Review: New SWISS A340 Business Class

Filed Under: Swiss

To get back to Miami we flew SWISS business class. SWISS was one of the few European airlines offering service to Miami in August, and the airline even operated the route with its A340-300.

SWISS recently refurbished the interiors of all A340s, so I was looking forward to checking out that business class, especially as I’ve otherwise reviewed business class on SWISS’ two other long haul aircraft, the 777-300ER and A330-300.

On top of that, on the way to Turkey I reviewed Lufthansa business class, where it was more or less business as usual in terms of service. I was looking forward to seeing how service compared on SWISS, another Lufthansa Group airline.

On our way back from Turkey we visited family in Germany. I’ll save this for another post, but my mom has been in Germany for a couple of months now, and it was a priority for us to see her. We flew Lufthansa from Bodrum to Munich, so our return trip to the US originated in Germany as well.

Booking SWISS business class

I redeemed Avianca LifeMiles for our tickets in SWISS business class. A one-way business class ticket from Europe to the US cost just 63,000 LifeMiles, and it was easy to book the itinerary online. It’s tough to beat that value, especially when you consider how inexpensively LifeMiles can be acquired when there’s a promotion.

SWISS business class A340 review

I won’t be reviewing the intra-Europe flight, since there’s not much to say there. Upon landing in Zurich we headed straight to the E gates, where our flight to Miami would be departing from.

BDE gates in Zurich

Unlike the terminal we arrived in, the E gates were deserted, given how few long haul flights are being operated.


Zurich Airport terminal

Zurich Airport terminal

The lounges in this terminal were closed, so we just had a seat in the gate area. That wasn’t a big deal since we only had about an hour before our flight boarded. SWISS does have some lounges open, but they’re in the Schengen area, and we didn’t even consider that before changing terminals.

At the departure gate each passenger had to come to the podium to have their documents checked.

SWISS departure gate Zurich

As an avgeek there’s something I loved about the four-engined A340, especially as these types of planes become rarer by the day.

SWISS A340

I also find it interesting that SWISS’ entire A340 fleet is flying, while a majority of its A330 fleet is grounded.

The A340 has higher fuel burn but the same capacity, so is this a function of the A340’s having higher cargo capacity (weight-wise), or are these planes just older and paid off, and as a result somehow cheaper to fly than park?

The gate area for the flight to Miami was empty — there were around two dozen people on the flight — so the boarding process was quite orderly. Boarding was scheduled to start at 12:35PM, but ended up starting at 12:50PM, presumably given how empty the plane was. First class was invited to board first, followed by business class.

SWISS 64
Zurich (ZRH) – Miami (MIA)
Saturday, August 8
Depart: 1:20PM
Arrive: 5:25PM
Duration: 10hr5min
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Seat: 12A (Business Class)

We boarded through the second set of doors, where we were greeted by a friendly and enthusiastic crew. All airlines take different approaches to employees wearing PPE, though in the case of SWISS, all flight attendants simply had surgical masks on.

SWISS’ A340s are pretty premium heavy. First class has a total of eight seats, and surprisingly that was half full. It was a super chic and fancy-looking family with a bunch of cats (which on second thought makes them significantly less chic #TeamDog).

Then business class has a total of 47 seats — there’s a mini cabin with nine seats, and then the main cabin (behind door two) has 38 seats.

The cabin was gorgeous, and one of the spiffiest A340-300 cabins out there, since these planes often have outdated interiors. For that matter, there aren’t even that many A340s flying anymore, sadly…

SWISS A340 business class cabin

I also quickly peeked into the economy cabin. There were only about a dozen passengers, so everyone not only enjoyed a flat bed, but also had plenty of room to distance.

SWISS A340 economy cabin

With SWISS’ staggered configuration, the seat patterns differ on the left and right side of the aircraft. On the left side of the aircraft, about half of the rows have pairs of seats — the window seats here are the only ones that don’t feature direct aisle access.

SWISS business class seats A340

Then in alternating rows are the “throne” seats, which are by far the most private and spacious in this configuration. You have to pay more to assign these in advance, though there’s a trick to snagging these 48 hours out, so we took advantage of that. I was in seat 12A, while Ford was in seat 10A.

SWISS A340 business class “throne” seat

In the center section, seats alternate in every row, so that the footwell for one seat is either between or to the sides of the seats in front.


SWISS A340 business class seats

Then along the right side of the aircraft are alternating solo seats. There are no “throne” seats here, though the seats closer to the windows are definitely better than the ones that are closer to the aisle.


