A Sample Feature From Aviation News
Swiss Names and Planes
A YEAR on from the official start of operations, Swiss is fighting to regain the position left by the collapse of Swissair in the wake of September 11, 2001. The new chapter in Switzerlands civil aviation history began on March 31 last year and its first 12 months have not been easy.
Above: A striking view of a Swiss MD-11 against an Alpine background. Swissair acquired 16 of these tri-jets between March 1991 and December 1997 plus a further four ex-LTU aircraft. The fleet will gradually be withdrawn as the A340s arrive. (All photos, Swiss).
Like many of the worlds airlines, Swiss has had to contend with weak markets and disappointing yields with the result that in November it announced a modest reduction in personnel of 300 people with a freeze on recruitment, the phasing out of service of five aircraft and a rescheduling of its 30 Embraer 170 deliveries to begin in August/September this year (the Brazilian manufacturer is already behind in the test programme for this aircraft and a delivery date delay is probably a welcome move, given that Crossair, ala Swiss, is the launch customer for the type). These decisions are all aimed at turning round a loss of £192m in its first six months, although this included a one-off, start-up cost.
However, it was never going to be easy to establish a new airline in such difficult times and if it hadnt been for the business acumen of the regional airline, Crossair, which formed the nucleus of the new company, its existence might have been despairingly short. As it is, under former Crossair CEO, André Dosé, the new airline is fighting to achieve profitability by the end of 2003 and on recent performance, it just might achieve it.
Above: Currently in the later stages of flight-test prior to certification, the Embraer 170 was launched in June 1999 with an order from Crossair for up to 160 aircraft. First delivery is expected during the summer to Swiss.
Swissair to Swiss
Swissair, the countrys national carrier and leader of the Qualiflier alliance, ceased all operations on October 2, 2001, having run out of money to pay for fuel. Urgently needing some form of a replacement carrier, Swissair subsidiary Crossair was brought in to serve the suspended European routes, adding these to its own network. Following long and detailed discussions with a number of Swiss companies, the Government managed to secure Swissairs operations to the end of March 2002, with a £1.7bn aid package. Under the terms of a restructuring plan, 52 ex-Swissair aircraft (13 MD-11s, 20 A320s, six A321s and 13 A330s) were to join Crossairs 81, the company becoming Swiss Air Lines and to fly under the brand name, Swiss. The official corporate title became Swiss International Air Lines on July 1, 2002.
The new company commenced operations with services to 120 destinations in 60 countries from its main international base at Zürich and from EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, traditional home of Crossair. Incorporating Swissairs international routes and adding some to Crossairs existing European network, today the new airline has only marginally reduced the number of destinations to 117 in 59 countries. They are served with a fleet of 132 aircraft 13 Boeing MD-11s, 13 Airbus A330s, nine McDonnell Douglas MD-83s, 15 Avro RJ100s, four RJ85s, 29 Saab 2000s, 26 Airbus A319/320/321s, and 25 Embraer ERJ-145s. Current plans call for the MD-11s, which have a capacity for up to 241 passengers, to be replaced by 228-seat A340-300s, for which an order for 13 was signed on May 28, 2002, with the first due for delivery in June 2003. Despite fewer seats, the A340s are expected to be more profitable in the longer term with reduced noise and emissions producing a more environmentally friendly aircraft.
Route development has seen a number of changes as Swiss tries to maximise on its more profitable services. The average load factor over the first six months of operations was 66%, but only 55% on the UK routes. Despite this disappointing figure, over the winter period the airline has been offering 43 daily flights between the UK and Switzerland with additional ski flights on Saturdays from London Heathrow to Sion. On the international front, the airline has switched its Zürich-Johannesburg service to a night flight to appeal to those who want an extra day in South Africa and its flights to Cairo have increased from five per week to six. Swiss has formed a partnership with American Airlines and plans to become a member of the oneworld alliance towards the end of 2003.
Unusual among the worlds airlines, Swiss has issued a complete listing of all its aircraft, including those on order such as the A340s and Embraer 170s. Each aircraft carries the name of a mountain in Switzerland on the nose and the details are included here with, for interest, the height of each mountain.
Above: The Embraer ERJ-145 has been a success story for Crossair and now Swiss, providing jet comfort and speed over routes formerly flown by turboprop Saab 340s. The aircraft in the picture is the 600th 135/145 to be built and was delivered to Swiss in June 2002.
Swiss Fleet List
Aircraft carry names of mountains in Switzerland (the heights are noted on the right).
Above: One of the 13 Airbus A330-223s in Swiss service.