Star Alliance flying has never been my forte, but this year, thanks to a mixture of my Chase Sapphire, which transfers to United and my American Express Platinum (or Amex Premier Gold), which Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to ANA and Aeroplan, I have found myself using my points to fly on Star Alliance carriers more often than any other airline group. Last Christmas I dabbled with Asian carriers: flying Asiana, Thai, and Singapore Airlines around Asia and now this Spring I got to experience Swiss Air from JFK-GVA and an intra-Europe flight on Lufthansa.
After arriving at New York’s LaGuardia Airport via United, I made the swift transfer to JFK via the Airporter, which offers direct service between all NYC area airports and Manhattan (JFK-LGA is only $13). The ride took approximately 35 minutes at rush hour and thankfully, the bus was waiting for me when I exited the terminal. I was dropped off outside of T4 and was able to quickly check in and head to the Swiss Lounge for some R&R before boarding my flight. Check in was a breeze, taking only a few minutes and the agents were fairly friendly. Although, the lady did make me check my standard size carryon bag that I travel freely with across the USA week in and week out, telling me it was too large for an overhead bin. Other than that, check in was easy.
With my boarding pass in hand, I headed to security with glee thinking to myself how nice my next 10 hours were going to be as I was about to experience one of Europe’s finer carriers! I first headed to the Swiss Air lounge (Read my report), which is no longer landside and is now airside thanks to the T4 remodel, spearheaded by Delta Airlines. Then with about 30 minutes till departure I slowly made my way toward the gate.
By the time I arrived at the gate (I had to stop to buy something at the airport), I was among the last people to board. Finding my seat on the A330 was easy and the flight attendant promptly brought me a tray with my selection of champagne, orange juice, or water. Feeling slightly parched, for the first time ever I passed up the champagne and opted for water and OJ. Then, minutes later, another FA passed through with newspapers for business class passengers enjoyment. Finally it was time to depart, and as the plane pushed back from the gate, a third flight attendant delighted business class passengers with a warm towel and menus which provided the dinner selection plus an order form for breakfast in the morning. As we taxied towards the runway, a 35 minute ordeal, FAs took dinner orders and collected breakfast menu selections and allowed customers to continue to read their kindles and play on their phones. It was actually not until we were about to take off that the FAs kindly requested that we turned off all of our electronics!
Business class seat, seat controls, and IFE
As we ascended over New York City and started to make our way towards Europe, flight attendants were very prompt and began dinner service within 20 minutes of taking off. Being a short flight (only 8 hours) the crew wanted to be sure everyone had time to sleep, but also enjoy their meal. Drink carts were pushed down the aisle with a wide selection of beverages that truly didn’t differ much from American carriers. The best scotch was Glenlivets 12 and their best whisky was Chivas Regal 12, although I would say their wine was better! As the FAs worked to serve everyone drinks, other FAs were busy in the Galley preparing dinner. As soon as the carts were out of the aisles, those who had ordered the express meal were swiftly served and the rest of the plane was served about 10 minutes later.
When dinner arrived, it all came on one tray, at the same time. Unlike longer flights to Asia where dinner is served in multiple courses, this meal was instead plopped down in front of me all out once.
Dinner options included:
First course: Seasonal Salad with balsamic vinaigrette
- Roasted corn-fed chicken breast, mustard jus Polenta and broccoli.
- Seared Pacific salmon filet with wasabi gremolata creamy lemongrass sauce, pilaf rice, baby bok choy.
- Swiss Spätzle gratin with mushroom, leek, roasted onions and Swiss gruyere.
Cheese: Selection of Swiss and international cheese.
Dessert: Panna cotta with rhubarb and strawberry compote.
Dine & recline: The Quicker Options
A cold composition of starter, cheese and dessert to be enjoyed right after take-off, allowing you more time to sleep, work or simply relax and enjoy your flight
I selected the Seared Salmon because salmon is my all time favorite. The fish was good, slightly salty, but for 30,000 feet tasted fresh and delicious. Thinking back, I should have gone with the Swiss Spätzle, sampling the food of Switzerland, but at the time I didn’t think it through. Either way the meal was good, but nothing over the top as far as business class meals go.
