Last summer, I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands, where I had a wonderful time. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: United Airlines Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco
- Review: United Airlines B777-200 Business Class from San Francisco to Honolulu
- Review: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Hotel (Honolulu)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Lanai)
- Review: St Regis Princeville (Kauai)
- Review: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: Travaasa Hana (Maui)
- Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330 First Class from Honolulu to San Francisco
- Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich (today)
Today (January 17, 2018): Review of Swiss’ Business Class in a B777-300ER from San Francisco to Zürich.
On August 22, 2017, I flew Business Class in the youngest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to join the fleet of Swiss International Air Lines. The flight took off from San Francisco (California, USA) and arrived 10 hours later on-time at Swiss’ main hub in Zürich (Switzerland). Swiss International Air Lines (more commonly know under its short name Swiss, often stylized as SWISS) was formed after the 2001 bankruptcy of Swissair, Switzerland’s former flag carrier. The airline, which ranks among my favorite European carriers for longhaul flights, is a member of Star Alliance and a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group since 2005. Swiss recently acquired 9 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which replace most of Swiss’ current and aging A340 planes although five A340s will remain in service and get a refurbishment. The experience on this B777 trip was great and clearly a step up compared to flying on Swiss’ A340s (which I reviewed here). But although I liked the elegant new cabin interior, I was not a fan of the uncomfortable flat-bed and cramp cabin layout, which is an updated version of Swiss’ old and subpar Business Class seat configuration. I have previously published a dayflight aboard Swiss B777, which you can read here.
- Trip: SFO-ZRH
- Airline: Swiss International Air Lines
- Aircraft type: Boeing 777-300ER
- Aircraft registration number: HB-JNH
- Flight Number: LX39
- Date: August 22, 2017
- On time departure: yes (8.30 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (3.30 pm)
- Miles: 5826
- Flight time: 10
- Seat: 8K
- Class: business (D)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- United Club Lounge at SFO
- Fact & figures about Swiss’ Boeing 777 fleet
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
- My verdict (score)
1. UNITED CLUB LOUNGE AT SAN FRANCISCO AIRPORT
Swiss doesn’t have its own lounge at San Francisco Airport. Instead, its Premium Class passengers have access to the lounges of its Star Alliance partner United, which uses San Francisco airport as one of its major hubs. United has one lounge in San Francisco’s international terminal – called United Club Lounge – which caters to all Business Class passengers booked on an international Star Alliance flight. I can be very short in my review of this lounge since the lounge has shut down since my visit and is currently under renovation to reopen later this year as a Polaris branded lounge (Polaris is United’s new Business Class concept). The lounge itself was a rather unactrive and overcrowded rectangular space with a bar and a few dining tables on one side and a mediocre buffet station on the other side (serving salads, cold cuts, breads, cheese cubes, soup, fruits, and mixed nuts). The lounge’s highlight was the fantastic view of the apron wrapped around San Francisco’s international and domestic terminal.
2. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT SWISS’ BOEING 777 FLEET
Swiss has 9 Boeing 777-300ER planes in its fleet, which were acquired to replace the carrier’s aging A340 aircraft. Here are some interesting facts and figures about Swiss’ Triple Sevens:
- The B777 fleet is managed by Swiss Global Air Lines, which is a subsidiary of Swiss. Swiss Global Air Lines operates scheduled flights in the name and corporate design of its parent company. Swiss Global Air Lines wet-leases the B777 fleet out to Swiss as per its existing crew labour agreements.
- The new B777 aircraft is used on Swiss’ ultra long routes, such as Zürich to/from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bangkok, Singapore, Miami, Sao Paulo, and Hong Kong.
- The B777-300ER offers maximum reliability and a very high level of comfort in the cabin. It also saves 23% in fuel and CO2 emissions per seat in comparison with the A340.
- The aircraft is powered by two General Electric GE90-115BL, with a maximum thrust per engine of 115,300 lbs or 52,300 kg.
- In Swiss’ configuration, the Boeing 777-300ER offers 340 seats: 8 in First Class, 62 in Business Class and 270 in Economy Class.
- The plane’s maximum range with a full load is 10,700 km (6650 miles).
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
As you enter the Swiss’ Boeing 777-300ER aircraft via the massive boarding doors, your first impression will be that of the welcoming galley. This esthetically very nice and sleek space features an illuminated welcome panel in addition to an illuminated world map in a wood finish that mirrors the one in the reception of the Swiss lounges at Zürich airport. The entrance galley separates the two Business Class cabins: a small cabin with only 10 seats (in 2 rows) is located behind the First Class cabin to the left of the boarding door, while the main and much large Business Class cabin is located to the right, featuring an impressive 52 seats (in 11 rows).
The totally redesigned Business Class cabin interior of the new Swiss flagship plane is quite impressive. Created by Priestmangoode, a British design and brand consultancy firm, the aircraft decor has a luxurious, elegant and timeless feel with a lightness of authentic Swiss touch. The dark-colored seat cushions, wooden veneer panels and cream-colored fabrics lend the cabin a modern, upscale and almost residential ambiance. The front bulkhead in both Business Class cabins features a Matterhorn print, referencing Switzerland’s most famous mountainscape.
