Review: Swiss Senator and Business Lounges ZRH (E Gates)
TO THE POINT: Swiss finally has airport lounges to be proud of, located in an otherwise barren part of the airport near the long-haul international gates. The pros: a bar with 120 whiskies, live cooking stations, relaxation areas, a huge balcony and more. The cons: far from the main terminal, these new lounges are located near the "E" gates.
While Swiss' Senator and Business Lounges near the A gates aren't exactly industry-leading, the contract lounge the airline used to use near the long-haul "E" gates was an embarrassment at best. Fortunately, as of a few months ago, Swiss has opened an absolutely phenomenal (and gigantic) suite of lounges near the E gates — when it comes to European airport lounges (with the exception of Lufthansa's First Class Terminal), they're entirely in a class of their own.
As a Star Alliance Gold member traveling in business class on Swiss, I had access to both the Senator and Business Lounges. There's also a Swiss First Lounge, which you can see in our review of first class on the 777-300ER. All three lounges are open from 6:00am until 11:00pm.
The First Lounge is accessible to passengers traveling in first class on Swiss or Lufthansa (including with a connection), in addition to HON Circle members. The Senator Lounge is accessible to all of the above, plus first-class passengers traveling on another Star Alliance airline and Star Alliance Gold members. The Business Lounge is accessible to the above, plus business-class passengers traveling on a Star Alliance airline and Miles & More Frequent Traveller members.
Of the two I had access to, the Senator Lounge was superior by far, with much more space to spread out, a better food spread and this — the Whisky Club.
The Whisky Club has 120 varieties, so chances are there's something there that you'll like.
The bartender appeared to have expert knowledge of the lounge's selection, and he was happy to make suggestions or set up a tasting flight, just as I had at the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.
There's a full menu of everything that the bar stocks (in theory) — I actually made a few picks that weren't available, but the bartender was quick to suggest alternatives.
For my tasting, I went with a 12-year-old Lagavulin, an Ileach single malt and a Miyagikyo single malt. The Lagavulin wasn't nearly as smoky as the 16-year-old version I'm used to. The Ileach was fairly smoky, which I liked, and the Japanese scotch was fairly mild. It was an odd mix, for sure — I decided to try the Miyagikyo because it was already sitting out on the counter.
Just past the whisky bar, there's a long hallway with dozens of magazines to choose from, and some window seating.
Then, around the corner from there you'll find a few private workstations, like those below.
And at the end of the lounge there are a handful of semi-private lounge chairs, including some by the window (which makes for some decent/very comfy plane spotting).
And on to the food and beverages... first, you'll walk by this thing I'll refer to as the "coffee island."
Around the corner, there's some table seating, with an open-air kitchen just beyond (more on that in a moment).
There are also some wines and liquor to choose from (if you haven't already had your fill at the bar).
Here's the cold spread during breakfast, which is served until 11:00am.
There are also a variety of hot items, including an egg scramble at breakfast.
I asked to try the eggs and the chef handed over a heaping portion, which I enjoyed with a beer.
I also got to charge up my phone as I snacked — the lounge has outlets all over the place, including those for USB devices and US, UK and European plugs. Well done, Swiss!
Then, after a few minutes it was time for lunch, so I tried the mac and cheese, a beef stew (that was oddly described as "turkey"), a pretzel roll and apple strudel. While the food looks fantastic, I wasn't blown away by the flavor — everything tasted fine, but it was definitely more "high school cafeteria" than "flagship airline lounge."
And then there's a freezer filled to the brim with delicious Movenpick ice cream. Definitely save some room for this!
Given that I had access, I also decided to check out the nearby Business Lounge.
This lounge is considerably smaller and more crowded, and it has fewer amenities, though some areas were entirely deserted, such as this seating area just after you walk in.
This Business Lounge also has a relaxation area with several chaise lounge pods.
It even has the same Breitling watch setup, complete with a mini-showroom.
There was still plenty of seating, though this lounge was considerably more crowded than the Senator Lounge.
Moving on to the food, the Business Lounge has the same "coffee island" just as you enter the kitchen.
Then there's a large seating area with tables and chairs.
And some benches near the window overlooking the tarmac.
And then there's a live cooking station just like in the Senator Lounge.
The breakfast spread was more or less the same and included pretzel sandwiches (below), which I hadn't noticed on the other side.
There was also a smaller (but seemingly well-stocked) bar area. Note that the Whisky Club is not accessible to business-class passengers without Star Alliance Gold status, though first-class passengers can get in.
Passengers in both lounges have access to the shower rooms — simply leave your boarding pass at the front desk and an agent will hand you a key.
The showers were very clean and well-stocked, with plenty of room to move around.
And, much to my surprise, the same power strips were available here, giving you a chance to charge your gear as you freshen up.
Both lounges also have access to a separate section of the same gigantic balcony, which overlooks the runway and the E gates.
I spent a lot of time out here — there are tables and chairs available, and I noticed a lounge attendant coming by to take orders as well.
And there are Leica binoculars on hand! Super cool.
It's kind of hard to take pictures through binoculars, but you get the idea.
If you don't have a long camera lens, the binoculars definitely come in handy for plane spotting.
I was actually starting to get a little nervous about my 777-300ER departure, since there was an Etihad Dreamliner at the gate, which fortunately pushed back 90 minutes or so before my flight was scheduled to leave.
Then, a few minutes later I spotted our 777 across the field.
There she is! What a beaut.
These new Swiss lounges represent a huge step up from the contract Swissport lounge the airline used before. While I would have recommended sticking by the A gates to use the lounges there in the past, there's no question that the new E-gate lounges are worth checking out for a considerable amount of time. In fact, the Senator Lounge is so good that if Zurich was my home airport, I'd probably fly Star Alliance exclusively to make sure I always have access.
The Whisky Club is top notch, and while the food won't exactly blow you away, it's definitely passable. The only downside, really, is that these lounges are located in a remote area of the airport — if you aren't flying out of the E gates, you may still be able to visit, but I'd work in an extra 40 minutes to pass through passport control, take the train, walk to the lounge and repeat the process in reverse ahead of your departure.
Have you visited Swiss' new Zurich lounges?