MIAMI — Swiss International Air Lines is going all out with its cabins on the Boeing 777-300ER, which it calls “the new Swiss flagship”. Brand new first class suites and a new implementation of the popular Thompson Vantage business class seat are both positives, and although a ten-abreast economy class is a downside, there is at least a state-of-the-art entertainment system and inflight wifi.
First class passengers will experience a suite for the first time on Swiss, and the product looks excellent.
The suite itself is reminiscent of ANA’s new first class suites, though with a paler and more European sensibility, and speaking the same design language as Swiss’ current offerings.
Compared with the narrower Airbus A340-300 aircraft the 777-300ER will be replacing, the big Boeing is wider, which means more space for each of the passengers in the first class layout, since it remains at 1-2-1.
It’s notable that Swiss has retained its first class product, the only one of the three Lufthansa Group boutique carriers (Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines) to do so alongside the Lufthansa brand.
Swiss promises “a personal at-seat wardrobe, which can be used as an additional privacy divider during rest, electro-mechanical window shades (servicing all three windows of the seat area at the same time),“ and passengers can enjoy a massive 32-inch entertainment screen that Swiss says is the largest in the industry.
Business class consists of 64 Thompson Vantage staggered fully flat beds, which are what Swiss already has on its A330 and A340 fleet, and which are also common to the Lufthansa Group’s three boutique airlines.
Consistency of product and the clear expectations that consistency can generate help to create a positive passenger experience, and Swiss is very good at consistency.
The newer Vantage seats are more squared and seem taller, featuring a privacy divider on top of each of the footwell / console units.
Every center section passenger has direct aisle access, though, and the popular “throne” solo seats remain, with the addition of an extra storage unit on the window side console. This is a smart use of previously wasted space.
Cleverly, the table has been moved from its previous position popping out from the side of the side console to the divider between seats (or between the “throne” seat and the aisle).
Swiss already operates a high-density version of these seats (1-2-1 and 2-2-1 on alternating rows in its Airbus widebodies). It has maintained this density on the 777-300ER, which will add a seat in every other row for an 1-2-1 and 2-2-2 configuration.
And that’s the downside to the larger cabin width of the 777-300ER in business class: more window passengers will have to climb over an aisle neighbor in order to reach the aisle.
Economy class, in common with sister airline Austrian’s 777 aircraft, is the 3-4-3 high-density layout that is as unpopular with passengers as it is popular with airlines.
It is admittedly difficult for an airline’s management to turn down adding 11 percent more seats to the 777’s original nine-abreast seating configuration, but it moves Swiss from an airline of choice in economy to an airline to avoid.
The rumored Swiss premium economy has not materialized, however, which is a disappointment for passengers who don’t have the means to pay four times the economy fare for a business class seat, but who might well be able to pay the 1.5-2x multiplier for premium economy.
Wifi will be available throughout the aircraft, although Swiss’ CGI mockups don’t include a radome so give no clues as to provider or system.
In terms of timing, Swiss will replace its aging Airbus A340-300 aircraft with the 777-300ER, with the airline stating “from the 2016 summer schedules onwards, the new aircraft will be deployed primarily on services to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Los Angeles. And San Francisco, São Paulo and Tel Aviv will also receive Boeing 777 service several times a week. The first six SWISS Airbus A340s to be withdrawn with the arrival of the new Boeing 777-300ERs will be returned to their lessors. Three further A340s will be replaced by new Boeing 777-300ERs between 2017 and 2018. These aircraft will be transferred to SWISS’s sister carrier Edelweiss.”