Flight test: Swiss business class

Swiss business class seating.
Swiss business class seating. 

THE ROUTE

Singapore to Zurich.

THE PLANE

Airbus A340-300.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Miles and More (Star Alliance).

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END?

Business class, seat 8K.

TIME IN THE AIR

12 hours

THE SEAT STUFF

52.1 centimetres wide, two-metre-long flat bed. The 47 business-class "pods" are just more than a metre wide and are arranged in an irregular 1-2-1 or 2-2-1 configuration, depending on the row. There are also eight in first class and 164 economy-class seats.

BAGGAGE

Two checked bags up to 32 kilograms each and two carry-on bags up to eight kilograms each.

COMFORT FACTOR

My roomy seat has custom options including adjustable lumbar support and cushion firmness, with an integrated massage function. Best of all, it converts to a fully flat bed. Although it's two metres long, the manner in which the bed slots under the seat in front means you can't lift your knees. A blanket (lined with sheeting on one side) and a pillow are provided, and there's an adjustable armrest that can be lowered when the seat becomes a bed. Each pod has a shoe storage space and a glovebox-like compartment in front of the seat.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT

If it's music you want, there's plenty of it, with 16 channels and more than 400 CDs to listen to. The somewhat limited menu (compared with other long-haul carriers) of 46 movies includes latest releases (action, comedy, drama), as well as classics and world cinema, but there's a decent selection of current and classic TV programs, too. (In June, just after my flight, SWISS announced an expansion of its long-haul inflight entertainment, including children's entertainment, to be introduced from July.) The power outlet accepts most international plugs.

THE SERVICE

The Swiss are known worldwide for their efficiency, if not their warmth, and the cabin staff reflect this, although their multi-lingualism is truly impressive. The service is occasionally haphazard and inflexible. I choose not to eat when the meal is offered, but change my mind later and have to wait until they have completed the meal service for everyone else. In business class, you expect to be treated more individually than that.

FEEDING TIME

During the past 12 months, SWISS has been celebrating the customs and cuisine of Switzerland's cantons in its business- and first-class cabins. On my flight, the menu has been created by Michelin-starred chef Martin Goeschel, from the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Paradies in Ftan, who showcases produce from the Lower Engadine in the canton of Grisons. Bramata, a traditional Swiss polenta dish with porcini and button mushrooms and spinach, is deceptively light and delightfully matched with Malanser pinot noir, also from Grisons.

ONE MORE THING

The amenities kits come in a cute tin, and Swiss chocolate, provided on every SWISS flight, is a nice touch.

THE VERDICT

It's not the most luxurious business class between Europe and Asia, but as part of a long haul from Australia, it's a fairly direct route.

FREQUENCY

The daily service between Zurich and Singapore, which began in May, is part of the airline's push to strengthen its position in the rapidly growing Asian market.

Tested by Sally Webb, who flew courtesy of Switzerland Tourism.

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