Alongside its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (new first class suites with questionable pegboard-style holes, Thompson Vantage business class in a 2-2-2/1-2-1 configuration lacking direct aisle access, no premium economy, narrow 3-4-3 economy seating with 31” pitch — an inch less than Swiss’ previous 2-4-2 Airbus A330/A340 longhaul economy, ridiculously expensive Ku-band connectivity) Swiss is launching three new lounges in its main hub at Zurich.
Problem is, they’re not very…Swiss.
Swiss and Lufthansa — the two airlines in the Lufthansa Group that offer a first class experience — have rather unusual lounge provisions, so let’s recap: the first class lounge is for actual first class passengers on Swiss and Lufthansa Group, plus their HON Circle top-tier frequent flyers. The Senator lounge is for Star Alliance Golds and first class passengers on non-Lufthansa Group partner airlines, while the business lounge is for business class passengers.
There is a lot to like in Swiss’ new lounges: fondue or raclette (my personal fave) on the terrace during the winter months, plus what the airline calls a five-star restaurant in the first class lounge. The finishes and fittings look delightful in the media shots, and Swiss usually does a great job with service.
Yet the airline is over-egging its pudding, promising “an innovative zonal concept for the comfort and convenience of SWISS’s premium guests: open areas in which to sit and simply enjoy the stay, working areas with secluded workplaces and rest zones equipped with specially-developed seating offering genuine relaxation.”
This is neither innovative nor novel — I would wager that almost every airline lounge from legacy airlines in home hubs has had exactly that kind of “zonal concept” for decades.
Moreover, the aesthetic lacks distinctness. It’s elegant, but there’s no clue to its Swissness — particularly curious given the September 2015 legislation covering Swiss-designed and Swiss-produced items.
This lounge could be anywhere in the world — Tokyo? Sydney? Atlanta? Copenhagen? São Paulo? Madrid?
I don’t need a chocolatier or a cuckoo clock, or pictures of mountains, or repeating motifs of the Swiss cross, or ski chalet work rooms, or embossed cantonal shields, or yodelling, but why not fold signature aspects of Swiss culture into the lounge — a series of elegant watch-inspired clocks? Signature chocolates (the airline certainly hands those out on the aircraft, and delicious they are too)?
A series of photographs of Switzerland’s panoramic natural beauty? The raclette and fondue show tiny sparks of Swissness. But elsewhere in the lounge, it’s hidden behind samey furniture and uninspired design.
We’ve seen light wood and dark leather before, in numerous lounges around the world. Is this Swiss, or Qantas? We’ve seen architectural pressed wood semi-see-through dividers. Is this Swiss, or Air New Zealand?
We’ve seen pendant lamps with exposed bulbs over coffee machines. Is this Swiss, or Finnair?
We’ve seen whisky bars. Is this Swiss, or British Airways?
We’ve seen furniture that brings a mid-century modern feel. Is this Swiss, or Virgin Atlantic?
We’ve seen wine libraries as decoration. Is this Swiss, or British Airways?
We’ve seen polygonal accent walls. Is this Swiss, or Etihad?
The real cognitive dissonance with these lounges strikes because of all the countries in Europe, Swiss is one of the most unusual, most beautiful and most proud of its culture. That’s perhaps why the lack of visible Swissness in these lounges is such a disappointment.
See a gallery of Swiss’ new lounges below. All images courtesy of Swiss.