By Everett Potter
I’m not sure how you would define a good flight across the Atlantic, but I know what makes me happy. A spacious seat that converts into a lounger and, in due time, transforms itself with the push of a button into a lie-flat bed that’s six feet long. A seat/bed designed by Contour, with an air pillow system by Lantal, easily adjustable from soft to firm for seating and resting.
Ok, and let’s get a bit decadent at 36,000 feet – this seat/bed should have a massage function, so that at the press of yet another button, rollers start caressing my back. But more to the point, this is a seat/bed that’s self-contained in its own pod. If the guy sitting ahead of me lies back or the woman behind me gets up, I will not be aware of it. My space is self-contained and sacrosanct. The warm wood tones of the trim and the dark seat fabric should be aesthetically pleasing as well.
I want plenty of space – enough for me to spread out my in-flight chaos of books, magazines, computer and headset. My shoes are down there somewhere but I’m not stepping on them – my feet have room to move. And I’m connected — there are multi-county electrical plugs, a USB port and iPod connector. The dining service has two options: bring-it-on multi courses or a one-tray solution if I need to sleep a.s.a.p. And there’s enough in flight entertainment to keep me occupied should I decide to circle the globe twice without stopping.
What I’m describing is the new SWISS Business Class service, which I recently sampled on their Airbus 330-300 service between JFK and Zurich. These 236-seat aircraft operate with a configuration of 8 First, 45 Business and 183 Economy Class seats. As my Swiss seatmate said to me, as he moved up and down and back and forth, playing with the seat configurations like a kid in a toy store, “Why would anyone fly first class when they could do this?”
Indeed, apart from status, why would they? Despite the global downturn, the smartest foreign carriers are in a race as they raise the stakes for the lucrative transatlantic business class market. SWISS is the latest to come out swinging with an exemplary business class service that will make your head turn. It’s the details that matter, from those amazing seats to partnering with top Swiss chefs to create their in flight Business class seasonal menus. Through the end of February 2011, it’s 28 year old Mattias Roock of the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains in St. Moritz, so the hearty cuisine – gnocchi, for example — reflects the Engadin region.
And since Zurich, the gateway to Switzerland, is also the central springboard for short air or rail hops to much of Western Europe, SWISS is clearly after more than bankers, jet setting skiers and well-heeled tourists with this service. They would like your business if you’re heading to those areas of Austria, France, Italy and Germany that are just a short distance away.
The service is a dream, but then pair it with Zurich, my favorite European airport, and you’ve beaten every other major airport in Western Europe. The airport is as clean as a five star hotel, staggeringly efficient, and never crowded. I’d say it runs like clockwork but then the cliché police would have me chastised.
In March, fares are running $1,861 one way. That’s not bad for any airline’s business class across the pond and it does include lounge access as well. If you’re doing the math, it’s about a third of what first class costs.
SWISS is offering its new Business services on the following routes: Boston, Delhi, Dubai/Muscat, Douala, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Montreal, Mumbai, Nairobi/Dar es Salaam, Yaounde, Geneva-New York (JFK), Zurich-New York (JFK), and San Francisco.
For more info, contact SWISS