Review: Swiss Business Class A330 Zurich To Beijing

Filed Under: Swiss

I’ve flown Swiss many times before, both on short-haul and longhaul flights. Up until now my longhaul flights on them have been limited to first class. Back in the day they released a ton of first class award space, and they’ve long had a great first class product. Unfortunately not only do they not release first class award space to partner airlines anymore, but they don’t even release first class award space to all of their own Miles & More members. Instead you have to be at least a mid-tier Senator member in order to even book a Swiss first class award.

As a result, I was curious to check out Swiss’ business class product, since it’s the best that most of us can hope for from hereon out on award tickets.

Swiss 196
Zurich (ZRH) – Beijing (PEK)
Tuesday, July 1
Depart: 1:20PM
Arrive: 5:15AM (+1 day)
Duration: 9hr55min
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 9K (Business Class)

We boarded through door 2L at around 12:50PM, where we were greeted by the friendly purser and crew members, who alternated between “hello,” “gruezi,” and “ni hao.” We were pointed right towards out seats, which were 9K and 10K. The first thing I noticed, before even getting to my seat, was that the crew was gorgeous. Three of the four business class flight attendants were in their early 20s and almost uncomfortably attractive.

Swiss business class A330

Swiss business class A330

Swiss now features the same business class product throughout their longhaul fleet. Their A330s feature 45 business class seats, alternating between four and five seats per row. The seats are fully flat and in a staggered configuration — the Vantage variety, specifically.

Swiss A330 seatmap per SeatGuru

The product is similar to what Austrian and Brussels offer, for example. One thing I prefer about Swiss’ configuration is that on the right side of the aircraft they exclusively have single seats, which are similar to the single seats that Delta offers on their 767s. The advantage of these is that they’re not the “throne” seats, so do have a bit more room for your feet when you’re trying to sleep.

Swiss business class A330

Swiss business class A330

Andrew was seated in 10K, right behind me. That’s the seat closer to the aisle.

Swiss business class A330, seat 10K

Swiss business class A330, seat 8K

I was seated in 9K, which is the window seat closer to the window, though in the case of row nine there’s a missing window, which is unfortunate.

Swiss business class A330, seat 9K

To the left of the seat were the seat controls, which were fairly intuitive, though had a few extra “features,” like being able to increase or decrease the firmness of the seat.

Swiss business class seat controls

Separately, to the side of the seat were more controls, which were convenient when in the reclined position. You could also control the massage function from there, which is a pretty cool feature of the seat.

Swiss business class seat massage and light controls

Also to the left of the seat were the entertainment controls.

Swiss business class entertainment controls

Then to the left of the seat and up a bit from the controls were the Empower adapter and headphone jack.

Swiss business class power port and headphone jack

The seatback pocket was located to the left of the seat, and there was an upside down clothes-hanger in there with my seat number, which I thought was smart, rather than the flight attendants having to write out the seat number each time.

Swiss business class seatback pocket

Swiss business class entertainment screen

While there wasn’t a massive amount of “foot space” for sleeping, there was definitely more than in the comparable “throne” seats. And at least there was additional knee room thanks to the space between the seat and the fuselage.

Swiss business class legroom

Waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket. The blanket was light and pillow was firm.

Swiss business class pillow & blanket

There were also headphones, though they weren’t especially comfortable; I used my own.

Swiss business class headphones

Shortly after settling in a flight attendant came around with the amenity kits.

Swiss business class amenity kit

They were fairly basic, and featured socks, eye shades, earplugs, toothpaste, a toothbrush, etc.

Swiss business class amenity kit contents

Shortly thereafter bottled water was distributed.

Swiss business class water bottle

Pre-departure beverages were then served. I selected champagne, which was a glass of Duval-Leroy Brut. It wasn’t the best airline champagne in the world, but perfectly drinkable.

Swiss business class pre-departure champagne

Hot towels were then distributed.

Swiss business class pre-departure hot towel

And then menus were distributed by the purser.

Swiss business class menu

Around our scheduled departure time the captain came on the PA to inform us that we were still waiting on a few bags. He told us that our flight time would be 9hr25min, which would put us into Beijing on schedule.

At 1:35PM we finally pushed back, right as a Qatar Airways 787 was pulling into a gate near us. At this point the safety video began to play.

Zurich Airport planes

We taxied out to runway 34, which took about 15 minutes.

