Saturday, April 17, 2010

Swiss International Brings Back Premium-Class Service To India


Aviation Daily Apr 19 , 2010 , p. 16
Neelam Mathews

Higher loads and better yields have led Swiss International Air Lines to resume first-class service to India and also increase frequencies.

Starting Oct. 30, Mumbai and Delhi will receive daily service, up from five frequencies a week. The airline will fly its new Airbus A330-300 in a three-class configuration, including eight first-class seats.

Higher yields in full-service carriers generally depend on the front end of the cabin. Yields are up as embargoes on high-end travel are being lifted and corporations are more inclined to return to business class, Jean-Philippe Benoit, general manager-South Asia for Swiss International Airlines, tells The DAILY.

Benoit adds that increasing load factors also are boosting yields.

Swiss added five new A330-300s to its fleet since April 2009. The A330-300 service will also be introduced this month to African destinations — Nairobi, Kenya; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Douala and Yaounde, Cameroon. The Swiss A340 long-haul fleet will be fitted with the new business-class cabin by 2011. Africa has been neglected but offers great opportunities, Benoit says.

The A330-300 flying to India is the third aircraft of the new deliveries, underlining the importance of Swiss' focus on India, according to Benoit; the first two A330-300s were deployed to New York Kennedy Airport and Dubai.

Swiss will also introduce a code share with Air India on all flights between Zurich and India in economy class by month end.

Benoit made clear, however, that Swiss will not cannibalize the routes of parent Lufthansa. The German carrier operates 49 weekly flights to seven Indian destinations. "We are dedicated to the Swiss market. While Lufthansa looks at transatlantic and domestic German connections for the Indian market, we are looking at connecting them to the rest of Europe," says Benoit.

Loads fell to almost 70% percent last year following the global slowdown and traffic reduction from Europe, leading Swiss to cut flights from Mumbai to five a week from seven and from Delhi to six from seven.

Swiss realigned its capacity in 2009, particularly to intercontinental destinations, with a 3% reduction in Europe and 8% on its intercontinental network. "We've set some ambitious objectives for 2010," says CEO Harry Hohmeister.

Starting June 2, Swiss plans six weekly flights to San Francisco. "By 2011, we would like to make all our flights dailies to intercontinental destinations," he adds.

Route rationalization is also being coordinated with Brussels Airlines, in which Lufthansa owns a 45% stake. Brussels flies to Cameroon four times a week and Swiss three times, giving the African country daily service by the Lufthansa Group.

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