- Introduction: A Downgraded Adventure To Oman
- Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge Miami Airport (MIA)
- Review: Air Canada Business Class Airbus A220 (MIA-YUL)
- Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Montreal Airport (YUL)
- Review: Air France Lounge Montreal Airport (YUL)
- Review: SWISS Business Class Airbus A330 (YUL-ZRH)
- Review: SWISS Arrivals Lounge Zurich Airport (ZRH)
- Review: SWISS Business Lounge Zurich Airport (ZRH)
- Review: SWISS Helvetic Business Class Embraer E190-E2 (ZRH-MXP)
- Review: Oman Air Business Class Boeing 787 (MXP-MCT)
- Review: Oman Air Business Lounge Muscat Airport (MCT)
- Review: Oman Air First Lounge Muscat Airport (MCT)
- Review: Oman Air Business Class Airbus A330 (MCT-FRA)
- Review: Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
- Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class Boeing 777 (FRA-JFK)
For the next segment of my downgraded adventure to Oman, I flew Helvetic Airways’ Embraer E190-E2 business class on the ridiculously short 30-minute flight from Zurich to Milan. This segment came after crossing the Atlantic in SWISS’ A330 business class.
For those not familiar, Helvetic Airways is a Swiss regional airline that operates a lot of flights on behalf of Star Alliance carrier SWISS. The airline exclusively flies Embraer E190 and E195 aircraft, with most aircraft being the latest generation E190-E2 and E195-E2 jets. I was excited about this flight, as it was my first time flying one of the new “E2” jets from Embraer… I think?
On balance, Helvetic Airways impressed me, given the short length of the flight. Mainly I liked the aircraft, though the limited service was good as well. Let’s get into the review.
In this post:
How I booked my Helvetic Airways business class ticket
I booked my Helvetic Airways business class ticket using Air Canada Aeroplan points, as part of a larger itinerary. Specifically, I booked the following award in business class for 110,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points plus $154.44 in taxes and fees:
1/11 AC1207 Miami to Montreal departing 8:00AM arriving 11:36AM
1/11 LX87 Montreal to Zurich departing 4:50PM arriving 6:15AM (+1 day)
1/12 LX1622 Zurich to Milan departing 5:40PM arriving 6:40PM
1/12 WY144 Milan to Muscat departing 9:30PM arriving 6:45AM (+1 day)
Aeroplan points are easy to come by, as the program is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards. On top of that, there’s the Aeroplan® Credit Card (review) in the United States, which is quite rewarding.
Helvetic Airways business class lounge & boarding
Since this Helvetic Airways flight was marketed by SWISS, I had standard Star Alliance lounge access in Zurich. In a previous installment, I reviewed the SWISS Business Lounge Zurich, which is quite good.
My Helvetic Airways flight was departing from gate A57, which is in an area that feels like a bus depot, given that it’s where many of the flights departing from remote stands board. I mean, I suppose it is a bus depot, given that the only thing leaving from this area are buses. As much as there’s a lot about aviation in the United States that isn’t glamorous, I’m thankful our airports aren’t as reliant on remote stands.
Boarding for the 5:40PM flight was scheduled for 5:10PM, and that’s when it started. As you’d expect, it was a mad rush to the gate for everyone. It took about five minutes for the bus to fill up, and then another few minutes to drive to the aircraft.
Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 business class cabin & seats
My flight was operated by a three-year-old Embraer E190-E2 with the registration code HB-AZD. As mentioned above, this was my first flight on an E2 jet (I think), and I was impressed by the cabin. The E190-E2s are equipped with 110 seats, in a 2-2 configuration.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the cabin was just how modern it felt. I loved the style of the cabin as well, from the red carpet, to the red mood lighting — that’s very Swiss! The second thing I noticed was the lack of a curtain between business class and economy.
On Helvetic Airways, business class passengers get a blocked seat next to them, so that’s at least a nice feature compared to airlines like Air France and KLM, which don’t currently block adjacent seats on their Embraer jets.