Pushing back Zurich Airport

I love taxiing around Zurich Airport, not only because of the variety of traffic, but also because the landscape is so beautiful.

Swiss A330 Zurich Airport

Crossing runway Zurich Airport

Taxiing to runway Zurich Airport

At around 1:50PM we made it to runway 34, where we were immediately cleared for takeoff.

Ready for takeoff Zurich Airport

Ready for takeoff Zurich Airport

Our climb out was smooth, and as usual I was glued to the window for the first 15 minutes of the flight, enjoying views of the surrounding landscape.

After takeoff from Zurich

After takeoff from Zurich

Airshow after takeoff

After that I took a look at the entertainment system, which was easy to use though not especially extensive, in my opinion. I always bring my own entertainment so that wasn’t an issue for me.

Swiss business class entertainment system

Swiss business class entertainment system

Swiss business class entertainment system

About 20 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began. The crew first came around to take orders, asking for everyone’s first course and main course preference.

The lunch menu read as follows:


And the wine list read as follows:


All the service was done by carts, starting with a drink service. I had a glass of champagne and still water to start, which were served with packaged almonds.

Swiss business class drinks and nuts

I had ordered the salmon for lunch, but after the drink service a flight attendant came around to tell me that they were short on salmon, and asked if I wouldn’t mind switching to another option. The beef sounded equally good to me, so I gladly switched to that.

Within a couple of minutes the friendly purser came by my seat to offer me a first class amenity kit and slippers as a thanks for switching meals. It of course wasn’t a big deal, so I thought that was a nice touch (compared to my recent Etihad flight, where I didn’t get my choice of starter or main course, and no apology was made).

Swiss first class amenity kit and slippers

Soon enough the lunch service began, starting with the appetizer and salad served on a tray.

To start I had the sea bass tartare with smoked halibut and seasonal salad, both of which were excellent.

Swiss business class appetizer and salad

Swiss business class appetizer

Swiss business class salad

For the main course I had the beef with fondant potatoes, which was also excellent.

Swiss business class main course

After that it was time for dessert. I had an espresso, raspberry compote with lavender cream, and a glass of Baileys on the rocks.

Swiss business class dessert, espresso, and Baileys

Shortly thereafter a cheese course was offered.

Swiss business class cheese

Lastly, service finished with a selection of pralines from a box.

Swiss business class praline

Service throughout the meal was excellent. The crew was enthusiastic, friendly, and attentive. While all the service was done from carts, the crew still passed through the aisle several times between courses to see if anyone wanted more bread, drinks, etc. The meal pace was also good — the entire meal took maybe two hours.

After lunch landing forms were distributed.

China landing form

I browsed the duty free magazine, and noticed they were selling Schlappis, a small stuffed animal dog. There are three things I collect — Rimowa amenity kits, Lufthansa rubber ducks, and airline branded stuffed animals. So I had to pick one up not just because it was an airline branded stuffed animal, but because his name was only one letter off from my last name.

Swiss duty free magazine

While this was technically a redeye flight, as you’d expect there was daylight for all but roughly two hours of the flight, given what a northerly flight this was in the peak of summer.

View after lunch

After lunch I changed in the lavatory. They had some additional amenities there, including refreshing towels and Valmont toiletries.

Swiss business class lavatory amenities

There was also a little snack setup in the galley, consisting of fruit, packaged chocolate, breadsticks, etc.

Swiss business class galley snacks

I decided to take a nap at this point, and slept very well for about two hours. Room for your feet when sleeping is somewhat limited with these seats, though not horribly so. Of course I’d take a reverse herringbone seat over this any day, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid this seat.

Swiss business class bed position

Swiss business class bed position

I woke up after about two hours and figured I’d stay up since I really wasn’t tired.

Airshow upon waking up

View upon waking up

I decided to watch a couple of TV shows on my iPad. One of the flight attendants passed through the aisle and offered me Movenpick ice cream. I took him up on the offer.

Swiss business class Movenpick ice cream

I got a bit of work done on my laptop, and before I knew it we were a couple hours out of Beijing.


Swiss A330 business class cabin view

At this point I decided to once again take a look at the entertainment system, and found a pretty cool documentary about Peninsula Hotels. I learned a lot about the chain I didn’t know.

Swiss business class entertainment selection

About two hours out breakfast service began, which seemed awfully early on a fairly short redeye flight with a one course breakfast (of course it didn’t bother me since I was up anyway).

