This is our review of SWISS Business Class to Dubai on an Airbus A330.
It is the third part of our review series looking at the SWISS Business Class experience. You can see our review of the Lufthansa Business Class Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2 here and our review of the SWISS Senator Lounge at Zurich Terminal E here.
So far I have been fairly impressed with SWISS. Whilst the food in the lounges has not been the greatest, I liked the style and brightness of the Zurich lounge in particular.
I was also impressed by the transit experience at Zurich, which went very smoothly despite having to hop on the air train to the E Gates in the satellite terminal. The terminal building is very Swiss – pristine, clean and nice and airy.
So far so good – but how does the SWISS Business Class experience compare?
Boarding my SWISS A330
The boarding experience was, to put it frankly, a little chaotic. Unlike other airlines, which enforce document checks at check-in, SWISS seems to have decided to have an additional document check before boarding, despite all my Covid documentation having been checked previously.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem but the airline staff went about it in a completely chaotic way, setting up three temporary trolleys to process passengers. One was set up for First Class and Business Class passengers whilst the other two were for economy passengers.
Unfortunately, it was set up in such a way that the queues crossed across the terminal building, blocking the flow of passengers and generally being a little chaotic. Not very Swiss at all! And all for a little stamp on by boarding pass that, as far as I can tell, is only for SWISS use and not for the UAE authorities.
The sooner we can get rid of these ridiculous checks the better, for everyone involved…
Business Class on a SWISS A330
The A330 forms the backbone of the SWISS long haul fleet with fourteen aircraft. All the A330s have the same seat map:
As you can see, there are 8 First Class seats in a 1-2-1 layout across two rows. Behind this is a very small Business Class cabin made up of just two rows, followed by a larger Business Class cabin made up of eight rows. In total, there are 45 lie-flat Business Class seats.
SWISS have opted for the Thompson Vantage business class seat. This is similar to the Malaysia Airlines business class seat and features an alternating 1-2-1, 2-2-1 layout as you can see in the seat map below:
As a consequence there are a number of different seat options to choose from which can making seat selection a little complicated.
The best seats by far are the ‘throne’ seats. These are the even numbered A seats, so 4A, 6A, 8A and so forth. These have consoles on both sides, affording better privacy and more storage. You can see one on the far right here:
Second best – if you are a solo traveller – are the single seats on the right hand side of the aircraft, ie. 4K, 5K, 6K etc. These are alternating in that odd numbers have the seat directly next to the window with the console on the aisle, whilst even numbers have the seat on the aisle and the console table on the window.
Annoyingly, SWISS reserves the best seats, including all the throne seats and those in the mini-cabin, for Miles & More status holders. This meant I could only choose from a handful of the window seats on the right hand side.
I reserved seat 11K for myself but at check-in seat 9K had come up. Why not, I thought – get a bit further forward. What I had stupidly forgotten in my rush to select them is that there are missing windows in row 9 so that – even if you are sat by a window – you only really get half a window. To be fair, SWISS does warn you about this when you select them …. but let this be a lesson – don’t ever pick row 9.
9K – my Business Class seat
The SWISS Business Class seat are not hugely private, and I was glad to have a window rather than aisle seat:
The seat comes with a reading material pouch, coat hanger (although I don’t think I saw anyone use this on my flight) and in flight entertainment screen:
Under this is the foot cubby hole, which is common these days. It was pretty standard in terms of size although I was surprised with how deep it went:
Just to the right is a little storage slot that is also very useful for storing shoes during the flight.
You then have your console table, which is useful for boarding drinks, amenity kit etc:
Inside the console is your tray table which pops out in two leaves.
I like airlines which have flexible table sizing as it means you don’t need to have a massive table out just for a small drink or similar.
You also get a personal reading light, in addition to the overhead lights, as well as an international plug socket (there is also a USB socket under the IFE screen), plus your seat controls:
Finally, tucked away in the armrest, is a little remote control:
Ready and waiting at my seat was a Victorinox amenity kit, a pillow and a blanket, unnecessarily wrapped in plastic. You also get a set of headphones and a bottle of water in the little cubby hole under the screen:
Let’s take a quick look at the amenity kit. This was a soft pouch with a mesh on one side, so partially see-through:
It contained a pair of red socks, ear plugs, eye mask, tooth brush and toothpaste:
I wasn’t hugely impressed by the amenity kit – the bag itself felt more like a school pencil case than a Business Class product. Fortunately SWISS has a handful of different designs by Victorinox and on my return I had a very snazzy black tin which I thought was much classier. The contents were the same but it felt much nicer, and the tin is very useful to have.
