Everything to Know About Flying Swiss Airlines Business Class
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You might have high expectations for the flag carrier of a country that is synonymous with efficiency and hospitality. Even more so given that SWISS is owned by the Lufthansa Group (along with its eponymous airline and Austrian Airlines), and the company promotes SWISS as its premium airline. So does SWISS Business Class deliver? Mostly, and in some of the places you most expect: The airline typically runs like, um, clockwork, with a punctuality rating of 90.7%, and an even more impressive flight completion rate, making it a stand out in the summer of 2022 when cancellations were the industry norm.
More Swiss efficiency is found in their new direct rail service in cooperation with Swiss rail. This lets you book your train ticket through SWISS at the same time as your plane ticket and you can hop the train at Zurich airport to Interlaken or Lucerne, as easily as if you’re taking a connecting flight.
The airline is even making inroads in environmentalism: Thanks to a deal with Synhelion, a company that produces solar fuels to decarbonize transportation, SWISS has become the first airline in the world to use solar kerosene. This is in keeping with the airline’s sustainability goal of 50% reduction in net CO2 emissions compared to 2019 by 2030, and ‘net zero’ by 2050. They also just launched the “AeroSHARK”, a technology that replicates the skin of a shark that is then wrapped around the fuselage to reduce friction which takes carbon emissions down a notch or two. On the other hand, the airline falls short in some surprising places.
What to know about SWISS Air Lines business class
SWISS’s flagship airplane is the 777-300ER. They currently have 12 of the double engine beauties in their fleet with plans for more in the future. The airline flies this plane to destinations such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Their long haul fleet also includes 14 of the older A330-300s and 5 A340-300s for when they need 250+ seat planes. For short haul flights within Europe, and flights between Switzerland, Africa and the Near East, they use the Airbus A320 and Airbus A320neo aircraft. The 320s also fly midday flights to Miami from Zurich.
Real deals we've found for Going members in SWISS business class
- $3,106 roundtrip to Rome
- $1,979 roundtrip to Zurich
- $2,293 roundtrip to Dubai
The SWISS Air Lines business class experience at the airport
SWISS has three hubs in its home country: Basel, Geneva and Zurich. The latter is the busiest, but it has easy and efficient connections which makes it an attractive alternative to much more sprawling Frankfurt or Munich airports. In Zurich it will take you a maximum of 30 minutes to get from the check-in desk to the gate. And 10 minutes between gates.
SWISS business class check-in
At all airports, Business Class passengers have access to a designated check in service and baggage drop off. Check in service is highly efficient if not effusive.
Within the terminal are some very high end restaurants as well as the standard fast food chains. As with everything in Switzerland, prices are very high. Even a Big Mac and fries can set you back a lot of Swiss francs. There is also an infamous and rather revolting smoking “box” in the main terminal- a small enclosed cube where smokers gather to light up.
SWISS Air Lines business class lounges
Outside of Switzerland, business class passengers are welcomed into Star Alliance’s lounges. Of SWISS’s hubs in Zurich, Geneva (which operates mostly European traffic and a few flights to New York) and Basel, the lounges in Zurich are the nicest while the other cities’ feels like run of the mill business lounges.
In Zurich, there are actually nine lounges–in Terminals A (the main building primarily for European flights), E (arriving and departing intercontinental fleet) and, D, the non-Schengen departure and arrivals (though D is currently closed for renovations).
Business lounges are accessible to different tiers of business ticket holders. SWISS’s expansive and elegant Senator lounge is reserved for Star Alliance gold, and Miles & More Senator travelers, and is the jewel in the crown. Some of its great features include a large window overlooking the runway, a covered terrace where you can enjoy a snack and alpine views, showers (on a first come first served basis), stylish wine-coloured furniture including reclining chairs, and office space and a quiet zone on the upper level.
Swiss-made espresso machines dispense good coffee as well as unexpected drinks such as iced strawberry milk. Food is prepared to order at a chef’s station and meals aren’t timed to the hour of the day. If your body is telling you it’s time for breakfast, there are eggs, breads, cheeses, fruits, meats, juices and yogurts. If you're on dinner time you can have roast chicken prepared a la carte. You can also have a snack at the cold self-serve buffets. You can serve yourself from a fridge full of Movenpick ice cream. Even early in the day, there’s a wide array of alcohol available.
