Review: Swiss First Class Airbus A330 from Zürich to New Delhi

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently traveled to India & Bhutan. I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks:


Today (August 28 2019): Review of Swiss’ Airbus A330 First Class from Zürich to New Delhi.

I recently flew First Class with Swiss from Zurich (Switzerland) to New Delhi (India). The flight was operated by the oldest Airbus A330-300 fleet in Swiss’ fleet. Overall, the experience was in line with my very high expectations. The cabin crew, 6-course lunch, amenities, and seat comfort were excellent. At the same time, there were some things that were not perfect, such as a rather disappointing pre-arrival meal and the open design of the suites (the latter is not a problem on Swiss’ newer Boeing 777s, where suites are equipped with sliding doors). Remarkably, the flight time from Zurich to New Delhi took 9 hours, almost 90 minutes longer than the normal flight time, since we made a huge detour over the Arabian Sea to avoid Pakistani airspace (which was closed due to a standoff with India).

Have you ever flown Swiss’ First Class? What was your experience? Leave a comment below.

Swiss features in my top 10 list of the world’s best airlines for longhaul First Class.

  • Trip: Zürich (ZRH) to New Delhi (DEL)
  • Airline: Swiss International Air Lines
  • Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300
  • Aircraft registration number: HB-JHA (named Schwyz)
  • Flight Number: LX146
  • Date: April 13, 2019
  • On time departure: yes (12.40 pm)
  • On time arrival: no (1.30 am; +1 day)
  • Miles: 3820 miles
  • Flight time: 9 hours
  • Seat: 1A
  • Class: First Class

In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip):

  1. Cost of my ticket
  2. Swiss First Class lounge at Zürich airport 
  3. First Class cabin
  4. First Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  5. Amenities
  6. Meals
  7. Entertainment
  8. Onboard internet
  9. Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory & views)
  10. My verdict (score)


1. COST OF MY TICKET

I paid 1850 euros for my return ticket, which is an unusually low price for a First Class trip from Europe to India. I purchased the ticket directly on the Swiss website (with a departure from Paris). I assume that I made use of a mistake fare or non-advertised promotion since flying First Class on this route was cheaper than Business Class (which was priced at 2200 euros).

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2. SWISS FIRST CLASS LOUNGE AT ZURICH AIRPORT

Swiss operates two First Class lounges at Zurich airport. This is a review of the First Class lounge located in terminal E, which is where most of Swiss’ longhaul flights depart from.

The lounge is located one floor above the main concourse, with a stair (or elevator) leading to a reception area, where Swiss staff is on hands to assist travelers with any requests they may have. Entrance to the lounge is via a wine humidor, which contains over 1000 bottles of quality wine from all over the world. The lounge itself is remarkably small but stylish nonetheless. The light-filled space exudes an ambience of refined exclusivity and features elegant furnishings by Swiss designers such as Vitra and de Sede. The centerpiece of the lounge is an extensive barista bar, at which guests can sample various specialty coffees and choose from over 100 Swiss grappas and further fruit brandies. Several lounge areas (separated by wooden partitions) are located on one side of the bar, while an à la carte restaurant with a dozen tables is located on the bar’s other side.

The lounge features terrific facilities, such as mini suites with seating for 4-6 and a conference room for business travelers. There are also two hotel-style rooms with double beds and an en-suite bathroom available for guests with a long layover, although these rooms cannot be reserved in advance. IMHO, the best feature of the lounge is the expansive terrace, which offers great views of the runways and the Alps (on a clear day).

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3. FIRST CLASS CABIN

Swiss’ Airbus A330-300 aircraft seats 236 passengers: 183 in Economy class, 45 in Business Class, and 8 in First Class. The small and intimate First Class cabin is located in the plane’s nose, behind the cockpit and in front of the smaller one of the two Business Class cabins. There are 8 eight First Class seats, spread across 2 rows and arranged in a traditional 1-2-1 configuration. Of course, all seats have direct aisle access. The 4 seats on the side are ideal for solo travelers (with 3 windows per seat), while the 4 seats in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion. But if you are a solo traveler and you end up in one the middle seats, there’s no problem as you can rise a divider for complete privacy.

