SWISS carried over 10 million passengers in 2003

15. January 2004

Swiss International Air Lines transported a total of 10.66 million passengers on its scheduled services in the 2003 business year, posting a systemwide seat load factor of 72.4 per cent. Seat load factor for intercontinental services stood at 78.0 per cent, while seat load factor for the European network amounted to 59.6 per cent. Traffic trends were especially encouraging in the fourth quarter: seat load factor stood at 75 per cent, a 4.2-percentage-point gain on its prior-year equivalent.

The network modifications introduced with the 2003/04 winter schedules and the new “Swiss in Europe” business concept both had a positive impact on traffic levels in the fourth quarter of 2003. The period saw some 2.4 million passengers carried on SWISS scheduled flights, raising seat load factor to 75 per cent, a 4.2-percentage-point improvement on the prior-year result.

Some 1.8 million of these passengers were carried on the European network, while a little over 625 000 customers used SWISS’s intercontinental services. Fourth-quarter seat load factor for Europe stood at 61.7 per cent, an 8.4-point increase on its prior-year equivalent, while intercontinental seat load factor for the quarter amounted to 80.4 per cent, a 0.8-point improvement on the same period last year.

The new route network’s beneficial effect on traffic levels was reflected in encouraging November and strong December results. The latter brought increases in traffic volumes in all markets except Africa, with a correspondingly substantial rise in seat load factors: December seat load factor for Europe was a 7.4-point improvement on the same month in 2002, while the intercontinental seat load factor for December was 3.8 points up on prior-year levels.

Africa was the weakest region in traffic terms for the fourth quarter as a whole. The South Atlantic posted year-on-year increases – substantial in part – for all three months. Far East traffic volumes remained broadly stable in October and November, while volumes over the North Atlantic suffered a slight decline; but December brought encouraging volume increases for both regions.

Review of the year

The war in Iraq, the outbreak of SARS and the overall economic recession all had their impact on the demand for international air services in 2003. In addition to the generally sluggish demand, the peaks of the Iraq war and the SARS epidemic further depressed traffic volumes, especially in the Middle and Far Eastern markets. Traffic volumes in Europe were additionally eroded by the growing competition from low-cost carriers. SWISS responded to these trends and the challenges they posed by consistently adapting its fleet and its network to changing market needs, and with the introduction of its new Swiss in Europe business concept.

Europe

SWISS carried a total of 7 952 479 passengers on its European services in 2003, posting a seat load factor of 59.6 per cent. European traffic volumes remained reasonably stable, despite the difficult business environment – a development due in no small part to the timely consolidation of the SWISS route network before the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq. The action taken had its first effects as early as April, following the adoption of the new summer schedules. The route network was further modified with the start of the 2003/04 winter schedules. As a result, by December, SWISS’s total European production was 31.1 per cent lower than its prior-year equivalent in available-seat-kilometre (ASK) terms. The new Swiss in Europe business concept made its own additional contribution to improving European seat load factors from September onwards.

Intercontinental

A total of 2 708 236 passengers travelled on SWISS’s intercontinental services in 2003, producing an average seat load factor of 78.0 per cent. SWISS’s intercontinental traffic proved more susceptible to the international crises which occurred in the course of the year: results for every month from April to November were down on their prior-year equivalents (since SWISS was only established in April 2002, no comparable figures are available for the January-to-March period).

A brighter note was offered by the clear shift in trends from the start of the winter schedules. The 78-per-cent seat load factor posted for November was only 0.2 percentage points below its 2002 counterpart, while the 81.3 per cent recorded for December exceeded its prior-year equivalent by 3.8 points. As a result of the network modifications effected during the year, intercontinental ASK production for December was 16.1 per cent less than it had been for the same month in 2002.

Key figures for SWISS scheduled services in 2003

Passenger carried: 10‘660’715Flights performed: 189‘086Available seat-kilometres (million): 33‘478Revenue passenger.kilometres: 24‘223Systemwide seat load factor: 72,4%