SWISS business class seats A340

Anyway, back to my throne seat, 12A — it’s tough to beat the amount of privacy, storage, and personal space, that you get in this configuration.


SWISS A340 business class “throne” seat


SWISS business class “throne” seat A340


SWISS business class “throne” seat A340

In addition to storage underneath the seat and to the left, there was further storage to the right of the seat. This is also where the power outlet, reading light, and headphone jack were located.

SWISS A340 business class seat storage

One thing I didn’t like was that there were no individual air nozzles. This wasn’t a surprise, but it’s always still a disappointing discovery.

SWISS A340 business class overhead console

There were a total of seven passengers in business class, including us — there was one guy in the first throne seat in the cabin (I feel like he was also reviewing the flight, or something, because he was taking a lot of pictures), no one in any of the center seats, and then four people in window seats on the right side of the cabin.

It goes without saying that we felt extremely comfortable in terms of the distance we had from others. Aside from Ford, I was at least 10 feet from the next passenger.

SWISS A340 business class cabin

On SWISS it’s truly business as usual in terms of service — there were pillows and blankets at seats. The bedding is fine but not amazing, as the pillow is rather thin and the blanket a bit scratchy.

SWISS business class pillow & blanket

There was also an amenity kit waiting at my seat. I liked the bag it came in, but the contents were fairly basic, and included lip balm, a toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, eyeshades, and socks.


SWISS business class amenity kit

There was also a pair of headphones at my seat, with the SWISS logo.

SWISS business class headphones

The flight attendant asked if we wanted any pre-departure drinks (which we weren’t offered on Lufthansa). I just asked for some water, and was given a bottle, but there was also the choice of champagne or juice.


SWISS business class pre-departure drinks

I was also presented with a menu card for the flight.

SWISS business class menu

At 1:10PM boarding was complete, and a few minutes after that the captain made his welcome aboard announcement. He informed us of our flight time of 10hr5min.

He said we would be a bit delayed because the flight was longer than usual, due to taking a southerly route — we’d overfly Bordeaux, the Azores, Bermuda, and then approach the Florida coast around Palm Beach. Overflying the Azores and Bermuda? Cool!

Meal orders were taken on the ground, and at 1:30PM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video was screened. There was no queue for takeoff, and by 1:40PM we started our takeoff roll on runway 16.

There’s nothing quite like the A340-300 when it comes to a weak takeoff performance — the plane takes forever to speed up, and climbs very gradually. However, I have to say that this felt like one of the more “powerful” A340-300 takeoffs I’ve had, probably due to how empty the plane was.

We made a turn shortly after takeoff, which provided me with a great view of the airport. Unfortunately the plane’s windows were very dirty, which made it tough to get good pictures.

View after takeoff from Zurich

Much like on Lufthansa, service on SWISS is more or less as usual. Actually, it’s better than usual in many ways, given how empty many flights are, leading to some very attentive service.

The lunch menu for the flight read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Service began with a cart being rolled down the aisle with drinks. After drinking alcohol almost daily for our entire trip, we decided it was time to take a break for a few weeks, so I just had a Diet Coke and a sparkling water. That was served with some mixed nuts in a ramekin. There was no warm towel service, which seemed to be the only change to SWISS’ service protocol.

SWISS business class lunch — drinks and nuts

About 15 minutes later, carts were rolled down the aisle with the appetizer, salad, and cheese. There was a choice of two appetizers, and I selected the spicy tomato buffalo mozzarella with beef tomato, balsamic glaze, and roasted pine nuts, with spicy tomato cream and vinaigrette. That was served with a rather bland salad, and a selection of cheese.

Bread was even offered out of the breadbasket (Lufthansa modified service to get rid of the breadbasket), and I selected a pretzel roll.


SWISS business class lunch — appetizer, salad, and cheese

There were four main course choices, and I chose the sea bass fillet with lemon beurre blanc, cauliflower couscous, grilled sweet potatoes, and sugar snap peas. The dish was quite good, though for the most part I just tasted the sauce, given how overpowering it was.

SWISS business class lunch — main course

For dessert there was a chocolate and spelt panna cotta with millet and apple crumble, which was delicious. I had a cappuccino to go along with it.


SWISS business class lunch — dessert

Lastly I was offered a chocolate.


SWISS business class lunch — chocolate

The meal service was done at a leisurely pace, which is great for a daytime flight. There were about eight hours left in the flight after the meal.

Airshow enroute to Miami


Airshow enroute to Miami

The crew couldn’t have been lovelier — there were two enthusiastic young ladies working the cabin, and then the cabin manager was also very involved in the service, and even remembered everyone’s name.

