Why SWISS short haul Business Class makes BA Club Europe look good!

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This is my review of SWISS Business Class between London Heathrow and Zurich.

Critics of British Airways Club Europe – and whilst a fairly heavy user I am not the biggest fan, mainly due to the food – have a problem.  Whilst it is possible to point to many airlines as offering a superior long-haul business class experience, there really isn’t much to offer in terms of short-haul benchmarks.

Criticism of Club Europe generally centres about value for money compared to Euro Traveller – especially if you have BA status and can pre-book an exit row seat with more leg room than CE – or with low cost carriers such as easyJet.  You don’t hear many comparisons with superior European business class products.

SWISS business class review heathrow zurich

You would think that SWISS would be able to set an example, with their aircraft packed full of expense-funded travellers.  On my 6am departure on Tuesday (the first flight out of Terminal 2 that day) there was FIFTEEN rows of Business Class but only 62 people on the aircraft in total!  I actually thought that SWISS had removed the curtain between Business and Economy until I was getting off and noticed it was actually 2/3rd of the way down the plane.

SWISS Business Class, however, proved to be dire.

In no particular order, let’s see why:

1C stuck out into the galley

Because of the way the cabin is laid out, 1C stuck out into the galley.  Having boarded fairly early, my feet and indeed my entire body were targets for the feet and bags of everyone else boarding after me.  Not fun.

No wardrobes

Whilst rarely seen on on low-cost carriers, British Airways is retaining Club Europe wardrobes.  They won’t take many coats in the future, because all of the emergency medical equipment is being moved into the wardrobes in the current refurb, but they will remain.  SWISS has got rid of theirs.

Super thin seating

SWISS has the ultra-thin seating that British Airways is introducing which runs throughout the entire plane.  You can see the width in the picture below.  If I’m honest it wasn’t hugely uncomfortable but not ideal.

The photo makes the seat look fatter than it is, because the back panel is partly covered in the same leather as the seat.  This optical illusion does work.

No middle tray table

Like BA, the middle seat is blocked in Business.  Unlike BA, they do not have a purpose-built table to slot in the space for the benefit of passengers.

Unappetising food

This is what we were fed – a vegetarian omelette with a slice of cheese thrown on top and some mushroom sauce.  Not great.  There was no Plan B.   Amusingly, the guy next to me – who had ordered vegetarian – refused it after taking one look.

Swiss short haul business class food

It wasn’t all bad, of course:

Boarding was efficient, albeit with only 62 passengers it wasn’t a major strain

The first couple of luggage lockers were clearly marked ‘Business Class Passengers Only’

Bottles of water were offered before take-off

SWISS still comes around the plane with chocolates before landing

What does confuse me is why SWISS bothers to pay for a full crew to stay in London overnight, plus the parking costs of the aircraft, just to depart at a time so early (6am) that it only has a token passenger loading.  Tuesday is generally one of the busier days of the week too.


If there is a solution to the problem of European short-haul Business Class, SWISS has not found it.  Given a straight choice between British Airways and SWISS I would take BA although, as I will cover separately, the Lufthansa lounge in Terminal 2 isn’t bad.

If you’re wondering whether SWISS long-haul is any better, that review will also follow in a few days.

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  1. Harry Hv says:

    Unlucky. My experience, the food is very good, the seats are no less comfortable and a great deal cleaner than BA’s. Plus you avoid the risk of BA’s spiteful auto-offloading of latecomers if there’s a hold-up at security.

    Best way to buy Swiss business class ex London is to start buying an economy fare on the Swiss website, they always offer a cheap upgrade. Example: London-Geneva June 1: business class is £222, economy is £59.00 and the upgrade is offered at £61 for a total of £120.

  2. Chris L says:

    I took that 6am flight (ouch) a few months ago but in economy. There was a similar loading so I grabbed a row of 3 to myself. Not sure I could see the point of paying extra for business class – we got a little bun for breakfasts as well as coffee, orange juice and water – and, most importantly, some Swiss chocolate. I guess most of the people flying Swiss in Europe have Business class travel by policy so maybe they don’t need to try.

    The return flight was a fully loaded A321 and I felt very sorry for the poor chap in 1B who must have been kicked and trodden on by well over a hundred economy passengers as they passed him!

    • Lady London says:

      And that’s no better on EZ either.

