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SWISS Airbus A340 business class Zurich to Bangkok (not impressed)

SWISS Airbus A340 business class Zurich to Bangkok (not impressed)

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Old Jun 21, 15, 7:47 am
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SWISS Airbus A340 business class Zurich to Bangkok (not impressed)

On April 14th 2015, I flew Business Class in Swiss International Air Lines‘ oldest Airbus A340-300 from Zurich Airport (ZRH) in Zwitserland to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Aiport (BKK) in Thailand. Swiss is part of the Lufthansa group and has the reputation of being one of Europe’s best airlines and offering a great onboard product. I flew them a couple of years ago and I loved the experience (although this may be explained by the fact that it was my first Business Class flight ever). On this particular occasion, they failed to impress me: the Business Class product – albeit only a few years old – starts to feel dated, the entertainment system (with very small personal screens) is disappointing, the seat is very uncomfortable in the lie flat position, and they ran out of food options immediately after take-off.

I took a lot of photos, which I will upload in the next post below. I also made a Youtube clip of the flight experience:

- Trip: ZRH-BKK
- Airline: Swiss International Air Lines
- Aircraft type: Airbus A340-300
- Aircraft registration number: HB-JMJ
- Flight Number: LX180
- Date: April 14th, 2015
- On time departure: yes (6pm)
- On time arrival: yes (9.30 am)
- Miles: 5632
- Flight time: 10.30
- Seat: 10A
- Class: business (D)

1. PANORAMA LOUNGE AT ZURICH AIRPORT

Most of Swiss’ intercontinental flights (to the US, Asia and Africa) depart from Zurich Airport’s Concourse E, which is connected to the main terminals by a 5 minute, underground train ride. The latter aims to impress transfer passengers with graphics of a good-looking girl in the mountains (Heidi, girl of the Alps?) on the tunnel wall and with sounds of Alphorns and mooing cows; this is Switzerland after all!

Unfortunately, Swiss does not have its own lounge at Concourse E, but uses the Panorama Lounge instead, which caters to First and Business Class passengers of a variety of airlines (Emirates is the only airline which has its own lounge in Concourse E). Holders of Priority Pass and Diners Club also have access to Panorama Lounge. The lounge decor is far from inspiring and the food options are very basic (sandwiches, fruit, soup, and a cake). On a positive note, chairs are comfortable and the floor to ceiling windows have gorgeous views on the tarmac and Alpes, and there's an outdoor terrace that is accessible in summer.

Compared to the Swiss Lounge in the main terminal, the Panorama Lounge is clearly a step down. So, unless you are a plane freak and love to observe the tarmac traffic (either from the inside of the lounge or on the terrace), you may prefer to wait in Swiss Lounge and then take the underground ride to Concourse E around 10 minutes before boarding time.

From the lounge, it was a 5 minute walk to the gate where the Airbus A340-300 was ready for boarding. On this occasion, the flight was operated by Swiss’ oldest Airbus A340, registration number HB-JMJ (a former Canada Airlines plane, that left the Airbus factory in Toulouse in 1996).

2. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

Business Class on Swiss’ Airbus A340 is spread over 2 cabins: a small Business Class cabin with only 9 seats (in 2 rows) is located behind the First Class cabin, and a large Business Class cabin with just 38 seats (in 8 rows) is situated in front of the Economy cabin. Both Business Class cabins are divided by the main boarding door, a galley and 2 lavatories.

The Business Class seats are placed in a staggered configuration, a so-called Sogerma Solstys layout, whereby a compartment for your feet (and legs) is located between and under the seats in front. The same layout can be found on Brussels Airlines’ A330, Finnair’s A330/A340, Austrian’s B767/B777, Delta’s B767, and American’s B767. On the Swiss Airbus A340, this configuration means that the middle seats always come in pairs, the aisle seats on the right side of the plane are all single seats, while the seats on the left side of the plane alternate from one to two per row. Most seats have direct aisle access, except for the window seats on left side of the plane where you will have to jump over your neighbor’s legs.