The 62 Business Class seats – which are more like little cubicles – are Thompson Vantage seats placed in a staggered configuration or so-called Sogerma Solstys layout. This is basically an alternating 1-2-2 and 2-2 -1 seat configuration, whereby the foot compartment for each seat is located between and under the seat(s) in front. The seats in the center of the plane always come in pairs, while the seats on the right and left side of the plane alternate from one to two per row (with the so solo seats – or so-called throne seats – being the most popular seats in the plane; more on that below). Although the Sogerma Solstys layout is not the best Business Class configuration (since there’s no direct aisle access for all passengers), it is also installed on aircraft operated by other airlines, such as Finnair’s A330/A340, Austrian Airlines B767/B777, Brussels Airlines’ A330, Delta’s B767, and American’s B767.
Click here for a seat map of Swiss’ Boeing 777-300ER.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
I was seated in 8K for the 10 hour flight from San Francisco to Zürich. Swiss’ B777 Business Class seats are an updated, more comfortable version of Swiss’s previous Business Class seat, which you find on their A330 and A340 aircraft (and which I reviewed here). The main difference between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Business Class seat is the introduction of more personal storage – including headphone hangers and straps for storing tablets or magazines – and a new, more easy-to-handle tray table.
The seat has a pitch of 152 cm (60 inches) and a width of 52 cm (20,5 inch), which should be more than comfortable for most passengers. All seats come with a large work surface on the side (where you can set up your personal belongings such as a tablet or laptop). Solo seats as well as some seats in the center of the plane also feature an additional and equally large work space on the seat’s other side. Besides the overhead bins, the main storage compartment is a closable shelf underneath the seat’s private TV monitor, which is perfect for storing smaller items although larger items such as laptops don’t fit in. The solo, throne seats have the added benefit of two other storage spaces, being a small box with straps for storage of magazines or a laptop on one side of the seat (above the fixed armrest) and a large slide-out drawer located on the other side (above the other fixed armrest). Bulkhead row seats also have an additional shelf above their TV monitors to place items such as larger laptops albeit not during takeoff/landing.
A perforated wood panel located above the armrest is the seat’s main eyecatcher and unique to Swiss’ Boeing 777 aircraft (you won’t find it on Swiss’ Airbus fleet). It holds a large fold-out tray table, although ejecting and stowing it can only be achieved through a slightly complicated maneuver that may require the help from a flight attendant. The wood panel – which also holds a large slide-out drawer at throne seats only (cf supra) – also features a reading lamp on eye level and a hook, which is great for keeping the headphones secured in place during the flight and preventing the wires from getting tangled up in the seat. The armrest below the wood panel holds a power port with international adapters, a remote control for the inflight entertainment system (more on that below), and the automatic seat controls that can be used to adjust the seat position (from take-off position to fully flat) as well as the seat cushion’s firmness according to your liking.
It surprised me that Swiss choose these forward-facing, staggered seats for their flagship B777 plane (as well as for their A330/A340 planes), as they are not the best in the industry: the seats don’t offer direct aisle access for all passenger and they are not very comfortable in the lie-flat position. Although it’s a 180 degree recline and the bed has a length of 2 meters (6,5 ft), the seat has one major downside, being that its foot end (and thus your lower legs) glide into a small box under the seat(s) in front, below the TV screen. This foot compartment narrows to its end and its ceiling is quite low, so your lower legs and feet are kind of locked in this box once you have adopted the horizontal position, making it impossible to switch position during your sleep without your legs hitting the wall (and thus waking up). It has to be noted that this is especially the case in the throne seats (except for the bulkhead throne seats) since the foot wells at all other seats are more spacious due to the cabin configuration. In addition, in its lie flat position, the seat is just 45 cm (17 inch) above the floor, making it feel like you are resting on the ground or in a coffin (because of the high seat walls) and making it very uncomfortable getting in and out to go to the restroom. This is one of the most uncomfortable lie flat seats in the sky, especially when compared to the seat types installed on Swiss’ competitors such as Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways.
The solo Business Class seats – or throne seats – deserve a separate mention as they are the most popular seats on the plane – and therefore in high demand by knowledgeable solo passengers – because they offer more storage space, increased privacy and direct aisle access. Compared to other seats, they do have two cons though which compromise an optimal sleeping comfort: (1) the very small foot compartment; and (2) the fixed armrests which cannot be lowered. So you have to very carefully weigh the pros and cons before choosing a throne seat. And regrettably, last year, Swiss introduced a gut-wrenching fee to pre-reserve a throne seat, ranging from 99 to 199 Swiss Francs ($100 to $200 USD) depending on the flight and route. Previously, these seats were reserved on a complimentary base for Miles & More elite member (with HON Circle and Senator status), while they were released to non-members at the start of check-in.
What are the best Business Class seats on Swiss’ B777? Click here for a seat map.
- The seats in the first, smaller cabin (row 4 & 5) are are excelllent since this cabin feels more intimate.
- The single best seats for solo travelers are the solo throne seats on the left and right side of the plane. Keep in mind though that pre-reserving these seats come at a stiff price and they also have some downsides, such as a smaller foot compartment (albeit the bulkhead throne seats 4A and 7A have more space for the feet) and fixed armrests.
