Airline proudly serves old wine in new bottles

The national carrier has shed its Swissair colours, and is now simply swiss

Swissair has risen from the ashes with the launch of Switzerland's new national carrier, "swiss".

This content was published on March 31, 2002 - 11:21

The new swiss may have cut a third of the long-haul routes of its fallen predecessor, but in other respects it is sticking closely to the recipe followed by Swissair, keeping its sights firmly focused on the upper end of the market.

The buzzword is quality, and the management of the new airline, which is built around the regional carrier Crossair, is hoping to revive the reputation that Swissair enjoyed for decades.

Initially, most travellers won't notice much difference between swiss and Swissair, but over the next couple of years, the long-haul MD-11s will be scrapped to make way for new Airbuses which boast levels of comfort and service not seen before.

Old wine in new bottles

While the old fleet is still flying, swiss will be concentrating on service in an effort to stamp its quality credentials into the minds of passengers.

Meals will be served with proper cutlery and hungry passengers will be given a second helping with a smile. Wine is to be served properly - that is from seven decilitre bottles into glass goblets - to all passengers whether they are in first, business or economy class. "Glass in every class" is another swiss slogan.

"I always said Swissair had a very exclusive first class and a very good business class but, in the last few years, they were cutting on costs and saving on money in the economy class," says executive vice-president, Björn Näf, who is in charge of products and services at swiss.

"Crossair had good products in the economy class, so we put both these things together and improved the economy class on the whole network," he adds.

In touch with the ground

On the current Airbuses in the fleet and when the new A340s-300s are put into service, passengers in all classes on all long-haul flights will have individual movie screens and video game consoles and be able to send SMS messages, e-mails and faxes from the comfort of their seats.

In the meantime, though, while the Boeing MD 11 aircraft are still flying, economy passengers will have to make do with pre-selected films shown on central screens.

In first and business class, the luxury seating and service that Swissair was famous for is being expanded and modernised with the latest comforts and technology.

On the ground, the new airline is setting up "mobile information counters" at Zurich airport, and providing wireless Internet access in Swiss airport lounges.

Slick marketing campaign

To sell the "old wine" of Swissair in "new bottles", swiss has launched an expensive and very slick marketing campaign. The London-based "style guru", Tyler Brûlé, is the man behind the new image and campaign.

The adverts are thin on content, putting the accent on the simple but well defined "swiss" logo, and a hint of the exclusivity that goes with it.

"I think no matter where you are in the world an aircraft has to immediately announce where it's from," Brûlé says.

"That's why we didn't want to go down this traditional design agency approach of trying to turn Switzerland's national carrier into something that it's not. It had to be Swiss and it had to feel international."

And, according to Brûlé, the airline should appeal to the business traveller and older passenger, like its predecessor, Swissair.

Not trendy

"If you look at the aircraft and the livery that we've come up with it's very conservative, there's nothing trendy about it," he says.

"There's nothing to be scared about if you're a 65-year-old business class traveller. I think everyone wants comfort and warmth inside the aircraft.

"I think everything should suggest quality and timelessness. We've had to come up with this notion of an instant classic, which has been no small feat, I have to say."

Over the next couple of years, swiss will introduce new uniforms for personnel, a new food and beverage concept in all classes as well as a new seat configuration to increase legroom. First class will be reduced from 12 seats to eight.

by Dale Bechtel

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