This is one of nine new B777-300ERs joining the Swiss fleet; at the time of writing, two had arrived, with the rest due by 2018. Each has 340 seats – eight first class, 62 business and 270 economy. As they are introduced, Swiss will withdraw its A340s. Hong Kong, Bangkok, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv will receive B777 services, although the aircraft are currently on rotation, and my return from Hong Kong was on an A340.
I was transferring from a Heathrow flight, which was delayed by 35 minutes, and since my total transfer time was about one hour and 20 minutes, I was concerned it might be tight for either me or my luggage to make the connection. I needn’t have worried. The flight arrived at Zurich airport’s Dock D, from which the onward flight to Hong Kong (LX138, departing at 2245) was also leaving, so I simply walked across the concourse and joined the queue to board. (Normally it departs from Dock E.)
Business class is across two cabins – with two rows in one cabin and a larger section running from row six (only two seats in this row, in the centre) to 17, omitting row 13. Seats are in a five-across configuration and are staggered so that they are alternately either on the aisle or set back from it behind the side table. This is so they can recline flat; your feet then disappear into a compartment in the side table area of the seat in front. In effect, it is either 1-2-2 or 2-2-1 – so from row seven, the configuration is A, D-G, J-K, then A-B, D-G, K, and so on.
The controls are at the side, with various pre-sets; lift a flap and you will find further buttons for the lumbar cushion and massage function, as well as the handheld IFE controller, which has a screen allowing you to watch a different programme from the main monitor. The seat reclines into a two-metre-long, fully-flat bed with a touch of one of the pre-sets, although I found that these buttons could be accidentally activated if you put your elbow down a little forward of the armrest.
The tray table comes out from the perforated wooden divide between the two seats. It’s one solution to the problem of where to put it, but both ejecting it and stowing it is a noisy operation. There are a few storage places, although most of these can’t be used during take-off or landing. There is a small compartment beneath the screen, good for glasses, or a phone, although there’s no charging capability. There’s also a small foot locker in the side. The main area is between the seats (if you have one of the middle ones) or the side area, where there are two compartments for stowing items – I kept my phone charging on USB here while I worked on my laptop. The tray table was suitably firm for doing so.
At the seat was an amenity bag with the usual essentials. There is a 16-inch touchscreen for the Panasonic IFE, and noise-cancelling headphones. There is also onboard wifi. I chose a 50MB package (Sfr19/£14), which I used up in about 30 minutes.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
I’d avoid row six, with its two seats in the centre, and row seven, since they are close to the galley in front, where the service comes from. Personally I’d also avoid the seats that are close to the aisles. For window seats, you have a choice of being in a pair or a single. I was in one of the centre seats (14D), but because I was set back from the aisle, did not feel it was a problem. Row 11 does not have a window next to it.
My jacket was hung on a hanger waiting at the seat, and champagne (Duval Leroy Brut) was offered. Hot towels and menus were then passed around. We took off on time and seatbelts signs were switched off promptly – then about 45 minutes in, the captain came on the tannoy, which was extremely loud, to tell us about the flight. It was a bit of a shock to the passengers on either side of me, who had already reclined their seats to go to sleep for the night.
This was the inaugural flight to Hong Kong and while the service was very friendly, the attendants were still getting used to the aircraft, so it was slow. One dining option was “Dine and recline”, which was a starter, soup, salad, cheese and dessert served together, “promptly after take-off allowing you more to time to sleep, work or simply relax and enjoy your flight”, but I could see some passengers were waiting nearly an hour for this. As luck would have it, I had the same crew coming back a few days later on an A340-300, which they were familiar with, and they were much quicker.
The food was delicious and an excellent example of how the airline has stayed close to its roots despite being part of the Lufthansa Group. Some 70 per cent of the onboard products are Swiss, including Quollfrisch beer, Ramseier juices, cheeses, chocolate and selected wines. The cuisine is changed every quarter and this time was from Basel-Landschaft region, with some courses designed by the owners of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Schlussel in Oberwil. I had the smoked trout and chard, and the beef tenderloin with morel jus, saffron mashed potato and sugar snap peas. Other main courses were grilled John Dory with tomato cream sauce and Mediterranean vegetable tartlet with feta. Wines included Melacce 2014, Castello Collemassari, Montecucco, Tuscany; and Château Les Trois Manoirs 2011, Cru Bourgeois, Medoc, Bordeaux.
After working for a while, I reclined the seat and went to sleep. The bed is comfortable, although your legs are in quite a tight space when it is fully reclined and you can’t bend them without lying on your side. There is just about enough room at the shoulders but it can feel a little tight, partly because the walls of the seat and the armrests have no cushioning.
About 90 minutes before landing, the lights came back on and we were offered a good range of breakfast options, mostly continental, plus the Chinese hot offering of congee.
We arrived early and were greeted by the fire brigade spraying water over the aircraft, which is a tradition for new planes.
This is an excellent business class seat on a brand new aircraft, and will be hotly anticipated by Swiss flyers. Anyone using Zurich as a hub with access to the lounges is also in for a treat. Once the crew have grown used to the aircraft, I’m sure it will be up there among the best business classes.