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Swiss miracle

As air transport will look back at 2009 as its gloomiest year in decades, Swiss Airlines sounds incredibly optimistic.

Swiss miracle

As air transport will look back at 2009 as its gloomiest year in decades, Swiss Airlines sounds incredibly optimistic. A week ago in Zurich, Swiss CEO Harry Hohmeister presented the company’s future expansion plans for 2010 and brand new uniforms for ground and flying staff.

“We are pleased to see that Swiss has succeeded to remain profitable thanks to 5 years of efforts to lower our costs and improved efficiency. In a time of crisis, to open new destinations and especially a long-haul route is turning into a remarkable event,” said Harry Hohmeister.

After opening new routes to Lyon and Oslo from Zurich this year, the airline officially announced the launch of a new route to San Francisco. Starting on June 2, the route will be served six times a week by an Airbus A340-300. “ Demand remains strong for San Francisco as a leisure but also a business destination. Many Swiss companies such as Credit Suisse, UBS, Novartis, Nestlé or Roche are present in the Bay area. And we know that there is a lot of demand from our top source transfer markets,” added Hohmeister.

The San Francisco flight will be in connection with short-haul destinations such as Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Milan, Paris and Tel Aviv. “Flying a route such as Zurich San Francisco is an important investment, around CHF 150 million [ca US$145 million] and it took us two years to finalize it. Swissair used to fly Zurich-San Francisco until 2002,” the airline’s CEO said. “However, the airline had a Boeing 747 on the route which was financially unsustainable with its high unit cost per passenger. The Airbus A340 is however the perfect aircraft and our new business class product will be extremely attractive to the market.”

San Francisco City is also involved into Swiss return by helping the airline with a marketing and PR program. The new Swiss San Francisco service will be operated with existing aircraft capacity as two Airbus A340-300 aircraft are returning to service in spring 2010 after being temporarily withdrawn from the fleet.

The additional aircraft capacity will help to increase frequencies to Delhi, Mumbai, São Paulo and Montreal.

“We are also monitoring the demand in Asia. We will put an additional weekly frequency to Shanghai next summer. And we look again at Beijing but in the longer term,” added the Swiss CEO.

The airline is also looking to boost its presence in Geneva. Swiss will serve from the spring London Heathrow with six daily flights from Geneva. “It is a first step, but can’t say more about,” said Hohmeister.

Swiss is already looking at new routes to South and West Europe with important cities such as Nice or Rome likely to be back on Swiss map out of Geneva.