This is a decent premium economy class product, featuring a strong seat with a legrest and good charging options, tasty catering, and WiFi with no data caps (although it wasn't working on my flight). Service was also great on my flight; however, the entertainment system wasn't great, and a couple of quirks made the product feel a little bit no-frills.
In December 2023 I had the chance to fly Swiss’ premium economy from Zurich to Hong Kong. Swiss introduced their premium economy product in June 2021, following the trends of many other European airlines such as Austrian, LOT Polish, and KLM. They’ve rolled out their premium economy product across all of their 777s and A340s, and their incoming fleet (such as their A350s) will feature premium economy as well.
Regular readers will know that I have flown between August and now, and have a backlog of reviews to write. I’ve just decided to expedite this review, to help you know what to expect if you’re flying Swiss premium economy this Christmas. Expect a review of Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 and Cathay Pacific’s 777 business class to come, though those are updated reviews on products that have existed for a while (and we’ve actually reviewed here).
Here’s a review of my flight on Swiss’ A340 premium economy, where I’ll talk about the seat, food and beverage, WiFi and amenities, and more.
How I Booked Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy
I paid a cash (semi-flexible) roundtrip ticket between London and Hong Kong, which set me back £1,188 (HK$11,847). I considered this to be a fairly good deal, considering I was flying home so close to Christmastime. Swiss and Lufthansa generally seem to run their premium economy products on the lower end of market pricing.
My full itinerary read as follows:
19/12 LX465 London City – Zurich dep. 17:45 arr. 20:20 [Economy]
19/12 LX138 Zurich – Hong Kong dep. 22:40 arr. 17:40+1 [Premium Economy]
31/12 LH797 Hong Kong – Frankfurt dep. 23:45 arr. 06:50+1 [Premium Economy]
1/1 LH1520 Frankfurt – London Gatwick dep. 10:05 arr. 10:35 [Economy]
I credited my miles to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, where this premium economy segment from Zurich to Hong Kong earned me 5,767 miles.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Ground Experience
Swiss’ A340 premium economy doesn’t come with separate check-in or lounge access. While the latter point is fairly standard, the former point is a bit of a bummer. I was connecting from a flight on Swiss’ A220 from London City, so this wasn’t much of a concern for me. As a premium economy passenger, you do get a 2x 23kg baggage allowance instead of one.
If you do want to pay extra for lounge access, however, premium economy passengers get a 10 CHF (HK$90.98/£9.20) discount on their voucher – it’ll cost 39 CHF (HK$352/£35.87), instead of 49 CHF (HK$445/£45.07). I did end up taking advantage of this. I’ll talk about how Swiss lounge vouchers work in an upcoming post, but basically it “buys” you the same lounge access you otherwise would get on a business class ticket (you’ll be allowed access into multiple lounges, as I was, despite the fact that they sell lounge passes “only” for a particular lounge).
One of the lounges I visited was their “flagship” longhaul business class lounge at Concourse E. I’ve reviewed the lounge before – it was fairly crowded today and showing its age, though my favourite lounge amenity in the world was open – an outdoor terrace where we could gaze out onto the planes below.
Get access to the Swiss business class lounge terrace when purchasing discounted access with a premium economy ticket
Boarding was scheduled for 10:05 PM ahead of out 10:40 PM departure. I spotted our plane at gate E43, a 20-year-old A340-300 painted with a red nose for Christmas – a bit too half-hearted to be called “LXAirDeer” if you ask me, but the A340 sure did “sleigh” its nose cone.
My deer Swiss A340 at Zurich Airport
The app erroneously said boarding was beginning at 9:40 PM, so I rushed there early from Terminal D (where I was reviewing another lounge) so I could board first for photos – my boarding pass did state that boarding began at 10:05 PM, as did the monitors by the gate area. Swiss offers priority boarding for Premium Economy class passengers, so I headed back there closer to boarding time.
Swiss gate area and Premium Economy priority boarding at Zurich Airport
Boarding began closer to 10:10 PM, starting with infirm passengers, then first class/HON Circle members, then business class passengers.
