- Friendly service with an empty seat next to you
- Rome's Star Alliance Lounge
- It may be 'business class', but this is an economy seat
- No AC/USB power
- Champagne and chocolate
Switzerland's national airline SWISS offers a variety of flights both long and short, but if you're visiting more than one destination on your European business trip, you may find yourself crossing the continent aboard a SWISS Airbus A321, providing business class service but in an economy-style seat.
Yes, as is to be expected in Europe, your business class ticket includes just about everything except for a business class seat. Australian Business Traveller put SWISS to the test on a recent journey from Rome to Zurich to see how the rest of the experience stacked up.
- Frequent flyer program: As a member of Lufthansa Group, Miles & More is SWISS' default frequent flyer program, but being part of the global Star Alliance cohort as well, travellers can make use of other programs too such as Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and United MileagePlus, to name but a couple.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x8kg bags up to 118cm each (126cm for foldable garment bags).
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg.
- Priority airport services: With a connecting flight from Frankfurt the same day, I checked-in for my SWISS flight at the same time, so there was no need to re-check in Rome or clear security again. Priority boarding was strictly enforced, however, and my priority-tagged bag was the first to emerge on the belt in Zurich.
At Rome Airport, SWISS passengers can make use of the new Star Alliance Lounge...
... where there's plenty of pizza, pasta, Italian espresso and Limoncello to go around:
AusBT review: Star Alliance Lounge, Rome Fiumicino Airport
As with 'business class' on most short flights across Europe, aboard SWISS, the forward cabin essentially provides the usual amenities and services of a traditional business class experience, but delivered in an economy seat.
Here, the cabin adopts the same 3-3 seating layout as economy, although the middle seat in business class is always left empty to provide travellers with a bit more elbow room, making the passenger layout 2-2, or AxC-DxF:
European airlines do this so that the curtain can be moved forward or backward on any given flight to either shrink business class and create more space in economy, or vice versa, as demand dictates.
When you're in business class, that spare middle seat provides some extra space for your gear, even small items like newspapers and magazines, although there's no fixed cocktail table here as on some other carriers:
There's also a small storage pocket in front of you, and being a 90-minute hop from one city to the next, I found the knee room and legroom more than ample...
... which also appeared to be the case at the bulkhead seats in row one:
I wanted to keep my laptop bag by my seat while also enjoying the views of Italy and Switzerland when passing overhead, so chose a seat in the second row...
... where the tray tables are also sturdier than in the first row for working on a laptop, being a solid fold-down panel rather than a fold-in-half tray as in front:
Wherever you sit though, it's still a comfortable-enough experience for such a short leg, despite how spoiled we are for business class travel on short flights within Australia.
Just be sure to charge your devices before the flight, as there's no access to AC or USB power here.
With a scheduled departure time of 8pm, the crew stop by before take-off to deliver a bottle of water (which fits perfectly in the pouch in front) and a refresher towelette...
... before supper is served, pairing a fresh main plate with bread, cheese, and what was a strawberry and cream dessert, presented very similarly to the raspberry yoghurts in Australian domestic business class lounges. Duval-Leroy Brut Champagne is offered too...
... with Swiss chocolate to follow:
After sampling many of the Italian delights in Rome's Star Alliance Lounge, the meal proved an ideal size, although there's no menu available, so you take what you're given.
Entertainment & Service
With the seat on board very much like economy, I did appreciate that the overhead lockers in business class were closed on boarding and had their purpose clearly marked...
... but when it comes to inflight entertainment, it's very much BYO. There are screens overhead, but these are only used for the safety demonstration, some inflight updates and connecting gate information closer to landing:
I'd loaded up my Microsoft Surface with videos and had my own headphones, so was all set, although the width of the literature pocket in the seatback was just a tad to small to slot my device in, so I balanced it on the regular tray table instead.
Service-wise, the cabin crew were friendly and efficient, and while sitting in an economy seat certainly doesn't add to the business class experience, it's the norm in this part of the world, and after 90 minutes, you're already there.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Zurich as a guest of Star Alliance and SWISS.