Swiss debuts A340 premium economy retrofit; Hong Kong route to welcome new class from Apr-2023

25 January, 2023

European flag carrier SWISS International Air Lines has begun installing its new premium economy class on its Airbus A340-300 fleet.

The first such aircraft completed - HB-JMB - returned to service on 24-Jan-2023 and is presently being flown between Zurich and Johannesburg.

All four of SWISS's A340s will be equipped with premium economy by Apr-2023, from when the new seating class will be bookable for the further destinations served by the aircraft.

Strengthening position as a premium air carrier

SWISS is planning to further strengthen its positioning as a premium air carrier by introducing the new premium economy class cabin option on its long-haul aircraft fleet. The additional class supplements its current first, business and economy offerings and was introduced from spring 2021, initially onboard its Boeing 777-300ER fleet.

On the Boeing widebody the premium economy cabin consists of 24 seats and has been developed for "economy class travellers seeking more inflight comfort," according to the airline. SWISS invested an estimated CHF40 million in installing the new seating class on the Boeing 777 fleet and introducing a product it describes as "a totally new air travel experience".

A growing demand for an air travel product between economy and business class

SWISS has already installed premium economy class throughout its Boeing 777-300ER fleet, whose first aircraft was completed at the end of Feb-2022.

The new cabin offers customers "substantially" more space, says SWISS, and will feature a newly developed seat "providing extensive legroom and movement". Tamur Goudarzi Pour, SWISS's chief commercial officer, says premium economy class travellers "will enjoy a substantially stronger sense of personal space".

The airline says the decision to introduce the new cabin is in response to a growing demand for an air travel product between economy and business class. It says the decision to offer the new seating class has also been "encouraged by the positive experiences" with similar products at Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines, SWISS's sister companies within the Lufthansa Group.

While other airlines dump the A340, SWISS is completing nose-to-tail cabin refurbishment

Although the carrier had initially planned to retire the A340, it is currently investing in a nose-to-tail cabin refurbishment that will see the type continue flying routes from its Zurich base long into the next decade.

Almost ten years since a previous upgrade, the refurbishment programme has entailed developing and installing new first, business and economy class seats, providing a new inflight entertainment system that also offers internet connectivity, installing new galleys and comprehensively modernising the entire interior (including adopting a new lighting concept) in all three seating cabins.

Premium economy installation programme commenced in Dec-2022

SWISS embarked on the premium economy class installation programme for its Airbus A340-300 fleet in Dec-2022. All four of its A340s will feature the new class of travel by Apr-2023 From then the cabin will be bookable on SWISS's services on the Zurich-Johannesburg, Zurich-Hong Kong and Zurich-Chicago routes.

Premium economy already proving 'hugely popular way of travel'

The new Premium Economy Class has already "rapidly established itself as a hugely popular way of travel," says Mr Goudarzi Pour. The highly positive feedback that it has received from customers - on the greater seating comfort, the enhanced service, the wider choice of meals and the quality of the food - has "only strengthened our resolve to offer this top-quality product on more of our routes," adds the executive.