Around the World on 90k Part I: Warsaw and Beijing with Nothing But a Passport and a Dream(liner)
Around the World on 90k Part II: Blowing Through the Horn of Africa
Korean Air Lounge New York JFK
LOT Polish Business Class 787 New York To Warsaw
LOT Polish Business Class Lounge Warsaw
LOT Polish Business Class ERJ-170 Warsaw To Zurich
Swiss Panorama Lounge Zurich
Swiss Business Class A330 Zurich To Beijing
Grand Hyatt Beijing
Ethiopian Airlines Business Class 787 Beijing To Addis Ababa
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa
Ethiopian Airlines Business Class 767 Addis Ababa To Frankfurt
Lufthansa Business Class Lounge Frankfurt
Lufthansa Business Class 747-8 Frankfurt to Washington
Park Hyatt Washington DC
I’ve flown Swiss many times before, both on shorthaul and longhaul flights. Up until now my longhaul flights on them have been limited to first class. Back in the day they released a ton of first class award space, and they’ve long had a great first class product. Unfortunately not only do they not release first class award space to partner airlines anymore, but they don’t even release first class award space to all of their own Miles & More members. Instead you have to be at least a mid-tier Senator member in order to even book a Swiss first class award.
As a result, I was curious to check out Swiss’ business class product, since it’s the best that most of us can hope for from hereon out on award tickets.
Zurich (ZRH) – Beijing (PEK)
Tuesday, July 1
Arrive: 5:15AM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 9K (Business Class)
We boarded through door 2L at around 12:50PM, where we were greeted by the friendly purser and crew members, who alternated between “hello,” “gruezi,” and “ni hao.” We were pointed right towards out seats, which were 9K and 10K. The first thing I noticed, before even getting to my seat, was that the crew was gorgeous. Three of the four business class flight attendants were in their early 20s and almost uncomfortably attractive.
Swiss now features the same business class product throughout their longhaul fleet. Their A330s feature 45 business class seats, alternating between four and five seats per row. The seats are fully flat and in a staggered configuration — the Vantage variety, specifically.
Swiss A330 seatmap per SeatGuru
The product is similar to what Austrian and Brussels offer, for example. One thing I prefer about Swiss’ configuration is that on the right side of the aircraft they exclusively have single seats, which are similar to the single seats that Delta offers on their 767s. The advantage of these is that they’re not the “throne” seats, so do have a bit more room for your feet when you’re trying to sleep.
Andrew was seated in 10K, right behind me. That’s the seat closer to the aisle.
I was seated in 9K, which is the window seat closer to the window, though in the case of row nine there’s a missing window, which is unfortunate.
To the left of the seat were the seat controls, which were fairly intuitive, though had a few extra “features,” like being able to increase or decrease the firmness of the seat.
Separately, to the side of the seat were more controls, which were convenient when in the reclined position. You could also control the massage function from there, which is a pretty cool feature of the seat.
Also to the left of the seat were the entertainment controls.
Then to the left of the seat and up a bit from the controls were the Empower adapter and headphone jack.
The seatback pocket was located to the left of the seat, and there was an upside down clothes-hanger in there with my seat number, which I thought was smart, rather than the flight attendants having to write out the seat number each time.
While there wasn’t a massive amount of “foot space” for sleeping, there was definitely more than in the comparable “throne” seats. And at least there was additional knee room thanks to the space between the seat and the fuselage.
Waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket. The blanket was light and pillow was firm.
There were also headphones, though they weren’t especially comfortable; I used my own.
Shortly after settling in a flight attendant came around with the amenity kits.
They were fairly basic, and featured socks, eye shades, earplugs, toothpaste, a toothbrush, etc.
Shortly thereafter bottled water was distributed.
Hot towels were then distributed.
And then menus were distributed by the purser.
Around our scheduled departure time the captain came on the PA to inform us that we were still waiting on a few bags. He told us that our flight time would be 9hr25min, which would put us into Beijing on schedule.
At 1:35PM we finally pushed back, right as a Qatar Airways 787 was pulling into a gate near us. At this point the safety video began to play.
We taxied out to runway 34, which took about 15 minutes.
I love taxiing around Zurich Airport, not only because of the variety of traffic, but also because the landscape is so beautiful.
At around 1:50PM we made it to runway 34, where we were immediately cleared for takeoff.