- Travel companions should go for the middle seats, which all have direct aisle access. There is also a set of paired window seats in each row, but here the passenger in the window seat will have to crawl over his/her neighbor’s leg to reach the aisle.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Swiss’ B777? Click here for a seat map.
- I suggest to avoid the window seats in row 11 since they are missing a window. The window seats in row 14 also have a misaligned window, although that won’t impact your travel experience that much.
- The seats in row 17 are directly in front of the Economy bassinet seats and are thus best avoided as well (or you may end up being close to young children).
- The bulkhead seats in row 7 are close the galley and restrooms, which may cause some noise disturbance from time to time (albeit nothing too bad).
- Choosing one of the paired seats is not the best thing to do for solo passengers, because these seats lack privacy (although there is a fixed divider to make you feel more comfortable in case you end up seated next to a stranger).
Swiss provides blankets and pillows of decent quality in Business Class. In addition, each Business Class passenger also gets an amenity kit, which – on outbound flights from Zürich – comes in the form of a large tote bag available in four different colors. On inbound flights passengers receive four different re-usable smaller pouches that can be connected to the totes. Despite the inventive design, the kit only contains the basic amenities, such as lipbalm, (bright red) socks, eyeshade, toothbrush, toothpaste, and earplugs. While the content may disappoint many passengers, it’s still better than being stuck in Business Class without amenity kit (which I recently experienced during my Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class trip).
6. FOOD & BEVERAGES
IMHO, Swiss is among the carriers that serve the most delicious in-flight meals. Swiss’ so-called ‘Taste of Switzerland program’ – exclusively available to First and Business Class passengers – is designed to highlight different regions of the country on longhaul flights departing from Switzerland. The menus change every three months and are created by selected guest chefs whose restaurants have received Michelin stars and Gault Millau points. The focus is on regional and seasonal specialities that guarantee a culinary flight of fancy.
On this particular Zürich-bound, red-eye flight, a dinner and breakfast were served, shortly after takeoff and 90 minutes prior to departure respectively.
I choose the following selections from the dinner menu:
- First course: salmon rilettes with grapefruit and bulgur salad.
- Main course: Älper Macaroni – traditional Swiss macaroni gratin with cheese and potatoes.
- Dessert: crème brülée cheesecake with raspberry sauce
Ninety minutes prior to landing, breakfast was served. The crew rolled a selection of cold and hot items through the cabin and you could choose what you want:
- Selection of seasonal fresh fruits, artisanal yoghurt, and home-made Bircher muesli
- Bakery basket with a varied selection of breads, Swiss jam and honey
- Selection of cheese and cold cuts as well as a warm egg dish
- Coffee, espresso, and a selection of teas
Each seat has a personal 16 inch TV screen of very high quality (with bright and clear pictures), and there are over 140 movies and TV shows to choose from, including the latest blockbusters, award-winning documentaries and the most popular TV series. In addition, you can listen to over 400 different CDs and a wide range of music channels. The inflight entertainment can be commanded by directly touching the TV screen or by using a handheld remote control which is located in the armrest and also features its own touchscreen, allowing you to watch a different program (e.g. flight map) from the main screen. Swiss branded, noise reducing headphones are located at each seat, and block most noise from the cabin and aircraft as you watch your favorite programs; as mentioned above, a hook is provided to secure the headphones in place during the flight, in case you don’t use them.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Swiss offers satellite Internet via WiFi on board the Boeing 777-300ER from an altitude of 10,000 feet. The speed is similar to a public WiFi connections on the ground. There is a charge for this and the rate depends on how much data you use (which includes both downloads and uploads), rather than how long you spend online. The least expensive option is 20MB for 9 Swiss Francs ($ 10USD), which the airline suggests is best “if you just intend to shortly check your emails or visit a couple of websites”. The most expensive choice will cost you 39 Swiss Francs ($ 40 USD) and get you a 120 MB package, that will allow you to enjoy the full extent of the internet. This makes Swiss’ onboard internet one of the most expensive in the world, but I believe the carrier can afford it to charge this kind of rates since they are very popular and highly rated among Business Class travelers.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# VIEWS: The takeoff and first part of the flight took place in the darkness of the night, so there was not much of a view to enjoy. Around 4 hours into the flight, dawn broke as we flew over Canada, but the weather was cloudy. Views of the Alpine scereny during landing were great though.
# CREW: I’ve always been a fan of Swiss’ cabin crew, which I rate among the best in Europe. Service was efficient, courteous and always with a genuine smile. I was surprised though by one fact. As we flew near a thunderstorm over the Hudson Bay, a crew member noticed I was nervous, and while she tried to assure me that everything was fine, she admitted she also suffered from flight anxiety.
# LAVATORY: There are only two, standard-sized lavatories for Business Class passengers, located in the galley between the two cabins. They feature a selection of facial products and lotion by Swiss Code.
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 3/10
- Food (quality): 8/10
- Food (quantity): 9/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- WiFi: 5/10 (works great but too expensive)
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin design: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10