Swiss’ elegant new Zürich lounges somehow lack Swissness


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?

SWISS_First Lounge_2

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.

SWISS Senator Lounge_1SWISS_Business Lounge_3SWISS_Business Lounge_2SWISS_First Lounge_4SWISS_Business Lounge_4SWISS_First Lounge_3


  1. A genuine Swiss guy

    I don’t quite share your opinion about the lack of Swissness in the new lounge – after all, there’s nothing more typical for Switzerland than discretion, moderation, neutrality and low key perfection. In general however, I’d highly recommend to spend as little time in lounges as possible anyway. Lounges are basically nothing more than a cocoon for those pitiable business travellers who don’t really want to get in touch with local culture (why the heck don’t they stay at home and send e-mails instead?).

    No offence, but serving Raclette and Fondue on the terrace in the winter is a terrible idea! Even outdoors, it will likely pester everything. Do they seriously think that business travellers like to have smelly clothes? Please, please: Switzerland doesn’t just know cheese dishes, we also have many other tasty, but less smelly and hence more suitable specialities. To me it seems they definitely weren’t consulted by a Swiss consulting company – no native Swiss would ever recommend serving Raclette and Fondue anywhere except in a specialized restaurant just for that – or in a little hut in the alps. And we only eat in cold winters, not in spring, not in summer, not in autumn – not even in mild winters like this season.

    The thing I like is that this is the first review I read that doesn’t just repeat the mantra in the Swiss press release that the passenger comfort in its “new” 777 is supposedly better than the one in the Airbus A340. I highly prefer the warm, decent, natural cabin design of Swiss compared to the opulent, in-your-face design of Emirates, for example. It’s a fact however that for Economy passengers, the comfort of the Swiss 777 is worse than that of the A340. I really don’t give a *beep* about the improved IFE or the availability of an overly expensive wifi. What matters most, is space and quality of service. And space, at 31 inches seat width, squeezing in a seat more than most other airlines, also reducing the pitch, is definitely worse than before. And honestly, I can’t imagine that the service will be better in exchange, considering the aisles got narrower too. Not mentioning the self-service bar – just picture trolleys, narrow aisles, passengers queuing in front of the self-service bar and toilets – it must be a nightmare (or authentic experience?) to fly in cattle class on that 777 airplane.

    I understand that airlines try to save costs in Economy class wherever they can – particularly those airlines that aren’t subsidized like the Arabian ones nor profiting from low labour costs. However, dear Swiss Air Lines: Don’t try to sell me *beep* as gold, it’s insulting.

  2. Calvin in Geneva

    Actually, I find the new lounge very Swiss!

    Looking at the pictures, the new Swiss lounge looks elegant, discreet and… Swiss. The wood-paneled wall has carvings of the Swiss Alps, in addition to the coat of arms of each of the Swiss Cantons — though I can’t tell which canton is which due to the angle of the photo. The warm tones of the lounge, with the subtle use of red, seems very Swiss to me, also. Finally, the coffee: it’s always excellent in the Swiss lounges and the machines in the pictures look like the usual, perfect, always-well-maintained machines one can find in a Swiss lounge. Well done, Swiss!

  3. MMLord

    I am yet to experience the new Business lounge in concourse E myself, but based on my past experiences in Swiss’s Business Lounge in concourse A, and Business Class in an A340, I would agree that Swiss’s new Business Lounge embodies aspects of classic-modern Swiss design. The lounge makes use of neutral tones, unlike Emirates’s propensity for gaudiness; high-quality materials and finishes are subtle whispers of luxury; and, of course, food, which one would expect to be organic, is well prepared. Luxury, thus, lies in the quality of everything around the guest: the wood, glass, steel, concrete, etc. Simplicity is at work in offering the guests understated, yet appropriately noticeable standards of luxury. Like the mayor of a Swiss village once said in a documentary on poverty: “You can be rich, just don’t show it.”