Our climb out was smooth, and as usual I was glued to the window for the first 15 minutes of the flight, enjoying views of the surrounding landscape.
After that I took a look at the entertainment system, which was easy to use though not especially extensive, in my opinion. I always bring my own entertainment so that wasn’t an issue for me.
About 20 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began. The crew first came around to take orders, asking for everyone’s first course and main course preference.
The lunch menu read as follows:
And the wine list read as follows:
All the service was done by carts, starting with a drink service. I had a glass of champagne and still water to start, which were served with packaged almonds.
I had ordered the salmon for lunch, but after the drink service a flight attendant came around to tell me that they were short on salmon, and asked if I wouldn’t mind switching to another option. The beef sounded equally good to me, so I gladly switched to that.
Within a couple of minutes the friendly purser came by my seat to offer me a first class amenity kit and slippers as a thanks for switching meals. It of course wasn’t a big deal, so I thought that was a nice touch (compared to my recent Etihad flight, where I didn’t get my choice of starter or main course, and no apology was made).
Soon enough the lunch service began, starting with the appetizer and salad served on a tray.
To start I had the sea bass tartare with smoked halibut and seasonal salad, both of which were excellent.
For the main course I had the beef with fondant potatoes, which was also excellent.
After that it was time for dessert. I had an espresso, raspberry compote with lavender cream, and a glass of Baileys on the rocks.
Shortly thereafter a cheese course was offered.
Lastly, service finished with a selection of pralines from a box.
Service throughout the meal was excellent. The crew was enthusiastic, friendly, and attentive. While all the service was done from carts, the crew still passed through the aisle several times between courses to see if anyone wanted more bread, drinks, etc. The meal pace was also good — the entire meal took maybe two hours.
After lunch landing forms were distributed.
I browsed the duty free magazine, and noticed they were selling Schlappis, a small stuffed animal dog. There are three things I collect — Rimowa amenity kits, Lufthansa rubber ducks, and airline branded stuffed animals. So I had to pick one up not just because it was an airline branded stuffed animal, but because his name was only one letter off from my last name.
While this was technically a redeye flight, as you’d expect there was daylight for all but roughly two hours of the flight, given what a northerly flight this was in the peak of summer.
After lunch I changed in the lavatory. They had some additional amenities there, including refreshing towels and Valmont toiletries.
There was also a little snack setup in the galley, consisting of fruit, packaged chocolate, breadsticks, etc.
I decided to take a nap at this point, and slept very well for about two hours. Room for your feet when sleeping is somewhat limited with these seats, though not horribly so. Of course I’d take a reverse herringbone seat over this any day, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid this seat.
I woke up after about two hours and figured I’d stay up since I really wasn’t tired.
I decided to watch a couple of TV shows on my iPad. One of the flight attendants passed through the aisle and offered me Movenpick ice cream. I took him up on the offer.
I got a bit of work done on my laptop, and before I knew it we were a couple hours out of Beijing.
At this point I decided to once again take a look at the entertainment system, and found a pretty cool documentary about Peninsula Hotels. I learned a lot about the chain I didn’t know.
About two hours out breakfast service began, which seemed awfully early on a fairly short redeye flight with a one course breakfast (of course it didn’t bother me since I was up anyway).
The breakfast menu read as follows:
The breakfast consisted of a plate with cold cuts and cheese, some muesli, and a hot small egg side dish. Bread was offered along with breakfast as well.
After breakfast I decided to watch a show about “the secret life of dogs.”
About 45 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to give us an updated arrival time and inform us of the weather in Beijing.
Shortly thereafter the seatbelt sign was turned on.
Our descent into Beijing seemingly took forever, because we passed the airport flying east, then turned around to fly west, and then finally turned north to land on runway 36R, where we touched down at 5:25AM.
Our touchdown was smooth, though as is the norm at Beijing Capital Airport, the taxi took forever.
At least the traffic on the taxi in was interesting, including a cargo 747 and Transaero 747.
We finally made it to our gate at around 5:45AM, where we parked next to an Air China A330.
Bottom line on Swiss business class
I was pleasantly surprised by Swiss business class. The seat is kind of average for “modern” business class, in my opinion — it’s not my favorite and not my least favorite — but the food was good and service spectacular. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Swiss business class again anytime.