2

Free stories left to read

Airline Weekly subscribers get unlimited access to daily news and weekly issues.

Swiss

What Travel Recovery, Asks Swiss International Air Lines

Edward Russell
June 1st, 2021 at 12:04 PM EDT

Swiss A220

Europeans may be flocking to Mediterranean beaches for getaways delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but — at least at Swiss International Air Lines — the rise in leisure bookings belies a broader travel recovery.

“We regretfully still see no signs of any broader structural recovery of the air transport sector,” said Tamur Goudarzi Pour, commercial chief at the Zurich-based carrier, in Swiss’ summer schedule unveiled on Tuesday. All in, the airline will fly 50-55 percent of its 2019 capacity during the peak summer months of July and August, a marked increase from less than 30 percent in May but still far below some its network peers in Australia, China and the U.S.

The issue facing Swiss is that of every airline without a large domestic market. The carrier has negligible domestic flying — less than one percent of its system capacity in 2019 — and overwhelmingly relied on business travel before the crisis. Together, this leaves Swiss at a significant disadvantage when it comes to a recovery that favors domestic leisure and visiting friends and relatives (VFR) travel.

Swiss is far from alone. The International Air Transport Association expects passenger traffic in Western Europe to recover slower than in other regions with large domestic markets, chief economist Brian Pearce said during a briefing on May 26. The lagging recovery, which is forecast to last into 2023, is in large part due to the region’s reliance on international travel — both within the EU bloc and from long-haul points.

“You’re likely to see a more cautious industry, as we come through this crisis and go into the recovery mode,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh.

Cautious is an accurate description of Swiss’ approach to the recovery. In May, the carrier unveiled significant fleet and staff cuts that will see it emerge from the pandemic smaller than it was before. The airline plans to operate fewer frequencies on European routes and cut some long-haul destinations from its map.

This is not to say Swiss plans to sit out what European leisure and VFR recovery occurs this summer. Part of its summer capacity ramp-up includes six new routes: Geneva to Funchal and Ponta Delgada in Portugal, Santorini in Greece, and Split in Croatia; and Zurich to Billund, Denmark, and Tallinn, Estonia. Billund and Tallinn are new destinations for Swiss.

The Lufthansa Group, which owns Swiss and four other carriers, could fly as much as 70 percent of pre-crisis capacity during the peak summer, executives said at the end of April. However, how much the group’s carriers fly will depend on the pace of countries reopening to visitors — something many both inside and outside the industry agree is progressing slower than hoped.

Swiss has seen a rise in summer bookings to destinations along the Mediterranean as well as to the United Arab Emirates and U.S., said Pour. However, volumes remain “well below” pre-crisis levels.

All of the airlines new routes will be flown with Airbus A220 jets, Cirium schedules show. The aircraft has proven popular with airlines during the crisis for its low operating costs coupled with a smaller seating capacity than short-haul mainstay Airbus A320 family jets.

Swiss took delivery of its 30th A220 at the end of May.

Edward Russell
June 1st, 2021 at 12:04 PM EDT

Tags: Swiss

Photo credit: SWISS Airbus A220-100 Swiss International Air Lines

Up Next

1
Asia-Pacific

Qantas: From Perth to Paris

In part one of this week's podcast, Gordon Smith and Jay Shabat discuss Qantas' latest ultra long-haul endeavor and ask what it tells us about the carrier's wider commercial strategy.…
2
Air France

Air France’s Olympic Headache

Gordon Smith and Jay Shabat examine why this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris are likely to be a financial drag on Air France.

3
North America

More Headwinds for Southwest Airlines 

In part one, Gordon Smith and Jay Shabat discuss why Southwest has cut its revenue outlook so drastically for the current quarter. In part two, we take stock for our…
4
Asia-Pacific

Why is Korean Air so Profitable? 

In part one, Gordon Smith and Jay Shabat discuss the factors delivering consistently strong results for Korean Air. In part two, we reveal the global airlines that were the most…
5
North America

What’s Going on at Southwest Airlines?

In part one, Gordon Smith and Jay Shabat discuss a fascinating week at Southwest, as the low-cost carrier navigates the challenges of a very vocal new activist investor. In part…

Special Offer: Choose From Quarterly or Annual Subscription Plans

2 of 3 free stories left to read

Already a subscriber? Login