Swiss flies 5.2 million passengers in first six months

The airline hopes to post its first profit in 2003 Keystone

Swiss, the national carrier, says it has out-performed its business plan during the first six months of operations.

This content was published on July 10, 2002 - 11:34

More than 5.2 million passengers - at an average seat-occupancy rate of 66.1 per cent - have flown with the airline since it opened for business, the company disclosed on Wednesday. Swiss aims to carry ten million passengers in the first year.

Jean-Claude Donzel, a spokesman for Swiss, said the figures meant the airline was "well-ahead" of its target because the first half of the year was normally weaker than the second.

"The months July, August and September are very heavy in the year, while in October many Swiss people take holidays," said Donzel.

"If the economy holds and there are no new incidents like in September last year, the second half will show better traffic," he said.

No news on bottom line

However, Swiss has not commented on whether strong passenger numbers will translate into better-than-expected financial results.

Donzel said the airline had incurred one-off launch costs in its first six months as well as the burden of opening intercontinental services in April.

In May, Swiss indicated it would do better in 2002 than expected. The company's business plan foresees a first-year loss of SFr1.1 billion, but executives hinted that its losses might come in around SFr800 million.

Formed through a merger of Crossair and the remains of the collapsed Swissair Group, Swiss hopes to break even next year on sales of SFr5 billion.

"The links between Switzerland and North America to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, and Montreal contributed largely to the good results," said Donzel.

"In the same period, above-average load factors were achieved on the routes to Bangkok and Hong Kong."

Break-even in 2003

Hilary Cook, from Barclays Private Clients, said the results were "very impressive" and evidence that Swiss was finding its own market niche.

"These numbers are much more akin to the discount airlines...and show that Swiss are probably better able to compete and live with the discount airlines," Cook said.

"Swiss are somewhere in between the load rates of the discount airlines who've seen startlingly high rates of around 80 per cent and BA, who have been below Swiss."

Cook said there was no reason why Swiss would not reach its break-even target ahead of schedule - so long as global economic conditions remained stable and oil prices did not rise.

"[And] it's vitally important to keep load factors up. If a seat is not sold, it will never sell again," she said.

swissinfo with agencies

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