Review: SWISS 777 Business Class – SFO to ZRH
Taking your first trip to Switzerland? Flying SWISS 777 business class is the way to go. I’ve wanted to fly SWISS for years, but never managed to work it into travel plans. Until I planned a winter trip to Zurich, Strasbourg, and southwestern Germany.
As anticipated, the SWISS experience is solid. They don’t offer the most cutting edge hard product, but overall, their business class is among the better I’ve flown. I didn’t manage to snag one of the coveted “throne seats” that offer additional space and privacy, but it was an excellent flight nonetheless.
I booked my SWISS 777 business class ticket as a one-way United MileagePlus award that included a connecting segment between ACV and SFO. It cost me 75,000 United MileagePlus miles and $5.60 in taxes and fees. There are cheaper ways to fly SWISS, but it was the easiest option. The economy hop was available as additional award inventory for elites and cardholders.
The flight timing was excellent. I’d depart home midafternoon Sunday, have a few hours to enjoy the United Polaris Lounge at SFO for the first time, and then depart for Zurich on SWISS just before 8:00 PM.
Here are my full flight itinerary details:
- Airline: SWISS
- Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
- Cabin: Business
- Origin: San Francisco (SFO)
- Destination: Zurich (ZRH)
- Flight date: February 19, 2023
- Seat: 16K (window, non-throne)
I tried to snag a throne seat. A little less than 48 hours before the flight, I logged into the SWISS site using my record locator. I’d previously selected seat 16K, but this is when I’d read the solo seats typically open up. Unfortunately, the site wouldn’t respond after I clicked to change seats. I gave up after three tries. When I logged in the next day, the change seat option was grayed out.
Airport and Lounge Experience
Since I’d arrived on a connecting flight, I didn’t have to check-in at the SWISS counter. After landing, I made my way straight to the United Polaris Lounge. Any Star Alliance business class or first class passenger departing SFO can access this oasis. It’s the best SFO lounge by a long shot. I barely squeezed in Polaris dining before rushing off to the gate for my flight to Switzerland.
Boarding and General Impressions
Without a boarding time displayed on my electronic boarding pass in the United app, I had to ask the lounge help desk when I should arrive. She told me 40 minutes before boarding, which proved to be right on the money. She also said I might need to get a paper boarding pass at the gate.
The SWISS 777-300ER was parked at the end of Concourse G, which meant I had the longest walk possible from the Polaris Lounge. I’d barely dropped my bag when I heard my name called. It turned out to be for document verification, which SWISS normally would have done at the check-in desk. But I hadn’t checked in at SFO.
SWISS started boarding at 7:00pm for a 7:50pm scheduled departure. Again, as I had when I flew SAS to Copenhagen the month before, we used facial recognition boarding. At SFO, boarding is via two jetways. The left one is exclusively for SWISS first class. The right one is for us peons.
But at least the SWISS 777 business class peons get some comfort. The business cabin is arranged five across, in a staggered 1-2-2, 2-2-1 configuration. The solo “throne” seat alternates between the left side and the right side of the aircraft.
There is a small “mini-cabin” of business seats forward of the boarding door, right behind first class. Since all these were taken, I settled for a seat near the back of the larger business cabin.
The appeal of the SWISS Thompson Vantage seats is one of simplicity. I like the dark fabric, contrasted by the white plastic dividers and side tables, and wood veneer. It’s unpretentious and clean.
What wasn’t appealing was the uncomfortably warm cabin. It didn’t cool down until 10-15 minutes into the flight, which meant we sweated for nearly an hour. Not an enjoyable welcome aboard.
Flight attendants came around with trays of welcome drinks once the plane was mostly boarded. After a couple cocktails in the lounge, I decided to space the alcohol. Elderberry lemonade it was rather than champagne. The flight attendants also passed out menus and breakfast cards before the door closed.
My flight pushed back at 7:40 p.m., taking off a bit before 8:00. I do have to comment on the fact that SWISS could win the award for lowest budget safety video. It’s among the worst I’ve ever seen.
SWISS 777 Business Class Seat
I selected seat 16K, a true window seat. It is one of a dozen seats that doesn’t have direct aisle access. It does offer some privacy with the divider between you and your seat mate. But you will likely have a seat mate. These would be best if you’re traveling with a spouse, friend, or child. But it was either that or no window, and I wanted a window.
The seat itself is comfortable, with good padding. There is an armrest on the window side. Adjacent to the seat in the center are headphones, water, and a coat hanger. Amenity kits were left out on the central divider, along with an inflight shopping card. A plastic-wrapped pillow and blanket were placed at each seat.
