Airline review: Swiss Air

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The Swiss are known for many things, not least their time efficiency – particularly when it comes to travel (their railway system is one of the best in Europe). So, if there’s one thing you can be sure of when flying Swiss, their national carrier, is that the flights will leave on time.

But, flying Swiss also brings with it additional perks that you may not expect, that may surprise and delight you – as I discovered on a flight between Zurich and Dubai (LX242, which flies onward to Muscat from Dxb).

First things first – those of us used to the admittedly shiny, and well, borderline bling-y ways of the Gulf carriers, need to scale back our expectations. Everything about Swiss is understated, but as I soon realised, that doesn’t compromise the level of luxury you experience in business class.

The Airbus A330-300 aircraft that Swiss operates on this sector showcases their latest business class product – recently awarded Europe’s leading airline business class at the World Travel Awards – with a host of snazzy features. With 45 seats in the cabin, the configuration is 2-2-1, or 1-2-1, in alternate rows; those seeking more privacy should opt for the single window seats. Although, with a 20.5-inch seat width, you’re not likely to feel crowded in, even otherwise.

The cabin interiors feature boxy, squarish layouts, with clean lines, pale wood fit-outs and muted tartan fabric seat cushions, all of it coming together to offer an environment that is old school business-like. The lie-flat ‘air cushion’ seats extend to an impressive 2-metre flat-bed. One of its most unique features was the option to adjust the softness of the cushion; it also has an inbuilt massage function to aid relaxation. The seats are well equipped for catching up on work in-flight, with power sockets, adjustable reading lamps, and seat-side telephones. The on-demand entertainment (best enjoyed with the noise cancelling headphones provided, naturally) offer a good selection of current movies and shows, on large screens.

With a higher-than-usual level of personalisation, the seats are undoubtedly comfortable, and easy to snuggle into with the fluffy pillows and blankets. Here again, the single seats come out on top, with additional side table/storage space on both sides, so you can literally sprawl out with your book, glass of bubbly, bottle of water, and assortment of amenities (guilty as charged!).

Speaking of amenities, in a smart example of how airlines can innovate with their offering, without massive investments or structural aircraft changes – while extending their brand visibility on ground as well – Swiss now offers their amenities in functional fold-up travel bags. Depending on which flight you’re on, you could end up with different sizes and designs of pouches or bags – either way, you will find yourself using the stylish, subtly branded beige bags well after your flight. The contents of the amenity kits aren’t on the luxe end of the scale, but cover all the basic needs for a flight that lasts under seven hours; in the bathrooms, generous quantities of Swiss-made toiletries are also provided.

When it comes to food, Swiss has been at the forefront of innovation for a long time, with their award-winning ‘Taste of Switzerland’* concept. In this programme, leading chefs from different cantons (districts) of Switzerland collaborate with the airline to create a gourmet, seasonally changing menu for premium passengers. As such, you can expect delicacies like smoked duck and chicken breast, pistachio cream, couscous salad and apple balsamic jelly; John Dory fillet with citrus vinaigrette, smoked pepper sauce, potato puree with Mandarin oil and Mediterranean vegetables; and pistachio and lime financier with yoghurt and peach. And refreshingly, the food – served in fine white china with stainless steel cutlery – tastes as good as it sounds; not something that can be said for all airline menus!

There is also a separate cheese course (it is Swiss after all), a continuous supply of warm, fresh breads, Movenpick ice cream as a snack option, and Nespresso coffees. Clearly, they do a good job of celebrating the best culinary offerings of Switzerland. Washed down by some great Swiss wines – I do believe that wine is one of Switzerland’s best kept gastronomic secrets – as well as other New World and Old World wine options (or a Duval Leroy Brut champagne, which is also the welcome bubbly for business class passengers) this meal really wouldn’t feel out of place in a fine dining restaurant. In the interest of flexibility, there is also the option of just having a cold starter and salad whenever you want, for those who’d like to be left alone for the greater part of the flight.

On ground, the experience is equally luxurious – when flying out of Swiss’ hub airport, Zurich, the sun-drenched Business lounge offers a serene retreat with contemporary décor, fresh food on tap, and facilities such as internet and reclining massage chairs. In Dubai, the lounge is a shared Star Alliance one.

Overall, with convenient flight times and competitive pricing, flying Swiss seems to be an increasingly attractive option – not just for flying into Switzerland, but across other European destinations too.

A version of this feature was previously published in Benchmark Live magazine.
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