Swiss Flight LX138
Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Origin: Zurich (ZRH) Gate: E43 Dep: 22:40 (22:45)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 29 Arr: 17:40+1 (17:35+1)
Duration: 12 h (11 h 50 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300 Reg: HB-JMA
Seat: 22A (Premium Economy Class)
I boarded through the second set of doors, and made my way past Swiss’ larger aft business class cabin, before finding the premium economy cabin.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Cabin and Seat
Swiss’ A340 premium economy cabin is fairly intimate, featuring 21 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. These are fairly sleek fixed-shell premium economy seats, so you don’t recline into the person behind you.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Cabin
I’d selected seat 22A, a window seat in the last row of the premium economy cabin (pictured below are seats 21A and 21B, as the lady seated next to me needed boarding assistance and was thus already there when I boarded). This wasn’t free – it cost a hefty 53 EUR (HK$456.06/£45.94) to select a seat, though I felt it was worth it for a flight of this length.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Seats
The seat’s recline is fairly generous, and all seats also feature a fold-up legrest. I will note that the seat pan is “spring-loaded” in the upright position when trying to recline, so those with weaker backs may find it difficult to get into the reclined position – I had to help my seatmate recline her seat so she could rest comfortably.
Each seat also featured an adjustable headrest.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Recline
The seat pitch of 39″ is one inch above industry standard, and I found there to be sufficient legroom, even when reclined.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Legroom
I did think that the seat felt narrow – it’s advertised at 18-19″, which is below the industry standard of 20″, and I did notice the difference. Additionally I didn’t feel like the seat was particularly well-padded, though it wasn’t rock hard.
To my right were the two seat control buttons, with the more forward one being for the legrest (I’d have hoped these were labelled, especially for such a new cabin).
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Seat Controls
The tray table folded out from in front of me, and was bi-fold. I was impressed by how sturdy the tray table was, as it didn’t “flex” at all when putting weight onto it.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Table
Underneath the armrest was some storage space, perfect for a phone, some AirPods, etc.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Under-Armrest Storage
There was another storage bucket next to the seat pockets in front, perfect for a water bottle, or a phone if you’d plugged it into the AC power port by the seat in front, which meant you wouldn’t have to unplug it if trying to go to the bathroom.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Storage
Each seat featured a universal 110V power port as well as a USB-A charging port. There was another USB-A charging port under the armrest (not pictured), though no USB-C charging.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Power Ports
One thing unique to Swiss is that they decided to forego a bulkhead between the premium economy and economy class cabins. In this case the economy class mini-cabin behind consisted of “just” two rows, though there is a larger cabin behind if you’re flying the 777. On the plus side, economy class looked fairly comfortable, as a 2-4-2 configuration on a longhaul aircraft is rare these days.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy View of Economy Class
Not pictured was a reading light, featured at the side of my seat. While there was an attempt to provide a winged seat shell by my head for privacy, it was so small that it didn’t make a difference. There was also a dedicated space to hang headphones between seats, as well as a coat hook. Swiss’ A340s don’t feature air nozzles in premium economy class.
This is a good premium economy seat, and strong on the recline, storage and tech front. I could fit my laptop in the seat pocket in front of me, and I appreciated both the AC and (two) USB power outlet options, though would’ve appreciated USB-C charging for such a new seat. I also found the recline function to be substantial and well-intentioned, with a helpful addition of a legrest; however, I could see this being a problem for mobility-compromised passengers, since it’s not very easy to adjust the seat into the reclined position.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Amenities
On my seat I found a pillow and blanket, which were the same as those provided in economy. Swiss as an airline lags in the bedding front, and has especially underwhelming bedding in business class (I didn’t find the pillow or blanket to be uncomfortable, they just weren’t as substantial as the duvets I’ve had in premium economy on some other airlines).
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Pillow and Blanket
There were more substantial headphones than those provided in economy, though I still didn’t find them to be particularly high-quality.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Headphones
There was an amenity kit waiting at each seat. These were Victorinox amenity kits, though I found them to be somewhat reusable bag-like in texture – they featured a simple dental kit, an eyeshade, and a scarlet pair of socks.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Victorinox Amenity Kit
There was also a bottle of water waiting at each seat, though none at mine – I’d suspect that my seatmate accidentally thought it was hers.
I’d say amenities in Swiss’ premium economy class ran on the bare-bones side, though I didn’t feel like anything was missing. An enhanced pillow and blanket for premium economy passengers would’ve been nice, though Swiss really does need to work from front to back when it comes to upgrading their bedding across the board.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Pre-Departure Service
There wasn’t much in the way of pre-departure service on this flight. Typically Swiss serves a pre-departure beverage for premium economy passengers, though this was incorrectly loaded on our flight (I only asked because I wanted to know if it was available as a drink during mealtimes, having seen this drink in reviews I’d read – the flight attendant serving me proactively apologised that this should’ve been a welcome drink for everybody, but they didn’t have enough due to incorrect loading issues).
