Here’s a classic report from 2011, but published for the first time and for good reason. I recently flew the A340 on Lufthansa in first class and am compiling a series of comparison posts from the four European airlines (Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, and SWISS) that offer a first class product.
Although this flight occurred eight years ago (my how time flies…), the hard product today is identical and the soft product is nearly identical. Even the flight number is the same. Since this represents a different first class seat on SWISS than the 777-3ooER or A330-300, which I’ve also reviewed, it is worth a belated review.
But also note that this trip report will not nearly be as detailed as my current ones. A draft of the flight report was already written so it represents my concurrent thoughts, but I was not all that meticulous back in 2011 in documenting menus and amenity kits.
Hopefully some of you will find it still worth reading.
SWISS may offer an outdated first class seat aboard its A340-300, but it does offer a tremendous soft product.
My brother and I had spent over a week in China, starting in Beijing then traveling by train to Xi’an, and finally spending the last couple nights in Shanghai. Back in the day, SWISS used to open first class awards to its Star Alliance members, making it rather easy to book a first class seat on SWISS, even months in advance. SWISS now operates an A330 on its Shanghai to Zurich route and highly restricts first class award space to only Senator or HON members of the Miles & More program.
About 45 minutes prior to departure time, boarding commenced.
Shanghai (PVG) – Zurich (ZRH)
Friday, January 7
Depart: 9:45 AM
Arrive: 3:55 PM
Duration: 13hr, 10min
We were we welcomed aboard and ushered to our seats in the first row of first class.
SWISS A340 First Class Service
What struck me most about this flight was the tremendous service onboard. The two male FAs working first class were exceptionally professional, friendly, and unmistakably loved their jobs. It is usually very easy to tell who loves their jobs and who is just going through the motions (even if going through the motions in a professional way). These gentlemen were simply charming and went out of their way to make the flight comfortable for each first class passenger.
SWISS A340 First Class Seating
As I alluded to earlier, SWISS has an older first class seat aboard its A340-300 than its 777-300ER or A330-300. First the plan was to retire the gas-guzzling A340 fleet. Then SWISS decided to keep the A340 in the fleet but refresh the cabin. Business and economy class were refreshed, but first class is still waiting. It was supposed to happen in 2017 but was pushed to 2018. It was supposed to happen in 2018 but was pushed to 2019. Now the plan is to unveil the updated first class seats this summer, though I have my doubts.
The good news is that the “old” first class seats are spacious and comfortable. Power outlets have been aded and although the built-in IFE is outdated, the seat is very comfortable in various positions.
Most of all, though, it is comfortable in lie-flat mode. SWISS offers excellent bedding that is lightweight and warm and includes a mattress pad, comforter, and plush pillow. Despite the lack of personal air vents, I spent over 10 hours sleeping. It was a smooth ride and I was not even stirred from my slumber once. 10 hours is quite impressive for any flight and I still managed two meal services as well.
SWISS A340 First Class Dining
The salt and pepper mills have been updated with wooden ones and the doilies are gone, but you can still expect nearly identical meal service now as I did on my flight.
Shortly after takeoff, FAs prepared the cabin for lunch. While service is on-demand, it had been several hours since I ate and I wanted to sleep, so I chose to eat right away.
The amuse bouche included a parmesan breadstick, warmed pita triangle with olive tapenade, and a potato ball. I also enjoyed a glass of red wine and sparkling water.
Next, flight attendants set the table for lunch. Service included a large charger, salt and pepper mills, olive oil, and fresh bread from the oven (olive and French roll).
Appetizers are served smorgasbord style. I enjoyed a taste of Balik salmon, shrimp, scallops, and crab meat with a pepper chutney on top. On another plate, I had a grilled zucchini and bell pepper “sandwich” along with sliced mushroom and a cherry tomato filled with feta cheese. Everything was light and refreshing.
Next, a bowl of chunky tomato soup perfectly spiced with freshly ground pepper.
Next, a small green salad with croutons and vinaigrette dressing.
Delicious Main Course
My main course included a beautiful halibut filet and a delicious linguini pasta drizzled in a lemon butter sauce. With fresh al dente vegetables, it made for an incredible meal.
> Read More: Fish + Pasta = Delicious in SWISS First Class
Finally, I finished off the meal with a piece of cheesecake and afternoon tea. Look how beautiful the SWISS silver tea service is.
This meal represented one of my best airline meals of all time and is a remarkable testament to the fact that catering can be excellent out of Mainland China. I wish U.S. carriers would invest a bit more like SWISS in ex-China catering.
While I slept during the flight, my brother was up for part of it and was served ice cream about halfway through the flight.
After waking up about 90 minutes outside of Zurich, a flight attendant offered a light snack. I ordered a quiche with salad while my brother had bratwurst with potato salad and beer.
We each had an apple tart for dessert.
Incidentally, this was the identical pre-arrival meal I had when flying from Zurich to LA last year.
If you want details on what the IFE, lavatories, amenity kit, pajamas, and slippers look like please see my 777-300ER first class report. I’m never hesitant to publish older reports, but this one pushes the limit. Even so, it still gives you a good idea of what to expect aboard a SWISS A340-300 in first class.
You’ll see how this review fits into my comparison series next week.