Contrasts on SWISSBack to Forum
Anonymous22 Feb 2010
As some of you will know, I’m a massive fan of SWISS (and LH when they’re not being stroppy).
However, I thought you might be interested to hear of my SWISS experiences this weekend.
I flew ZRH-WAW with my wife in Business Class last Friday. The flight was operated by Contact Air (a privately-owned German carrier), ion behalf of SWISS, with an F100. We were in 2A and B on a plane which was configured 2-3 seating.
The flight was absolutely packed, and middle seats on the D-F side were also occupied in Business. There were a lot of unhappy people up front. It was extremely unpleasant. I got very racked off with a girl in Economy, row 3F, who had her iPod on so loud that I could identify the song she was listening to, even over the sound of the engines in flight, despite the fact she was over the other side of the cabin.
To cut a long story short, the 2-person crew were over worked, the service was poor and it was uncomfortable in the extreme.
I returned on the same service yesterday in reverse. Contact Air again. But what a difference. A half-empty plane, middle seat kept free, my wife and I the only two in a four-row J-Class.
My points are this:
1. SWISS are great, but if my first SWISS flight had been the Friday flight, I would’ve equated them to Ryanair, rather than the great airline they are.
2. They advertise their product as Middle-Seat Free in Business Class. This is patently not always the case where operated by a third party.
3. They do not state that the flight is not operated by SWISS.
4. On a full flight, the Cabin Crew have to take a lot of flak from unhappy J-Clss pax and this isn’t helpful to the general atmosphere.
5. We’d paid a lot of money and we both felt short-changed. In the extreme.
It was just amazing how the service standards (especially the middle seat element) varied on the two flights. SWISS really need to sort this one out.
Simon22 Feb 2010
Thanks for your note Simon; a very good reminder to read the fine print (even if there is none!) on any possible code-shares or use of 3rd party operators.
I had a similar, albeit more positive, experience last week with SWISS. Flew ZRH to TLV on SWISS (A340-300) in J however the return was operated by EL AL (737-800). I very much enjoyed the return on EL AL (again in J) however I will be more careful to fully investigate (to hopefully avoid your mess) in the future!22 Feb 2010
I also understand that the same ‘middle seat issue’ exists when Helvetic operate on behalf of LX – I know that Helvetic do BHX, and I also think they do Brussels and Stuttgart.
However, I’ve used Helvetic a fair few times in the last three months and I’ve always had the middle seat free. However, colleagues tell me it’s been packed on occasion, with every seat taken.
If that’s the case, why keep selling J-class seats to the point that the flights is technically overbooked and the only solution is to remove a benefit which (presumably) was one of the reasons the J pax bought the ticket in the first place? This is the same point I’m making about Contact Air. Both operators are fine – WHEN they and their crew are allowed to be, and not prevented from so doing but the sheer number of bums on Business Class seats.
Seems like twisted logic to me, but then I’m just a humble transport planner.
Simon22 Feb 2010
Hi Simon !!
Very well stated ! You are definitely right–if you pay C fare to experience C class privileges like blocking the middle seat–then they should consider to do consequently, even in very traffic intensive days or flights. It is definitely not good to have a neighbour in the middle which is an Upgrader because LH or partner airlines has overbooked the flight. It is actually a good point to write LH over this situation and ask about compensations as you have paid for a business class seating privilege and not Y class with all seats being occupied.
Actually LH and partner could consider to use a bigger aircraft in such circumstances. They actually do this in some routings when they know that there will be a huge numbers of overbooking and less or none “no show” on that flight. Well, it is probably easier to be more flexible, if such situations happen in FRA or MUC as they have some spare aircrafts on the apron.
Hess22 Feb 2010
Hi again, Hess,
Actually, I’m not sire that the middle seat is always an upgrader – I’m pretty sure that on the ZRH-WAW flight, and I KNOW it’s the case on Helvetic, the middle seat is actually sold as a J-class seat when demand is high.
Simon22 Feb 2010
“2. They advertise their product as Middle-Seat Free in Business Class. This is patently not always the case where operated by a third party.”
Sometimes they breaking their word also on own flights, full middle seats.
Friend of mine flying Zurich to Frankfurt and Swiss fill middle seats.
He write to company, complain, they send letter say middle seat free not guarantee.
He send them printing of their website, say guaranteed.
They not reply to his letter.
Very bad.22 Feb 2010
Hi Simon !
Well in such circumstances it is really bad for the paying pax. I only experienced such situation once with BA when the first 5 rows of CE was fully booked and I am the one in the middle seat of the the three abreast seating as I have forgot to book my seat in advance. But I recommend to still write to LH about the situation–who knows perhaps one helpful and caring LH employee( or LX employee–sorry if I mixed it up ) do understand your case and you’ll receive something back positively. It is still a try !
But as you have stated–I would try to avoid such aircrafts and routing if possible and of course the peak hours/traffic.
