Review: Swiss Business Class 777 San Francisco To Zurich

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I checked in online for my flight to Zurich, so headed straight towards International Terminal G when I got to SFO. Security at SFO can be bad, though fortunately they have CLEAR, which probably saved me 20 minutes.

I briefly visited the United Lounge in the international terminal, which is the former United Global First Lounge, though it’s being used for all Star Alliance business class passengers at the moment. That’s because United is in the process of building their Polaris Lounge, and as a result they’ve closed their United Club for the time being. The lounge was so crowded that I decided to just sit in the gate area instead.

One thing I love about SFO’s international terminal is the great views of planes available from many gates. Seriously, how stunning of a view is this?!


Swiss 777-300ER San Francisco Airport

I love Swiss’ livery — it’s simple and elegant, and looks especially good on the 777.


Swiss 777-300ER San Francisco Airport

My Swiss flight was departing from gate G100, and boarding was scheduled for 7:15PM. In reality boarding started at 7:20PM, with first class, business class, and Star Alliance gold passengers.


Swiss departure gate San Francisco

Swiss 39
San Francisco (SFO) – Zurich (ZRH)
Thursday, January 4
Depart: 7:50PM
Arrive: 3:50PM (+1 day)
Duration: 11hr
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 14A (Business Class)

I boarded through door L2, where I was pointed right towards my seat. Swiss’ 777 business class cabin is massive, with a total of 62 seats. Between doors one and two is the first class cabin, with eight seats, plus a business class mini-cabin with two rows.

The rear business class cabin has a total of 52 seats, spread across 11 rows, with five seats per row. In my opinion Swiss’ new cabins are stunning. They’re elegant and understated without being generic. They sure have their design down.


Swiss 777 business class cabin


Swiss 777 business class cabin

Swiss has a staggered configuration in business class. The center section of each row has two seats, with the layout staggered in every other row. That’s because the footwell for one seat is inbetween or to the side of the seats in front.


Swiss business class seats 777


Swiss business class seats 777

Then along the windows the cabin alternates between having one seat per side and having two seats per side. Each row has a total of five seats, meaning that in one row the configuration will be 1-2-2, in the next one it will be 2-2-1, etc.

The pairs of seats along the windows have slightly less personal space than in the center section. As you can see above, each seat in the center has a large counter, while by the windows there’s a single shared counter between the two seats.


Swiss business class seats 777


Swiss business class seats 777

No doubt the most private seats in business class are the “thrones,” which are single seats by the windows. There’s one of these in each row, meaning that there are a total of 12 of these in business class. If you don’t have status with Miles & More then you can pay ~$200 to assign one of these in advance, which I did.

I was in seat 14A, which was in the fourth to last row of business class.


Swiss business class throne seat

The amount of storage offered by these throne seats is unparalleled, and the privacy is pretty good too.


Swiss business class throne seat


Swiss business class throne seat

To the left side of my seat was a massive counter where I could easily leave my laptop for the entire flight.


Swiss business class seat storage

Above that count was an exposed storage compartment, perfect for headphones, chargers, etc.

Swiss business class seat storage

Underneath the seat and to the left were two storage compartments — one was exposed and one was fully enclosed.


Swiss business class seat storage

There was a counter that was almost as large to the right of the seat.


Swiss business class seat storage

On the counter to the right were the basic seat pre-sets.


Swiss business class seat controls

Above that was a console. One of the benefits of it was that it provided privacy. Hanging on the outside of it was a coat hanger. There was also a water bottle holder and a reading light.


Swiss business class seat

Then there was a storage compartment that could be extended with the push of a button.


Swiss business class seat storage

The tray table could be extended from the right side of the seat, and could be folded over in half.


Swiss business class tray table

The power outlet was underneath the seat and to the side, and had both a 110v and USB adapter.


Swiss business class seat chargers

The personal television was on the seatback in front, and there was yet another storage compartment underneath it.


Swiss business class seat storage

The one downside to these throne seats is that the footwell can be pretty tight. Not only is the footwell itself a little bit smaller, but you’re also really cocooned into your seat, so it can be tough to bend your knees while sleeping, etc. It’s a pretty tight squeeze.