      What a pity Rob that your flight departed from Terminal 2 at 6am. A later flight would have given you the chance to make the trek to the United, Singapore and maybe even the Maple Leaf lounge in Terminal 2 ! 🙂

  3. Michael C says:

    Pretty much OT, but returning BCN-LHR in Club this week, over half the passengers seemed to be non-native English speakers (without wishing to profile!).
    I therefore wondered what they made of the “Ploughman’s or sandwiches? Ploughman’s or sandwiches?” offered, without being shown anything.
    The sandwiches were beyond a joke. Was that…FIG in one?!!

    • agree last sandwiches were rubbish, I think the Barcelona food is similar to the Madrid offering as it is not as far as some of the other destinations in Spain.

  4. I would also say unlucky. I’ve flown Swiss from Manchester a couple of times on a CS100, so if you are sat on the left of the plane there is no one else on your side of the aisle.. Food was good, drinks were plentiful, crew were very friendly and the time we arrived in Zurich at a remote stand there was a separate, very nice for a 2-minute trip, minibus for business class folk. I much preferred the lounge that I used near the B gates to any BA Galleries Club lounge that I’ve been in (not many admittedly) and on a very short onward flight to Stuttgart I was impressed that there was a decent snack and drinks served – on a flight that lasted 27 minutes. I would definitely use them again in preference to BA.
    I wouldn’t normally bother with Business for such trips, but in these cases the price difference between Economy and Business was tiny.

    • Thanks for sharing. I was hoping for a review of the Bombardier business class. I look forward to trying it, from what I have read it is also extremely quiet. Was that apparent to you?

      I hope BA chooses to replace the Embraers at LCY with the Cseries rather than the E2. The planes are more comfortable (cabin wider) and it would support British jobs (the wings are manufactured in Northern Ireland).

      If the seats/cabin are better than Embraer (can anyone confirm) then they should choose the best ‘hard’ product.

  5. Hi
    I travelled Swiss yesterday and once last week and I have to say it was most likely the best European short haul flight experience. The huge difference is the attitude of the crew vs the crew operating out of other airlines. They were happy doing their job and conversing with pax.
    On another note Rob I think you experienced perhaps a one off bad food?? Yes not blocking the middle is not great and the ultra thin seas but BA will shortly have those along with tiny toilets…

  6. I am one of the (few?) guys who still chooses to travel in business class on short-haul European and domestic flights AND who pays with his own money despite being told regularly that it wasn’t worth it. I love being on planes so much that instead of taking a direct Lufthansa flight on a recent journey from Krakow to Frankfurt, I booked myself (and the OH) on SWISS KRK-ZRH-FRA.
    What I did like was the fact that I could pick our seats at the time of booking without being a *A status passenger. I also liked the choice of “surprises” you can arrange pre-flight online: I went for a box of SWISS chocolates for Mrs. Volker including a personal note.
    Looking at the whole experience, however, I was disappointed. I had never been on a SWISS flight before and with BA being slagged off by so many of my fellow travellers and given the Swiss reputation when it comes to hospitality, my expectations where high…
    Well, I knew about the thin seats on LH flights but wasn’t aware that SWISS had got them, too. I don’t like them at all, they remind me of public buses. The planes were NOT any cleaner than BA’s, they were actually pretty grubby, which was a bit of a shock given the Swiss reputation in the world. Food was okay but, again, not any better than BA. And the chocolate surprise? There was a delay before take-off, and while the plane was still waiting at the gate, a male member of the cabin crew said to my OH “I might as well do that now while we are waiting”. While Mrs. Volker looked at me, wondering what he meant, he went to get the chocolates and gave them to her: “Somebody has been thinking of you.” It’s all about timing, they say, and I thought that was a bit awkward, almost like “let’s get that out of the way first”. The chocolates were absolutely gorgeous by the way…
    Would I CHOOSE to fly SWISS on short-haul again? Not necessarily.
    I look forward to reading about your long-haul experience, Rob.

    • ‘I am one of the (few?) guys who still chooses to travel in business class on short-haul European and domestic flights AND who pays with his own money despite being told regularly that it wasn’t worth it’

      Nope, we are the same. I like just walking in to the lounge, going through the priority lanes, siting down first, getting off first and all on my boarding pass. We had to get a Priority pass because we fly Norwegian a lot which doesn’t have a biz class and the first time we used it was when Gatwick had the electric problems and they were only letting ticketed pax in the lounge. They turned us away at the door – I was so embarrassed.

      • +1 we also pay for CE sometimes for the lounge access, fast track security and to be able to get off the plane first.

