Swiss Business Class, Zurich-Montreal, Airbus 330
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
I've spent a lot of time with Swiss Air over the years, especially on their Montreal-Zurich route.
I'm often flying on Aeroplan miles, and for travel from Eastern Canada to Europe, it's hard to beat business class for 55,000 miles each way, with none of Aeroplan's ridiculous "fuel surcharges".
Any good westbound departure from Zurich begins with a stop at Swiss' Senator Lounge, one of my favourite airport lounges anywhere, which I cover in its own detailed review.
Swiss has invested heavily in its short-haul European fleet; they've ordered several new Airbus A321neo, and were one of the earliest airlines to adopt my beloved Bombardier C-Series, now known as the Airbus 220.
The long-haul fleet is a different story; Swiss is one of the last major airlines still operating the old Airbus 340, and even their Boeing 777s operate a business-class cabin that's getting pretty dated. Much like parent company Lufthansa, Swiss is sticking to a relatively high-density, open-plan business-class layout that falls well short of competing products like United's Polaris suites and Air Canada's Signature pods, but matches up reasonably well against European competitors like KLM and Air France.
That said, Swiss' onboard service is exemplary, and they've built a schedule that makes flying from North America into secondary European markets an absolute breeze, both of which make them a regular part of my flight schedule!
The lounge is perched atop the International departure gates, so its' a short walk from there down to today's Airbus A330. Let's get to the good stuff!
Swiss uses a staggered 1-2-1 // 2-2-1 seat business-class layout on all its long-haul aircraft, which means that some seats (like 5B, 5G and 4K below) are open to the aisle on one side. This would be a real drag on an airline with inconsiderate staff, but Swiss' in-flight team is well-trained to avoid disturbing passengers.
Obviously this layout also means that a few seating pairs (like 5A/B below) are laid out such that you'll either have to climb over, or be climbed over by, the person sitting next to you. Fortunately, Swiss offers free seat selection on all Business bookings.
All of that being said, the handful of single "throne" seats (like 12A above) offer a more private experience, and some of the most space you'll find for a single seat in Business class on any airline in the world. They're generally reserved for Swiss' top customers, but it's worth keeping an eye out when you check in for your flight, as any unassigned throne seats generally open up, and they're worth snagging if you're flying solo!
Swiss still markets this as their "new" Business seat, 6 years after its debut, and I'll stop barking about them as soon as I warn any tall passenger (like me, at 6'1") to avoid any seat on the map where you're in between two passengers in the row in front, as the footwell gets quite cramped.
The in-flight entertainment is honestly pretty weak, and I'd be pretty bummed about the small, high-glare screen if I weren't the kind of passenger who just sticks the map on and works most of the flight. Don't worry, I stop grumbling from here on!
We departed right on time, and Swiss' inflight team promptly began a really excellent in-flight service. Many people don't think of Switzerland as a culinary destination, and to me this is a real mistake. Swiss have also clearly put a lot of thought into an onboard presentation that represents the national character without going too far.
I've gone the all-poultry route on this particular flight, and I've taken the purser up on his kind offer to try a small glass of each of the white wines on the list, rather than a larger glass of each.
It's not easy for an airline to make poultry dishes work, re-heated at 30,000 feet, but Swiss' chefs have done a great job of putting out a product that's both flavourful and well-textured, instead of the "rubber chicken" that's entirely too common from less-careful airlines.
I skipped dessert, but did give in when a dish of Mövenpick ice cream was offered mid-flight.
As Swiss' westbound departures to North America are all daytime flights, I rarely sleep, but the 8-hour flight seemed to, well, fly by. Altogether a strong showing from Swiss!