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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.

Conclusion

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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Comments (55)

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • Tom C says:

    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.

    • CV3V says:

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

      • Steve says:

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

  • Marcw says:

    SWISS is not the best airline – it’s like Luftys expensive low cost (I mean operational low cost – not LC as we know it). My experience with them has not been great: three bookings, and on two of them cancelled flight to Zurich once from Lhr (last Christmas) and once from Bcn (a few years ago). However was both times rebooked into Lufty, with similar arrival times to final destination.
    There isn’t a problem in the short haul Business Class in Europe, as long as the fares are reasonable. Last winter: return Italy to the Canaries in Business with IB/IBS for £300 (while economy was £190).
    Also I guess it’s not fair to comment on how bad the food is, without knowing what’s offered during the other time slots. Perhaps lunch, afternoon and dinner is way better than the Ba offerings. The on average Swiss food is better – however From the few reports on Swiss short haul business class, the food doesn’t look very good, More like a snack/tapas oriented meal, than a proper meal.
    On overall, from my experience and what I’ve read in the net, SWISS does not have a better short-haul product compared to BA. Even though in economy you get “free” food, I prefer BoB: it allows me to choose what I want (when I’m hungry), and not some unappetising bread roll. That’s me! Sorry, I know many of you prefer something free even though it’s tasteless or unappealing.

  • Carl says:

    I was really impressed with the quality of Swiss’s short haul business. In my experience the food and wine has been a far superior and the service level has been leagues ahead. I actually didn’t think too badly of Club Europe until I tried what Swiss had to offer.

  • Andrew C says:

    Their website makes it clear this is not meant to be the case:

    > We guarantee that on the entire European fleet, the neighbouring seat will remain vacant to give you even more privacy.

    Very interesting to hear this was not your experience.

    • Carl says:

      This also happened to my wife on Swiss short-haul business class, albeit about 7 or 8 years ago.

  • Gerry says:

    My daughter and I flew with Swiss from Dublin -Zurich in business to connect to long haul. It was cheaper to do this than fly BA economy from my home airport Edinburgh to my destination.
    I have no status with Swiss, but seat allocation on booking is great – row 1 both directions – but you are right about seat 1C sticking out a bit. Aircraft was full in economy, only 4 in business with 2 staff keeping us comfortable. We left late morning and were given lunch which was superb and far better than that produced by BA on our way to Dublin. Wines were very nice too.
    I am surprised at your experience but hope that was a blip as my experience was far better.

  • czechoslovakia says:

    Rob — Afraid that ain`t a real SWISS breakfast. I`ll do 3 to 4 segments with SWISS in business a month (first leg always plane returning to Zurich, but NOT having spent the night away) and the main component is completely different. I`m guessing that what you got was provided by a 3rd party local catering firm. SWISS short-haul business breakfast is various cold cults, grapes, fruit compot, croissants – Very nice indeed. No excuse though for SWISS serving that though – reminds me of the episode of Blackadder when they pretended to be chefs “How do you manage to get that must “Custard” out of one small cat, Baldrick?”
    Made the mistake of 1C myself once – never again!
    LH has a better solution in row 1 in that the table is built into the bulkhead, so no need for the narrow seat with fixed armrest as in Swiss.
    The C series is much better. 2 x 2 layout and no-one next to you “Cruz?”)
    Private minibus shuttle in Zurich for Biz pax is a huge plus too, and the lounges there are great.

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