Review: SWISS Helvetic Business Class Embraer E190-E2 (ZRH-MXP)

Review: SWISS Helvetic Business Class Embraer E190-E2 (ZRH-MXP)

FROM: ZRH
TO: MXP
CABIN: Business
DATE: January 2024
REVIEW RATING:
SEAT MAP: E190 E2 V.1
BEN SAYS: Helvetic Airways' Embraer E190-E2s are comfortable and modern jets, largely operating on behalf of SWISS. This short flight had friendly service and a decent snack, so you can't ask for much more on a 30-minute flight.
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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.

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 RewardsCapital 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.

Zurich Airport departure gate
Zurich Airport departure gate

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.

Zurich Airport bus to remote stand

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.

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 cabin

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.

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 business class seats

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.

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 business class legroom

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.

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 business class seats

As far as the seat back goes, it had both an exposed literature pocket and a tray table that can be folded down.

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 seat back
Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 seat tray table

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…

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 seat outlets

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.

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 overhead console

The Embraer E2 jets also have large overhead bins, which easily fit my full size carry-on.

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 overhead bin

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.

SWISS business class bottled water & towel

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.

Remote stand boarding Zurich Airport

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.

Preparing to taxi Zurich Airport

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…

Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 business class cabin

…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 Embraer E190-E2 business class curtain

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).

Helvetic Airways business class drink

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.

Helvetic Airways business class snack

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 lavatory
Helvetic Airways Embraer E190-E2 lavatory

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.

Bottom line

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?

Conversations (9)
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  1. Morgan Diamond

    What is so bad about USB-A?

    Surely you travel with a USB-A lighting cord for your iPhone and most devices still mainly use USB-A not USB-C.

  2. Grey Diamond

    Don't most phones come with a USB-C to USB-A cable? The vast majority of phone charging cables I have seen are USB-C to USB-A.

    1. Samo Guest

      They do, but you may want to charge other devices than phones, which is why normal power sockets are a better choice.

  3. Gerwanese New Member

    I always travel with a USB C-to-A adapter. It's tiny and has been so useful many times already.
    Usually I prefer using power sockets instead of the USB ports to get fast charging, but sometimes you're limited to USB A or the position of the power socket is just too bad.

    Regarding legroom, I can't tell for sure about Swiss, but at least on Lufthansa's "flexible" European business class the first few rows usually...

    I always travel with a USB C-to-A adapter. It's tiny and has been so useful many times already.
    Usually I prefer using power sockets instead of the USB ports to get fast charging, but sometimes you're limited to USB A or the position of the power socket is just too bad.

    Regarding legroom, I can't tell for sure about Swiss, but at least on Lufthansa's "flexible" European business class the first few rows usually offer quite a bit of extra legroom. While I usually prefer the last row of business class, on those flights I try to get on of the first 3 rows. I guess it would be the same on Swiss, given that LH Group makes combined orders for all of their airlines.

    1. Samo Guest

      It is the same at Swiss, however this flight was operated by Helvetic which is not part of the LH Group, so I'm not sure it applies there too.

  4. Donato Guest

    By today's standards this was good but less than decades ago. I often flew Milano (LIN) to ZRH late afternoon to connect to Swissair to EWR. The SR ticketed flight was operated by Crossair (LX!!!) on a Saab. Economy service included Newspapers, Drinks, sandwiches and gold wrapped chocolate coins. Upon arrival at ZRH I usually would be a guest of Swissair for the night due to late arrival/missed connection.

  5. Robert Fahr Guest

    For a 30 minute flight, way more effort than any US airline.

    1. digital_notmad Diamond

      Due to the duration of the flight and some "predicted turbulence" which will never materialize, the captain has asked us to remain seated during this short hop. Please note that there is a 3oz bottle of water at your seat, and we are primarily here for your safety."

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digital_notmad Diamond

Due to the duration of the flight and some "predicted turbulence" which will never materialize, the captain has asked us to remain seated during this short hop. Please note that there is a 3oz bottle of water at your seat, and we are primarily here for your safety."

3
Robert Fahr Guest

For a 30 minute flight, way more effort than any US airline.

2
Gerwanese New Member

I always travel with a USB C-to-A adapter. It's tiny and has been so useful many times already. Usually I prefer using power sockets instead of the USB ports to get fast charging, but sometimes you're limited to USB A or the position of the power socket is just too bad. Regarding legroom, I can't tell for sure about Swiss, but at least on Lufthansa's "flexible" European business class the first few rows usually offer quite a bit of extra legroom. While I usually prefer the last row of business class, on those flights I try to get on of the first 3 rows. I guess it would be the same on Swiss, given that LH Group makes combined orders for all of their airlines.

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