Hess22 Feb 2010
Very interesting. I’ve not looked at their website for a while, but have just done so. They now make no reference to the middle seat at all in European Business Class. Indeed, they make no reference to comfort actually being a benefit of booking in Business……
All I can say is that I always book on the web, and then follow up with a call to select my seats. On each occasion, the person sorting my seats out has told me, unequivocally, that SWISS’ policy is to keep the middle seat free.
Simon22 Feb 2010
I’ve given the matter a bit more thought. I’ve noted what’s been said on other threads about LH’s Business Class product for longhaul, but for shorthaul I think it’s the best in Europe.
They always keep the middle seat free where there’s 3-3 seating, and also the C-seat if it’s 2-3. As far as I know, that IS guaranteed, even when City Line are operating their awful Avros.
I suppose my ideal European Business Class flight, in my dreams, that included a transfer, would be:
LH metal and in-flight service
ZRH to transfer at, rather than FRA
SWISS friendliness and fares
One can dream, I guess……..
Hell would be:
SK metal and in-flight service
Transferring at CDG
AY fares and SN friendliness
Simon22 Feb 2010
I have been on at least two LX flights where someone tried to sit in the middle seats in the business cabin, and was asked to move by purser. This was on A320-family aircrafts. Futhermore, I have been on fully booked flights operated by Helvetica and others and middle seats have been free. The issue is more that some aircrafts like the F100 have a 2-3 seating.. This means D-E-F row, E is free while A-C may be filled.
Simon, I am not sure if I agree with you. LH has good metal, professional staff. However, their inflight service in terms of F&B is dreadful. No real fizz, and warm meals are rare. I actually would take an old SK MD-80, seat 1D and SK inflight service with fizz and wam meal any day. As a matter of fact, we always try to use the SK feeder flights to FRA, MUC, DUS over the LH operated flights due to inflight service.22 Feb 2010
Interesting things you say, my friend. I expect you also think it’s heresy for an SK Gold member to say what I did, but…….
I think the point is that you and I use different routes with SK. I tend to use BHX-CPH and then CPH to either OSL, VNO (now BT), ARN or HEL (if not KF). On these, I never get a hot meal, it is 2-3 seating with both A and C seats occupied, etc. The service is, I accept, a lot better on, say, LHR-ARN or OSL. I should point out that flight time from BHX to CPH is around 2 hours, so there is no real excuse for no hot food.
LH’s food on BHX to MUC, DUS or FRA is just a cold snack, but it does have some imagination. I always found SK’s cold food to be extremely uninteresting. KF’s was much better than SK’s, in the days when they (KF – Blue 1 or Air Botnia as was) had a Business Class between CPH and HEL – they’d even lay a table cloth for you!
Also, after the Q400 debacle, this route (BHX – CPH) was flown by all kinds of, frankly, cr*p airlines on SK’s behalf. This lasted for a couple of years, and in that time I flew “SK” flights which were operated by, inter alia, Air Moldova and the Faeroes’ awful Air Atlantic RJ planes. Appalling beyond belief.
I do agree that LH’s food can be a bit bland, but then also can most airlines European offerings – paradoxically, Air Baltic’s Business Class hot meals are pretty good, as are Finnair’s and (equally surprisingly) Iberia’s in shorthaul Business Class.
I don’t necessarily disagree with you, Senator, it’s just the different SK routes we’re used to. I do, however, find the staff to be one extreme or another: either really good or extremely surly. LH’s are far more consistent (and you can make what you want from that statement!).
Incidentally – I’m surprised you like 1D on an MD-80. I always used to end up with the galley trolley on my toes at some point!
Which reminds me – one more negative about my SWISS/Contact Air experience. Instead of a bulkhead directly in front of Row 1, there was a half-height set of galley storage chests. These were (obviously) constantly being opened, and drinks were mixed on top of them. Row 1 was the least private in the plane, and I’d have been even less happy had I been sat there!
Simon22 Feb 2010
Actually Senator, in the light of your comments, I’d replace SK in my “hell” assessment with KL metal and in-flight service.
I had debated SN, but I’ve seen a noticeable improvement of late under their LH stewardship. They have a monopoly on the BHX-BRU route and I’ll only ever fly the cheapest seats with them. This is because last time I flew Business (a couple of years ago), the food was awful and I had the insolance to ask if I could buy something from the Economy trolley. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t (something to do with their accounting procedures on board).
I then made a fatal mistake – I asked the Purser (for it was she who had refused me) if she’d worked for Sabena. She confirmed she had, and I suggested that this kind of lack of customer service might, somehow, in some minor way, in the great scheme of things, all other things being equal, etc have partly, slightly, marginally, contributed to their downfall. Whoops…….If the window had been open…
My current gripe with SN is their misleading website. It makes Ryanair look honest and transparent. I recently booked two “£29” sectors, and the total on the next page (excluding all but fare, taxes and ‘surcharges’) leapt to almost £200. A bit naughty.
Simon22 Feb 2010