Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its foundation this year. The first-ever SWISS flight was performed from Basel to Zurich on 31 March 2002. The airline has been keeping Switzerland connected with the world ever since, bringing people together and making a vital contribution to promoting the country as an attractive place to visit and do business. “If it weren’t for the great loyalty of our customers, the strong commitment of our employees in the air and on the ground, our fruitful collaborations with our airport partners and our suppliers and – not least – the firm support that we have received from the Swiss people, the Swiss political world and the banks, including in the present pandemic times, SWISS would simply not be one of the leading airlines today,” says company CEO Dieter Vranckx. “We have all achieved so much together. And I would like to say a sincere thank-you to everyone who has given us such strong and solid support over the past 20 years, and has helped us ensure that SWISS will continue to fly the Swiss cross with pride and with gratitude all over the globe.”
An eventful history
SWISS’s early years, following its creation on the foundations of Crossair and of Swissair’s flight operations, were marked by rigorous restructurings and uncertainties over its continued viability. An initially oversized aircraft fleet had to be substantially downscaled, together with the original workforce, before the new company could generate profits from its flight operations. The new SWISS also lacked the critical mass required to survive alone in the fiercely competitive air travel market. Such critical mass was secured in 2005, however, through the company’s integration into the Lufthansa Group. From then on, SWISS was able to benefit from the group’s strength and synergies, and achieved its financial turnaround as early as the following year.
The next SWISS milestone was also in 2006, when the company joined Star Alliance, the world’s biggest airline grouping. One year later Delhi became the first new intercontinental destination to be added to the SWISS route network since the airline’s foundation. It was followed by Shanghai (2008), San Francisco (2010), Beijing (2012) and Singapore (2013), all key points for Switzerland and all served with non-stop flights. Two further long-haul destinations – Washington and Osaka – were due to be added in 2020, but had such plans shelved by the coronavirus pandemic.
SWISS today serves 92 destinations from its Zurich hub and 46 points from Geneva. It carries more passengers and cargo than any Swiss airline has ever transported in the past. And together with its sister airline Edelweiss, which also joined the Lufthansa Group in 2008, the company is very well positioned in the premium business and leisure air travel segments.
Billions of investments in a premium product and an advanced aircraft fleet
SWISS’s takeoff into a new era was mirrored in 2011 by its adoption of a new corporate brand. Over the following decade some CHF 8 billion was invested in acquiring the most advanced and fuel-efficient aircraft, in substantially expanding its destination portfolio from Zurich and Geneva and in further enhancing its premium product in the form of new lounges and aircraft cabins. At the same time, SWISS was compelled to end its flight operations in Basel in 2015, after a changed market environment and difficult political parameters had blighted prospects and perspectives in the premium travel segment. Just one year later, though, came one of the biggest highlights in the company’s 20-year history to date: the addition to the SWISS fleet of the world’s first highly economical Airbus A220 (which was then known as the Bombardier C Series). The same year saw the delivery of SWISS’s first Boeing 777-300ER, its long-haul flagship, twelve of which are now in service.
SWISS will continue to promote such investments in sustainability and in its product in the years ahead. The company has set itself the two objectives of halving its carbon dioxide emissions from their 2019 level by 2030 and of making its operations carbon-neutral by 2050. “Sustainability is one of our key strategic pillars,” explains CEO Vranckx. “Over the past 20 years we have reduced our carbon dioxide emissions per passenger-kilometre by around 30 per cent. We continue to work on improving our fuel efficiency; and, among other endeavours, we are also lobbying strongly for the development and market introduction of sustainable aviation fuel, to help us achieve our ambitious ecological objectives.” SWISS will also have welcomed 25 state-of-the-art Airbus A320/321neos into its fleet by the end of 2025. These highly advanced aircraft emit some 20 per cent less carbon dioxide than their predecessor models.
Airline of Switzerland: mission accomplished
The crisis prompted by the coronavirus pandemic has further confirmed the vital importance of having an ‘Airline of Switzerland’ or a Swiss-based hub carrier. SWISS, together with its sister airline Edelweiss, performed a total of 86 flights under the biggest repatriation programme ever conducted by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to bring stranded travellers back home. Between the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 and February 2022, SWISS’s Swiss WorldCargo airfreight division also performed no fewer than 2,650 all-cargo flights that transported over 69,300 tonnes of cargo and provided Switzerland besides many with urgently-needed medical supplies such as facemasks and vaccines.
In the 20 years since its foundation SWISS has performed 2.8 million flights of an aggregate distance of 3.8 billion kilometres, or 95,000 times around the world. These flights have transported just under 266 million passengers – about 40 times the population of Switzerland – and 5.6 million tonnes of cargo, the equivalent in weight of some 560 Eiffel Towers.
Twenty aircraft namings and many more anniversary activities planned
SWISS is marking its 20th anniversary with a wide range of activities and attractive offers. The latter will be launched with a 48-hour sale from 2 April in which customers can take advantage of attractive fares throughout the European network. In addition, 20 of SWISS’s advanced Airbus A220 aircraft will be formally named after Swiss tourist resorts between now and year-end. The naming ceremonies will be held in selected locations throughout Switzerland, on a “We’ll come to you” basis.
Further anniversary attractions include a special jubilee video (above) that captures the landmark moments in SWISS’s 20-year history to date. SWISS travelers will be able to immerse themselves in the SWISS story, too: from July to September, passengers will be offered a special edition of the inflight SWISS Magazine providing intriguing insights into the fascinating SWISS world of the past two decades along with our travel specialists’ favorite destinations. Also planned is a big 20th anniversary competition offering various attractive prizes.
In other news, SWISS inaugurated our new Zurich-Bologna route, Bologna Airport being the 4th new destination in the summer timetable. SWISS connects the two cities with four weekly flights as of today.