I had the opportunity to try this drink during my first meal (it wasn’t on the menu, though the flight attendant proactively offered to grab some from business class), and it was a delicious elderberry drink – it tasted like a fancy elderflower cordial, and wasn’t too sweet. What a shame it wasn’t available for all passengers during boarding.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Elderberry Welcome Drink (usually)
We did get a menu, though it only featured items for the first meal service. The crew came back to take orders before departure.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Menu
Taking off from Zurich Airport
Boarding was fairly smooth, and was completed at around 10:30 PM, around 10 minutes before our scheduled departure. This flight was full in most cabins, and the only empty premium economy seat was the middle seat in our row.
My seatmate was curiously exploring the features of her seat as well, and seemed interested every time she found a new feature. She didn’t speak much English, so I tried to pull out the French I remembered from middle school, though when she switched to English halfway I knew it was time to re-download Duolingo. (I did let her know through Google Translate that I was reviewing the flight, and would be careful not to take any photos with her face showing.)
As you can see from some of the photos above, mood lighting was put on once boarding was completed. I really like Swiss’ elegant cabin colours, including their signature reddish-orange mood lighting.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Cabin before Takeoff
I didn’t catch a PA announcement made before takeoff, though the safety video was shown just as we pushed back, at around 10:45 PM.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Safety Video
During our taxi I caught a glimpse of an A320 belonging to rebranded low-cost Swiss airline Chair, which I now really want to try (for novelty’s sake – I wonder if they charge for seat selection, given I would’ve already selected a Chair as my airline of choice).
Chair A320 at Zurich Airport
It was a just-under 10-minute taxi to runway 34, where we took off. This was a full A340, not a particularly powerful aircraft, and it must have had one of the weakest takeoff rolls I’ve ever experienced – I barely felt us angle upwards, and for a second looked out the window to check that we’d actually lifted off the ground. Unfortunately I was over the wing, it was dark, and I didn’t have my camera with me, so there wasn’t much in the way of takeoff pictures.
Takeoff from Zurich Airport
I did have a chance to take a photo of the sleek-looking premium economy cabin once we lifted off.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Cabin after Takeoff
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy WiFi
After taking off I tried to connect to WiFi. In theory here is how WiFi is priced on Swiss’ A340:
- Free messaging services are provided
- A 4-hour WiFi package costs CHF 25 (HK$226.24/£22.96)
- A full flight WiFi package costs CHF 35 (HK$316/£32.14)
While on the upper end of WiFi pricing, I’d happily pay for WiFi with no data caps on a flight of this length. However, WiFi didn’t work for the entire duration that I was awake on the flight. There was a brief period (<10 minutes) when we were over northeast India, after just having left the Bangladeshi border and before we flew into Myanmar, where the WiFi did show as being available; however, right after reaching the payment page the WiFi became unavailable again. I slept for 7 hours on the flight, and would imagine it was working for a bit over eastern Europe, or at least for the extended time we were over mainland India.
Assuming it did work then, this is a massive improvement over the WiFi prices Swiss used to charge, which were about twice as expensive, and featured low data caps.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Entertainment System
Here’s the weakest part of the Swiss product in my experience – the entertainment system. On the plus side, the screen was large and the touchscreen function was responsive. However, the actual selection was kind of sad – there were less than 100 movies across all genres, and around 10 comedy TV shows to choose from.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Entertainment System
I just resorted to having the airshow on for most of the flight, which at least was fairly interactive, featuring a few different views (including a “command center” one).
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Airshow
Additionally, the entertainment system wasn’t even activated until takeoff (we just had a rolling screen prior to then), which felt particularly like a blast from the past – and not in a good way.
Typically I’d far outweigh working WiFi over a strong entertainment system – preferably we’d have both. In the case of this flight, however, we had neither…
Swiss’ A340 Economy Class
Swiss’ A340 doesn’t feature its own dedicated lavatory for premium economy passengers, though there are lavatories behind the two rows of economy class situated behind the premium economy class cabin.
Before heading to the lavatory, though, I took the chance to visit the rest of Swiss’ 144-seat economy class cabin (128 of which are in the rear part of the aircraft) – economy class doesn’t get much more comfortable than this, as you get 18″ seat width in a 2-4-2 configuration, and there are only two middle seats in each row, with “doubles” by the windows. Recline and in-seat storage looked good as well.