On this flight, business class consisted of the first eight rows (the first row just has seats on the left, so really there were 7.5 rows). The cabin was about two-thirds full, and I sat in 7A, the window seat on the left side in the second to last row of business class.
I found legroom to be decent but not amazing. The seats were reasonably well padded, though there was no headrest for added comfort. That’s not a huge issue when you consider that these planes consistently operate flights that are in the range of 30 to 90 minutes.
If you want to look out the window, you’ll also want to be cognizant of the row you select. For example, row seven gives you limited opportunities to look out the window, due to the poor alignment.
As far as the seat back goes, it had both an exposed literature pocket and a tray table that can be folded down.
It’s rare to find regional jets in Europe with a power supply for personal devices, and there’s both good and bad news on that front for Helvetic Airways. The airline has power at every seat, and actually has two plugs per seat. Yay! The bad news? Helvetic Airways chose to install USB-A plugs. Grrr…
The Embraer E2 jets also have unique overhead consoles. As you can see, the consoles are sort of rectangular, and are long rather than wide.
The Embraer E2 jets also have large overhead bins, which easily fit my full size carry-on.
During the boarding process, the crew distributed bottled water and refreshing towels to business class passengers, and also took drink and snack orders for after takeoff, given the short duration of the flight.
Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 departure from Zurich
At 5:25PM, the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 35 minutes, plus our anticipated departure from runway 28. While he stated that all passengers were onboard, that didn’t end up being the case, as I guess some passengers who they anticipated would misconnect actually made it. Instead, boarding finished up at 5:45PM, as several passengers boarded at the last minute.
At 5:50PM, the main cabin door closed, at which point we began our taxi (no pushback required!), plus the crew performed the manual safety demonstration.
We had a very short taxi, and by 6PM we were cleared for takeoff. The Embraer E190-E2 is a powerful jet, so it’s quite a fun takeoff. The seatbelt sign was turned off around five minutes after takeoff. At that point, the crew not only closed the curtain between the galley and business class…
…but also “installed” a curtain between business and economy. That seems like quite a bit of effort on such a short flight, since it was up for all of 15 minutes. Hah.
Helvetic Airways business class snack service
The senior cabin attendant was the one working business class. After takeoff, she rolled a cart down the aisle, with drinks being served first. I decided to order a glass of white wine, which was served in proper glassware (don’t ask me what kind of white wine it was — this flight was too short to ask any detailed questions).
Next up, she came through the cabin with a snack, which was the choice of a lox or vegetable sandwich, plus a chocolate. So, the sandwich was actually pretty decent, but it was served in saran wrap. I felt kind of bad, because the bread had seeds that went all over the place, and the sandwich was only served on a small napkin.
The other funny thing is just how short this flight was. Exactly three minutes after I was served my snack, the pilots told the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing. At this point I was chugging my wine and devouring the sandwich, but the flight attendant kindly said “no rush, we have time,” so I could slow down a bit.
Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 business class lavatory
Before landing, I quickly checked out the business class lavatory, at the front of the cabin. The lavatory was tight but functional, with no exciting amenities to report. Nope, there’s no onboard shower here, believe it or not! 😉
Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 arrival in Milan
At 6:15PM, we started our descent from our cruising altitude of 19,000 feet. Our descent took a bit of time, given that we first had to fly to the south of Milan, before swinging around and landing into the north. We touched down at around 6:35PM.
From there we had a short five minute taxi to our arrival gate — yes, we were lucky to get a gate rather than a remote stand! Once off the aircraft, I headed in the direction of my connecting flight, which required going through passport control. It had been a long day, but I wasn’t even nearly done, as it was time to fly Oman Air’s Boeing 787 business class to Muscat.
I had a pleasant but very short flight in Helvetic Airways’ Embraer E190-E2 business class, operating on behalf of SWISS. The E190-E2 is a stunning, modern jet, with comfortable interiors. This was a good flight, with friendly service and a decent snack.
If I had any feedback, it’s that I wish the airline hadn’t installed USB-A plugs. Also, a saran wrapped sandwich that leaves tons of crumbs might not be the ideal snack in terms of consumption and cleaning.
What’s your take on Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 business class?