The breakfast menu read as follows:


The breakfast consisted of a plate with cold cuts and cheese, some muesli, and a hot small egg side dish. Bread was offered along with breakfast as well.

Swiss business class breakfast

Swiss business class breakfast cold cuts and cheese

Swiss business class breakfast eggs

Swiss business class breakfast muesli

After breakfast I decided to watch a show about “the secret life of dogs.”

Swiss business class entertainment selection

About 45 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to give us an updated arrival time and inform us of the weather in Beijing.

Sunrise view shortly before landing

Shortly thereafter the seatbelt sign was turned on.

Airshow before landing

Airshow before landing

Our descent into Beijing seemingly took forever, because we passed the airport flying east, then turned around to fly west, and then finally turned north to land on runway 36R, where we touched down at 5:25AM.

View on approach into Beijing

View on approach into Beijing

Our touchdown was smooth, though as is the norm at Beijing Capital Airport, the taxi took forever.

View upon landing in Beijing

View upon landing in Beijing

At least the traffic on the taxi in was interesting, including a cargo 747 and Transaero 747.

View upon landing in Beijing

View upon landing in Beijing

View upon landing in Beijing

View upon landing in Beijing

Taxiing to gate in Beijing

Taxiing to gate in Beijing

We finally made it to our gate at around 5:45AM, where we parked next to an Air China A330.

Taxiing to gate in Beijing

Bottom line on Swiss business class

I was pleasantly surprised by Swiss business class. The seat is kind of average for “modern” business class, in my opinion — it’s not my favorite and not my least favorite — but the food was good and service spectacular. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Swiss business class again anytime.

  1. This trip report is missing a few pics of the attractive flight crew. Don’t leave us hanging!

  2. haha, i second that —

    great report as usual, lucky.

    I’m curious as to how many times on your travels the crew recognize who you are, and whether that makes them treat you differently (given that you’re going to be blogging about them imminently!)

    I have mixed feelings about Swiss (have never flown F though, nor with the new J class seat). I find them efficient and elegant and reliable, but lacking that ultimate fabulosity of service.

  3. Also (sorry to double post), but there is something austere looking about the cabin. Did it feel so in person?

  4. Man oh man. We get pictures of fat naked people in lounges but not the hot flight attendants? NOT FAIR.

    And looks like a clear day in Beijing.

  5. Is there any possibility that you write your articles in German? Especially your tips about earning miles will be more interesting and understandable for your young german supporters, but also your awesome Trip Reports. At the time there is no other german travel blog comparable to your one !
    Greetings from Germany

  6. I’m saddened by the non-pictures of 3 of the 4 crew. I’d like to compare my thoughts of “good” looking to yours. Ha Ha. Secondly the lovely smog in Pek, makes me so sad to travel through China when you can barley see 200 yards in front of you. Oh BTW were you luck enough to see Smog inside the terminal too? I have before and it was a treat.

  7. In my opinion, these Swiss business flights do not serve enough food. I found the portions for too small between Tokyo and Zurich. Also, I sat in that same seat that you did, and I despised it. I hugely regretted choosing a single window seat with the side able on the aisle side. The seat was a claustrophobic box, uncomfortable for sitting, bad for sleeping, and a horror to get in and out of, especially when the seat was in bed mode. I probably have a bigger body and wider shoulders than you though.

  8. @ meegabroad — Whoops, I should have mentioned that it was noisier than most other seats. Definitely quite a bit of engine noise.

  9. Right now China (Bejing) is on Sale, my sister go a Business class ticket from GVA PEK for a little over CHF 2000, sale for me out of LAX to PEK on Cathay Pacific $3000 – note this is only good for PEK, so if you want to go to any other City consider buying 2 tickets.

  10. Ben,

    I flew Swiss last year in J. I found the seats very narrow for a J product. I prefer AA’s slanted seats. Honestly. I also found the inflatable feel of the cushion kinda uncomfortable. I did not sleep well at all. Did it seem narrow to you? I really did not care for Swiss. The food and Nespresso were very good however.

  11. @ Mark — Seat? I’d say anything not flat, whether it’s angled or just a recliner seat.

  12. Just got off a Delta flight from LHR to ATL. My flight attendant in Business Elite was a lovely, perfectly groomed delight to the eye. Unfortunately her attitude was that of a snarling old hag. Eight hours I endured her perfectly putrid demeanor. I doubt she uttered more than one syllable at a time: “Soup?” “Drink?” “Snack?”

