Tried & Tested

Swiss A340 Business class

31 May 2012

BACKGROUND Swiss, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, has been flying between Zürich and Hong Kong since 2003, using the A340-300. This aircraft type, as well as its sibling the A330, are now all equipped with the new business class flat beds.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Zürich International Airport (also known as Kloten Airport) at 2040 with plenty of time to spare for my 2240 flight LX138 for Hong Kong. Clearing
the required check-in rituals smoothly and swiftly, I headed through security.

THE LOUNGE Located in the “Airside Center”, the lounge caters for passengers destined for points outside Europe. A lift ferried me to the second level of the Senator lounge. It was sparsely filled, so I settled in one of the clubby black leather chairs in a quiet corner and strolled over to the buffet section, which offered a selection ranging from fruit to beef lasagna displayed on a warming tray. Nearby, I noticed a row of desktop computers, so I checked my emails before I snacked.

BOARDING A sizeable crowd milled about gate 21 for the 2215 boarding schedule, which started 10 minutes after I arrived. The procedure was orderly and swift and the passengers quiet, probably all tired and eager to get their shuteye, myself included.

THE SEAT For this A340 type, Swiss concentrated its business class seats in one cabin, unlike an earlier model which splits up the seats, with the first two rows (4 and 5) forming part of the first class section, followed by the rest (6 to 11) in a separate cabin, making up a total of eight rows.
My aircraft also had eight rows (6 to 15, forgoing the use of 13). My seat was 14K, just before the last row, so behind me was economy class. The configuration was unusual, following a 1-2-1, 2-2-1 pattern. My row was part of the 2-2-1 grid. Such a design allows both couples and individual travellers their privacy, which I thought was quite a thoughtful feature.

The black-checked upholstery was smart and crisp to the eye as well as comfortable. The expansion of the armrest into a side table is clever, and this contained the AVOD screen and seat controls while also concealing the folding meal tray table in a crevice. The opposite armrest, meanwhile, can be manoeuvred and pushed down to provide more space when the seat is stretched out as a bed. There is also an adjustable reading light, a 10-volt socket, and storage in the seat in front for shoes, bottled water and reading material.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE Acting on advice from a friend, I chose one of the window seats, with its side table located on the aisle. This was in contrast to some others, whose side tables were next to the window. With a side table near the aisle, there is less danger of being bumped by a careless attendant rushing past or having one’s toes crushed by a meal trolley.

THE FLIGHT After my overcoat was taken, I asked for and received a glass of still water, along with headphones and an amenity kit in a small velvet drawstring pouch holding ear plugs, eye mask, cream socks and a toothbrush and toothpaste. We pushed off before 2240 and were shortly airborne, after which the flight attendants dispensed hot towels and the menu, showcasing the offerings of Chef Jan Leimbach “with 17 GaultMillau points to his name”. Leimbach works out of the Lenkerhof Restaurant in the magnificent Bernese Alps, known for its Simmental Fleckvieh cattle and the beef they provide.

For starters, there were air-dried meat delicacies; the main course offerings included fillet of beef with cocoa nibs, port wine jus, crushed potatoes and pommery mustard green beans, a mushroom stroganoff with long-grain rice and broccoli, or a bouillon with truffle raviolini and chicken strips. For dessert, I savoured gianduja mousse, passion fruit and banana crème coffee jelly. Other nibbles included Swiss cheese with pear bread and chocolates.

As in most angled lie-flat beds, this Swiss version had me slipping down towards the footrest, which was a bit uncomfortable at first, until I found that lying on my side solved the problem. The darkened atmosphere was a recipe for instant slumber, from which I emerged about eight hours later. A good breakfast of hot and cold items was served 90 minutes before we landed in Hong Kong at 1725.

ARRIVAL Touchdown was uneventful and with my Hong Kong smart ID, I was at the luggage carousel in 15 minutes and out the door shortly after.

Margie T Logarta 

Verdict

Swiss efficiency at its best marked the overall service, and the seats are among the most stylish I have seen in a long time.

 

Fact File 

PLANE TYPE A340-300

SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1, 2-2-1

SEAT PITCH 58.8in/149cm

SEAT WIDTH 20 to 22.5in/50.8cm to 57.15cm

SEAT LENGTH 78.7in/200cm

PRICE An internet rate in mid-August for a Business flex rate, which allows free rebooking, starts from SFr4,597 (US$4,953)

CONTACT www.swiss.com

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