Whilst waiting for boarding to complete the crew came round with the Business Class menu and a drink, either champagne or a non-alcoholic option:
In flight entertainment and wifi
This is one thing where the SWISS Business Class seat really suffers: in flight entertainment. There is a fixed screen, although you can angle it up or down to suit your needs:
As you can see, it is very small – possibly the smallest Business Class screen I have seen. It is about the same size you would expect in economy or premium economy. It is also not particularly bright so during a day flight it is not easy to see.
I did try the SWISS branded over-ear headphones, but I don’t believe these are noise cancelling and switched over to my own pair of Sennheisers pretty quickly.
In terms of content the variety wasn’t bad, particularly given the dearth of cinema releases in the past year. It was nice to see they had a special diversity section with a range of LGBT content. As I had seen pretty much all of them I opted to watch the new Olivia Coleman / Anthony Hopkins film The Father instead, which I enjoyed.
The aircraft was also outfitted with wifi and, in the interest of a complete review, I thought I should test it out 😉
Four packages are available:
- 20 MB for 9 CHF (£7)
- 50 MB for 19 CHF (£15)
- 120 MB for 39 CHF (£31)
- 220 MB for 59 CHF (£46)
Whilst it worked fine, it isn’t exactly cheap and with 220MB being the upper limit you won’t get much use out of it. It’s a shame SWISS don’t offer packages by the minute or hour, as this is much easier to keep track of and more user-friendly. At least you know when your time is up.
Dining in SWISS Business Class
SWISS has a reputation for its meal service and I was excited to try it. As mentioned previously I was given a menu after boarding.
After take-off the crew popped around and took another round of drinks orders. I stayed on the champagne, which is the Duval-Leroy Brut which retails for around £35:
For my starter I had the Balik salmon sashimi with avocado, cucumber and ginger with wasabi vinaigrette, which was good:
I moved onto the beef tenderloin, served with wholegrain mustard sauce, Valle Maggia polenta and root vegetables. I’m normally quite sceptical about having steak on flights because I’ve had some pretty bad ones in the past but the cabin crew assured me this was their favourite. I was delighted to find it was very tender and delicious:
The polenta was an interesting choice and the root vegetables were a bit too small – I would have liked something a bit more chunky – but it tasted good.
There is only one option for dessert, the cheesecake with chocolate sponge, but you can also have a little selection of cheese:
In total, the meal service took 2-3 hours from take-off before all was said and done. This was not particularly fast, but not a problem since this was a day flight.
You can opt for ‘casual dining’ where your starter and main are brought out at the same time. This saves time and would be convenient if you plan to sleep as soon as possible.
After dinner it was time for bed and the cabin lights were dimmed. I made my own bed – SWISS don’t offer a bed making service as far as I can tell and there is no mattress pad or sheet like you find on other airlines, so you make do with your (fairly mediocre) pillow and blanket:
At some point a bistro menu was handed out for the optional second on-demand meal service. The headline options include a beef burger, soups, salad, rosti and sandwiches as well as a range of sweet and salty snacks. Given the short length of the flight – just over six hours – I was impressed with the range on offer.
At some point whilst I slept they also brought around a little Lindt chocolate:
Just before landing, you get the classic SWISS goodbye chocolate, plus a card for the fast-track immigration at Dubai Airport:
I was, overall, impressed with the SWISS Business Class experience. The hard product is admittedly tired on the A330s – the seats are showing their age and the IFE screens are tiny. They also offer far less privacy than many new Business Class seats.
It’s worth noting that, if you get a SWISS A340, you will get a newly refurbished cabin. The layout is similar but there are a number of improvements, including far larger IFE screens.
Despite that the crew were phenomenal, with great, friendly service and good food options too. Without these I think the experience would have been poor but it’s hard not to like an enthusiastic crew chatting away in Swiss-German.
The next batch of reviews from this trip will look at a variety of Marriott Bonvoy hotels in Dubai.