead seats are more narrow as the armrests do not move, therefore eliminating one of the benefits of having that middle seat empty. The seats are a greyish brown leather with no head rests (Economy same). There was no pillow nor blanket on your seat, but a blanket was available if you asked. The seats did not have a power port of any kind. There was also no Wi-Fi on any of these flights nor is there any entertainment to speak of. There are overhead monitors that had a very nice moving map and would display information of a few cities we flew over, which I liked. Some cartoons (Tom & Jerry) did come on the 3 hour flight to and from Moscow, but the seats do not have an audio outlet so there is no volume. There was always plenty of room in the overhead and with the center seat unoccupied a place to put a bag without interfering with stretching your legs. On two of the flights my wife and I sat in row 3 and there wasn’t an air vent overhead. As someone who is hot all the time, this annoyed me. I noticed other rows nearby had vents but they were offset. My thinking was these planes may have had a life before SWISS with larger First/Business Class seats.

On the shorter flights (both about an hour) meal service started quickly after take-off. A cold meal was offered (only 1 choice) along with the drink cart and bread basket. From AMS to ZRH the breakfast consisted of Prosciutto, Cheese, Apple slices, Grapes and Yogurt with Muesli. With the bread and croissant (very good) it was more than enough for a flight of this length. The Orange Juice was also very good (fresh). The flight from ZRH to FCO was at lunch time and a plate of Aubergine Caviar with accompaniments, Cheese and a Pistachio Mouse was served. Unfortunately my wife was not with me on this flight because she would have loved this meal. Me on the other hand, not so much. This was fine as I only had one night in Italy and was saving up my appetite. Menus were not given, so the flight attendant had to explain the two entrée choices on the longer flights (much like First Class within the US). One of the flights was breakfast while the other two were dinner flights. I ordered an Omelette with Sausage and potatoes. The other choice was explained as an Egg Cake (Frittata). Both came with Cheese, Fruit, Muesli, and Bread. Both dinner flights started out with the drink cart and a packet of tasty Olive Oil Chips (or crackers). The choice was basically the same on both flights; Beef or Pasta. From ZRH to DME my wife and I sat in the bulkhead and Beef was the only option available as they took the orders from the rear. This was fine by me (I ate my wife’s too). In fact, I ordered Beef on both flights. She got the Tortellini on the return. All meals came with a small side salad, cheese, dessert, and the bread basket. I have flown SWISS (and Swiss Air) many times within Europe over the last 20 years and have always liked their catering and the meal from ZRH was great (wasn’t crazy about the Green Tea Tiramisu). But, on both flights from Moscow (breakfast and dinner) the meals were served lukewarm at best. Even my wife’s Tortellini was the same. Now, I like my meals hotter than most, and the taste was fine, but these were borderline cold. Maybe this was just an unlucky coincidence or they heat the meals on the way to Moscow from Switzerland and this will always be the case. Either way, it was disappointing. After the meal service Coffee or Tea was offered. Since I do not drink Coffee and Switzerland is known for chocolate, I asked for a Hot Chocolate, which they had on two of the flights. It was actually quite good, but ironically the Cocoa from ZRH was cold and from DME was nice and hot. A hot towel was never offered either after take-off or after the meal service. Prior to landing the flight attendant would come around with a basket of Swiss chocolates, which is a nice touch.

For the most part the flights were all on time and the flight attendants were very professional and friendly. The one exception was our flight from AMS to ZRH was delayed for no apparent reason. After 45 minutes of sitting, my wife and I became anxious as we only had a 1 hour connection in Zurich to Moscow. My wife asked a flight attendant why we were delayed and he became defensive and was not very reassuring. We finally left without an explanation from the pilot for our delay. Luckily no one was in line at passport control at ZRH and we did not need to go through security again allowing us to make our flight. Usually there were two flight attendants in Business Class with one also helping out in Economy. The announcements were always in English and German with Italian on the way to Rome and some French. There was some pre recorded announcements in Dutch and Russian. There is one lavatory in the front. It was always clean and had soap and lotion.

Despite looking like and somewhat feeling like Economy Class, flying SWISS intra-European Business Class is about the entire experience, not so much the seat you sit in. Priority check-in and boarding, Lounge access, advance seat assignment and additional baggage allowance are big pluses along with knowing the seat next to you will be free. That being said, if you are Star Alliance Gold or a Miles & More Frequent Traveler or above you get most of these benefits anyway. For the most part I enjoy flying SWISS (flight to LAX in Business was great) and they are one of my favorite European carriers . But, I will once again be flying from Moscow to FCO in a few months and just bought a Business Class ticket on Lufthansa instead of SWISS. So as much as I like the SWISS Lounges in ZRH and the extra leg room, the disappointment in the temperature of the two meals influenced my decision. Further, if given the choice to fly from Moscow to Western Europe, Aeroflot’s ( http://patstravelreviews.com/aeroflot-a320-premier-class-review-moscow-svo-to-budapest/ ) Business Class product (and S7) is superior. SWISS’s fares are just more competitive and I am more loyal to oneworld and Star Alliance than SkyTeam.

 

 

 

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Pat's Travel Reviews

Pat's Travel Reviews