SWISS’s other Business lounges in the Zurich airport and indeed in its other cities, are clean, modern and functional with ample seating, a la carte food in some cases and always a self-serve buffet but lack some of the features and pizazz of the Senator. This feels true even of Lounge E, even though it was recently upgraded. (And because it’s mostly used for transiting passengers it feels much more hectic.)
One of the great features of SWISS is the Arrivals lounge at Zurich airport’s main terminal. It’s open to First and business class Star Alliance flight holders on incoming long-haul flights between 6am and 1pm. For those who arrived very early from the east coast, for example, it's a welcome place to freshen up, relax, shower or even catch a little nap in one of the relaxing pods when you weren’t quite ready to face the world. And you can even have your shirt ironed or jacket steamed while you’re showering.
When it's time to head to your gate, be aware that, while not in the EU, Switzerland is a member of the Schengen group, so passport control is divided into Schengen and non-Schengen zones. Which means, depending on where you are flying to, you may have to make your way past a second security check after your stay in the lounge, so no breezing from lounge to gate.
When it’s time to board the plane you pass through a glass jet bridge and SWISS abides by the eminently logical European tradition of two front and back of the plane boarding and deplaning.
SWISS business class baggage
SWISS has a generous baggage allowance for business class customers. These ticket holders are allowed 2 pieces of luggage at a maximum 70 pounds (32 kg) for North American routes.
The SWISS business class experience in the air
Flight attendants welcome you and show you to your seat. The business class space is beautiful and understated with clean lines. Perforated wood accents around the seats are a very Swiss touch—both stylish and cozy. And practical it incorporates a handy sliding drawer for storage. No overhead bins in the middle make it look even more airy.
SWISS business class seats
777-300ER: In the 777--300ER planes there are two business class cabins. The first mini cabin (familiarly known by the Swiss term, Stübli, or “cozy pavilion”) has just 10 seats and is typically offered in pre-booking to HON Circle members. The main Business Class cabin has 52 seats. These have a pitch of 60 inches (152 cm) and a width of 20 inches (52 cm).
Seats are configured in a 1-2-2 or 2-2-1 pattern. Though the staggered design looks roomier, and is good for the two meter length the seats fold flat to, this layout is also problematic because it doesn’t offer direct aisle access for all passengers. The single “throne” seats are the ones you want, and offer much more storage than the other business class seats,(though more than you can really use) along with privacy and direct aisle access. The throne seats tend to be reserved first for HON Circle members and Miles and More Senators. The airline opens them up depending on availability but chances are you’ll have to pay a premium for one (in the range of 150 Swiss Francs).
If you’re traveling together, the pair of seats are great. If not, you want to hope that, if you have the window seat, you won’t have a neighbor next to you who you’ll have to climb over to get to the aisle. And window seats have much less storage than throne seats.
There are coat hooks on each seat, (and three on the throne seats!) but they are not well placed. Better to ask flight attendant’s to hang your coat up at the front. After you’re settled in, FAs offer a glass of champagne, juice or water and some nuts. They come around occasionally to check to see you have everything you need.
The IFE includes large HD screens. Seats also feature three personal reading lamps, a USB port, universal electrical outlet and a hook for your headphone; the latter is an especially nice touch for people who perpetually find themselves entwined in the headphone wires. Seats are well engineered with lumbar support air cushions that can be adjusted for firmness and they offer a massage function as well. But there is no wireless phone charging station. As with many European cabins there is no adjustable air option on the PSU and cabins tend to the warm side.
When it comes time for bed, the business class seat goes completely flat to a lengthy 2 meters long. But here is another bone to pick: Blankets are flimsy. You've come to expect a duvet in business class and the blankets really looked and felt just like an economy class blanket. And there were no mattress tops for the lie flat seats.
