Airline review: Swiss International Air Lines business class, Zurich to Hong Kong

THE ROUTE

Zurich-Hong Kong

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 777-300ER; Swiss has 10 777-300s in its fleet of 86 planes.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Miles & More, claimed as Europe's biggest frequent flyer programme, allows members to earn and redeem points on other Star Alliance airlines such as Air New Zealand and Thai Airways.

CLASS

Business

DURATION

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Despite departing 20 minutes late and flying into Hong Kong less than 24 hours after a storm cancelled hundreds of flights, the plane arrives 30 minutes early (11-hour flight time in total) – Swiss precision.

FREQUENCY

Daily

CHECKING IN

The Swiss efficiency begins on the ground, with fast, simple and courteous service at check in. Immigration queues are lengthy, but staff are chatty rather than bureaucratic.

THE SEAT

Seat 4J, first row of business class. Rows are configured 2-2-1. I'm in the aisle of one of the double seats. When my bed/seat is rolled out flat, it boxes in the person at the window seat.

BAGGAGE

I could just about move house with the generous checked-in luggage allowance of two bags up to 32 kilograms each, along with two carry-on bags up to eight kilograms each.

COMFORT

With the flight departing Zurich at 10.40pm, sleep and comfort are the paramount factor in my flight enjoyment. All 62 business-class seats are flatbed, and there's a compartment for shoes and a drawer beneath the TV screen for other items. There's a massage setting in the chair (though it's more a gentle prod in the back than anything that's going to have you gurgling with pleasure) and row 4 – the first row back from first class – has the most legroom of all the section's rows, so the leg space when seated is extravagant. Comfort accoutrements include a Victorinox pack containing socks, eye mask, earplugs, lip balm, toothbrush and toothpaste.

ENTERTAINMENT

The trade-off for the extra legroom is that reaching for the screen is like a yoga class, while the handset control tucked into the armrest is a little fiddly in its habit of returning to the beginning of the movie list each time you preview a film – a nuisance when there are 99 movies to potentially scroll through. The movie selection is big on the likes of Marvel and Maze Runner, but there's an interesting selection of other films also. Wi-Fi data, ranging from 20MB to 220MB, can be purchased, with prices starting at about $12.

SERVICE

Calm and quick, allowing plenty of time for sleep. The three-course dinner is under way within 40 minutes of take-off, with everything cleared less than two hours into the flight. Wine fills are regular and all requests are treated with polite importance. Breakfast comes 90 minutes from Hong Kong, leaving a near full night's sleep in between.

FOOD

The late dinner is a choice between beef tenderloin (with pepper sauce, potato and leek puree), a pike perch fillet with Noilly Prat vermouth sauce, and a pumpkin curry with beans and mango and apple chutney created by Hiltl, the Zurich eatery listed by Guinness World Records as the planet's oldest vegetarian restaurant. There are three varieties of white and red wine from Switzerland, France and Spain. Breakfast is as fresh as the feeling after the sleep: seasonal fruits, Swiss yoghurt, Bircher muesli, cheese and cold cuts.

ONE MORE THING

Even if you're flying economy, you can head online to Swiss Choice (swiss.com/choice) and purchase access to the airline's business lounge in Zurich for about $70.

THE VERDICT

Swiss International Air Lines ranked second among European airlines (and 12th overall) in the latest SkyTrax rankings for passenger satisfactions, and it shows. When you depart near 11pm, with 11 hours of airtime ahead, it's more about sleep than movies or menus, and service and the experience reflects that.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

4

Andrew Bain travelled as a guest of Switzerland Tourism.

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