In June 2021, SWISS initially revealed the details of its new premium economy cabin. While there’s usually not a lot of innovation when it comes to premium economy, there’s a lot that makes SWISS’ new product offering interesting. There’s now an update, as SWISS has installed the cabin for the first time on a plane, and it should enter service shortly.
SWISS premium economy seat
SWISS’ new premium economy will supplement the carrier’s existing first class, business class, and economy class offerings on the Boeing 777-300ER (SWISS has 12 of these planes in its fleet). The new premium economy experience will offer greater privacy, more comfort, a wider range of inflight cuisine, and an extra baggage allowance.
Each SWISS Boeing 777-300ER will feature 24 premium economy seats, in a 2-4-2 configuration. The seats are manufactured by ZIM, and feature a fixed shell, so that there’s no intrusion when the person in front of you reclines.
In terms of the additional space afforded by the new premium economy seat:
- The new premium economy seat is 46-48cm (~18-19″) wide, while economy seats are 43.4cm (~17″) wide
- The new premium economy seat has 99cm (~39″) of pitch, while economy seats have 78.7cm (~31″) of pitch
Premium economy seats will feature additional recline, a fold-out leg rest, a 15.6″ inflight entertainment monitor, a reading lamp, and a built-in USB-A socket (no AC power outlet, really?!?).
SWISS premium economy services & amenities
SWISS premium economy isn’t just about the extra space, but there will also be extra services and amenities. SWISS premium economy passengers will receive:
- An enhanced food and drink experience, including an elderberry welcome drink, and the choice of three hot meals all served on china tableware; it’s not entirely clear to what extent this food will be differentiated from what’s served in economy
- An increased baggage allowance of two bags of up to 23kg each (double of what you receive in economy)
- Priority boarding over economy class travelers
- Amenity kits manufactured from sustainable materials
- Noise-reducing headphones
- Discounted access to the SWISS Business Lounges in Zurich and Geneva, as well as the SWISS Arrival Lounge in Zurich
SWISS premium economy availability & pricing
SWISS will be gradually installing the new premium economy product on its fleet of 12 Boeing 777-300ERs, in a project that’s expected to cost 40 million CHF.
The first aircraft to feature the new cabin has the registration code HB-JNH, which is a roughly five year old Boeing 777-300ER. The plane will begin flying daily between Zurich and Miami as of early March. In terms of the timeline of other routes getting premium economy:
- San Francisco will get premium economy as of mid April 2022
- Sao Paulo will get premium economy as of late April 2022
- Premium economy will be available on all 777 routes as of late May 2022
It’s stated that premium economy fares will be roughly 250-350 CHF (~$270-380) higher than economy fares in each direction, which seems fair.
SWISS premium economy coming at the expense of economy seats
SWISS’ Boeing 777s are in a premium-heavy configuration, with a total of 340 seats, including eight first class seats, 62 business class seats, and 270 economy class seats. I was curious to see if the new premium economy cabin would come at the expense of business class or economy class capacity.
The good news is that the premium economy cabin will come at the expense of economy seats. Four rows of economy seats are removed (that’s a total of 40 seats) so that three rows of premium economy can be installed (that’s a total of 24 seats). In other words, SWISS 777s will be losing a total of 16 seats, and will have a new capacity of 324 seats.
What I find bizarre is that SWISS’ picture of the premium economy cabin shows it being integrated into the economy cabin, with no separation between cabins. I get that the location of the premium economy cabin might not match where there are exit doors, but it’s surprising to me that SWISS doesn’t even plan to put a flimsy curtain between cabins, which feels very not-premium.
My take on SWISS’ new premium economy
It’s great to see SWISS finally introduce a premium economy product, as it’s the last Lufthansa Group long haul airline to install this cabin. In a way that’s surprising, since SWISS is generally considered the most premium Lufthansa Group carrier, yet it’s also the last airline to get this increasingly popular cabin.
The plan is for SWISS’ new premium economy seat to eventually become the standard premium economy seat for Lufthansa Group airlines, so Lufthansa will have this seat in the future as well.
As far as the product as such goes:
- Overall we haven’t seen much innovation when it comes to premium economy seats, so it’s cool to see that SWISS has at least selected an updated seat type
- At the same time, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of fixed shell seats (they minimize disturbance from other passengers, but also don’t maximize space), and eight seats per row in premium economy is still pretty tight
- What I find most disappointing is that it doesn’t look like SWISS plans to offer any separation between premium economy and economy, but rather essentially seems to intend to just integrate it into the cabin
SWISS has finally installed premium economy on its first Boeing 777. The plane will start flying to Miami shortly, and further 777s should be reconfigured in the coming months. These planes will feature a total of 24 premium economy seats, in a 2-4-2 configuration. Fortunately the cabin will be coming at the expense of economy seats rather than business class seats, which is good for business class award availability.
Premium economy will come with enhanced service and amenities, and will be priced 250-350 CHF above economy. It’s cool to see a somewhat new type of premium economy seat, though I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of the seat design. I hope to try it out some day.
What do you make of SWISS’ new premium economy?