Though the throne seats are ideal for the solo traveler, they have a downside as a bed. Armrests can’t be lowered so if you’re on the broad sides you, shoulders and torso can feel a little cramped and it’s not easy to switch positions. The foot cubbies are kind of small too, so lying there feels rather like lying in a coffin.
A340-300s: Though SWISS recently refurbished their A340s, these aging birds are facing extinction in favor of more 777s (This is supposed to happen by 2025). In the meantime, the A340-300s do look fresh, with the same light wood and leather trim as the 777s. Seats have the same configuration in the main business class cabin as the 777s as well, a staggered 1-2-2 and 2-2-1 configuration. The forward mini cabin has nine seats in total the main business cabin has 38 seats. Odd number throne seats are closer to the window and even numbers closer to the aisle.
SWISS business class meals
After you’ve been offered your welcome drink and before takeoff crew distribute a menu for dinner and if you're on an overnight flight one for breakfast as well with items to check off like a room service card. The business class tray is the standard white flap style.
The airline offers a rotating menu of dishes inspired by different regions of the country. Recently this ‘SWISS Taste of Switzerland’ feature included menus, in first and business class, created in collaboration with chefs of famed Swiss restaurants such as the two Michelin star restaurant Baur au Lac.
For dinner there is a choice of four main courses including a vegetarian offering, and a terrific assortment of white and full grain breads.
Meals should be better than the hit and miss they are; at times they are outstanding and nicely presented on tableware by young Swiss designers. And at times they are lackluster, even messy, in presentation if not taste. It was bothersome that all courses except the last were served on a single tray, unwrapped as the main cooled down while we were eating the first course. (Even in economy they wrap the main in foil). While this expedited the meal service on an overnight flight (Swiss service has been glacially slow in past flights) it took a little of the glamor out of the business class meal experience. The final courses of dinner are typically faultless: An assortment of delicious Swiss cheese and a delectable dessert are followed by Swiss chocolates.
Chocolate, salty snacks and drinks are available in the galley between meals, and on some flights Movenpick ice cream cups are handed out. And as for the bottles of water you are drinking to stay hydrated: they are filled with pure alpine water from SWISS’s own source.
For those who wait till they get off the plane to get a good cup of coffee, take note: SWISS serves Nespresso aboard and these real espresso-based drinks are a welcome touch. So is the choice of hot chocolate. The breakfast is great overall, much better than the many airlines who drop the ball when it comes to the morning meal. Here you can have a delicious smoothie instead of (or, in addition to, fruit juice) a hot egg dish, a great selection of breads and cheese, and the airline’s signature and fantastic bircher muesli.
SWISS business class alcohol
Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne is poured freely before, during and after meals, and premium red and white wines are paired with each course during the actual meal. Swiss wines are featured and typically the cuvees they include Compleo Cuvée Blanc 2021 and Switzerland Gally Assemblage Rouge AOC Valais 2019 But you can opt for Vertente Douro DOC 2019 from Portugal or a French Château Campillot 2016/ After the meal there’s an array of liqueurs and port to choose from.
Swiss business class benefits
The IFE screen can be tilted so you can have a great viewing angle even while lying down and the monitor is crisp and clear. The interface is efficient but not next level. Ditto the movie and tv selection, though the SWISS kids channel stood out. Here you can find Tetris (automatically widening its appeal from beyond the under 12 set) and a cute “Are We There Yet” map.
SWISS has had some very cool business amenity kits in the past, from beanies to backpacks. Lately they've been collaborating with Victoronix (the makers of the famous Swiss Army knife.) on their kits with various designs. The latest are Victoronix cool (and collectible) packing cubes on long-haul flights from Zurich and Geneva in four different sizes. But their contents are surprisingly basic: a toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, an eye mask and socks.
Another disappointment were the SWISS branded headsets which were not noise canceling. The airline offers wifi but it is not free at the moment in business unless you are a top tier member. Otherwise you have to pay for bits and bytes and it runs pricey. This is something business class customers expect to have for free.
