Home > Hong Kong, Star Alliance, SWISS International Air Lines, Trip Reports > Asia 2012 Trip Report: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong

Asia 2012 Trip Report: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: United Airlines LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Part 3: United Airlines Global First Class, San Francisco to Frankfurt

Part 4: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt

Part 5: Lufthansa FRA-ZRH, SWISS First Class Lounge at Zürich

Part 6: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong


SWISS International Air Lines 138, ZRH-HKG
10:40pm-4:45pm +1 (12h05m)
Airbus A340-300
Seat 2K, First

Boarding was called and I made my way to the line for First & Business Class, excited to ride in an A340. It’s such a sleek plane and I love the 4-engine look. It may not have the grandeur and elegance of the 747, nor the massive space of the A380, nor the power of a 777, but it’s still a cool plane to fly nonetheless.

SWISS A340-300

Despite two jetways, the door to the front door (1L) was closed, so everyone boarded via the second door, between the two Business Class cabins. Everyone in front of me had a “C” on his or her boarding pass, denoting Business Class. As I entered the aircraft with a big “F,” I was given just a bit more attention. “Mr. K, welcome abroad. Please follow me to your seat.” I turned left after the galley and through the mini business-cabin at the front.

I walked into the cabin reserved for the first 2 rows and looked in awe. My first real international First.

The shells surrounding the seats are bigger than a picture can properly show. Since there are no overhead bins over the center seats, the cabin looks massive.

I took seat 2K, while the woman from the FCL took 2A. At first, I thought it would be just us 2, but we were soon joined by 6 other passengers, which made it a full First class: 8/8. Still, it’s better than 172/172 in coach down the back. Or 8/8 in one row on United Business. Pretty much everyone else in First looked like a Swiss bank president, so needless to say, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Seat 2K

Spacious cabin

I was presented with an amenity kit, pajamas, and a glass of champagne alongside a welcome snack. Given the late departure, 10:45pm at ZRH, and between 2:15am and 4:45am for my upcoming destinations, I changed into pajamas before takeoff and kept my day clothes in a provided closet at the front of the cabin. The pajamas made by vanLaack and extremely comfortable … I’m wearing them at home right now! Fully black polo-style with a beige inner collar. Where a normal logo would be, the top says “SWISS FIRST,” just in case the flight attendants need to check who’s who in the middle of the night … I wish it was acceptable to go out in these. The amenity kit is by Bally and has an odd double-zipper design. The amenities inside are the usual fare with some nice lotions and creams that I passed along to family in India.

Amenity kit, Laurent-Perrier champagne, and Amuse Bouche (after some of it went into my bouche)


Stylin’ in First Class

Despite the four engines on the A340, it has one of the slowest takeoff rolls of any widely used aircraft. It took about 65 seconds on this try.

Soon after takeoff, the “Maître de Cabine” and 2 other First Class Flight Attendants began service. I asked for turndown service rather than the meal, especially since I had just eaten in the FCL. One of the flight attendants went to a closet behind First Class and pulled out a mattress pad and duvet. Two straight nights on planes … #firstclassproblems.

Despite this being SWISS’ “old” product, the bed is mighty comfortable, and even without a suite format (no doors or walls shielding you from the rest of the cabin), I didn’t feel any bother at all from the dinner service for the other 7 passengers. The provided eyeshade and earplugs helped a lot in getting more than 5 hours of solid sleep.

Upon waking up, one of the FAs was at my seat within a minute to ask if I wanted a sandwich or snack (A MINUTE, United!). Instead, I asked if I could be served a late dinner (despite it being 4am in Zurich and 10am in Hong Kong, it was 7pm in L.A.). Of course, I “asked” politely yet meant it as an “I’m not forgoing a first class dinner just because I wanted to sleep beforehand” inside. That’s a plus of flying First … dine on demand!

And not to fear, some choices I was eyeing were still available, and I had a private dinner service.

The Swiss First Menu is a 20-page booklet showcasing meals, cheeses, and wines. Of course, the meal portion is given in 4 languages (English, German, French, and Chinese) so that adds to the length.

Table setting



First Courses
*Fillet of Balik salmon with blinis and sour cream

Lobster coconut ball with a salad of mussel and octopus
Lemongrass panna cotta with curry mousse
Ticino speciality of ‘Farina bona’ cracker

Tagliatelle with creamy morel cognac sauce
Green asparagus
(Can also be enjoyed as a main course)

White asparagus cream soup

*Baby leaves with dried apricots and Swiss Sbrinz cheese shavings

And the beverage list …


Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle
Laurent-Perrier; Champagne, France (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir)

Vinattieri Biano del Ticino DOC 2010
Vinattieri Ticinese; Ligornetto, Ticino, Switzerland

Esporão Reserva, Private Selection, Reguengos DOC 2010
Herdade de Esporão Reguengos de Monsaraz; Alentejo, Portugal

Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu 2009
William Fevre; Chablis, Burgundy, France

Casimiro Svizzera Italiana IGT 2009
Agrioro SA; Arzo, Ticino, Switzerland

Quinta Nova Reserva Douro DOC 2008
Quinta Nova; Covas do Douro, Douro, Portugal

La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan AOC 2007
La Mission Haut-Brion; Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux France (64% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc)

Inniskillin Icewine Vidal Oak Aged 2006
Inniskillin; Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada

Graham’s Tawny 20 years
Symington Family Estates; Douro, Portugal


Appenzeller Quöllfrisch
Cardinal Sans Alcool <0.5%

Sherry La Guita-fino
Bacardi White Run Superior
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Grey Goose Vodka

Single Malt Whisky, The Macallan Fine Oak 18 years
Blended Scotch Whisky, Chivas Regal 18 years
Cognac, Rémy Martin XO Excellence A.O.C. Grande Champagne
Grappa di Moscato Monovitigno Nonino
Zuger Kirsch Vintage Etter
Williams Etter
Baileys Irish Cream

I was interested in almost all of the first course choices, but only the salmon and salad were still available. At least it helped narrow down my decision. The Balik salmon was absolutely delightful – tender and moist, especially with the sour cream, and paired with the Portuguese white wine. The salad seemed a bit dry (though maybe that’s just my American taste).