One funny thing was that I was speaking to the cabin manager and one flight attendant in German, and the other flight attendant in English (that’s because I typically just reply to people in the language they speak to me in). At one point both the cabin manager and flight attendant were rolling a trolley down the aisle by me, and a flight attendant asked if I needed anything else in English.

When she did that, the cabin manager said (in German) “Mr. Schlappig speaks German, why are you speaking to him in English?” She had a confused look on her face, and I had some explaining to do.

After the meal I checked out the mini business class cabin in the front, which was empty.

SWISS business class mini-cabin A340

I also checked out the lavatories, as there were two between the business class cabins. Both were well maintained.

SWISS business class lavatory

SWISS has Wi-Fi on A340s, though pricing sure is steep, as follows (one USD is roughly one CHF):

  • 20MB of data costs 9 CHF
  • 50MB of data costs 19 CHF
  • 120MB of data costs 39 CHF
  • 220 MB of data costs 59 CHF

I didn’t end up using wifi, though from previous flights I knew the speeds were fairly decent. When I flew SWISS first class a while back I consumed about 50MB of data in 15 minutes, so I figured there was no point in buying Wi-Fi this time around.


SWISS business class wifi

SWISS has a solid entertainment selection, with dozens of movies and TV shows. I had brought my own entertainment on my iPad that kept me occupied, and I also spent some time organizing and editing pictures from the trip.

With about 6hr30min remaining we were passing the Azores (we had a great trip there a few years ago).


Airshow enroute to Miami

At that point the crew came through the cabin with Mövenpick ice cream, with the choice of either chocolate or strawberry.

SWISS business class ice cream snack

I also ordered an espresso at this point.


SWISS business class espresso

Several hours later we were near Bermuda, our next stop on this transatlantic island-passing adventure. 😉


Airshow enroute to Miami

Finally about 90 minutes before landing the pre-arrival meal was served. The menu for that read as follows:

I ordered the poke bowl with pepper-cured tuna, wild rice, wakame, edamame, carrot julienne, ginger, and lime dressing. It was served with a fruit salad and a bread roll. The dish was quite good, though not your traditional poke bowl.

SWISS business class pre-landing meal

After the meal I ordered a coffee, since sitting in darkness for 10 hours on a daytime flight can be exhausting. 😉

SWISS business class coffee

I swear I was smiling…

Airshow approaching Miami

At around 5:10PM local time, the captain announced we’d be landing in about 30 minutes, and would be descending shortly. We reached the Florida coast a bit south of Palm Beach. We flew inland, and then turned around and landed into the east at Miami Airport.

Big airplane!

View approaching Miami

We touched down at 5:40PM, and from there had a minute-long taxi to our arrival gate. The crew couldn’t even finish the landing announcement before we got to the gate.

While Lufthansa had made announcements telling people to stay seated until they’re specifically told to get up, there was no such announcement on SWISS. Not that there was necessarily a need for that, given that there were around two dozen people on an A340.

I’ll write a separate post about the process of going through immigration nowadays in the US when arriving from a country technically on the “travel ban” list.

Swiss business class bottom line

Our flight in SWISS business class was phenomenal. SWISS’ new business class product is great, especially for an A340. The crew was friendly and food was good, and Lufthansa and SWISS are among the only airlines offering “regular” service during the pandemic (for better or worse). I didn’t really feel like anything was different than usual, other than everyone wearing a mask.

Beyond that, though, many transatlantic flights are outrageously empty at the moment, which helps with making someone feel comfortable in an age where space is the ultimate luxury. Just about everyone on the plane could have 10+ feet of space between them and the next passenger, so it’s hard to argue with that.

Obviously it won’t always be like that, and for that matter it isn’t even always like that right now (though it does seem to be the case for most transatlantic flights).

What’s your take on the service SWISS is offering in business class right now?

Comments
  1. Lucky- Are US passport holders allowed to transit through ZRH? I’m looking at an Itinerary MLE-ZRH-??? in the US. I’m not sure who to contact for transit questions.

  2. The fact that SWISS spent the money to upgrade the interiors of the A340 is interesting. Sounds like they don’t plan on retiring them anytime soon?

  3. @ John L — Rules can always change, but it’s my understanding that US passport holders could connect if you don’t have a Schengen connection. So if you’re flying MLE-ZRH-US without having to enter the Schengen zone, I believe that should be fine.

  4. @ Greg — Indeed, it’s not actually a new product for the industry, just a new product for this particular plane.

  5. @ Greg — Yep, they’re planning on keeping them for several more years, it would seem. That does counter the industry trend.

