SWISS Brings Its New Business Class Seat to San Francisco


Greetings from San Francisco. I came up this week for a couple of reasons, but most interesting was the launch of SWISS service to Zurich. I don’t usually SWISS SFO Airplane Fronttravel for route launches, but this had several interesting aspects that made it worth the trip, including my first look at the new seat (see the video below).

So what was so special about this? Well, I was offered the chance to interview SWISS CEO Harry Hohmeister (I’ll have the Across the Aisle interview next week), but there was more than that. They painted an airplane in a special San Francisco livery just for this launch and they introduced their new business class seat on the A340 on this route. Why was it getting so much attention? I had to find out.

When the flight arrived, SWISS had a viewing set up in the reflection room at SFO. The airplane was specifically parked at gate 91 so that people in the SWISS SFO Airplane Rearroom would have a perfect view of the airplane. Then the reception continued in the excellent SFO museum on the other side of the terminal.

It was there that I found out a lot of the rationale behind this route. Apparently, the ties between Zurich and San Francisco are big, but not necessarily big enough to support a flight historically. That being said, companies like Google and Novartis have large travel needs between the two and expressed a strong desire for the flight.

Ultimately, however, it was Roche that made it happen. Roche, the pharmaceutical giant, purchased Bay Area-based Genentech. They wanted a flight to connect the two cities, and in fact, they signed a guarantee with the airline on one condition: they wanted the new business class seats.

I think Chris McGinnis got this one right when he dubbed the flight, the “Roche Coach.”

It all makes sense, right? The new business class is excellent and this is the first A340 refitted with it. I had the chance to go onboard yesterday after they cleaned the airplane and took this video tour.

Pretty cool. For what it’s worth, I did lie down on the seat and used the controls to feel the cushion getting firmer and softer. It’s fairly remarkable what a difference that makes. The massage function was nice as well. I can see why a company would want this.

Right now, all the A330-300 airplanes have the new seats and they fly to New York and I believe, Dubai. The A330-200s are being phased out and will be gone by January. The A340s will be refitted by next June, so at that point, all long haul will have these new seats.

So, those of you in the Bay Area have a new, rock star option if you’re flying in business to Europe. Coach ain’t too shabby either, but it’s effectively the same as what you’ll find on other airlines with in-seat video.

Even though it’s a new route, don’t expect to see any amazing deals right now. The summer is booking very well, and I was told that in some months it’s already outperforming the long-established Los Angeles route. That’s music to their ears, I’m sure.

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19 comments on “SWISS Brings Its New Business Class Seat to San Francisco

  1. I hope Swiss thinks there is more of a reason to fly here then a few company’s who fly to Switzerland. When I first saw their special ‘flower power’ paint job earlier in the week I did find it kind of insulting. Is that what the people of Switzerland think San Francisco is all about? Do they think it’s still the 60’s here and we are all hippee pot heads.

    I’m thinking they thought the time was right since their parent company LH flys FRA/MUC nonstops and fellow Star Alliance member has a large hub here which would help cover more of the western USA then just flying to LAX.

    Those seats looked kine of narrow, where they?

    1. @David SFeastbay: you post often and I often enjoy your comments and insight. And you are worth a good chuckle now and again with your wit. But, I was moved to comment on your post here today because C’MONE BRO! Insulting? Really? You were truly insulted? You always struck me as more of a relaxed and fun person from your posts.

      The paint job is what it is and depending on what adjectives you use, can actually be quite a positive and complimentary tribute to SF. How about “groovy and hip”? Yes, there we go.

      If you are still insulted, I invite you to Fresno where the main paint jobs you will see at the airport are SkyWest and American Eagle…because we’re BORING! Or, I should use my own advice and try a different adjective: because we are professional and straight-forward. If I were you, I would choose groovy and hip :)

    2. I hope Swiss thinks there is more of a reason to fly here then a few company’s who fly to Switzerland.
      Well obviously they think there’s more than that, because that alone can’t fill the entire A340. But, it’s those companies and their high dollar fares that pushed this over the top to make it a viable opportunity once again. Remember, the top customers count for a disproportionately large share of revenue, so they matter a lot more than most of the people in the back in terms of route viability.

      I spoke with the CEO (posted next week) and he said that while Star Alliance traffic is nice, they’re looking at the origin & destination market when making their decisions. Star doesn’t come into play.

      Yes, the seat is a bit narrow, but that armrest on the left side comes down to make for a wider space. It was perfectly good in my opinion.

      1. Cranky they (or LH) had to be thinking of Star Alliance as part of the decission to fly here, how could they not with partner UA having a big hub here.

        So why does the left arm go down, to give more room for nap time?

        1. They say not. They say they love the added traffic, but they won’t fly to a city unless it works without it.

          The whole left arm goes down to make for a bigger bed space. Most of the flat beds seem to do it that way these days.

  2. Is it just or does the wood look kind of out of place?

    I am with David – the seat does look narrow. While I like to have storage available that’s easily accessible, the ratio of seat was “stuff” next to it seems a bit odd.

    As a San Franciscan, I do like the fact that we now have another *A non-stop option to Europe.

    Thanks for sharing the video.

  3. @David SFeastbay – I don’t find it insulting at all. It’s an interesting and large part of the city and our country’s history, if albiet a now overplayed and clung onto by some. If I had a time machine it’d be one of my stops. I like the design – there’s a full photo on Gadling too.

    Nothing wrong with some positive stereotypes. When thinking of Switzerland who doesn’t think of standing atop the swiss alps yodeling, precision watches and hot chocolate? — while normal Swiss citizens roll their eyes at Ricola commercials.

    So I noticed the Brady bunch fonted arrow graphic says “direct” — (to San Francisco) Technically it should be “non-stop” to us geeks right?

    Do airlines outside the US have and use the “direct” vs “non-stop” difference, and ambiguity that results? First time I’ve thought of that.

    1. No James, I think the Swiss still think we’re hippees and ran off the plane and headed to the Haight to buy Joplin and Morirson T-shirts and to go bong shopping…

      Actually I think it is very flattering that they thought enough of the new service to go to the expense of adding the special theme to the plane. Which I read will stay on for the next year.

    1. We discussed this a bit in my interview with the CEO, to be published next week. They do operate independently of each, but the hub timings are no accident. If you look at the flying options, you’ll notice that Frankfurt flights tend to leave in the afternoon, Zurich flights leave in the early evening, and Munich flights leave later in the evening. This gives three distinct banks to feed into. (Same on the return.)

      For example, from SFO to . . .
      Frankfurt leaves at 215p
      Zurich leaves at 725p
      Munich leaves at 9p

    2. Nicholas like Cranky pointed out below, between the daily LH nonstop SFO-FRA, SFO-MUC…UA’s nonstops SFO-FRA, SFO-LHR…and now LX nonstop SFO-ZRH looks like they want to cover beyonds points with the most options from the West Coast. With BD out of LHR, the UA service to LHR offers a lot of connections.

  4. Cranky on a side note…..

    The next time you come up to the bay area after July 1st you’ll have to try the new Allegiant Long Beach – Stockton nonstop they are starting, rent a car and drive the 50/60ish miles to the bay area and give up a trip report.

    Now there is a question to ask them, are they trying to get SCK people to LGB/LA area or trying to get LGB/LA people to the bay area via SCK……lol

    1. Uh, no. I’m flying them to Bellingham in August so that will have to do. I think this is just a placeholder until Hawai’i flying can start.

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