    So I am envious of the service the boys received on Swiss. It sounded so nice. ((Sigh)) However, I also would have enjoyed pics of this delectable crew.

  13. Lucky,

    A little off topic, but how did you like BJ? Was the smog really bad at the time you visited? I see some fog or smog? in the photos upon landing…and was just curious…

  14. I hope you try Dragonair’s new first class when it rolls out (or maybe new/old biz/economy if you want to) – their new F is reverse herringbone and their new biz are quite modern (if not perfectly comfortable) recliners.

  15. Wow!!! I started coughing just by seeing those pictures from landing in Beijing with all that smog. That can’t be good for your health.

  16. Sigikid-meine name ohne das zweite G! Ich wusste nich das es ein Produkt mit sölchen Namen gab 🙂
    But seriously, this is a sign of the appocolapse

  17. How did you get the right side seat closest to the window? I just flew a couple legs on Swiss business and it wouldnt let me select either those seats (closer to the window) or the throne seats, saying they were reserved for HON elites or something.

    Also, their bread salad is delicious, and out of Zurich they serve a nice Swiss beer.

  18. ZERO tolerance for an arrogant airline who snubs their nose at frequent flyers and says we only fly the uber rich and “those who are laundering money into our easy money country” I think that says it all…..

  19. We were in the “mini-cabin” (rows 4 & 5) on a Swiss A330 from DAR to ZRH then same ZRH to LAX a couple weeks ago, and were a bit disappointed in the service. Everything you described was right on the money, but in those two rows we literally had to flag down flight attendants (and I agree with the 3 out of 4 comment!) as they bounced between F and the galley. Next time I’ll sit in the main C area.

  20. As I live just next to the airport I should be use to the surrounding and views. But every time I take off from or come back to ZRH there is nothing more interesting and beautiful the looking out of the window and sucking in the landscape! This is one reason why I’m looking forwards flying SWISS Business Class to MIA in September.

  21. @ Matt — I know they block some of the window seats, but they weren’t blocking this one.

  22. While I would hate for the secret to get out and for competition to be increased, Lucky, the next time you are flying this style of staggered seat, you should really try the bulkhead row, which has much more legroom (at least in DL’s implementation). But then don’t write about it in your review or tell anyone 🙂

  23. @ Bgriff — While true, I do find the bulkhead to be a bit claustrophobic, since you feel like you’re sleeping under a wall (at least in my opinion). Great tip, though!

  24. Its so weird. I heard so many things about great Swiss crews flying East. I have been travelling westwards ZRH-JFK like a dozen times now and one crew after another has been simply rude…

  25. Not an impressive breakfast or wine selection at all. Those are $10 bottles.

    I found the LX seat pretty hard and uncomfortable.

    Overall, not a particularly impressive experience.

  26. Ben- “Three of the four business class flight attendants were in their early 20s and almost uncomfortably attractive.” Are these three female or male?

  27. It’s a bummer there is no easy access to LX F anymore. If you have a ton of M&M points you can upgrade from J to F without status but upgrade costs are so high, those points are better used on LH F flights, I think.

  28. Re pics of crew: my understanding is that this is verboten on security grounds on any airline, despite their hotness or handsomeness.

  29. @Ivan

    Yeah, LX F is clearly harder to get these days, but I find that SWISS is taking is entire F product upwards while LH is downgrading its product. Half the time the LH cabins are full and service is no where near what it used to be, lounges are full, etc… With SWISS the First lounge in Zurich is very quiet since the award space is gone and you get more attention along your journey. That being said, the lounge could use a refresh. For me, SWISS has Lufthansa beat by a mile. I’ve had awesome flights on LX metal, even in the old F cabins to Asia and back. Now I just have to line up a meeting on a route with the new 777 to try the new cabin!

