Swiss seals deal with Japan Airlines

From April 1 the two carriers will operate a daily service between Tokyo and Zurich swissinfo.ch

Switzerland's national airline, Swiss, has formed a key agreement with Japan Airlines (JAL), ensuring a daily service between Tokyo and Zurich.

This content was published on March 6, 2003 - 10:11

The deal, which was signed in Tokyo by JAL CEO Isao Kaneko and Swiss chairman Pieter Bouw, comes days after Swiss secured a similar accord with Qantas.

Bouw told swissinfo that Asia was the fastest growing aviation market and "that is why we are paying quite some attention to establishing bilateral relationships with the Asian carriers".

Swiss said the "far-reaching partnership agreement", which includes a code sharing arrangement, would come into effect on April 1.

It said the sharing of codes would strengthen the networks of the two carriers and improve customer convenience.

The two airlines hope to extend their cooperation further, Swiss said, by linking their frequent flier programmes in the near future.

Bouw said Asia currently accounted for some 25 per cent of Swiss's revenues.

Positive

Aviation analyst, Sepp Moser, told swissinfo the deal was a positive development for Swiss.

But he said that, as a code sharing deal, it was not on the same level as a more wide-ranging agreement - dubbed a "strategic partnership" - already in place between Swiss and American Airlines.

"It is certainly a good agreement, like every partnership deal, but it is not far-reaching. It concerns only some of the weekly flights that they have, but not all of them."

Oneworld

Swiss has been trying to join the Oneworld alliance which includes British Airways and American Airlines, but so far its overtures have been rebuffed.

Moser said Swiss's strategy of signing individual agreements with other carriers was the next best option to joining an alliance.

"These bilateral agreements, of which there are many, are a kind of stop-gap measure until an alliance admittance can be achieved, but this will take a lot of time."

Swiss pointed out that it now has "code share agreements with six of the Oneworld alliance partners (including American Airlines, British Airways and Aer Lingus)".

A few days ago, Swiss reached an agreement with the Australian carrier, Qantas.

The code share deal covers daily flights on the Zurich to Sydney route, travelling via Frankfurt and Singapore which will come into force this summer. Swiss and Qantas also aligned their frequent flyer programmes.

Back in December last year, Swiss signed a deal with Finnair, following a similar accord with Iberia in November.

Moser commented that the JAL deal was likely to improve Swiss's chances of joining Oneworld.

"JAL is not a member of Oneworld, but it is certainly very close to many members of Oneworld so this is certainly a step in the right direction."

Joining Oneworld would allow Swiss to save costs through improved network coordination and joint marketing, as well as to boost passengers and raise profits.

Trips

In the period April 1 to May 31 and from October 1, JAL will operate three weekly round trip flights between Tokyo and Zurich with its own aircraft and crew, while Swiss will operate six weekly round trips between the two cities, Swiss said.

During the peak summer season, from June 1 to September 30, JAL will introduce daily flights and will code share with Swiss on two one-way flights, while Swiss will maintain its six weekly flights and code share on two one-way JAL flights, it said.

In the future the two airlines plan to extend the agreement to include domestic flights, flights between Japan and other parts of Asia, and flights from Zurich to other European cities.

JAL will use MD-11 aircraft with 233 seats on the Tokyo-Zurich flights, while Swiss will operate 240 seat MD-11s, Swiss said.

swissinfo, Morven McLean

JAL facts

Asia is the world's fastest growing aviation market and accounts for a quarter of Swiss's revenues.
The deal is seen as the next best alternative to joining an aviation alliance.
Swiss has been trying to join the Oneworld alliance which includes British Airways and American Airlines, but so far its overtures have been rebuffed.
Analysts say the JAL will improve Swiss's chances of joining Oneworld.

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