SWISS AirLines business class vs first class
SWISS is one of a dwindling number of European airlines that offer first class. And it is not showy, or over the top, just refined and tasteful. First class passengers have access to a first class check in where they can start the party with a glass of Laurent Perrier Grand siècle champagne.
Once in the First Class lounge they can have a preflight dinner worthy of a five star restaurant, accompanied by an array of international and Swiss fine wines, followed by a cigar from an onsite humidor. There are even a couple of full hotel rooms with alpine views (by reservation). The lounge is available to SWISS First, First Class Lufthansa, and HON Circle guests who a connecting with a complete FIRST Class ticket
A shuttle service takes you from the First Class Lounge to the gate. Aboard, SWISS First Class is beautiful, with angular and modernist seats and blond wood finishings. There are 8 First Class suites in a 1-2 1 layout in the 777s. Seats can be fully enclosed and there are electric blinds and an easy to read and user friendly control panel that adjusts seating firmness, and lighting. TV screens are a whopping 32 inches, tray tables are oak veneer and seats are leather with an ottoman seat across from it so you can invite someone over for a chat or to dine with you.
Seats turn into spacious beds with mattress toppers and luxuriously thick duvets. The amenity bag in first is another step up, with a bag from Swiss luxury leather goods brand Bally containing goodies from other famous Swiss brands including Ricola cough drops, Elmex toothpaste, and La Prairie moisturizer, as well as a sleeping mask, sock, and a shoe horn (a great touch as it’s hard to put shoes on after a long flight). This premium ticket also gets you pajamas from the cult Swiss underwear bread Zimmerli.
Food is fantastic, and beautifully presented with a list of premium Swiss and international wines. You can also opt for the dine on demand menu. (Or both!) As well, snacks are available throughout the flight. Regulars know that there is also an off menu offering on each flight (like In’N’Out burgers’ secret menu but much fancier.) It consists of an elevated take on traditional Swiss dishes such as olma bratwurst or Zurich veal cutlet. You just have to know to ask.
How to book SWISS AirLines business class
How much does it cost for a business class ticket on SWISS Air Lines?
Depending on where you fly from and which dates you'd like to travel, the average price for a business class ticket to from JFK to Zurich is approximately $5,400. Going has found our members deals for much less though, including roundtrip fares to Europe under $2,000.
How to upgrade to business class of SWISS Air Lines for free
SWISS doesn't really release a lot of upgrade seats but there are ways to upgrade. If you’re a status customer you can use e-vouchers. If you’ve finalized an economy ticket you can opt for a fixed price upgrade. Or you can place a bid on a business class upgrade ticket at least 72 hours before departure depending on availability. Swiss has a sophisticated booking system that assesses availability in real time and you can opt in to get text messages or emails with offers. Some of the offerings are quite attractive, starting at 400 Swiss Francs for an upgrade.
You can usually find open award seats within a couple days of departure. A one-say business-class award ticket between the US and Europe will run you approximately 40,000 miles and more, 70,000 United miles or 45,00 Aeroplan miles each way
Swiss usually opens awards seats 360 days before departure and they do release a reasonable amount of award space, again using their real time availability system which also has a logarithm that incorporates low periods, midway availability route, season etc. Bear in mind that SWISS charges hefty fuel surcharges for awards tickets.
SWISS is a premium airline and, using the efficient and manageable Zurich airport as a hub makes it more attractive than some other European carriers especially when you have to change planes. On board, the food is generally great but some things fall short of expectation: service can be slow, and while you might expect a Swiss airline to be design-forward and pioneering in efficiency, in some of the areas it just isn’t. Overall the airline is good, very good, but there are times you can't help but think it’s not as great as it should be.
Read more about business class travel
Frequently asked questions about SWISS Air Lines business class
What does SWISS Air Lines business class include?
Do you get lounge access with SWISS Air Lines business class?
Do seats in SWISS Air Lines business class lie flat?
Is food served in business class on SWISS Air Lines?
How many checked bags do you get in SWISS Air Lines business class?
What are the best seats in SWISS Air Lines business class?
What is the best business class SWISS Air Lines seat?
Published February 1, 2023
Last updated December 21, 2023
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