Snack & red wine, followed by dinner and dessert
Shortly after finishing my meal, the FA working my side of the plane removed my tray, refilled my drinks and disappeared into the galley. Dessert was never offered, but instead I had to ask for it later. This wasn’t an issue, but I found it odd that it wasn’t offered when they cleaned up my tray. Once it came, the dessert was extremely delicious and light and paired perfectly with the Portuguese Port Niepoort Tawny. Shortly after everyone had their tables cleared and were preparing themselves for bed, the Purser came through the cabin with a box of Swiss chocolates and invited guests to help themselves to the decadent sweet deliciousness. After having one, I longed for another, as the chocolate was truly superb!
When the meal service was said and done and I was feeling full and buzzed from a mixture of red wine and whisky, I laid my seat flat, adjusted my cushion to the firmness to my liking and crawled into bed for the night. Within minutes I was asleep and I slept for a solid 5 hours before being woken up for breakfast! My sleep was fantastic and the fact that I didn’t have to use a sleep aid (other than alcohol) was even better! Although not feeling 100% rested, I felt fairly good sleeping for a solid 5 hours and was ready to eat a light breakfast before landing.
seat controlls behind head, when laying flat & Shoe storage
Breakfast service began about 1 hour and 30 minutes before landing in Geneva and guests who were not woken up by the lights being turned on were left to sleep. Breakfast was pre-ordered based upon your likings, and was a light continental breakfast that included yogurt, fresh fruit, pastries, and coffee. I opted for some espresso and enjoyed a fresh java at 30K feet, which is always better than a cup of coffee. Shortly after, the cabin was cleaned up and we prepared for landing.
The Geneva Airport is small, and NYC is the only long haul destination that Swiss offers from this small lake-shore town. Due to the limited number of long haul flights, no arrival lounge is offered at the airport, but the good news is getting through immigration was swift! No arrival documents are required (unlike the USA and most other countries) and immigration agents are fairly friendly and efficient. Although my flight arrived within minutes of other non-Schengen flights and the immigration haul was filling up quickly, I was still through immigration in less than 10 minutes! Something a non-US citizen can rarely say when coming to the United States.
Plane on tarmac at GVA
Swiss Air Business Class Hard Product:
Seat: Lay flat seat that has adjustable firmness in a staggered 1X2X1 or 2X2X1 configuration. The seat is comfortable as a bed and is truly lay-flat, which provides a good night rest while flying. The seat has plenty of storage including a special place for your laptop, shoes, and carryon bag. Also +1 for the massage function in the seat. The seat is 20 inches wide & a full 2 meters long.
IFE: Large TVs and noise cancelling headphones with plenty of movie choices to suite everyone’s needs. Choose from TV shows, movies, music, video games, shop duty free, or watch the moving map as you fly across the world.
Swiss Air Business Class Soft Product:
Food: Dinner option was alright, I expected a full 5 course meal, for Swiss Air website does say “Opt for our savory 5-course meal on daytime flights if you have a lot of time and appetite. “ Since this flight leaves NYC at 7:30pm I have a hard time considering this a night time or late night flight where meal service can be slimmed down. 7:30 is definitely dinner time. Nevertheless, the meal option was sufficient and decent.
Service: Service was impeccable. Flight attendants were extremely friendly, efficient, and did everything with a smile. There appeared to be no language barriers between guests and staff and I overheard most FA speaking in English, German, French, and Italian.
Amenities: The Amenity kits were bare bones, but honestly who really uses most of the items in the kits anyway? The kit included socks, an eye mask, earplugs, chap stick and a toothbrush & toothpaste. There was no branding of any kind of the lotion and the lotion in the bathroom was Valmont. The one neat part was that the amenity kits were tins instead of flimsy bags and each kit featured a different Swiss Aircraft.
Bedding: Pillow was soft and as wide as the seat but the blanket was light and felt cheap. The blankets used on China Southern and Delta long haul flights are of better quality. The lightweight blanket did the job for keeping you warm, but wasn’t anything better than most domestic inflight blankets.
All-in-All my experience on Swiss air was pleasant. It’s not an airline I am dying to fly again or one I would go out of my way to fly in business class in the future, however the soft product is LEAPS and Bounds a head of most US airliners and my experience was quite good. Sure, Swiss Air is NO Asian airline, but it does still provide good service and an enjoyable ride to Europe.