Swiss business class seat footwell

Overall this is a great seat, though I have two other issues with it I wanted to briefly address. First of all, there were no individual air nozzles, which I hate, since I find that most airlines keep their cabins too warm. Second of all, the seat was extremely hard, whether just lounging or trying to sleep.

Waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pillow and blanket, which I found to be disappointing. The blanket was alright (though there are so many better airplane blankets out there), though my bigger issue was how thin the pillow was. As someone who appreciates a plush pillow, I found this one to be awful, and would recommend bringing a sweater (or something) to rest your head on if flying Swiss business class.


Swiss business class pillow & blanket

Also waiting at my seat were headphones, which were decent enough quality.


Swiss business class headphones

The amenity kit was hanging from the hook on the seat when I boarded, and was a neck warmer and beanie. While I think it’s a cute concept, I found it to be impractical, as there was no way to close it. So once you opened the “kit” things would just slide out.


Swiss business class amenity kit

Speaking of the amenity kit, the contents were very basic. There was a toothbrush and toothpaste, eyeshades, socks, earplugs, and lip balm. There was a note indicating that further amenities were available upon request.


Swiss business class amenity kit contents

At 7:40PM the captain made his welcome aboard announcement and informed us of our flight time of 10hr35min, and that we’d be starting our engines within 10 minutes and taking off within 30 minutes.

Five minutes later the crew came through the cabin with pre-departure beverages, with the choice between orange juice and champagne. I had a glass of champagne, which was served in proper glassware.


Swiss business class pre-departure champagne

A few minutes later the crew passed through the cabin with warm towels and the menus for the flight.


Swiss business class warm towel


Swiss business class menu

At 7:50PM the main cabin door was closed, with every business class seat taken (a few people were moved up once the door closed, and I’m guessing they were friends or family of the crew, based on the interaction). One thing I appreciated about the boarding process was how few announcements there were. On some airlines they make the same announcement a dozen times telling people to move out of the aisle, etc. They didn’t make a single announcement during the entire boarding process, and the first announcement came from the captain. That sure made the boarding process seem less stressful.

Once the door was closed the safety video was screened, and around the same time we began our pushback.


Swiss 777 business class cabin

Our taxi out took quite a while, and while we taxied the crew came through the cabin to make sure everyone had their shoulder harness on. At 8:15PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 28L. Shortly before takeoff one of the pilots announced “cabin crew expect takeoff in 20 seconds.” Gotta love Swiss precision. 😉


View after takeoff from SFO

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection. The first thing I noticed was that the screen was very high resolution. Furthermore, I appreciated that there were no ads before any of the programming.


Swiss business class entertainment selection

The entertainment selection itself was just alright. It wasn’t terrible, but can’t compare to what’s offered by Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, etc.


Swiss business class entertainment selection


Swiss business class entertainment selection


Swiss business class entertainment selection

I ended up watching a few episodes of the British comedy “Bucket,” which I had never heard of before, but enjoyed.


Swiss business class entertainment selection

I also briefly checked out the airshow.


Airshow enroute to Zurich


Airshow enroute to Zurich

Swiss has wifi on their 777s. Unfortunately they charge based on data, and it’s not cheap. It’s not the most expensive wifi in the sky, though it’s not as good as Lufthansa, for example. I also swear the data usage is calculated faster on Swiss than other airlines somehow. I bought a 120MB package and ran out in less than 30 minutes, and that was without heavy use (and I made sure there was nothing going in the background).


Swiss wifi pricing

The seatbelt sign was turned off about 10 minutes after takeoff, at which point I checked out the lavatory. There are three business class lavatories, which just barely does the trick for a 62 person cabin.


Swiss business class cabin 777

The lavatories were on the small side, though were fairly nicely appointed.


Swiss business class lavatory


Swiss business class lavatory amenities

20 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants came through the cabin to take meal orders. The dinner menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Within 35 minutes of takeoff the crew was rolling carts down the aisle with the first drink service. I had a glass of the South African sauvignon blanc and a sparkling water. I was offered mixed nuts to go along with them.


Swiss business class dinner — champagne, sparkling water, and mixed nuts

After the initial drink service it was 40 minutes until the next cart was rolled down the aisle, which had tablecloths and drink refills.