The cabin has an open feel because Swiss choose for ‘open’ suites on its A330-300 in 2009 when the plane joined its fleet (based on passenger feedback), although adjustable sidewalls provide extensive privacy and transform the seats into semi-enclosed suites. Apparently, Swiss has changed its mind on this layout, since they have installed suites with sliding doors on their newer B777s (and the carrier is also currently retrofitting its older A340 with the new suites).  

The sophisticated lighting and the contemporary design give the cabin a sleek and classy look. A palette of light brown and sober grey accents create a warm and tranquil ambiance. The cabin also feels very ‘Swiss’,  because of the incorporation of lots of European oak wood, square design motifs, and charcoal-colored fabrics into the decor. There’s no denying though that the design feels a little old-fashioned, even though it was introduced only 10 years ago, especially when compared to Swiss’ newer First Class product on its flagship Boeing 777 plane.

Click here for the seat map of Swiss’ Airbus A330-300 aircraft.

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4. FIRST CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)

As mentioned above, the Swiss A330 First Class seat doesn’t feature a closed suite design which is now standard for most First Class products. This was a well-balanced choice though of Swiss, based on customer feedback. While visually less striking and impressive as enclosed suites, I prefer the open suite concept over an enclosed suite as I don’ like being ‘locked up’ for hours in a small, sometimes claustrophobic box. And if you want complete privacy, the seat features a partition that slides out from the suite’s side wall, separating the head of the seat from the aisle.

The seat is extremely comfortable in all positions and features generous dimensions with a width of 22 inches (56 cm) and a pitch of 83 inches (210 cm). The window side of each window seat (or the central side of each middle seat) features several storage boxes: one of them holds the handset for the inflight entertainment system while another one holds a massive bi-fold tray table which slides out at the push of a button. This side of the seat also features a panel with the seat controls, a USB port, two universal adapters, and a stylish lamp with several brightness settings.

In front of the seat is a large ottoman, which doubles as a buddy seat to allow dining with a companion within the suite (hence why the footrest is equipped with a seatbelt). Below the ottoman is some space to store your personal belongings (such as your shoes or a handbag). A 23 inch entertainment screen is fixed above the ottoman, which is on the small side considering that some airlines now offer 30 inch TV screens in First Class (including Swiss in its B777 First Class cabins).

Upon request, the flight attendants turn the seat into a fully flat-bed with a length of 83 inches (210 cm). The bed is covered with a comfortable mattress topper and temperature-regulating duvet, and dressed with Egyptian cotton sheets, a throw, and a thick pillow. The bed(ding) is superb and I was able to rest for a couple of hours (although this was a day flight).

What are the best First Class seats on Swiss’ A330s? Click here for a seat map.

  • Solo travelers should go for the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats.

What are the worst First Class seats on Swiss’ A330s? Click here for a seat map.

  • There are no bad seats in Swiss’ A380 First Class cabin.

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5. AMENITIES

Swiss provides the following amenities to First Class passengers on longhaul flights:

  • Swiss teamed up with Swiss luxury fashion brand Bally for its First Class amenity kit. The elegant pouch blends natural canvas with fine leather details, highlighted by the red-and-white stripe Bally is internationally recognized for. The kit comes with cosmetics by Swiss luxury skincare brand La Prairie and a box of natural herbal mints from iconic Swiss brand Ricola.
  • Slippers and stylish pajamas by Zimmerli, a Swiss brand that primarily produces underwear.
  • Superb bedding (cf above), including a mattress topper, temperature-regulating duvet, cotton sheets, a throw, and a thick pillow.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones, which aren’t of the best quality. You cannot keep them as they can only be powered within an aircraft.

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SWISS A330: NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES
SWISS A330: NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES

6. MEALS

Swiss First Class passengers on long-haul flights with a departure from Zurich enjoy the exclusive ‘Swiss – Taste of Switzerland’ menu. This trip from Zurich to New Delhi featured a Swiss – Taste of Switzerland menu from the canton of Zurich, created by guest Chef Stefan Heilemann’s cuisine of Ecco Restaurant at Zurich’s Atlantis by Giardino Hotel.

