Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has become the latest European airline to feel the pressure of new strains of the COVID-19 virus. The Swiss Federal Council has introduced new travel restrictions and, as a result, SWISS has temporarily slashed its scheduled operations for the entire of February. Its Geneva base faces the biggest cuts. The airline is offering refunds and the ability to rebook flights for free.
SWISS’s new February schedule from its Geneva base has been cut to “an absolute minimum,” according to a statement on the airline’s website. However, the airline will still operate its 13 weekly flights connecting Geneva to its main Zurich hub. Geneva will also continue to operate seven flights each week to parent company Lufthansa’s Frankfurt base.
The airline is also cutting other services. This month, it will only operate 10% of the flights it offered in 2019. This is a big step down from the 85% it had planned to offer this winter. However, new strains of the virus are causing many European governments to increase travel restrictions.
The Swiss government introduced new restrictions on January 27th, prompting the schedule change. Geneva airport is particularly affected because it does not currently have COVID-19 testing facilities. This makes it difficult for passengers to meet travel requirements.
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Decline of point-to-point
The changes in SWISS’s network are part of a growing trend back toward what’s known as hub and spoke operations. In its statement regarding the changes, SWISS confirmed that most of Geneva’s operations are point-to-point, a model that is unsustainable in the current marketplace.
Ensuring passengers can still connect to the main hubs in Frankfurt and Zurich shows that connections are still possible but only via airline hub points with connections, rather than direct routes. You can read more about the move towards the hub and spoke model and away from point-to-point travel here.
However, this trend away from point-to-point flights appears to be temporary. SWISS confirmed that it,
“…remains fully committed to its long-term strategy of maintaining a strong presence in Geneva and further expanding its present range of point-to-point air services.
“Geneva is and remains an extremely important location for us. And as soon as conditions permit and the demand for air travel returns, we will steadily expand our services from Geneva again.”
SWISS’s current network
Although Geneva airport is now seeing a lower number of SWISS flights than at the height of the pandemic last year, SWISS is still keeping things ticking over as it waits for demand to increase again. The airline recently introduced two new cargo routes last month to Lima in Peru and Seoul, South Korea. The airline also confirmed it would still use cargo routes through Geneva and Zurich to help keep a good flow of cargo through Europe.
As well as maintaining cargo routes, SWISS has upped the cargo capacity availability on some routes. The airline used a widebody aircraft to fly a short-haul route between Zurich and Brussels in January to provide more hold space. It’s thought the flight carried vaccines made at the Belgium production plant.
What do you think of SIWSS’s reduced schedule? Do you agree that airlines are currently moving away from point-to-point operations? Let us know in the comments.