Swiss business class table setting

Immediately behind that was a cart containing the first course, which was served on a tray.


Swiss business class dinner — appetizer, salad, and cheese plate

There were two choices of appetizers, and I selected the sesame crusted tuna. The starter was pretty good, but the tuna was a bit on the rubbery side.


Swiss business class dinner — appetizer

Then there was a pretty basic side salad, with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.


Swiss business class dinner — salad

There was also a basic cheese plate, with two types of cheese and four grapes.


Swiss business class dinner — cheese plate

I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and chose the pretzel bread.


Swiss business class dinner — bread & olive oil

It was another 40 minutes until the cart with the main courses was rolled down the aisle. I ordered the beef tenderloin with gnocchi. While the cut of meat didn’t seem like it was the highest quality, at least it wasn’t way overcooked. The beef’s accompaniments were quite good.


Swiss business class dinner — main course

25 minutes after the main course, dessert was served. The only choice was a pistachio and apricot tart. While it tasted fine, it was too hard, and there wasn’t even a way to easily eat it with the spoon. This wasn’t one of the better airplane desserts I’ve had.


Swiss business class dinner — dessert

After dinner a flight attendant came through the cabin with a box of chocolates.


Swiss business class dinner — chocolate

The meal service was done about 2hr20min after takeoff, which I thought was a bit slow for a redeye flight with meals served on trays. As far as the food quality goes, I thought it was decent, maybe just slightly above average. I’ve had better, but I’ve also had worse.

The service felt like an assembly line, so it’s not personalized in any way. This is something Lufthansa does well, as they now have a single flight attendant dedicated to each section of the cabin, rather than having flight attendants roll a cart all the way down the aisle. The crew seemed quite friendly, though there just wasn’t much opportunity for interaction, as you felt like you were just a step of their assembly line.

One thing I appreciated was that the crew was good with drink refills. For airlines with similar service concepts, sometimes you basically have to beg for drink refills, though this crew was pretty proactive. That’s thanks to the fact that they had a full bar on each cart they rolled down the aisle.


Airshow enroute to Zurich


Airshow enroute to Zurich

After dinner I reclined my seat and tried to get some rest. I was able to get some sleep, though not that much, unfortunately. I slept for about 3.5 hours, until we were 4.5 hours from landing in Zurich. While the throne seat was great in terms of the privacy it afforded, the footwell was tight, the seat was really hard, the pillow was crap, and the cabin was warm, so it wasn’t the ideal sleeping environment. We were just starting our Atlantic crossing at this point.


Airshow enroute to Zurich

Since I couldn’t go back to sleep I decided to get some work done and ordered a mint tea.


Swiss business class hot tea

Our Atlantic crossing was pretty choppy, and the seatbelt sign went on several times. The crew didn’t make any PAs when the sign went on.

I worked for about 2.5 hours, and then just under two hours before arrival the crew distributed tablecloths for the breakfast service.


Airshow enroute to Zurich

The breakfast menu read as follows:

The actual breakfast was served about 1hr45min out. Once again everything was off a cart, though this time around it was buffet-style, as the crew had a big bowl of bircher muesli, a big bowl of fruit, etc., and you could point to what you wanted and then they’d make you a bowl. As a concept I appreciate this.


Swiss business class breakfast

For breakfast I had the bircher muesli and fruit salad, both of which were excellent.


Swiss business class breakfast — fresh fruit and bircher muesli

I also had the egg dish, which was served in a tiny bowl. On the menu it was simply described as a “warm egg dish,” though after cutting into it I realized it was a ham omelet, which I’m not a fan of.


Swiss business class breakfast — egg dish

I had coffee to drink, and also selected a croissant from the breadbasket. While dinner was served from front to back, breakfast was served from back to front.

At this point most people in the cabin were awake, so I opened my blinds to look outside.


View approaching Zurich

40 minutes before landing the first officer made a pre-landing announcement, informing us that we were passing Paris and would be descending shortly for an on-time arrival. He said the weather in Zurich was about the same as in San Francisco, which caught me off guard in winter. Moments later the crew started preparing the cabin for arrival.


Airshow approaching Zurich


View approaching Zurich


View approaching Zurich

We had a choppy descent, but a smooth touchdown at 3:45PM.