  30. As a German I just wanted to add that “schlapp” is the German word for floppy or limp, the plush animal having that name because of the “Schlappohren” the dog has, which would translate to floppy ears. Appending an “i” is a common way of forming childlike / cutesy names based on easily observable criteria for things in German. That being said Schlappig has no direct German meaning, and most people wouldn’t make the connection I guess 🙂

  31. Swiss is all about making money not customers satisfaction

    The flight conditions are horrible ,THE CHAIRS ARE VERY INCOMMODE ..very small seats they always lose your baggage….
    I spend a lot of money for my baby stroller and I NEVER was reimburse for my lose…Call at 1-888-715-5551 and talk with a robot …follow a complain with a robot machine and Swiss don’t care about you …

  32. I will never ever fly Swiss again

    This is the worst experience I have ever had with a long-haul airline and will NEVER use them again, and advise customers to be very cautious. and check every small detail – to not trust it to Swiss Air. They will try to riggle out of any flexibility.
    The entertainment options on Swiss are very limited. Very few films and the classical music virtually non-existent. These are MILES better on Thai.

    Travel Tip: Never use Swiss. If you have to, check every detail before you pay for the booking.

  33. Food poisoning and no air

    My first issue was they had no air system. I love using my little air dials so I don’t get overheated on planes, especially when they’re long flights. There were no dials and no way to get more air to my seat.

    Secondly, the food I was given gave me food poisoning and I was sick through half of the 11 hour flight, which exacerbated the need for air conditioning. I requested some ginger ale from the flight attendants and they told me they had none, they only had water.

    This isn’t an airline I would recommend to anyone.

  34. The company, in general, is very well recommended and I have always heard it well. But honestly, the seat, entertainment system and cabin comfort management was terrible. For those sitting in the aisle, the seat is closed on the side, which no permit the that you put your leg under the arm. The entertainment system is completely unqualified in the diversity of titles offered, and picture and sound quality. If the front passenger incline down the seat, you need to slip on your seat if you want watch the screen. The adjustment of the seat allows you to tilt the screen only to a certain extent. Both, on the outbound flight and on the return flight, the cabin was warm and the staff did not keep the standard “if you are cold, wear a sweater”, which is internationally accepted and expected to be maintained, because those who are hot can not get undressed. Anyway, in general, a big disappointment. I believe there are newer and better aircraft in the company. However, the one I used is very bad.

  35. Disappointing…I will never flight with Swiss ….shame on Swiss

    I do not want to sound like a spoiled brat but the ticket cost $9000! I could not get the attention of any flight attendant for about twenty minutes when I was told that someone would assist me soon. Twenty minutes later I had to ask another attendant for help and he was able to fix my seat. I usually sleep on long flights but i was hungry and wanted to eat. What a mistake! Don’t fly on Swiss without having a proper meal first, the food was the worst international business class meal that i have ever had- really – shame on Swiss, i sadly need to fly home today on what will likely be my last every flight on Swiss Air. Perhaps they will redeem themselves.

  36. Worst experience with an airline

    worst experience with an airline,

    I had never flown Swiss before and never will again. They are an embarrassment, from the delayed flights to worst food and seating, lost bags, extra charges, no communication skills of staff and couldn’t care attitude, it all was deplorable. So sad as I looking forward to flying with what I thought was a good airline. How they survive in a crowded Europe market I don’t know. Avoid at all cost….seriously.

  37. The seats were really cramped even though they had good cushions.This being a red eye flight starting at 0230 hrs , such seating arrangement made the experience forgettable.

    The food menu was limited. The drinks menu was rather better. The In flight entertainment was bad.

    The washrooms were very unclean and small

  38. Swiss Air is worse than any company I have flown

    What a shock to fly Swiss Air.

    Staff were messy, poor dress. Seating poor. Food average.

    Overall a very poor impression of the airline.

  39. Will not fly with them again

    Had two flights with Swiss, both flights were delayed by more than an hour. Check-in online didn’t work, so couldn’t pay for suitcase – forced to pay double (300 euro) at the airport. Apparently, their websites often crash, but that’s too bad for the customer! The 2nd flight was fully booked, so they picked out people with carry-on luggage and asked them to have it checked in. Very noticeable that they only asked women, the men with some fairly large suitcases were allowed to take them into the cabin. Service on board was bad, especially that barely manage to serve a cup of water these days.

  40. We don’t moderate comments, but for anyone who comes across this post in future, please note that the previous comments by Dave Walsh, John Carer, John Smith, Andrea Miller, Williams Frank, Adriana Williams, Mike Ciprian, Denise Flon, and Mark Antony are all being made by the same person.

  41. So sexist, also many comments of you, gentlemen. Why don’t you think of these girls to be your daughters? Im really sad seeing this, and the professional article starting so unprofessionally* Shame on you

  42. @ Anna — If you’re referring to my comments, the flight attendants were male…

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