The cabin feels spacious, airy, and very ‘Swiss”, with a sharp contrast between blond wood and cross-stitched, dark brown seats. But although the Business Class product was only introduced across the Swiss fleet a few years ago, IMHO, it starts to feel a little dated. It definitely looks and feels less trendy, luxurious and fresh as compared to the design aboard its Lufthansa Group sister company Austrian Airlines, which uses the same layout (I try publish a trip report about them soon). If you have a choice, fly Austrian, not Swiss.

3. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

I was seated in seat 8A.

All Business Class seats have the same characteristics: 152 cm (60 inches) in pitch, a width of 52 cm (20,5 inch), and a 180 degree recline. All seats have at least one large work surface on the side (where you can set up your laptop), with some seats featuring a work space on both sides (a so-called 'throne seat'). Within that work surface, you will find the seat controls to adjust the seat position (from take-off position to fully flat) but also to adjust the seat cushion. Yes, you read that right. Swiss Business Class seats contain air-filled chambers, and with one press on the button you can make the seat cushion softer or firmer according to your liking, as well as activate its integrated massage function. On the side of the seat, there's also a power port, a personal reading lamp (at eye level), and the meal tray (which is hard to get out). In front of the seat, you will find the disappointingly small entertainment screen (see below), with the foot compartment below.

The seat is comfortable when you are sitting upright, but it's a different story in its lie-flat position. Although it's a 180 degree recline, the seat (and your lower legs) descends into a small box carved out for it in the seat(s) in front, below your entertainment screen. This foot compartment narrows to its end and its ceiling is very low, so it's impossible to switch position during your sleep as your legs have not enough room to move around (although the seats that do not have the 'throne' feature have a little bit more space for the feet). 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.

What are the best Business Class seats on Swiss' Airbus A340-300? .
- The seats in the first cabin (row 4 & 5) are preferable since this cabin feels more intimate.
- The single best seats for solo travelers are the throne seats 10A and 12A. Unfortunately, Swiss reserves these seats for its Miles & More Elite members, although you could always call the Swiss reservation center to request one of these seats (it worked for me).
- If 10A or 12A are not available, then solo travelers should go for 4A or 6A, (also throne seats, albeit with a less open view) or the seats on the right side of the plane, which are all solo seats: these come with less work space, but have a larger foot compartment.
- Travel companions should go for the middle seats, which all have direct aisle access. There are also paired window seats in rows 5, 7, 9, 11 and 14, but here the passenger in the window seat will have to jump over his/her neighbour's feet to get access to aisle.

What are the worst Business Class seats on Swiss' Airbus A340-300?
- I suggest to avoid the window seats in row 8 (8A & AK) since they are missing a window.
- Seats 14A, 14B & 14K as well as seats 15D & 15G are directly in front of the Economy bassinet seats (so you may end up being close to young children).

4. AMENITIES

Each seat comes with a nice though somewhat firm blanket and a comfortable pillow. The Business Class amenity kit, an environmently-friendly bag, only contained essentials: lipbalm, (bright red) socks, eyeshade, toothbrush, toothpaste, and earplugs. IMHO, this is one of the most basic - and thus most disappointing - amenity kits in the skies.

5. MEALS

Before takeoff, I was offered a choice of welcome drinks: orange juice, water, or Champagne. I had the orange juice. A small, hot towel was offered after take-off.

About 30 minutes later (6.30 pm local time), dinner was offered. Although food was very good and tasty, the crew unfortunately ran out of food options after taking orders from only a few passengers. I was seated in row 8 (Business Class starts in row 4, and ends in row 14), but fish was no longer available when they took my order (despite the fact that Business Class was only half full). Remarkably, I later learned that a friend, who was seated in row 10, insisted on having the fish and got it.

The starter consisted of salmon trout tartare with horseradish cream, beetroot and goat's cheese. Delicious! While I would have prefered the fish as a main course, the only choice left was corn-fed chicken with Sbrinz sauce, potato purée with truffle, gnocchi, and green aspergus. It was quite good. Desert was a tiramisu Tentazioni with salted chocolate crumble. All by all, an excellent gastronomic experience at 40,000 feet!

90 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: cold meats, several cheeses, muesli, fruit salad, and/or eggs.

