Hospitality in the air

8 Apr. 2018

Have you ever wondered what flying Business class might feel like? What about First?

We know we have, and while it is sometimes difficult to justify the higher price tag, certain factors like the customized service, great product quality and attention to detail may lead you to consider an upgrade before your next journey.

We had the opportunity to explore the airline industry by getting a behind the scenes look at Swiss International Air Lines in Geneva and how the company ensures an immaculate customer experience from the ground up. For the customers, everything begins at registration. Customers approach the extensive amount of SWISS check-in desks and segment themselves according to their ticket’s class. Just as in hotels reception, here SWISS aims to shorten the waiting period, hence new desks open quickly to accommodate as many customers as possible.

After the registration and passing security, First and Business class passengers have the option to rest or work before their flight from the comforts of SWISS lounges which are present in 17 airports worldwide. The lounges boast an extensive food offering as SWISS works with 30 different providers to ensure the highest quality and variety for its customers. Here the focus on “Swissness” begins as products from local Swiss producers are present in both lounges and all dishes are homemade allowing customers to immerse themselves into the Swiss culture. Just like many leading hotels, SWISS follow the current health trends by offering vegetarian and vegan options, as well as dishes without common allergens – to ensure that every customer finds something they like.  First class lounge is a lot more intimate as it requires 600’000 miles in 2 years to get access. Personal recognition is even more present here as most clients are very frequent fliers. Additionally, the lounge gets adapted for certain events, as an example when the World Cup is taking place – a larger TV may be placed in the lounge along with craft beer and snacks to allow customers to catch up on game highlights before their flights.

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On board

Once boarding begins, First class passengers get an exclusive transport to the plane in a Mercedes limousine stationed on the SWISS terminal. Business class travelers also get separate transportation to the plane in the form of a special Business class bus. First class passengers will be prioritized over all others when boarding, followed by Business class travelers, and are guaranteed absolute privacy. One fun fact we discovered is that if one pays close attention during boarding, one may notice that the SWISS airplane fleet is in fact named for Swiss cantons and cities to promote Switzerland. The plane we had the chance to tour was named “Neuchâtel”, which was about to take off to New York. This focus on “Swissness” is a continuous theme throughout the passenger journey at SWISS; food and beverage offers on flight, for example, are used to showcase dishes and specialties from Switzerland’s many regions. In First class, the “Swiss taste of Switzerland” menu is for the most part cooked directly on the plane, offering passengers a chance to enjoy a truly Swiss meal while high up in the air. While the First-class cabin is slightly more spacious with its 8 seats compared to Business’s 62, a high amount of leg space, comfort and of course privacy are guaranteed in both cabins. First class then further distinguishes itself from Business and Economy by providing a welcome amenity kit, as well as a free drink upon arrival.

Guests in First class can furthermore decide when they prefer to eat and when to be woken up, making their stay as personalized as possible. The cabin crew tasked with taking care of First and Business class passengers are generally the most experienced among the crew, and receive special training to deliver the best possible service to SWISS fliers. A truly personalized approach to serving both First and Business class members is used to ensure a smooth and enjoyable service; this is implemented for instance by noting and honoring passenger birthdays. This brings us back to hospitality; celebrating birthdays and other important days for guests is a concept that is very much rooted in hotels where guests often get a cake and wine or other tokens of appreciation from hoteliers. Cabin crew are providing a highly tailored and focused service to ensure First and Business class guests’ experience is as seamless and enjoyable as possible. The SWISS point of differentiation, we have found, lies in its focus on providing a feeling of home for travelers that is reflected in the food and beverage options, in the service and its quality, as well as in the attitude of SWISS cabin crew and staff.

So, what class will you be flying in next?

We have certainly been able to see first-hand the customer focus and dedication that go into distinguishing Business and First-class service in order to provide exceptional experiences. However, the real point of differentiation lies in the continuous theme of “Swissness” and personalization present throughout the customer experience across all classes. They are at the core of SWISS’s identity and will truly make your SWISS journey unique.

Authors: Maria Matskevich & Émilie Suter - EHL Bachelor Students

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