Look at the size of those salt+pepper shakers!

Balik salmon


Main Courses
Loin of lamb with Tagglia olive crust, Formaggini cheese
Rosemary potatoes, beans with raisins

*Corn-fed chicken breast with Maggia pepper sauce
Polenta and spring vegetables

Pan-fried sea bass, cavatelli pasta with basil
Stuffed artichokes

I was torn between the sea bass and chicken breast and eventually decided on the latter. Once again, I was satisfied with the decision.

Selection of Swiss artisan cheese

Leave it to the SWISS flag carrier to have an amazing selection of cheese on a plane. By far, this was the best part of the meal. I savored each and every bite alongside the dessert wine for the night, the Inniskillin Icewine from Niagara. Interweaving flavors of Valle Maggia and Ticino Mutschli with peach aromas and marmalade overtones … oh goodness, I’m drooling all over my keyboard.


Stuffed already, I skipped the desserts, which had the following choices:

Amaretti cake with passion fruit mousse
Raspberry ice cream

Strawberry apple gazpacho
Apple marshmallow, strawberry jelly

Sprüngli pralines
Espresso and a selection of coffees and teas

I finished my meal somewhere above India, with the plane on course for Mumbai. If I didn’t know that SWISS runs A330s with the newer First Class product to BOM, I’d have thought I was on the wrong flight. Or maybe they knew I was being a mileage-maximizing idiot and were going to kick me out over Bombay with a parachute.

It would cost me more miles to end my trip here

The A340 First Class has a smaller IFE screen than the newer A330 First, and the selection isn’t all that great outside a couple of movies. But the bed is still downright comfortable, so I went back to sleep for a couple more hours, getting a full night’s rest on just one flight.

I woke up and saw that a couple of passengers in row 1 were starting their breakfast service. The MdC came by within a few seconds and asked what I wanted for breakfast. I’d like to note that although it’s 8am in ZRH at this time in the flight, it’s already 2pm at the destination. But I just ate dinner 3.5 hours ago so who cares? I just ended up going a little light on the breakfast. I was also given a small smoothie which was great.


Assortment of breakfast breads, preserves and honey
Fresh fruits, yoghurts, muesli and cereals.

Choice of egg dishes, cold cuts and cheese

Coffee, tea and juices

Look how huge the table is! Another passenger can sit on the seat’s ottoman and have dinner alongside … it’s that big!


One of the awkward things about flying First or Business is the whole window situation. I love window seats, even in Economy. When I’m flying in the back, I’ll usually have just 1 window, maybe 2 if I’m lucky. Because seats are closer together, the light only shines on one row, maybe two. If it’s an emptier cabin, you’re not bothering people if you keep your shade a little bit open.

But in First, you have 4 windows until the seat in front of you. A small crack of the window shade invites the sun into all parts of the cabin as it freely enters. Despite it being 9:30am at our origin and 3:30pm at our destination, a few passengers were still asleep, which made looking out kind of tough.

But I still took pictures.

After breakfast, and with about 40 minutes left in the half-day flight, I changed into my day clothes and packed the pajamas into my carry-on. New favorite wardrobe item! I then took this video:

With preparations finished for landing, the MdC came by to thank each passenger by name for flying SWISS. I thanked her for an excellent flight, easily the best one I’d had up to that point.

I’ve flown into the new HKG airport plenty of times but I still miss the old Kai Tak approach over Kowloon. That was a thrill, even if I only remember it a couple of times. We arrived from the west underneath a cloud cover and light drizzle.

Wall design at the back of the cabin, with a Swiss cross on ZRH

Good seats for a couple, but I’d stick with A/K seats for a single travelers

Upon arrival at HKG, First Class deboarded via a private jetway at at the front of the plane. I was greeted by a personal escort with my name on a tag. Rather than wait in line at immigration for about 10-15 minutes, I was taken to a side entrance, where my passport was processed within a few minutes. From there, I was escorted to baggage claim, though I’m sure I could have found the way myself.

“No entry” is just a “suggestion”

Thus ended the outbound leg of my 120,000 round-trip award from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. But it was 5pm, just 5 hours before my next leg, Emirates A380 First Class to Bangkok!

  1. Ryan from MA
    July 18, 2012 at 3:25 am

    hey bro! I’m already thinking about next summer’s trip and I looked at this post on Swiss and I can’t find any first class from ZRH-PEK, ZRH-PVG, ZRH-HKG….got any tips?

    • Amol
      July 18, 2012 at 7:52 am

      It seems SWISS have really tightened up the availability, or the flights were already booked. There’s also usually good availability via DEL and BOM but I would avoid a transfer in India.

      • Ryan from MA
        July 20, 2012 at 5:22 am

        hahaha….nice! thanks man…yeah i can’t even see anything one day out or two weeks in…crappers!

  1. July 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm

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