Lunch comprised 6 courses and was beyond delicious:

  • Amuse bouche: seared tuna, radish vinaigrette, and crispy breadsticks
  • The First course was rolled down the aisle on a nicely-arranged cart, with a choice of:
    • Fillet of Balik Salmon
    • Marinated snow crab salad wth sill, watercress and cucumber
    • A selection of meat specialities from the Canton of Zurich: Buffalo salami, Mostbröckli, ham and herbed bacon
    • Asparagus panna cotta and salad with egg yolk cream
    • Spring salad with smoked pod, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts, sorrel vinaigrette
  • Soup: tomato Saar – spiced tomato soup
  • Main course: confit monkfish with tomato and escabeche sauce, potato gnocchi and fennel ragout
  • Swiss cheese: selection of cheese from the canton of Zurich
  • Dessert: yoghurt mousse with pistachio and Felchlin white chocolate ganache, raspberry sorbet and shortbread

The menu did not indicate any mid-flight snack (or pre-arrival meal, for that matter). A small walk-up bar was set up in the galley though, with fresh fruits and Swiss chocolates.

Ninety minutes prior to landing, a light meal was offered, which was rather disappointing compared to the lunch served earlier in the flight:

  • Starter: mozzarella salad with heirloom tomatoes and Cavaillon melon
  • Main course: spinach and egg quiche
  • Dessert: Swiss apple tart & fresh fruits
SWISS A330: WELCOME DRINK & NUTS
SWISS A330: WELCOME DRINK & NUTS

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7. ENTERTAINMENT

Each seat has a personal 23 inch TV screen, and there are over 90 movies and 170 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 selection is navigated by using a handheld remote control which is located in a storage box on the side. Noise reducing headphones are also provided, blocking most noise from the cabin and aircraft as you watch your favorite programs.

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8. ONBOARD INTERNET

Swiss offers satellite internet on board all of its longhaul aircraft. The speed is similar to a public WiFi connection on the ground. The rate depends on how much data you use (which includes both downloads & uploads), rather than how long you spend online, and is shockingly high.

  • The least expensive option is 20 MB 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 costs you 59 Swiss Francs ($ 60 USD) and gets you a 220 MB package, that allows you to enjoy the full extent of the internet.

Swiss’ onboard internet is one of the most expensive in the world, but the carrier can afford it to charge this kind of insane rates since it is very popular and highly rated among Business and First Class travelers. On a positive note, First Class passengers received a voucher with a code for 50 MB of complimentary data.

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9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

#CREW: I’ve always been a fan of Swiss’ cabin crew, which I rate among the best in Europe. On this flight, service was exceptional again, with two efficient and courteous cabin crew members taking care of the First Class passengers, always with a genuine smile.

# TOILET: There is one lavatory for the 8 First Class passengers onboard Swiss’ A330 aircraft; this lavatory is located behind the cockpit.

SWISS A330: FIRST CLASS LAVATORY
SWISS A330: FIRST CLASS AMENITY KIT

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# VIEWS: We enjoyed clear views all the way from Zürich to New Delhi, affording some spectacular views, especially above the Alps and Eastern Turkey.

SWISS A330: VIEWS AFTER TAKEOFF
SWISS A330: VIEWS AFTER TAKEOFF
SWISS A330: VIEWS OVER EASTERN TURKEY
SWISS A330: VIEWS OVER EASTERN TURKEY

10. MY VERDICT
  • Cabin design: 8/10
  • Seat comfort (upright position): 9/10
  • Seat comfort (bed position): 8/10
  • Food (quality):  9/10
  • Food (quantity): 8/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 9/10
  • WiFi: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,5/10

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, great read, I often fly with Swiss as am I am from Switzerland, but “only” in business class … I have been to India several times, last time in 2018 and I’m going to Bhutan next year. I’m looking forward to your reviews here, a pity that you didn’t stay at the Como hotels!
    Happy travels, Franziska

  2. Hi, I really like your review. Recently I flew SWISS first on the 777 to/from BKK and have the next trip on the a330 to/from Beijing in October. In your verdict you rate food (quantity) only 8/10. On my last flights it was more 12/10. And when I look at your food pics it’s hard to believe you only got 80% full.. 🙂
    I look forward to reading your next reviews.
    Cheers, Olaf

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