Swiss Air Premium Economy Review
After 2 years, we were finally able to travel long haul to Europe! In planning for this trip, we opted to visit just one country (Italy) instead of hopping from country to country. While travel restrictions have eased all over the world, these rules can change at a moment's notice if there is a surge in COVID rates and hospitalizations. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and while travel is starting to bounce back, we still need to take every precaution to keep everyone safe.
Many airports in Europe have been overwhelmed by the huge number of travelers visiting or passing through its busiest airports (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt just to name a few). We were lucky to have avoided all these airports. We wanted to try Swiss' new premium economy product and here is my honest review of the whole experience.
Check in: There is no dedicated check in counter for premium economy passengers. It was not busy at the airport in SFO during our flight from SFO to Milan (via Zurich) so it was not a big deal. The same goes for our return from Rome to SFO (again via Zurich) so waiting in line was not a big deal.
Boarding: Premium economy passengers are part of Boarding group 3, and board after business class passengers. I like boarding the aircraft early when flying economy or premium economy so that I can get overhead bin space. Premium economy passengers also get a welcome drink of Elderberry soda (that's what I call it but I do not know the official name). Swiss Air describes it as "a refreshing, non-alcoholic drink to welcome you on board. Flavoured with a hint of sweetness, the drink is carbonated and has a natural reddish colour. The drink is made from Swiss-grown elderberries and leaves a pleasant tingling sensation on the tongue to set the stage for a perfect flight." It was neither good, nor bad.
Staff: The staff pleasant and helpful. Many of the passengers were trying to familiarize themselves with the new seats (learning how to recline, where to plug the noise canceling headphones, etc.). The seats were just launched in April so even the flight attendants were still getting familiar with it. If one staff member didn't know how to help the passenger, they promptly called a colleague to assist.
Food: My steak from SFO to Zurich was tough and overcooked. The gravy and the
potatoes were good but after a few bites of the steak, I gave up and ate the cheese and grapes instead. On the return flight from Zurich to SFO I had the chicken and that was pretty good. I have not flown Swiss Air before so I do not know how the food compares to their regular economy and business class catering. Snacks were served to Premium Economy passengers while it was self service for economy passengers.
Seats: The main reason I pay extra for Premium Economy is to get a better seat and better legroom. In that measure, Swiss Air delivers BUT I absolutely hated how the seat functions to recline. I don't mind the hard shell on the seat. I don't mind that the seat slides forward to 'cradle' your recline as this is similar to how the seats recline on China Airlines' Premium Economy Cabin (which I liked). Swiss Air's seat was just hard to use. It's hard to explain but it was hard to make it work. On the return flight, I had an idea what I had to do to recline my seat but the seat seems to be broken as it never 'locked' into the recline. It always slid back up to normal position.
Overall, while I hated how the seat functioned, when it worked and locked into the recline, the seat was comfortable. Maybe I just need to get used to this product and if I do fly it again, I'll make sure to provide an updated review. The Premium Economy cabin is not a separate cabin from Economy. There is no partition and no separate lavatory. There is a small 'amenity kit' with a sleep mask and a tooth brush packed in a recyclable container (even the toothbrush was biodegradable). Zurich was also an efficient airport to fly in and out of in Europe. We did not experience any of the long queues that other airports continue to go through this summer. Baggage arriving in San Francisco was a bit of a mess but again, nothing compared to the horror stories of lost luggage while vacationing in Europe.
Speaking of luggage. Due to these horror stories, I asked my husband to make a run to Best Buy and purchase Air Tags and placed them in our luggage. On the Swiss Air app, you can also see if your luggage was loaded on your flight. The Air Tags came in handy when we arrived at SFO since we were able to get an idea when our bags were on the move towards the carousel.