Touchdown Zurich


Taxiing Zurich

From there it was just a two minute taxi to our arrival gate, where we parked next to another (gorgeous) Swiss 777.


Swiss 777 Zurich Airport

Swiss 777 business class bottom line

Swiss is generally regarded as a great brand, though their business class didn’t leave me impressed. The seats themselves are fine, though the staggered configuration isn’t really competitive with Apex Suites and reverse herringbone seats, in my opinion.

Unfortunately not much else about the experience delights either. The crew was friendly though I found the seat to be way too hard, the cabin warm, the bedding awful, and the food unmemorable.

I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid Swiss, though I can’t say I’m dying to fly them again in business class.

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Comments

  1. Did you try to adjust the seat firmness using the two buttons for that? That made all the difference for me.

  2. So this is the evolution of their prior Vantage seat – clearly some more privacy and storage. BUT is the actual seat cushion / length, etc. the exact same? Basically the update is more cosmetic?

  3. > I found the seat to be way too hard, the cabin warm, the bedding awful, and the food unmemorable.

    This sounds so “snobbish.” I love it! That’s exactly what we look for in a review, honest and to the point.

  4. I only flew SWISS Business Class internationally once (ZRH-JNB) and I share a lot of your sentiments. I wanted and expected to be impressed, but there was much to be desired. I won’t go out of my way to fly them again.

  5. How does this compare to TK? We have to choose between TK & Swiss (using miles) and leaning toward the latter as Mrs B does not want to risk being stuck in Ankara in event of irrops.

  6. A very timely post for me as I’m looking for a way to get to Japan from the west coast. LX has a competitive fare via ZRH and I was kinda excited to try it out but now I’ll pass. There are way better options for similar or better prices.

  7. @Lucky- What happened with your flight path? Preflight you were heading into the arctic over Hudson Bay and across Baffin Island.

    However, you ended up flying across mid-Michigan and below the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Seems like this would add a substantial amount of time to the flight.

  8. You mentioned the UA lounge was overcrowded. I’d think you would make a beeline for the centurion lounge instead 😛

  9. Thanks for the honest assessment Ben. Swiss is one of those brands that seems to have a special mystique attached to it — though I am not sure why? In the Bay Area the SFO to Zurich flight is lightheartedly referred to as the Roche Coach because of the airlines contract to fly Roche employees.

    Having flown the route several times myself I, like you, just cannot drink the kool-aid of adoration. The route is much better with the introduction of the 777. It is a solid business class service, but it is just another business class flight. Oh yeah, it ALWAYS leaves late! And the cabin is always roasting. You hit it right on the head with your description of Lufthansa efficiency. If anything I tend to feel like every phase of inflight service is a race.

    I will say that Zurich as a hub is a nice alternative to Frankfurt (but may not be as fluid as Munich).

    Will I fly the Roach Coach again? Sure! Will it change my world? Nope.

    Keep up the good work Ben. Happy travels!

  10. With these seats, the window seats with someone next to you look horrendous if you needed to get out while your separate is sleeping. At least with the basic 2-2-2 forward facing or even BA club world, you have a chance of stepping over the person next to you. This looks like you’d be basically trapped.

  11. I flew Swiss J from Miami to Zurich in a throne seat last November. I could not agree with Lucky any more. The seat was hard, the pillow was the equivalent of an economy pillow on all other airlines, the foot-well was tiny, and the cabin was way too warm. I tossed and turned for about an hour and a half before I gave up on trying to sleep.

    I reiterate my request. @Lucky please make the cabin temperature a regular feature of your reviews going forward.

  12. I’ve only flown the Swiss A340, but I, too, found the seats to be much to hard, even when using the seat in a fully inflated mode.

    My crews have been mixed. Sometimes amazing, sometimes polite but cold. My meals have generally been good, but I haven’t flown them in a couple of years, so my data are out of date.

  13. Lucky, I’d be most appreciative if you would do a ranking of European carriers

    I’m flying to Prague this fall and need to choose between Swiss, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Air France, KLM

    Would love to see a ranking.

