Part of the Lufthansa Group, SWISS operates a large network of long-haul routes as well as short-haul flights to destinations across Europe, from its hubs in Zurich and Geneva.
While SWISS offers lie-flat beds in Business Class on its wide-body aircraft used for long-haul flights, short-haul Business Class within Europe is quite a different affair. As is the case on almost all European airlines, short-haul Business Class within Europe comprises of an Economy Class seat at the front of the plane with a vacant neighbouring seat and better service on board. This system allows airlines to dynamically change the size of the “Business” cabin for every flight, based on demand, by simply moving the curtain.
With this in mind, European Business Class is not the same experience as what you would expect within Australia. But I still had a pleasant short flight with SWISS when I flew their Airbus A220 Business Class recently from Zurich to Ljubljana.
|Route||Zurich (ZRH) – Ljubljana (LJU)|
|Aircraft type||Airbus A220-300 (formerly Bombardier CS300)|
|Class of travel||Business|
|On-time performance||We departed and arrived 20 minutes late|
I paid for this flight as part of a Lufthansa Group round-the-world ticket. However, if you were to book this flight individually, you could normally expect to pay around AUD665 one-way or AUD897 return for a Business Class seat. (Alternatively, you might be able to book a much cheaper Economy ticket and pay to upgrade for around AUD100-200 each way when you check-in online.)
You could also book a seat using points or miles with any Star Alliance airline’s frequent flyer program.
Normally, Zurich Airport is one of my favourites in Europe. It’s a large, modern and efficient airport, and every other time I’ve flown from or via Zurich, the process has been a breeze.
Unfortunately, on the day of my flight, it just so happened that the airport’s baggage system had broken down and the check-in area was an absolute shambles. There were huge crowds waiting to check in, even at the priority Business and First Class/Star Alliance Gold counters.
The staff were trying their absolute best, but there just weren’t enough of them. It was uncharacteristically disorderly for Switzerland! It took me around an hour to check in and I almost missed my flight. (Luckily, my flight was delayed.)
Once I’d finally dropped off my bag and collected my boarding pass, things got much better. As a Business passenger I was able to use the priority security lane and headed over to the SWISS Business & Senator Lounge in the Schengen Area of Terminal A. (This is just one of many SWISS lounges at Zurich Airport!)
The lounge was quite full when I arrived but I was able to find a seat. There was a selection of buffet food and a wide variety of self-service drinks, as well as hot food available on request directly from the kitchen. I enjoyed the spätzle with chicken, spinach and mushroom sauce that was available for lunch.
This comfortable lounge has everything you would need, although to access the wifi you needed to scan your boarding pass at a kiosk to receive an access code.
The Hard Product
When I booked this flight, it was advertised as an Embraer E190 service operated by Helvetic Airways. As much as I like flying on an E190, I was excited to discover that there was a last-minute aircraft change to a near-new Airbus A220!
While the Airbus A220 will eventually become a staple of the Qantas fleet, this regional aircraft (formerly known as the Bombardier C-Series) is still a rare sight in Australian skies.
It’s a modern, quiet plane with a comfortable 2-3 seating layout.
In Business Class, you never sit directly next to another passenger. I was in 1A, on the left side of the plane where the seats are in pairs, so I had two seats to myself. On the right side of the plane, where there are 3 seats, the window and aisle seats were allocated but the middle seat was kept vacant. This means SWISS is able to sell 3 seats per row as Business Class.
The leather seats are exactly the same whether you’re in Business or Economy, but I found them perfectly comfortable for the one-hour flight.
As I was sitting in the first row, there was a bulkhead in front of my seat. There was enough space but I think row 2 would be better as you could stretch your legs under the seat in front. The seats at the front of the plane all had a decent amount of pitch.
There was no wifi or in-flight entertainment, other than a small moving map in the overhead panel where the safety demonstration video was also played at the start of the flight.
There was one toilet at the front of the plane reserved for Business passengers. I was pleasantly surprised by how spacious this was for a lavatory on a regional aircraft.
The Soft Product
While the “hard product” in intra-Europe Business Class isn’t all that different to Economy, there is a substantial difference in the “soft product” on SWISS.
Before takeoff, everyone on the plane was given a disinfectant wipe. Business passengers were then handed a small bottle of water and a second, more “premium” packaged refresher wipe.
This was only a short flight so a full hot meal wasn’t served, but I was given a small snack plate shortly after take-off with a delicious mousse dessert.
Drinks were available including a choice of red and white wines. I asked for a red wine and was offered the choice between a Swiss merlot and a Tempranillo from Portugal. For some reason, the red wine had been refrigerated and was served cold.
The friendly crew kept everyone’s drinks topped up throughout the flight and handed out the famous SWISS chocolates before descent.
While enjoying a light lunch, I was treated to some spectacular views of the Austrian Alps on the left-hand side of the plane.
SWISS Airbus A220 Business Class
Despite a shaky start when I arrived at the airport, my SWISS A220 Business Class flight from Zurich to Ljubljana was pleasant with good service on board. There’s no escaping the fact that the Business Class seats are no different to Economy, although this is completely normal within Europe and for a short flight, this seat (with nobody next to you) was fine.
The Airbus A220 is a great aircraft for regional flights and I would actively try to book on this aircraft type again if given a choice.
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