6. ENTERTAINMENT

In front of your seat, you will find the adjustable personal entertainment screen. It is disappointingly small (10.4 inches) and as such feels very outdated as compared to Swiss' competitors. In addition, the quality of the screen is quite poor. The entertainment program itself was ok: it did what is was supposed to do, keep me entertained. Unfortunately, the planes cameras did not work (or at least did not connect to the entertainment system). And to my great disappointment, one my favorite features during a flight did not work: the flight map showed the plane located at Zurich airport for the duration of the flight.

7. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# VIEWS: immediately after take-off, passengers on the right side of the plane were offered some tremendous and stunning views of the Alps.

# CREW: the cabin crew on this flight was great, welcoming and served all of us with a smile.

# LAVATORY: The Business Class lavatory design is very simple. Lavatories were kept clean during the flight.

# INTERNET: onboard WiFi is currently not offered by Swiss.

8. VERDICT
- Seat : 5/10
- Food: 6/10
- Inflight entertainment : 3/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin: 6/10
- Overall experience: average: 5/10
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Old Jun 21, 15, 7:59 am
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Last edited by theLuxuryTravelExpert; Jun 21, 15 at 11:03 am
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Old Jun 21, 15, 9:50 am
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Well-written and informative re seat locations. I must say those seats do look uncomfortable. Thanks for the report.
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Old Jun 21, 15, 12:23 pm
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Thanks for your report, I totally agree with you on pretty much all points.

Pity that they ran out of fish already when they reached you. I was once seated in the last row of C on a full flight and they apparently still had all the choices, which left me rather surprised (and happy). Otherwise the product seems consistent, even if it isn't stellar.
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Old Jun 21, 15, 12:51 pm
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Economy class long haul is also mediocre.

I miss the old Swissair pre 1980s.
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Old Jun 22, 15, 2:50 am
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The food definitely looks '6/10'. Not bad but nothing outstanding.
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Old Jun 23, 15, 2:47 am
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Pity you didn't enjoy it.... I found the food delicious and the seats extremely comfortable on our flight with Swiss.
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Old Jun 23, 15, 3:44 am
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LX is losing edge with their current J hard product when they are compared to other carriers like CX or SQ or the ME3. I don't find anymore flying LX J class as adventurous as it used to be!!

I think they should work out something more competitive and start replacing those seats ASAP.
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Old Jun 23, 15, 7:37 am
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Originally Posted by Nanook View Post
Well-written and informative re seat locations. I must say those seats do look uncomfortable. Thanks for the report.
I thought so too. They look strange with all that room on either side of the seat, which looks small.

Thanks for the report. I enjoy reading about airlines I have not been on.
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Old Jun 23, 15, 8:18 am
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Originally Posted by SAtraveller View Post
Pity you didn't enjoy it.... I found the food delicious and the seats extremely comfortable on our flight with Swiss.
I felt the same way, but that was several years ago. Thanks for the TR
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Old Jun 24, 15, 7:26 am
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I haven't tried LX J yet, but I'd agree it does not look impressive.

The red amenity kit looks nice

Thanks for the TR!
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Old Jun 27, 15, 2:48 am
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I've taken quite a few flights in the single throne seats on LX, and I must say that I quite like them. They are not as wide as they probably should be, but they are much more practical than BA's J seats, where you almost always have to step over someone if you're in a widow seat. As far as comfort goes, place an extra blanket down and it will be a bit softer.
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Old Jun 27, 15, 10:43 am
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Thanks for the TR! I've heard mixed things about the seats myself, but the other option for our upcoming TATL trip is LH's new J, which I've already tried.

A friend mentioned that LX is one of the few carriers that actually keeps their planes cool overnight. Did you happen to notice if that was the case? Makes it much easier to sleep in my experience.
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Old Jun 27, 15, 12:25 pm
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As you put (not impressed) in the thread title I thought I was going to read something bad about the product.

Maybe I'm easily pleased but it all looks pretty good to me.
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Old Jun 27, 15, 2:29 pm
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Originally Posted by HIDDY View Post
As you put (not impressed) in the thread title I thought I was going to read something bad about the product.

Maybe I'm easily pleased but it all looks pretty good to me.
I concur! I'm excited about my upcoming trip, but like yourself I'm easily pleased.
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