Swiss A340 Economy Class
Swiss’ A340 Economy/Premium Economy Lavatories
As aforementioned, Swiss’ premium economy passengers share one of four lavatories (mainly the two located by the third set of doors, right behind the two rows of economy class). The right lavatory was even inoperable for the latter half of the journey, so there was a 48:1 passenger-to-lavatory ratio (as opposed to the typical 36) – there was always a queue for the lavatory, which was exacerbated during landing.
The lavatories were standard and even featured Horsleys amenities, though I couldn’t help but figure how much of a downgrade this was to the A220 lavatories I’d visited earlier in the evening.
Swiss A340 Economy/Premium Economy Lavatory
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Meal Service
The meal service occurred about 50 minutes after takeoff, with a trolley service beginning at premium economy, before working down into economy class. This started with a bottle of water, which was handed out to all premium economy and economy passengers.
The menu handed out earlier read as follows:
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Menu
There was a small drinks menu, which read as follows:
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Menu
I did note that while we had three main course options to choose from, there were two chicken options along with a vegetarian option, one of which was a stew and one of which was a frikandel (sausage). While chicken is a “safe” bet (i.e. I feel this is better than if there were two pork options), I do wish they took advantage of the variety they offered. I also noticed the complete lack of specialty drinks offered in premium economy class, whether they be cocktails or otherwise – they did have a Swiss white wine and a Swiss beer (as well as the aforementioned elderberry welcome drink, which I feel like should be offered during meals as well), though that was it in terms of local flair.
I wasn’t feeling like chicken that evening, so went for the älpler macaroni. It was actually very good flavours wise, though my main criticism is that it was lukewarm. The meal was served with a (sad) salad, some delicious Swiss cheese with pear bread, two stale bread rolls (I kid you not – they were very tough to bite through), and dessert. The meal also came with proper cutlery.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Meal – Älpler Macaroni
I was asked what I wanted to drink. I’m really not sure why I asked for a white wine (never my wine of choice – I also didn’t realise at the time that the wine was Swiss), though I was given a mini, and it wasn’t too bad – it was Merveilles Chasselas de Romanique, a premium Swiss wine with middling reviews.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy White Wine – Merveilles Chasselas de Romanique
Dessert was a delicious chocolate and gingerbread mousse with red wine pear compote and whipped cream.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Dessert – Chocolate gingerbread with red wine pear compote and whipped cream
There was a separate drinks run with tea, coffee, and other beverages after the meal service.
This was a strong showing of meals for premium economy, though I’ve got two “even-better-if”s for them: firstly the meal was lukewarm as aforementioned, and secondly I would’ve appreciated if there was a slightly speedier clearing of trays, as it took 50+ minutes for trays to be cleared after they were served. This is probably the longest wait for meal trays to be cleared that I’ve had in premium economy on an overnight flight.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Service
I’ve got nothing but great things to say about the crewmembers serving this flight. They were friendly, eager to please, personable, and energetic on this full late-night flight. I particularly enjoyed that crewmembers took time to explain the two chicken options to premium economy passengers, something that I noticed they had to do a few times.
I can’t count the number of times my AirPods case had fallen out of my pocket and between the gaps of the seat while I was sleeping on a flight over the past couple of years, though it happened again on this flight. The crewmember I informed showed concern and said she’d come and help ASAP (I’d unfortunately noticed as they were carrying out the pre-arrival meal service), though the friendly economy class passenger in the row behind managed to spot them lying underneath the seat next to mine. I was sure to let the crew know right after I retrieved my AirPods, and they shared my relief. (I really need to start putting my AirPods in a storage nook before I head to sleep on any flight.) Anyway, the crew serving my flight were delightful.
I think there’s some optimisation to be done on the service flow front, as service felt slow – for example, despite the cabin being staffed by multiple crewmembers, the same crewmember came to take meal orders in premium economy across both aisles. I did feel that these small things slowed down the speed of service overall. However, these are easy fixes that I’m sure can be managed from the management front.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Service Between Meals
There’s no at-seat service between meals in Swiss premium economy, nor is there a dedicated galley for premium economy passengers. Readers have pointed out that there generally is a small galley selection of instant noodles, chocolates, candy, olives and drinks at the back of economy class, though this was never advertised on my flight. I briefly wondered when I walked past an empty display cupboard before landing, though didn’t manage to catch this area mid-flight.
