On the Ground: SWISS began flying nonstop six days a week between San Francisco and Zurich in June. I took the first flight to Zürich, Switzerland’s financial center and largest city. SWISS, a member of Star Alliance and the Lufthansa Group, shares United Airlines’ Red Carpet Club. The 10-year-old lounge, located just past security to the right in the International Terminal, has aged fairly well, though it doesn’t match offerings from top international carriers. Two drink coupons are available, and there are plentiful power outlets and work stations with desks. Food offerings are sparse; two of the five options on a coffee-making machine were out of order. Happily, the sparkling, two-level SWISS lounge in winningly modern Zürich Airport, 10 minutes from downtown, more than compensated on my return flight. (25/30)
Pre-flight: The Airbus A340 used on our premiere flight was the first aircraft to feature SWISS’ new business class, which will be rolled out across the airline’s 77-plane fleet this year and next. It is superb. Boarding was fast, overhead bins ample. I relaxed with a glass of mild, Swiss-made Chardonnay. The seasoned cabin crew members were crisply efficient without ever being officious, anticipatory but not intrusive. SWISS’ new business class alternates rows of 2-2-2 and 2-2-1 configurations. There are power outlets at all seats and plenty of personal space for working or chilling out. I occupied a single seat by the window, giving me both a window and an aisle — ideal. (30/30)
In-flight: Once we took off, food and beverage service commenced promptly. I sipped a nicely rounded Swiss-made Pinot Noir from hilly lakeside vineyards. Alas, the tender veal in cream sauce, one of Switzerland’s national dishes, was gone. But this was not deeply tragic; my salmon was moist and flavorful. For dessert, I nibbled choice cheeses and, of course, creamy Swiss chocolate. I read and surfed the in-flight entertainment system during the 11-and-a-half-hour flight, enjoying the wide range of movies and TV shows, games, music CDs and radio channels, as fellow travelers beavered away on laptops and electronic devices. Late in the journey, I opted for slumber. SWISS has a 180-degree flat-bed seat with adjustable air cushions, making it one of the best beds in the sky. (38/40)
The Experience: The long-haul business class on SWISS is better than some carriers’ first class, and most elements under the airline’s direct control tick like a Swiss watch.
Total Score: 93/100
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