Review: SWISS Airbus A321 business class (Rome-Zurich)

Overall Rating

By Chris C., September 24 2018
SWISS Airbus A321 business class (Rome-Zurich)

Rome -Zurich

Aircraft Type

Airbus A321





Cabin Class



2A (window)

The Good
  • Friendly service with an empty seat next to you
  • Rome's Star Alliance Lounge
The Bad
  • 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.

Read: What is EuroBusiness business class?


  • 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.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 177

The chocolates are always quite good. During the world cup they made a special football chocolate, which was a hit with my son when I returned home.

I always find Swiss reliable and enjoy when I fly with them. When there was once an issue with a connecting flight, their ability to link in with LH made sure I made it home that night.

03 May 2012

Total posts 121

I struggle to understand why the airlines and seat manufacturers do not come up with a half decent convertible business seat for short trips. That way the airlines still have flexibility in the amount of J seats they have on a flight, and have better seats for J passengers.

Those on the QF 737-400s were not great, but better than the intra-European option used by many airlines.

"I struggle to understand why the airlines and seat manufacturers do not come up with a half decent convertible business seat for short trips."

Paperclip Design's "Checkerboard" seating seems to be what you're interested in, but I don't think any seat manufacturer has purchased the design yet.


22 Dec 2012

Total posts 35

What an awful seat. 3 1/2 stars? I'd give it just one.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

Hi mo, the star ratings given reflect the market in which the product operates, and as far as short flights within Europe go, the seat meets the local standard, without exceeding it. Accordingly, we've given the seat 2.5 stars (equal to 5 out of 10, reflecting that mid-market position).

The overall rating of 3.5 stars reflects the full experience from door to door, including lounges, dining, service and so on, and we'd highlight that of the various ratings given, the seat received the lowest score.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 165

Gee, AN, TN/QF used to do heaps better here in Oz with their old convertible Y - J seat with a twist and a turn: the fold out cocktail table centre armrest plus the turning inwards of centre seat armrests to make two wider seats. Hey, not recliners or sleeper seats by any means,but would be a darn site better than any other Euro J class.

23 Aug 2012

Total posts 29

Lucky you, Chris, things worked out fairly nicely. Although Swiss offers a less bad service experience than Lufthansa does, the food presentation is nicer - that's about all.
Compare them to BA's EU business, they do a fair bit better.
There is no point in moving that bloody curtain, except for increasing revenue - have you ever been in an A321 with business class extending far behind the second door?

Malaysia Airlines - Enrich

01 Jun 2015

Total posts 28

Why not they just go witha proper Bizness Class like Turkish Airlines. Maybe twisted a little bit by installing a Premium Economy seats with 35 inch of legroom. That would be sufficient for an Intra-Europe flight.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2018

Total posts 49

Generally ,you get what you pay for...My experience has been that most of these European business class seats are relatively inexpensive if paying with money. I got a 4 hour flight for $440 AUS on BA. It would be double that easily on an Australian flight. However, using points is probably "pointless", especially if you get most of the perks with your status anyway.

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