I've written a few times now about my upcoming flight on Swiss, first about whether I wanted to book it in the first place, and then about getting a quasi-upgrade to a bulkhead "throne" seat. Well, I checked my booking online after reading about weird issues with SWISS tickets booked through Aeroplan being mysteriously canceled, and while I luckily still have a ticket (for now), Swiss did take the liberty of booting me out of my precious bulkhead throne seat and into a seat in the middle section. This is a bummer, since I was super excited about getting the double-benefit of the extra room in the throne seat (basically exactly the same seat as the JetBlue Mint Suite I just reviewed a couple days ago) and also the additional leg room and foot room provided by the bulkhead. I thought I was so clever nabbing the seat as soon as it became available (thanks to an alert from ExpertFlyer), although I suppose I was too clever for my own good, since I was never supposed to get that seat in the first place. Instead, when I looked at the seat map, I saw that they had changed all the throne seats to paid upgrades (as they said they were going to do), and then blocked off a bunch of seats in the middle section for frequent flyers.
To recap, in the past, Swiss blocked off most of the throne seats for frequent flyers, leaving a few toward the back of the business class cabin available for booking. Now, all the throne seats require a payment 199CHF (at least on the route I'm flying), and certain seats in the middle section are blocked. (Basically, half the seats in the middle section are right on the aisle and offer the same amount of space as the paired window seats. The other half have a console that sets the seat off from the aisle, meaning that these seats take up around 60% of the total space of the middle pair. These 60% seats are the ones that are no longer possible to book if you don't have status with Swiss.)
In the end, I'm pretty cheesed off that Swiss made me pay $200 essentially to downgrade my seat from the bulkhead throne seat in the mini-cabin to a standard throne seat in the main business cabin. I understand that seat reservations aren't guaranteed, blah blah blah, but I also think it sucks that I reserved the seat before they started charging (and booked the flight months before they started charging) only to get booted out of it and forced to pay my way back in. As I mentioned in the last post I wrote about this, I'm not in principle opposed to paying for a seat that's so demonstrably better than the other seats in the cabin. Also, since Aeroplan doesn't add fuel surcharges to Swiss award tickets, the net out-of-pocket for this flight is still less than if I had booked Air France or KLM. Still, it's $200 I wasn't thinking I'd have to pay, and it hasn't given me a very good impression of Swiss's operation going into the flight. I was really excited about it, but after seeing these seats' drawbacks first-hand on JetBlue last month and feeling nickel-and-dimed by the airline, I'm less enthused. It's still a trip across the Atlantic in a flat bed with tons of personal space, so I can't complain too much about the flight... assuming I have a flight at all, given this worrisome trend of Aeroplan-issued Swiss tickets going up in smoke.
Edited to add: I mentioned my frustration on Twitter and was advised to email their customer service department. I did, and this is what they wrote back:
Thanks for your email, and for expressing your concerns in relation to seats. In accordance with expressing your concerns. We would like to convey our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that this may have caused you. Please note that before purchasing any seats with SWISS.
Seats are non dedicated. Meaning that in general, our flight schedule may vary between the date of publication and your travel date. In such cases, we immediately inform our passengers about the changes. For cases like this we are obliged to move you to a similar type of seat, if you are not happy we can then refund back the amount that you have purchased the seat for.
We cannot guarantee flight schedules to you and they are not part of your contractual agreement with us. Please note that our privacy seats in business is charged going at USD199.00 and is subject to availability.
If we make substantial schedule changes that are not acceptable to you and we cannot find a suitable alternative, you are entitled to a full refund. A reimbursement of any additional costs, such as car hire, is denied as per the aforementioned reasons.
We regret that we are unable to give you a more favorable answer and hope that our explanation meets with your understanding.
Would you be satisfied with this? I'm not going to push it any further, since I didn't really expect anything in the first place (as I mentioned, Swiss is entirely within their rights to do what they did). I asked for a refund on my seat selection fee, because it never hurts to ask... although I was expecting to be refunded exactly $0.00, and that's what I got.