Good morning from Zurich! I’m in the middle of my review trip to Oman, and just flew SWISS’ Airbus A330-300 business class on the short seven hour overnight flight from Montreal to Zurich.
While I’ll have a full trip report soon, in this post I wanted to share my initial impressions. It has been roughly a decade since I flew SWISS’ A330 business class, though I have flown the carrier’s A340 business class and 777 business class more recently.
How was this flight in business class? Look, I try to be objective with my reviews, and to be honest, I didn’t think this flight was very good. That’s not to say it was very bad, it just wasn’t good.
There was nothing really wrong with the flight… there just also wasn’t very much right with it. Like, I’m trying to find something to be enthusiastic about, but the only thing I can say with any enthusiasm is how unenthusiastic I am about the flight, compared to other business class experiences.
So many airlines have improved over the years, while this product felt exactly how I remembered it in 2013, only with less engaging service and less good food. The issue is that the industry has otherwise come a long way in the past decade…
In this post:
SWISS’ A330 business class seats are fine
SWISS has a staggered configuration in business class on its A330s. This is an okay product, though I’d note that it’s significantly less spacious than on the 777 (the A330 has a narrower fuselage), and significantly less modern than on the A340 (since the A340 was reconfigured more recently, so has better tech and nicer finishes).
I managed to snag one of the “throne” seats, which offer a bit more space on each side, but even these seats feel pretty tight. Business class seats have improved over time, and I’d say at this point, this product is below average across the Atlantic (then again, SWISS still has a better hard product than Lufthansa, which isn’t saying a whole lot).
The other thing is that since this cabin is so old, the tech is uncompetitive. The screens are small and low definition, and there are no bells and whistles you’ll find on newer jets, like bluetooth audio, USB outlets, etc.
The okay hard product really sets the tone for the okay soft product…
SWISS’ A330 business class entertainment & Wi-Fi are not ideal
As mentioned above, SWISS’ A330s have very small entertainment screens in business class, and they’re quite low quality. The entertainment selection wasn’t terrible, but the library was much smaller than on many airlines nowadays. I also didn’t find the system terribly easy to use.
Fortunately SWISS’ A330s have Wi-Fi, and in 2023, the airline finally made its Wi-Fi pricing more reasonable. Previously the airline charged based on data usage, so you could easily spend hundreds of dollars on Wi-Fi on a flight if you actually wanted to stay productive the entire time.
The good news is that the airline no longer charges based on data usage, and you can buy a full flight pass for 35 CHF, or 39 USD. That’s on the steep side, but not totally unreasonable.
Here’s the odd thing — I purchased this, connected for a couple of hours after takeoff, and then when I woke up I tried to reconnect, only to be prompted to pay again. That’s despite the fact that I specifically created an account, so that I could easily reconnect. Was this some strange glitch, or is this a common issue?
SWISS’ business class amenities feel cheap
Among reputable airlines across the Atlantic, SWISS must have some of the most basic amenities of any airline. For one, the amenity kit is actually a tin, and is very sparsely stocked. It just had socks, eyeshades, earplugs, and a dental kit. There were no other amenities, no partnerships with skincare brands, etc.
Then for bedding, SWISS has a very basic pillow and blanket in business class. The blanket feels a bit scratchy and cheap, and there isn’t any sort of a mattress pad, or anything.
SWISS’ business class food and service were okay
On this short overnight flight, dinner was served after takeoff. I can appreciate the desire to keep the after takeoff service short, to allow passengers to maximize rest. However, the meal took surprisingly long, given that it wasn’t particularly elaborate.
Service began with drinks and a small ramekin of nuts. I had a glass of champagne, and SWISS was pouring Jacquart Mosaïque Brut.
The meal was then served on a single tray, except for dessert. This included a side salad, the main course, and some cheese. The crew was out of the fish by the time they got to my row, so I went with my second choice, which was an herb-roasted chicken breast with mustard and tarragon sauce, and potatoes.
And then there was dessert after that, consisting of a “caramel delight.”
The meal was nicely presented, and tasted reasonably good, but was nothing special. However, the whole service was kind of slow, and took around two hours.
As far as the service goes, the crew was… fine? They went through the motions, service very much had an assembly line-esque feel to it, and there was basically no real personal, human interaction. For example, meal orders were taken after takeoff when the flight attendant walked down the aisle with her tablet, and said “meal order please” without even looking up.
What happened to a first class upgrade?
I’ve been meaning to fly SWISS first class for quite some time, and my goal was to upgrade on this flight, as SWISS allows paid upgrades from business to first class, even on partner award tickets. This flight had only two of the eight first class seats occupied.
So, what happened? Well, I was in international transit in Canada, as I was flying from Miami to Zurich via Montreal. In Montreal, my hope was that there would be a SWISS representative in the airside terminal a couple of hours before departure, but they only ended up showing up at the gate about an hour before departure.
I asked at that point, and while they indicated that they do sell upgrades to first class, unfortunately the flight wasn’t sufficiently catered. The moral of the story is that next time I need to ask at check-in, a few hours before departure, so they have time to still cater it correctly.
Honestly, I was indifferent as to which cabin I flew in, as I’ve been wanting to review both SWISS’ A330 business class and first class. Now I’ll just be more deliberate with my next trip in flying SWISS first class.
SWISS’ A330 business class isn’t one of the more impressive products across the Atlantic, both in terms of the hard and soft product.
I don’t want to go so far as to say that the product is worth avoiding, but it’s definitely not worth seeking out. I’d fly it again if SWISS offered the best value or schedule for the routing I was looking at, but that’s about it.
I’d rather fly just about any US airline in business class on a wide body, for the superior seats, bedding, and entertainment (perhaps with the exception of Delta’s 767-300s). And among European airlines, I think carriers like Air France, British Airways, and KLM, all offer on average a better experience. SWISS can’t bring its new business class product to A330s fast enough.
Maybe I just had a bad experience, though, and I would have a different impression if it were a daytime flight with an engaging crew. Who knows.
What’s your take on SWISS’ Airbus A330 business class?