Good Advice Tried and Tested

Swiss A340-300 First Class

10/05/2016

First impressions

I arrived at Chek Lap Kok International airport at 2030 for my 2315 departure on Swiss flight LX0139 to Zurich, a flight of around 12 hours.

Check-in is in Zone D. There was a queue for business class passengers , so I was directed to an empty economy class desk. Once there I was told I had been upgraded to first class, perhaps because the flight was full, as it had been on the way out. I checked my bag and inquired which of the two lounges I should use – I was told the Plaza Premium lounge next to Gate 1 (Swiss also uses the Lufthansa lounge at the airport).

The lounge

I was quickly through security and immigration, found the lounge which is on the main floor of the departures area, and was walked through to the First Class lounge which is much quieter than the main Plaza Premium Lounge which was very busy.

Plaza Premium Lounge Hong Kong

Once there I sat down, plugged in my laptop and an attendant asked me what food and drink I would like showing me two menus. There were three hot food items but only one was available – Salmon with mashed potato. I declined and instead had a drink. The choice of wines was limited, but of good quality.

Flights aren’t called from the lounge so about 35 minutes before departure I walked to Gate 21 and was quickly on board via a dedicated queue (most people had already boarded).

The seat

The first class cabin has only eight seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Swiss First A340-300 Seat 1A

Seat 1A

For a seat map click here

Unlike the new generation of seats, there are no high walls and sliding doors, and passengers are free to chat to one another if they wish. It is an old style seat, but very comfortable for both sitting and sleeping, with the seat being a comfortable armchair which then reclines to meet a large footstool which slides forwards and backwards, and is substantial enough to be used as a seat for dining with a friend or colleague.

A sleep suit, amenity bag and headphones were all offered, along with slippers. All the seats were a good size, and the footstool moves towards you at the touch of a button so you can use it without reclining the seat too much – good for reading, which I suppose people used to do in the long distant past.

There is a sort of bar area set up at the front of the cabin – I took a picture of it later on when it was set up (obviously it wasn’t like this for take-off)

Swiss First A340-300 Bar

and there is room to pass here so any passenger can access the washroom without having to walk through the front galley.

Which seat to choose?

I’d go for one of the window seats unless you are travelling with a friend or colleague. The washroom is on the left hand side of the aircraft so I’d favour 1K. The second row backs onto the galley for business class, so might get some noise.

There are no overhead bins over the centre seats so you won’t be disturbed sitting in the centre, but there was plenty of space for everyone’s bags on board. The centre seats in the front row do get some light disturbance from the front galley but if you’re wearing an eye mask that doesn’t matter.

The flight:

The Airbus A340 seats 219 passengers in three classes. On this flight the flight time is slightly longer than on the way out – 12 hours and 40 minutes.

As you’d expect the Inflight Entertainment (IFE) is less sophisticated than on the B777-300ER and I had not packed my adaptor, but when fellow first class passengers saw my situation they were pulling down their wheelie bags to find an adaptor that would work with UK to US or EU plugs. Perhaps I was lucky in how helpful fellow passengers were, but it certainly helped that we weren’t all secluded behind our high walls.

Normally when flying back on a late night from Asia I just go to sleep, but the opportunity of trying out the best that Swiss has to offer in terms of food and drink and service was too good to miss. It’s true that the newest aircraft - the B777-300ER – has a different and improved First class, but I had flown business on the way over from Zurich to Hong Kong (the review is here, for subscribers) and so had not experienced the new First.

Food and drink

The “SWISS Taste of Switzerland” programme has been running since 2002 and sees the airline changing the menu every three months to offer a new selection of dishes by a renowned Swiss chef from one of the Swiss cantons. On this flight it was Baselland.

First course:

  • Fillet of Balik Salmon with blinis and sour cream
  • Fresh lobster with tomato jelly, brioche toast
  • Selection of air-dried meat specialities
  • Vegetable cannelloni with tomato concasse
  • Cream of tomato courgette soup
  • Seasonal salad with pesto-marinated mozzarella and semi-dried tomatoes
Swiss First A340-300 Food

Main course

  • Hazelnut-crusted beef tenderloin, red wine jus, polenta galettes, grilled peppers and aubergine
  • Poussin with black truffle, jus lie, fondant potatoes, sautéed mushrooms
  • Pan-friend black cod with tomato and tarragon butter, mashed potato, green and yellow courgette, cherry tomato tapenade
Swiss First A340-300 Food

Cheese:

[Note from the menu – “In north-western Switzerland, there is no one particular cheese that represents a whole region, such as the Appenzeller or the Emmentaller. However, Switzerland’s north-western region near the city of Basel has a variety of small and rare cheeses that are worth discovering.” ]

  • Passwang Mutschli
  • Chienbase Kase
  • Hosenlupf Kase
  • Gruyere AOC – Selection Rolf Beeler
  • Ziergen-Frischkase Wangen.

Dessert

  • Chocolate truffle tartlet
  • Shortbread with strawberry sherbet

Tropical fresh fruit

Wine

Champagne

  • Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle

Whites

  • Primus B Deux Blanc 2014, Buess Weine, Sissach, BL, Riesling-Sylvaner, Kerner
  • Chablis Premier Cru Montee de Tonnerre 2013, Louis Michel, Chablis, Burgundy
  • Cason Hirschprunn 2013, Tenutae Lagerder, Cason, Alto Adige, Pinot Gridio, Chardonnay, Viognier

Reds

  • Pinot Noir Barrique 2011. Siebe Dupf Kellerei, Liestal, BL, Switzerland, Pinot Noir
  • Chateau Leoville Barton 2006, 2eme Cru Classe, St Julien, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
  • Castel Gocondo 2010 Brunello di Montalcino, Marchesi de Frescobaldi, Montacino, Tuscany, Sangiovese

Dessert

  • Chateau Lafuaurie-Peyraguey 2010, Vignobles Silvo Denz, Bommes, Sauternes, Semillion, sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle

Port

  • Grahams Tawny 20 years

The flight attendants were superb, and the moment I had finished eating and got up to change into a sleep suit they reclined the seat to make it into a bed and put a bottom sheet on and tucked in the duvet so it was ready on my return.

They were quiet in the cabin and in the galley, so there was no disturbance and despite or perhaps because of having such a huge meal, I then slept for about seven hours and woke about 90 minutes before landing. They tidied up the bed are and prepared breakfast. I had a cold breakfast but there was the offer of eggs including an omelette.

Swiss First A340-300 Food

Sirocco tea and Nespresso coffee were freshly made – the Sirocco tea came in a tea pot and was served in a China cup.

Arrival

We arrived on time at Dock E at Zurich airport, and I was quickly disembarked. I then walked to Dock D and went through a security check before boarding my onward flight to London.

Verdict

This was a simply excellent first class. I'm aware that now everyone ranks first (and indeed business) by the bed product and perhaps whether there are sliding doors, but the seat was comfortable, so was the bed, the food and drink superb, the service exemplary and the flight landed on time. If Swiss carries this over to the First on the new B777-300ER, well, I’d love to read the reviews. A very welcome upgrade.

FACT BOX

  • Configuration 1-2-1
  • Seat width 55.9 cm (22 inches)
  • Bed length 200.6 cm (79 inches)
  • Screen size 10.4 inches
  • Connections Power (110V)
  • Contact swiss.com
Tom Otley