When I saw the email confirmation for a flight my husband and I recently booked to Barcelona, I immediately googled:
What is it like to fly Swiss International Airlines?
My list of search results turned out to be uncharacteristically thin.
Since we flew Swiss (its nickname) out of John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport in New York to Barcelona, changing planes in Zurich, I thought I would share our experience so other travelers booking international flights will better know what to expect:
Swiss International Airlines is part of the Lufthansa group. It emerged after the collapse of Swissair, the national airline of Switzerland, in 2001.
With its hub in Zurich, the carrier operates 2700 flights a week, with 91 aircraft, 28 of them long haul and 57 medium and short—-in Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Africa. The airline launched its twenty-fourth intercontinental route last May.
On Flight 015 out of JFK, we wound up sitting in seats 41J and 41K of an Airbus 330-300. The plane had a 2-5-2 configuration and our seats were on the right side of the plane.
While there was ample legroom, the seats were somewhat narrow (17.3 inches) and reclined only slightly. In fact, it was quite a trick to wiggle out of the aisle seat to use the lavatory because there was insufficient room between the stationary aisle armrest and the seatback in front of it. The seats also seemed to have less padding than we were accustomed to.
On the other hand, lie-flat Business Class looked like a dream. Eight of the nine seats in a row (all of which employ pneumatic technology) have direct access to an aisle.
TIP: If you don't want to splurge on Business or First-Class, do whatever you can to get a bulkhead seat.
Flight Safety Instructions
Most travelers, even seasoned ones, get a bit nervous each time they fly. Yet they are easily bored by the pre-recorded flight safety instructions. On Swiss, I didn't want them to end.
The airline has created a captivating animation that not only held my attention, but also made me smile (even second time around, on the return flight).
Check it out on YouTube and see if you agree:
Food and Service
Yes, after the flight attendants offer you beverage service and hot towels to wash your hands, Swiss Air still feeds passengers and actually uses real silverware. In fact, one attendant walked around the cabin with a basket offering passengers extra croissants after an already ample breakfast that was delivered in a pretty red box.
After lunch, on another leg of the flight, an airline first for me: Ice cream on a plane. Passengers were treated to Swiss (Movenpick) white chocolate ice cream.
Even the Swiss International lounge at JFK was food-intensive with chafing dishes of meat and potatoes, cheese tortellini, salads, rolls, vanilla pudding, packaged Walker's biscuits and Pepperidge Farms Milano cookies, and free-flowing Prosecco and hard liquor.
However, it was the chocolate that won me over. Each flight and lounge visit ends with a chance to sample a Swiss chocolate bar wrapped in red.
Flight attendants were all hard-working, friendly and attentive and seemed to take pride in keeping the plane clean, even on the overseas flights.
Entertainment and Technology
The inflight entertainment systems had TV and movies in six languages. As a writer, I was pleased that the airline still has an in-flight magazine (so many have shuttered) although this one was largely advertorial. It was also convenient to have a cell phone charger in the seatback in front of me.
The flights took off and arrived on time except for one flight where we had to wait to be de-iced (one of the perils of flying through Zurich). Although the seats were uncomfortable, I would fly Swiss International again because of its focus on safety and efficiency coupled with a hefty dose of Swiss hospitality.
An added bonus: Wonderful views of the Swiss Alps from the airplane window when you approach and depart from Zurich.