  6. Always very happy to fly SWISS, I’ll be on the same flight this weekend in business class. Seats tend to feel a little tight but it’s the entire experience that SWISS just get right, never been disappointed. 777 cabin is beautiful but I didn’t realize they upgraded the 340 as well, for the longest time it was two ZRH MIA flights a day, one 777 with new cabin and one flight with the old business class I think, that may have been a 330 then. Plus ZRH is a great airport. Weirdest year ever for flying transatlantic for sure. I’ve had two LH flights (great), one UA (crap although in 787 Polaris), all at maybe 20% full.

  7. Great review. We do not get enough of these due to COVID so it’s a nice return to the reports. My wife and I return to Austria for Christmas to visit family and flying SWISS business ORD-ZRH-SZG. I hope to find a equally empty cabin. Habt ihr Hochdeutsch oder “Schwizerdütsch” 😉 mit dir gesprochen?

  8. Hey Lucky, we came back from the Bodrum EDITION yesterday (thanks to your review and recommendations), also on SWISS. I loved our flight home — so civilized, such a pleasure to be on a tasteful airline, and what a fantasy to be on a business class flight with real service. (Our flight out in TK business class got the meal box — it was fine since we slept the entire way). Our SWISS flight was on a 777-300ER, ZRH-JFK, but otherwise was virtually the same as yours

    @John L — yes you can transit. We tried to go to the lounge in the Schengen Zone and was denied (with US passports). But otherwise transit was fine.

  9. I know a lot of people give you crap for traveling now but I think that every ticket that can get ticketed and flown helps to keep the airlines in business. So I, for one, am glad that you are still getting to travel and support business. I’m curious if you are able to do it because you are picking places that you can go to, like Turkey, or if you are able to because of dual citizenship? I’d like to start planning some travel and would appreciate your thoughts.

  10. I love the exterior of the A340 because of its bulk and length, very impressive. Have not flown business on them but looks comfortably and inviting. Glad to see a few still flying despite their higher fuel burn costs.

  11. @Lucky – miss your TSA updates. I think people would be surprised at how many people are flying vs last year.

    July – 26% (vs July 2019)
    Aug – 29% (vs July 2019)
    Sept – 36% (vs July 2019)

  12. @Ben, actually I feel the seats along the right side of the airplane are much better due to foot cubby being about 250% bigger than the throne seats (of course, going west it’s not really a big deal given that you won’t sleep anyway). Given that you don’t need a huge amount of space on both sides of your body, I normally choose the window seats though those go quickly anyway, so sometimes I have to settle for the throne seat.

  13. Since there’s not much going on right now, any way you could catch up on old reviews? There were a few where you did a 10 pictures… or something similar as a preview and then never did the full review.

  14. Seating is pathetic. LH Group is getting cheaper all the time. SR is behind many carriers in their seating. Used to be the benchmark. That has long passed. Is there some German bias in your review?

  15. Glad to see that SWISS brought the Thompson Aero Vantage product onto the A340–for a number of years, have been a regular flier of their product out of SFO (777-300). 5 A/B in the mini-cabin is a lovely pair of seats; the intimacy of the mini-cabin is also much appreciated. Definitely do agree that the lav/seat ratio (2:47, 3:62) on SWISS leaves a bit to be desired. Happy to see they still have the Duval-Leroy–was definitely part of why I didn’t switch to flying LH.

  16. I actually wonder why a 15yr old trip review is re-posted. I didn’t realize Swiss was flying A340s anymore. Tgat seems so 2000s, 4 engines, gas guzzling, not Eco friendly.

    I was shocked to read it is so recent.

    I too love the looks of the A340 and will mourn the retirements.

    Crazy times indeed.

  17. This report was a great surprise, thanks @Ben! I forgot you hadn’t posted a return trip report – thank you! It’s always nice to see airlines invest in product even if they may only get a few more years of flying out of the plane. The QF 747s with the updated overhead bins and flat bed seats – they did a great job on that refurb (all in Mojave now, unfortunately). I look forward to your next trip, and given all the restrictions it will be interesting to see what the next destination is 🙂

  18. I flew the A340 YUL > ZRH a few days ago (sadly a much shorter flight!). Very impressed with the throne seat, food, and service. As there were only two of us in the main cabin, we were allowed to take our masks off while seated so altogether it felt very much like a pre-COVID flight. All drinks and dishes were brought our personally (no cart) which made it feel very exclusive.

  19. Hi Ben,

    Regarding LifeMiles, they’re currently running a 200% mileage purchase bonus until Sept 25. I think this is the biggest promo so far available from them and it works out to USD 0.011/mile.