For a seat with not a ton of extra space, I really appreciated storage compartment under the IFE screen. It is enough for a couple small books, a couple charging cords, pen, highlighter. I could unpack the basics I needed during flight and leave my backpack up in the overhead bin.
The SWISS 777 business class seats have plenty of legroom, and I found the footwell roomier than I expected. It would accommodate much larger feet than mine when the seat is in its lie-flat configuration. As far as length goes, the bed length was comfortable for me at 5’10”. But I’d expect those much over 6 feet might have issues.
Of all the SWISS 777 business class seats, the solo “throne” seats are the prize. At least for solo travelers. I would have much rather had this one right behind me, at the back of the cabin.
While I wouldn’t call it the best business class hard product I’ve flown, I was content with the SWISS 777 business class seat. I’d rank it above the 2-2-2 Lufthansa and KLM business class hard product, but short of the reverse-herringbone products I’ve flown. It also falls short of United’s Polaris hard product.
Service and Catering
The seat isn’t everything, however. SWISS stands out in other ways. Dinner service proved to be excellent. After a brief look at the menu, I decided that the beef tenderloin sounded excellent, with burrata as the first course. The flight attendants were up taking orders by 8:15 p.m.
Dinner service itself started by 8:45 p.m., about 45 minutes into the flight. Flying the flag carrier, I had to try the Swiss red wine.
Dinner followed shortly thereafter. Everything was delicious, from the fresh burrata to the tender beef. This was one of the best business class dinners I’ve enjoyed.
The flight attendants served a caramel dessert to top everything off, which was just as excellent. Chocolate was the final touch.
I don’t recall what was offered during the middle of the flight, but I spent the time trying to nap. Breakfast was served about 90 minutes before landing. You have to place your breakfast order using the card provided at boarding. The flight attendants will wake you up for breakfast.
I went with the American breakfast of scrambled egg with spinach and tomato. The cappuccino in the sky was a treat. Again, chocolate was the final touch to the meal. It was a good breakfast.
The flight attendants were pleasant and professional throughout the trip. All said and done, I’d rank SWISS among my best business class flight in terms of the quality of food, drink, and service.
Flight and Arrival Experience
As mentioned previously, the one problem with booking a window seat such as 16K is that I was pinned in. At least I ended up with someone pleasant next to me. We struck up a conversation early on. She lives in Switzerland and has a daughter who works for Edelweiss Air, SWISS’s sister company. We chatted about places to visit in California and in Switzerland. Since she wanted to sleep as much as possible, we managed to plan the bathroom and standing breaks ahead of time (there are rules for flying the window seat, you know).
I enjoyed a movie with dinner before laying down to get some shuteye. The bed was less comfortable than I’d hoped. But it really isn’t the lie-flat seat itself. The pillow provided by SWISS is terrible. So flat. I didn’t work for me as a back sleeper. On the other hand, the SWISS 777 business seat footwell is roomy, so I alternated between back and side while trying to nap.
I must’ve gotten more sleep than I thought I did, since I sat back up with just 2.5 hours until arrival. The sleep was very broken, though. I had enough time to catch another movie and enjoy breakfast. The IFE screen was responsive, and SWISS has a decent movie selection.
At the recommendation of my seat mate, I watched Rogue Agent. Not sure what to think about a movie highlighting the life of a sociopath.
I did check to see if the flight offered Wi-Fi. My hope was that it would be complimentary flying SWISS 777 business class. But that proved wrong. Not going to spend 39 Swiss francs for 120 MB of data. These prices are awful.
I enjoyed my first views of Switzerland as we descended into Zurich. The distant Alps were already calling. I’ve wanted to see this country for years, and now I was finally getting the chance, even if just for a couple days.
As I deplaned, I asked the flight attendant if I could get a brief look at the first class cabin. She didn’t mind in the slightest. I don’t think I’ll ever manage to book this luxurious product unless SWISS makes it fully available to partner award programs.
SWISS 777 Business Class Review: Final Thoughts
All said and done, I had an solidly enjoyable SWISS 777 business class flight. The seat isn’t as roomy as other carriers, and I was less than impressed by the comfort of the pillow while trying to sleep. But that’s not much of a gripe. I did manage to get some rest. The service and catering really set SWISS apart and make Switzerland’s flag carrier an excellent choice. I’d gladly fly them again to Europe.
Check out the previous SWISS 777 Business Class review by a Miles to Memories contributor.
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