Here’s a picture from Facebook user Henry Lau (I’m in a group called the Hong Kong Aviation Discussion Board, where people occasionally post flight reviews). He took a subsequent flight on the same route and managed to snag a picture of the snacks available in the galley, which seemed to be limited to candy, instant soup, cookies, various crisps/popcorn, and sparkling water:
Swiss A340 Economy/Premium Economy Galley Snacks
Flying over Bangladesh
I reclined my seat and went to sleep after the meal service, and slept a very solid seven hours. When I woke up it was light, and we were just flying over Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Airshow over Dhaka
I spent the next hour and a half or so touching up on some blog posts, given that the WiFi still wasn’t working for me.
Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy Pre-Arrival Meal Service
I was surprised that the pre-arrival meal service only began 1h 45m before landing, as I’m used to premium economy and economy passengers being served far earlier than necessary. It was clear that someone had accidentally knocked the wrong light setting, as the light was briefly turned onto the brightest setting, before slowly warming back up to wake passengers up.
This meal wasn’t featured on the menu card, and there wasn’t any choice. It featured an egg, spinach and potato dish, a stale croissant and bread roll, a fruit plate, and a raspberry yoghurt, as well as some jam. The eggs were on the firm side, though the breakfast dish itself was perfectly fine, with the creamed spinach actually being really tasty.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Breakfast
A drinks run ensued, and I asked for a black coffee, which was served with a Lindt chocolate.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Coffee
A second choice of breakfast would’ve been nice, and even if not, I would’ve appreciated a description of this meal on the menu card, which would’ve been an easy fix. I did think that this was a fairly “safe” breakfast choice, though.
A second drinks run was provided after this meal service, and I just asked for some water.
Landing into Hong Kong Airport
Around 45 minutes before landing, the first officer came onto the PA, announcing that we’d be landing soon, and that Hong Kong was cloudy with a 16°C temperature.
A festive Swiss chocolate was provided at each seat before landing.
Swiss A340 Premium Economy Festive Chocolate
The seatbelt sign came on around 20 minutes before landing, and we got ready for our descent into Hong Kong. It was a beautiful day above the clouds, and we got a beautiful sunset as we approached Hong Kong Airport.
Sunset upon Landing into Hong Kong Airport
We touched down at runway 09L (the new runway on reclaimed land) at around 5:25 PM, 15 minutes before our scheduled arrival time. It took a while to taxi to gate 29 as we had to taxi from the furthest runway to the other side of the terminal, though we were parked and ready to deplane by 5:35 PM.
Pulling in next to a Lufthansa A340 at Hong Kong Airport
I had a chance to see our blushing Swiss A340 on the way to immigration – I really want to like the livery, though it did look like a mismatched nose cone meant for Norwegian Airlines, or something (future review spoiler alert).
Swiss A340 at Hong Kong Airport
Bags took a fairly lengthy 45 minutes to arrive, though I was on my way home by 6:15 PM.
Bottom Line: Swiss’ A340 Premium Economy
I enjoyed my flight in Swiss’ premium economy class. The seat featured good recline (and I loved the legrest), legroom, and charging options, the food was good, and service was really good as far as premium economy class went. There were a couple of quirks specific to this flight such as non-working WiFi, an inoperable lavatory, and the lack of pre-departure beverages loaded, which were small things that did end up making a fairly big difference; however, these things aren’t representative of the typical Swiss premium economy experience.
I’ve read really positive reviews of Swiss’ premium economy, and it’s also marketed as quite a premium product. I’d say some aspects felt really no-frills: these included the same pillow and blanket as that provided in economy (poor bedding is a bigger issue for Swiss anyway), only one meal option before landing, no specialty drinks, the kitschy amenity kit, etc.. I’m due to fly a couple more premium economy products on European airlines next year, though am keen to see whether that’s the industry standard.
I’d say Swiss’ premium economy product felt firmly inferior to Cathay Pacific’s, Singapore Airlines’ and Virgin Atlantic’s, and probably ranks just below British Airways, due to the lack of signature drinks, an inferior amenity kit, and an inferior midflight snacks selection – all of the above airlines have comparable seats and catering (Swiss does feature a legrest, whereas Virgin Atlantic and British Airways only do on their newest aircraft). However, I still had a good flight – I just probably wouldn’t seek them out in the future, and would still choose them in a heartbeat if the price was right.
Have you flown Swiss’ premium economy before? How was your flight?