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Back in 2009, SWISS won accolade after accolade when it unveiled sleek new first- and business-class cabins that were unlike any the aviation community had seen before. Since then, it hasn’t made many changes to its cabins, but with the imminent addition of nine new 777-300ERs to its fleet, the airline has released details (and images!) of what its new cabins will look like, as well as the routes on which it will use its new aircraft. (All photos courtesy of SWISS.)
Before you get too excited, these changes seem, at first glance, to be more style over substance. That said, when you have a great product like SWISS, why overthink it?
Here’s a video SWISS released on its YouTube page:
And there’s a whole website devoted to it, if you’re interested in having a closer look.
SWISS plans to deploy these new planes on routes to Asia, South America and the US West Coast from summer 2016 onwards. However, according to airlineroute.net, you can actually expect to see them on the following routes:
- Zurich-New York JFK 4x weekly February 21-March 25
- Zurich-Montreal effective March 27
- Zurich-Hong Kong 3x weekly from April 10, 5x weekly from May 3, daily from May 12
- Zurich-Los Angeles effective June 9
Then airlineroute.net estimates that it will put further 777-300ERs into service on routes from:
- Zurich-Bangkok July 8
- Zurich-Sao Paulo August 1
- Zurich-San Francisco September 1
Though those are just estimations. The plan is to replace the airline’s A340s with these much more fuel-efficient jets on a 1:1 basis, with one new 777-300ER taking over one new A340 route at a time.
According to the SWISS release, the airline should receive the first of its nine new jumbo jets in January 2016. Each will seat 340 passengers in three classes: first, business and economy. The planes will also feature broadband Wi-Fi connectivity.
Now about the new planes themselves. As mentioned, they will have 340 seats total. Here’s how that breaks down:
- First class: 8 seats
- Business class: 62 seats
- Economy: 270 seats
For comparison’s sake, here’s how the A340 is configured:
- First class; 8 seats (same)
- Business class: 47 seats (fewer)
- Economy: 164 seats (fewer)
So the 777-300ERs will hold 121 more passengers, most of those in economy, but with about a dozen more in business class as well.
The interiors of the new planes were updated by PriestmanGoode, the same design firm that handled the 2009 design, and you can see similarities all over the place. The palette is meant to be richer, but it looks quite similar to current cabins with light wood paneling and dark, stitched upholstery on the seats. However, the seats have had some nice-looking updates including more privacy and more personal space, and these planes look to be design favorites for years to come.
Let’s start with the fun stuff: first class. Each of these new planes will have a first class cabin of just eight seats configured in a 1 x 2 x 1 layout, much like its current long-haul aircraft, the A330 and A340. However a 777-300ER is wider than either of those, so passengers can expect a bit more room.
Just as a comparison, the A340’s first-class seats are 22 inches wide and have about 80 inches in pitch when reclined to a bed. They are fully flat. Each of these seats also has 50% more personal storage space than previous versions, including dedicated storage areas for airline amenities and a sliding personal wardrobe for hanging clothes that doubles as a privacy door from the aisle when it is in the open position.
These seats also have industry-topping 32-inch flatscreen in-flight entertainment systems and electrically adjustable window blinds.
The business-class cabin also looks familiar, with a staggered layout where seats vary in ones and twos like this:
- 1 x 2 x 2
- 2 x 2 x 1
That’s slightly different than current versions of this cabin on the A330 and A340 where there are a few rows in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration. Whereas the right side of these planes has just one seat in each row and the left side has rows that alternate between one and two seats, the new 777-300ERs will have alternating rows of one and two seats on each side of the plane.
That makes sense because the 777-300ER is wider, but hopefully it won’t mean seats narrower than the current 20.5 inches (already fairly narrow for business class). The current business-class seats recline to fully lie-flat and have 60 inches in pitch.
Aside from that, the seats seem to have a lot more privacy. SWISS’s current business-class seats are actually fairly open, and if you’re in a two-seater, you just have a fat armrest separating you from your seatmate.
However, these new seats seem to have privacy panels and larger armrests shielding them from the aisle and from one another, and look a lot like Qantas’s new A330 business class. Rather than a little cubby for your feet, these seem to have much more room as well, plus lots of areas for personal storage including a sort of throwback headphone hanger, and a barebones kind of strap for stowing magazines or a tablet.
Plus, instead of those old adjustable reading lights, there are cool light cubes sort of like they have in the lamps in first class but smaller. Oh, and those IFE monitors, a mere 10.4 inches in the current version, should be a good deal larger on the new plane.
As in the current versions of first and business class, seat-cushion firmness should be adjustable and both will convert into beds measuring over two meters long.
The new planes will have an economy cabin configured in a 3 x 4 x 3 layout with 270 seats total. SWISS has supposedly put in new seat-cushion technology (though no word on what exactly that entails) and IFE’s with touchscreen flatscreens that look to be about 12 inches or so, as well as USB ports if you want to watch your own content. Economy passengers also get their own self-service kiosk with snack and drink options.
All in all, this looks like a scintillating, if not industry-changing, update from SWISS, and one that is about due given how well-received its last design overhaul was back in 2009. Though I think they probably could have updated the look and certain elements even more, I suppose “why mess with a good thing?” pertains to this situation.
I think some folks have been disappointed that the airline didn’t opt for the ever-more-popular reverse herringbone configuration in business class, but given the appearance of these seats and my own experience flying what looks to be a similar product on Qantas (though that one is configured in 1 x 2 x 1), I would actually really look forward to trying out SWISS’s version once it is in service. I found the seat to be extremely comfortable, private and contemporary.
How You Can Fly It
Now for both the good news and the bad news. Let’s start with the good news first. SWISS is part of the Lufthansa group, and thus part of Star Alliance, so you can use your United miles to redeem awards on it. Round-trip in economy from the US to Europe will be 60,000 miles and business class will be 140,000 miles round-trip (since last year’s award chart devaluation). If you don’t have a ton of United miles, remember that if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus cards, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio.
You could also use Lufthansa Miles & More Miles. You might not have accrued those yet, but you have plenty of time before these new birds take flight, and you could consider the Miles & More MasterCard from Barclaycard, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles: 20,000 after your first purchase and an additional 30,000 award miles after $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. Miles & More will charge you 60,000 miles round-trip in economy or 105,000 miles in business class.
If you want to fly SWISS first class using miles, you’ll actually have to use Miles & More miles. That’s because back in 2013, SWISS actually blocked first-class awards from partners. Miles & More will charge you 85,000 miles each way to fly first class. That’s not too bad, but fuel surcharges can be well over $1,000, so beware. But more than that, SWISS restricts these awards to its elite Senator and HON Circle members, so unless you’re going to make Miles & More your primary program, chances are you won’t be able to nab these coveted seats.
Still, if you can manage to get a high level of elite status with Miles & More, you can search for these awards on the Miles & More page, and availability is decent thanks to all the restrictions about who can book it.
What do you think of SWISS’s new planes? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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