Flying long-haul out of Europe, there is a wealth of choice across the three major airline alliances with Iberia, British Airways and Finnair from OneWorld; KLM and Air France from SkyTeam and the mega Lufthansa group (Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels Air, Austrian) representing Star Alliance. We recently flew to/from South America, where choice is somewhat more limited, especially as we wanted to limit our travel costs and use airline miles. As such, we chose Swiss outbound and Lufthansa on the return, providing us the opportunity to compare the business class on each carrier. You can read a review of my flight in Swiss Business Class A340, Zurich to Sao Paulo and my review of Lufthansa Business Class B747-8, Buenos Aires to Frankfurt.
The three Star Alliance lounges experienced on this trip (Zurich, Buenos Aires and Frankfurt) were pretty similar. Whilst ‘home airport’ lounges tend to be better (i.e., Swiss’ lounges in Zurich and Lufthansa’s lounges in Frankfurt) these were not outstanding. All 3 lounges offered a range of comfortable seating, a selection of drinks (alcohol, but not champagne, included) and a relatively limited selection of food. Whilst there is sufficient to pass an hour or so or grab a light meal, these lounges are not in the same league as Qatar’s Al Mourjan lounge in Doha.
Cabin interior and design
With both airlines in effect being owned by Lufthansa and based in predominantly Germanic countries, the cabin design is similar – muted but sophisticated in grey and white, high quality fabrics and spotlessly clean. Business class is split across 2 cabins on both airlines – for Swiss, this means a mini cabin with 2 rows and larger cabin behind; Lufthansa has a large cabin on the main deck plus the entire top deck of the 747 for business class. Although the mini cabin on Swiss feels private, somehow using a staircase on a plane always feels more exclusive.
Cabin layout and seats
The vast majority of seats on Swiss have aisle access, arranged in a 1-2-1; 1-2-2 configuration – this means single passengers can choose a private single seat and couples can grab a middle pair, both offering aisle access. In contrast, Lufthansa configure their seats 2-3-2 on the lower deck and 2-2 on the upper deck, thus there are no good seats for single travellers. When it comes to the seats themselves, although both airlines offer lie-flat seats, neither is class-leading. Swiss seats are very hard and there is an irritating lump where they join the foot rest. In contrast, the Lufthansa seats themselves seem more comfortable but as the pairs angle towards each other, you may end up knocking knees with your neighbour.
The catering options on our flights were of similar quality, although potentially slightly better on Swiss. Evening services were similar with a choice of fish, meat and vegetarian options, but the free choice breakfast trolley offered by Swiss was a nice touch and tempted our jet-lagged appetites better than menu options from Lufthansa.
Both airlines offer pretty basic amenity kits and no pyjamas in business class. The Swiss kit, packaged in a useful re-usable tote bag, consists of socks, ear-plugs, dental kit, lip balm and eye-mask – moisturiser and facial mist were provided in the lavatories. Lufthansa’s amenity kit was provided in a plastic Jil Sander bag with similar contents to Swiss plus a Korres moisturiser.
Service on both flights was excellent – friendly, efficient and flexible. We were particularly impressed that the Lufthansa staff created a meal to suit our dietary requirements by raiding the First class kitchen; on Swiss, it was always service with a smile.
For single travellers, Swiss is the best option due to the enhanced privacy offered by single seats with aisle access. For couples, there isn’t really much to choose between the carriers in business class. Both offer lie-flat beds and efficient, friendly service; neither is going to offer an outstanding, memorable premium experience.
You can also read all my Lufthansa long haul First and Business Class reviews.
It is worth reading my tips on how to find cheap First or Business Class flight tickets to and from North America for a way to save money on your next First, Business and even Premium Economy flight booking travelling into or out of the US.