Today's airlines 'need cautious approach'

Felix Rodel, Area Manager, SWISS International Air Lines, Arabian Gulf talks to TTN about the airline's growth plans and the overall prospects of the industry.
The new first class seat on SWISS.

Q. What are SWISS' future growth plans/ Where do you think is the next growth area for SWISS?

A. While today's airline scenario calls for a cautious approach to fleet or network growth, the future looks brighter. As of 2004, the global economy and overall passenger demand is expected to improve. Therefore growth within SWISS is currently focused on upgrading our product through a fleet exchange where, starting this summer, 13 brand new A340 long-range and more then 50 Embraer short/ medium haul aircraft replace older less efficient aircraft.

Once the overall demand for air travel recovers, likely growth areas include, amongst others, the Middle, Near and Far East.

Q. Do you think that there are too many competitors in the region?

A. The airline industry is known to be competitive, as long as the playing field is even, and all players enjoy the same or similar operating conditions, the fittest will survive.

Experience shows that we have a competitive, attractive and appreciated product, convincing customers to fly SWISS time and time again.

Q. Which is SWISS' fastest growing market?

A. We currently do not focus on growth but on profits - the most profitable markets in our area are the GCC and Hong Kong/ Japan.

Q. What kind of ground and air services do SWISS or its associates provide?

A. This year we're unveiling a broad range of innovations under our new slogan 'Destination Excellence' - this covers all aspects of the flight experience.

One of the first concrete examples of Destination Excellence in action is a new food and beverage concept 'A SWISS Taste of Switzerland', which illustrates the country's culinary variety. The goal of the new catering concept is to bring Switzerland as a country closer to passengers on board SWISS flights.

And with a subtle twist on the notion that 'good things come in threes', Switzerland can genuinely claim that within its borders 'good things come in fours'. This is clearly illustrated by the concept behind the new food and beverage philosophy, which draws on four cultures and languages, four regions, four seasons and four cuisines to make SWISS passengers' inflight dining experience truly memorable and representative of Swissness.

In addition, this year will see the new configuration of all cabins with flat-bed seats in business class, and extended leg-room in economy, in addition to the renovation of the SWISS travel agencies and lounges.

Q. How important are alliances to airlines?

A. Alliances enable airlines to cooperate and sell seats on each others' network and thus improve their offer to the customer without actually increasing their production.

The system works best with partners of similar size, quality and philosophy, and by having a complimentary network with not too many overlaps.