SWISS reports unprecedented slump after difficult corona year

Remember that feeling of flying over the Alps? The airline industry has been one of the hardest hit from the pandemic. © Keystone / Alexandra Wey

The pandemic and associated travel restrictions have dealt a blow to SWISS International Air Lines. It has posted its first negative operating result in 15 years.

This content was published on March 4, 2021 minutes

In its annual resultsExternal link released on Thursday, SWISS, which is part of the Lufthansa group, said that massive declines in bookings in 2020 led revenue to drop 65.2% on last year to reach CHF 1.85 billion ($2.01 billion).

It was hit especially hard in the fourth quarter, when the second wave of coronavirus infections swept across much of Europe. Revenue was down more than 75% in the fourth quarter compared to previous year levels.

Passenger volumes shrunk to a quarter of their 2019 levels, and the airline said it sees no “tangible recovery” before mid-summer 2021. The company said it is still losing around CHF2 million a day. 

“The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions have posed a huge challenge for us,” said SWISS CEO Dieter Vranckx, who took on the role after the previous CEO Thomas Klühr stepped down late last year. “And this, combined with the air transport sector’s relatively high fixed costs, has meant that our industry has been hit a lot harder than others.”

“Radical actions” to maintain its liquidity and lower costs in March 2020 helped stem even more losses to a certain degree. The airline also had some buffer with the Swiss WorldCargo division, which made a disproportionately high contribution to its 2020 results.

However, the airline said that it is now considering further measures to ensure its future viability.

“The situation has substantially deteriorated since 2021 began,” confirmed Vranckx. “It is now abundantly clear that the entire airline industry will undergo tangible structural change.” He added that the airline is considering radical restructuring that could impact its fleet size and route network.

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