    I appreciate these, even though I know it’s subjective and even though I know you look at things from a single perspective when I don’t fly solo

  14. Flying alone I would chose AF if you can get the new seats or avoid at all costs. AC is also nice with the new cabins on the 787 but I’ve have the worst service with AC. SWISS and Lufthansa will be similar. It would depend on your schedule. I don’t know anyone who has ever flow KLM business.

  15. Flew TLV-ZRH on the Swiss A330 and ZRH-LAX on the 77w recently.

    Ben said it, but I can’t stress enough: avoid those coveted throne seats at all costs. I’m 6’0 with a size 10.5 shoe and the footwell went a third of the way up my thigh and would simply not let me move. I hate to complain since I’m always grateful to fly in business class, especially in a cabin this pretty, but man! I didn’t get a wink of rest.

    The older A330 cabin, by contrast, was a dream for sleeping. It may have been the 4am takeoff from Tell Aviv, but as a side sleeper I found the non-throne window seat to be great for a serious nap.

    Overall I think Ben may have gone overboard with his overall assessment, but a) I’m very easy to please and b) he understated the footwell issue on the throne seats.

    A lot of bloggers write about the Swiss thrones in business class, but I wonder if any of them have actually spent time in them. It was a giant waste of points, in my mind.

    If flying the Swiss 77w in biz, I’d take the aisle seats in the center column any damn day.

    Also, I’m not sure if Ben ever reports his height or weight or shoe size in these reviews, but if you’re reading, Lucky, you might consider doing so: a shorter person with smaller feet may do just fine in the throne’s footwell.

  16. Ben, while it’s great you are finding your voice with regards to speaking up as we saw recently on your Lufthansa flight, you can also do it for less serious situations.

    Pillow is too small or thin? Ask for another one. Heck, sometimes they even give you an extra pillow in economy if you ask nicely!

    Not sure what the egg dish is on the menu? Ask them while they are serving you. I mean, LX is know for serving different types of egg dishes in business class, so it never hurts to ask before being served if the FAs know what is in the egg dish. Sometimes even the FAs won’t know, but at least you can say you tried.

  17. Do the outside armrests for the aisle and non-throne window seats come down in bed mode? From the photos is looks like they might. If so, the non-throne window seats look like the best choice for sleeping – wider sleeping area, probably wider footwell, no disturbance from the aisle. The only drawback is having to step over the person next to you if you need to leave your seat at night – hopefully not a frequent event.

  18. I echo what others said and I think this could be a good comparison article, Lucky. How would you rank European airlines in business class? Leaving from the US sometimes we’re stuck with so many options like KLM, AIr France, Lufthansa, or Swiss, which one should we choose? I think it’d make a great article.

  19. An accurate description of Swiss business class. I’ve flown this route twice on the daytime ZRH-SFO and was underwhelmed both times. Poor lounges in ZRH (although a new one has opened since then), mediocre catering with a TERRIBLE second ‘meal’, if you can call it that, and mediocre seats.

    My favorite *Alliance business class across the Atlantic is a tie between Austrian and SAS (with Austrian having slightly better catering, and SAS having slightly better seats and airport experience in CPH).

  20. @Ryan “Poor lounges in Zurich?” Really? I think the Business lounge in the E concourse is one of the best lounges I have ever been to. The food is excellent and the outdoor seating is unparalleled.

  21. I feel lucky to have snagged 3 business seats ZRH-LAX this May using Aeroplan, so I am still looking forward to the flight. Having the nonstop back to LA is great, and the Swiss seating configuration (I reserved a “triangle” of seats with a throne and the 2 behind) worked the best for 3 people who want to be close and interact.

    Though I am glad we are doing a west-bound day flight given the comments on the seat firmness.

  22. the beverages are well above average. the swiss wines are in the $50-$65 range and the red south African about $40 and excellent. don’t miss the eu-de-vie from etter, a mighty fine swiss producer. distillation takes time to perfect and etter has all that. then there is nonino… swiss seems to have good priorities. keep showing us menus especially all beverages!! thank you.

  23. @Lucky, it is painful how often you use the word “Stunning.” Seriously – soooo overused. “Stunning” should be reserved for events that are truly extraordinary. When you use the word multiple times in the same post, in multiple posts in close proximity to one another, the word loses it’s meaning. Please, please reconsider how you use this word, as it’s a great word that has become essentially worthless through your overuse.

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