Sleek and Shiny: A Review of Swiss Business Class on the A220 From London to Geneva
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As part of my many trips between London and New York at the end of last year before the launch of TPG UK, I sometimes flew the long way — connecting in Europe before heading to the States. Once such time, I flew business class with Swiss Air Lines from London to Geneva to New York. The long-haul segment was operated by an Airbus A330, while the short-haul, intra-Europe flight was operated by a new Airbus A220, which I thought was worthy of its own review.
A great option for booking Star Alliance flights is through Avianca’s LifeMiles program, which is what we used to book my flight from London (LHR) to New York (JFK) via Geneva (GVA). We paid a total of 60,000 miles, in addition to about £230 in tax.
I arrived relatively early — at 5:20am — for my 7am flight to Geneva (GVA) at Heathrow’s Terminal 2, also known as The Queen’s Terminal. Terminal 2 is home to the Star Alliance carriers at LHR and replaced the old Terminals 1 and 2. Despite being London based and a regular traveller, it was actually my first time there, and I was immediately impressed by the design and the space itself.
Check-in was quick and smooth. The agent asked me if my bags already had tags, which caught me off guard. Swiss’ site allows you to print your bag tags in advance, which is something I had not come across before and didn’t do. He explained that I should use the Lufthansa Lounge as it was close to my gate. I asked about the United Club as I had heard good things about it, but he advised that whilst it was possible to use it, it was in the remote B gate area which was a good 15-minute walk each way from the central area and even further from my gate, A26.
Security at this time of day and via the fast-track lane was equally quick and I was in the central area of the Terminal in no time heading.
I visited the Lufthansa business-class lounge which was pleasant enough, and boasted views over a number of gates with parked aircraft that had spent the night at Heathrow. A sign outside warned that at busy times, Lufthansa might refuse guests and send passengers to other lounges. I can certainly imagine that the lounge can get very busy at times, though it was quiet at 6am when I was there.
To the right of the lounge is a spacious business area, but only two computers are provided.
There is a separate entrance for the Senator Lounge, which requires a boarding pass to open the door.
The breakfast offering wasn’t the most substantive that I have seen in lounges but it was good quality, thanks to catering by Do&Co. The scrambled eggs were tasty and the bread rolls nicely warm.
My boarding pass suggested boarding would commence at 6:35am, but I headed to the gate early in hopes of getting some great views of the Bombardier C series … err … Airbus A220, which I had not flown before. Sadly, the aircraft wasn’t visible from gate A26, but boarding started soon after I got there. I was among the first to board with the priority boarding group, so I got a nice glimpse of the plane walking down the jetty.
Cabin and Seat
Two things struck me immediately upon boarding the aircraft. I was impressed by the space, the sleekness of the cabin and the overall feeling I got upon boarding. I was also a little taken aback at how open the cabin was and at seeing how only a small sign separated the business and economy cabins.
I’m not someone who needs a stark divide between business and economy, but the openness of this cabin gave the impression that the two classes are basically the same. In fairness, from a hard-product perspective, the cabins are essentially the same in intra-Europe short-haul flights, save for middle-seat blocking in business.
The aircraft is arranged in a 2-3 configuration, and I quite like what Swiss did in terms of the business-class arrangement. They’ve blocked alternating seats on the left hand side (so 1B, 2A, 3B, etc.), which means that on the left side, passengers in business class will not have a neighbour and, if everyone stays in their assigned seats, no one should worry about reclining the seat into someone else’s space.
They have, of course, also blocked the middle (E) seat on the right side, so passengers on that side also get extra space. This is pretty much the norm with intra-Europe business class. That means every business-class passenger has a guaranteed empty seat next to them, every passenger on the left side has aisle access and there shouldn’t be anyone reclining into your space.
Of course, all of this assumes that people don’t move themselves (I would always move to 2A if I had been assigned 2B!). But, it’s a neat and clever way of giving passengers a bit more space and essentially providing a 1-2 layout. Other airlines, such as British Airways on their Embraer fleet, which has a 2-2 layout, do not block seats so there’s no guarantee of an empty seat next to you in business class.
The aircraft and seats have a very modern feel and though the seats look very slim, they were comfortable enough for such a short flight. Overhead bin space was sufficient though I am not convinced a larger wheelie-bag would fit. I was sat in 1A and leg-room was as expected.
The toilet at the front was surprisingly spacious for such a smaller aircraft — both compared to the cramped Embraer fleet toilets, but also compared to normal Airbus short-haul toilets. Even the door handle is funky — it’s definitely not one I’ve ever come across before on board a plane.
The A220 seats up to 145 passengers. This flight was half-empty in business class but pretty full in economy. Boarding was efficient — both via e-gates and with an agent — and was completed ahead of the 7am departure time. A small bottle of water was given to business-class passengers before take off, and we taxied shortly after 7am and were airborne at 7:15 for our 1 hour 10 minute flight to Geneva.
Amenities and IFE
There is an adorable little video screen above each row next to the seat belt sign which shows both the safety video as well as the moving map during flight.
Unfortunately, this aircraft was not equipped with Wi-Fi, and there were no other amenities to speak of on this flight.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
Swiss has adopted a buy-on-board concept for short-haul flights. Business-class passengers can choose anything to eat and drink from the menu for free. Whilst this is clever from the airline’s point of view and was perfectly fine for this short morning flight, on a longer flight or, say, during lunch or dinner time, this might feel a bit underwhelming as a meal. British Airways has recently upped their game on short-haul business-class catering so it will be interesting to see if this starts a trend towards offering a more substantial intra-European business class service again. My muesli and tea came nicely presented on china and since I ate in the lounge, it was perfectly adequate for the flight.
Service was efficient, but not overly warm.
Service was efficient (as one would expect), though I can’t say it was overly warm or personal. Just before landing, Swiss chocolates saying “thank you for flying Swiss” were handed out to all passengers together with a card inviting online feedback.
I was impressed on this short-haul flight both with the new aircraft and Swiss’ service in general. Though the food selection from a buy-on-board menu could be inadequate at certain times of the day, and the business-class cabin lacks privacy, Swiss overall has a great short-haul product that I would happily fly again.
All photos by the author.
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