  7. Well we flew Swiss to Zurich albeit economy , for Christmas and it was fine – a little brekki bun , hot drink and a chocolate ????. All very efficient .
    On the other hand I really enjoyed our club Europe mini holiday to Valencia in January … less than £600 for 2 club Europe return flights and four nights in a nice modern apartment right in the centre of the city – such a bargain ! And I thought the hot brekki on the way out was was very tasty and the four course lunch on the way back also really good . Plus we each got 80 tier points ????????

    • Joan we’re taking a CE break in March to Valencia. Similar good price. Rtn flights in CE and 4 nights in what looks like a lovely hotel in a good location for £1k for both of us.

      Any good tips you have for Valencia I’d be very grateful.

      • Oh yes I do Tilly .. we were lucky enough to have beautiful warm weather in January . We went on the open top tour bus to the beach one day and had lunch outside in the Marina Club which was lovely and huge ( as were the gin and tonics !) it was great to walk along the prom at the beach too – was nice and empty in January . You can hire bikes too.
        The most fabulous restaurant though was this one – we pre ordered the cod and cauliflower paella for a late lunch and it was amazing – such a fantastic restaurant ( it’s only open for lunch except on Saturday )
        Also if you happen to be in the vicinity we went one evening to a gorgeous tiny bar called Tinto Fino Ultramarino which was delightful and served the most delicious platter of Spanish hams and cheeses …
        to be honest it’s a foodie heaven in Valencia . I’m still working it all off with green juices and going to the gym !
        Oh Bar Almudín was highly recommended on trip advisor – don’t go there for dinner – that was our worst !
        We were staying just near Plaza de la Reina btw – brilliantly central .
        You’ll love it !

        • Hi Joan
          Are you able to tell me the name of the centrally located apartments that you stayed in. It sounds nice and I’d like to check out such a trip. Thanks in advance.

        • Oooh. Thanks Joan! All sounds amazing! Will definitely check out your recommendations. I am such a foodie so will be hunting down what you have recommended.

          We’re staying at Hospes Palau de la Mar hotel. I hope it’s as nice as the reviews say.

        • Nice, the Hospes Palau de la Mar hotel looks like a good value SPG point redemption

        • I’m not enrolled in SPG. Tend to stick with Hilton Honors and don’t go away for business much anymore. Have an IHG account but all my points from work stays expired because I just didn’t use them and stopped spending so much time away from home.

          Just realised I said i paid £1k for us for this trip. Was clearly half asleep this morning. Was nearer £850 for the 2 of us.

          I am really looking forward to Valencia!

      • You’re welcome Tilly – have a great time !
        Rob – here’s a link through booking.com for the apartments we used although we booked through BA… they were very modern and comfy and clean – they have a kitchen but not much in the way of cooking utensils but we didn’t want to eat in anyway

  8. I think Swiss is very good indeed in Business. Generally food is better than BA, wine is substantially better. The crew are highly professional and consistent. The water, the chocolate, the clearly marked Business Class luggage bins. It all feels more premium than BA.

  9. Prins Polo says:

    Is the comment re wardrobes correct? I thought they’ve been removed, at least on some aircraft (I don’t think there are any eg kn ex-BMI a/c).

  10. AspirationalFlyer says:

    Interesting review but I’m not sure it reflects my last flights on Swiss in short-haul business class, which were born very good. On the outbound from London, I managed to enjoy a couple of cocktails in the United Lounge – it’s a bit of a trek but was a very pleasant experience. On the return flight, I was given several glasses of pre-departure champagne and very attentive service throughout the flight. The food in both directions was unmemorable, but I always set my expectations low on short haul services. It was definatley worth the extra £50 or so each way I paid. I’m travelling with Swiss again in March, and I’m looking forward to it.

  11. I actually prefer Swiss J over BA J, having flown them in paid business quite a few times – 6 last year alone. The food generally is a lot better than BA, I prefer their lounge in T2 and I do love their chocolates, where on one flight they gave me an entire unopened box to take with me. As Volker said, picking my seat without status is decent, but most importantly for me is something you didn’t like: the lack of a tray. I like the middle seat simply being empty, as my partner and I can sit next to each other and have plenty of space to dump all our things on the end seat.

    I just wish the European airliners would bring back the decent seats again. Russia is still one of the last remaining pillars of decency – not something I expected to write today. I flew Aeroflot and S7 in J on SVO>GOB, an hour long flight, and both had the old style, spacious seats. You even had a separate business class bus pick you up/collect you, and seeing that I was the only passenger in J, it was pretty efficient.

    • Vietnam airlines are similar, decent seats, separate bus for business class, perhaps its a communist party thing!

      • Maybe they don’t have gazillion shareholders to squeeze every penny for, to maintain the all mighty infinite growth and returns.

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