Airline review: Swiss economy class, Zurich to Singapore

THE ROUTE

Zurich to Singapore.

THE PLANE

A340-300; Swiss claims this four-engine Airbus as its flagship. With a range of about 11,000 kilometres, it can serve all Swiss destinations non-stop and with a full payload.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Swiss is one of Star Alliance's 28 member airlines.

CLASS

Economy, window seat 24K.

DURATION

The 12-hour, 35-minute flight takes off late and arrives in Singapore half an hour behind schedule – so much for that famed Swiss punctuality.

Dinner was an unexpected highlight – it was enough to make me consider turning vegetarian.

THE FREQUENCY

Swiss flies once a day from Zurich to Singapore. The non-stop service was launched in 2013.

THE SEAT

The cloth seat has a pitch of 32 inches (81.3cm) and is 17.3 inches (43.9cm) wide. A bulky entertainment box under the seat in front of me blocks half my legroom, which makes sleeping awkward. I jam one leg under the seat, the other between the seat and wall, and somehow manage to grab a few winks on this overnight flight. The economy cabin features 164 seats in a 2-4-2 layout, tapering to 2-3-2 towards the rear.

BAGGAGE

Economy passengers can check a bag weighing up to 23kg and carry a piece of hand luggage weighing up to eight kilograms for free.

ENTERTAINMENT

The seat-back entertainment system's handset controls are hard to master at first (the airline is introducing a touch screen system on Boeing 777-300ERs that will be integrated into some routes from next January). There are 23 new-release movies on offer (some available in multiple languages) but it's the music choices that impress most. Who wouldn't smile seeing The Wiggles listed next to the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic)?

FOOD

Although I'm not vegetarian, I choose the wholewheat penne with aubergine fricassee because it's designed by Hiltl – the Zurich vegetarian eatery that's been cooking up a storm since 1898 (Guinness World Records lists it as the world's oldest vegetarian restaurant). The eggplant is melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious – in fact I'm hard-pressed to think of an economy-class meal I've enjoyed more. Hiltl dishes are served across all three classes – I peek at the biz-class menu to find out what Hiltl concoction was offered at the pointy end (gnocchi with saffron sauce, asparagus and Datterini tomatoes). The other rave-worthy thing on my tray is the tightly curled shaving of Tete de Moine (monk's head) cheese. Invented by monks more than 800 years ago, the semi-hard cheese is now an iconic export for Switzerland's French-speaking Jura region. Sadly, there is nothing remarkable about the omelette, tomato and spinach breakfast served before landing.

SERVICE

Perceptive. After choosing Quollfrisch lager to accompany my dinner, I glance again at the flight attendant manning the drinks trolley. "Would you like something else?" she says, immediately understanding my look. Well, yes, ja, oui, si, gea (to use all five languages – English, German, French, Italian and Romansh – adopted by the airline). Lemonade would be dandy so that I can mix a shandy.

ONE MORE THING

The drinks trolley includes Rivella – a much-loved Swiss soft drink made from milk whey. The attendant will pour a taste if you're unsure of committing to an entire cup.

THE VERDICT

The check-in agent warned that my seat was a least-preferred seat but wouldn't elaborate on the reason. The economy cabin features 11 of these "limited-comfort seats" where legroom is compromised – next time, I'd insist on knowing more. Dinner was an unexpected highlight – it was enough to make me consider turning vegetarian. See www.swiss.com.

Tested by Katrina Lobley who flew courtesy of Switzerland Tourism.

See also: Flight test: Emirates A380 economy class
See also: Flight test: Jetstar Asia

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