  20. First, I hope your mother is doing well now!
    Second, I am glad that Swiss really has not used Covid-19 as an excuse to change any service. I still don’t understand how serving a boxed meal is different from serving a trayed meal. The food looked excellent, and if I need to fly back to the US from HK for any reason, I may pick Swiss now. Surprisingly LX is issuing some really good J fares between HK and US including West coast. The layover is long though!
    Finally, can you share how the intra-european flights were? I wonder if Swiss is serving now from Turkey to Europe!
    Thanks again!
    Adrian

  21. Ben, I love reading your reviews! Have you ever thought about featuring reviews from vision-impaired and wheelchair users on your site? I realize there are separate websites that review flights and hotels for these specific identities, but wouldn’t it be great to have an inclusive website? I use a wheelchair, identify as LGBTQ+, and have traveled the world. I hate to be relegated to one site to share my experience.

  22. The A340 is my most favourite plane of all time!! Last I flew around 20 years back in 2000. It was Srilankan. I am glad to read this review which brought back nostalgic memories of the A340. The thing I love about this plane is that it felt very spacious though being similar in size to the A330. Also I loved the sound of its twin engines and the never ending take off roll. Sad this model was discarded by many airlines for its fuel issues. I wish I get to fly it again on SWISS. Thanks for the review Ben.

  23. Any idea if Austrian is also keeping their usual service? I need to get from Thailand to the US in December and they seem to have plenty of award space.

  24. It’s not a new product. It’s the current Swiss product rolled out to their A340. Swiss First is good but I feel their business class packed (in non covid times). It’s a huge cabin. Little privacy apart for throne seats. Of course it’s still a good product but not comparable to 1-2-1 QSuites or Ana for instance.

  25. These days I’m less concerned with what I eat on board and more interested in pandemic measures. Did staff wear masks the entire flight? Did they remind passengers to wear masks? Were passengers walking through cabins without masks?

  26. Swiss First was my best flight ever. The seat was perfect and the service was above and beyond. I must say Business looks great also. So, this might be a good choice when the world opens up again.

  27. @ Alexandra — I realize I may have inadvertently glossed over that. Yep, the crew constantly wore masks correctly, there were no issues with other passengers, and there was limited passenger movement throughout the cabin.

  28. @ Weymar M Osborne — I could be mistaken, but I believe Austrian is offering a mostly full service, given that the airline is in the Lufthansa Group. However, perhaps there have been some changes to the trolley presentation.

  29. @ Adrian — Thanks! We flew Lufthansa from Bodrum to Munich, actually, so the meal service was very similar to the way out (which I posted pictures of in the Montreal to Munich review post). For the Germany to Switzerland flight, the typical light snack was served.

  30. @ Peter Brown — It’s not the best business class product in the world, but a) It’s cool to see an A340 get new cabins, which you don’t otherwise see much b) It’s better than Lufthansa’s business class seating c) When a flight is this empty, there’s even less need for things like doors and more private seats.

  31. @ Tommy Boy — Yep, virtually everyone can go to Turkey, which is why we decided to visit there. We didn’t plan to visit Germany when we first departed on this trip, but given that cases were continuing to surge in Florida, and also given that my mother was there, we decided to visit her. That was only possible because I have a German passport, and Ford is my spouse.

  32. @ David — We’ve been together 24/7 for about six months, so 10 hours apart wasn’t the worst thing in the world. In all honesty, Ford is a great sleeper on daytime flights, while I’m not. In that sense sitting apart was ideal, since he could sleep uninterrupted, and I could stay awake/get stuff done on my laptop without disturbing him.

  33. I also wondered why they prefer to use the more inefficient A340. Lufthansa are also currently using their A340 fleet over their A350 which I don’t get. Why not use the more efficient aircraft at this time?

  34. Lest we all forget fuel is CHEAP. At the end of the day it’s all about the $$$. Save 3, 5, 10, 15% annually on new gen engines they said. No one thought a barrel of oil would drop below $40…..

  35. Thanks, Ben, for this review. Not a fan of Swiss here, inspite of being a Swiss citizen. I’m happy to see that Swiss is providing an excellent service.

    We (as a large corporate) are still waiting for the reimbursement of many tickets, in particular high value ones. It seems that Swissfinally reimbursed the cheap shorthaul tickets, after about 5 months, but is dragging its feet when it comes to long haul Business class tickets 🙁

  36. “you really need to wear a mask, even if you are alone.” Any scientific or rational basis for that command other than your sense of authority? Who is the “stupid” one here?

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