Published on September 18th, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
SWISS happy with Bombardier C Series operations but delays persist as the airline improves service options
A recent visit to Zurich, gave an opportunity, to see the operations of the Bombardier C Series aircraft operated by SWISS, at first hand. The new aircraft type is being operated by subsidiary, Swiss Global Air Lines, which was founded in 2005, as Swiss European Air Lines, to operate European routes for its parent company. The operation was renamed on 3rd February 2015. In a previous item, posted on 4th July, we reported on the delivery of the airlines first aircraft, HB-JBA, (c/n 50010), via Dublin, on 1st July. The second aircraft, HB-JBB (c/n 50011), flew for the first time on 22nd July and was delivered directly to Zurich, on 13th August. It departed Montréal at 06:09 (local) as the SWR7535 and arrived in Zurich at 20:26 (local).
The first C Series aircraft entered scheduled operations as planned on 15th July, when HB-JBA departed from Zurich on flight SWR638, to Paris, after an appropriate inauguration ceremony at the departure gate. The new CS100 short – and medium-haul aircraft, which has also been dubbed the ‘whisperjet’ for its low noise emissions, left Zurich at 13:30 for Paris Charles de Gaulle, landing at the French capital at 14:27. HB-JBA operated a return trip to Budapest later that evening.
At the gate before the aircraft’s departure. SWISS Chief Commercial Officer Markus Binkert presented a special certificate to mark the occasion to passenger, Thomas Marks Lee, the world record holder for first flights on a new aircraft type. This was followed by the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was performed together with Dominique Rinderknecht, Miss Switzerland of 2013. The CS100, which has been named ‘Kanton Zürich’, was fully booked for its first-ever commercial flight.
“I am extremely proud that we are the first airline in the world to put this totally newly-developed aircraft into service,” said Mr. Binkert. “The Bombardier CS100 is a class act in every respect: comfort, economics and environmental credentials. And its service entry today ushers in a new era in short- and medium-haul air travel, for our customers in particular.”
Bombardier Commercial Aircraft was quick to congratulate SWISS on the successful entry-into-service of the CS100 aircraft. Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft said that he saluted SWISS on the CS100 aircraft’s successful entry-into-service and he thanked the airline for its outstanding support to the C Series aircraft programme. He added “We also congratulate all the employees and suppliers who have worked tirelessly to bring us to this great milestone. It is an outstanding achievement and continues to build the momentum for the C Series aircraft programme.”
The second CS100, HB-JBB, began scheduled operations 18th August, also from Zurich to Paris Charles de Gaulle and at that stage SWISS was able to confirm that the first 30 days of Bombardier CS100 commercial operations, had gone according to plan, despite “minor glitches”. Spokesperson Karin Mueller said that they were satisfied with the first 30 days since starting entry-into-service (EIS), adding “of course, there is potential for optimisation.” Some of the glitches were what were described as “technical and operational uncertainties,” such as issues with de-icing, air conditioning and ground handling. Inside the aircraft, minor adjustments had been necessary, like loudspeaker noise or the installation of a cabin class divider. Nevertheless dispatch reliability has been 99%, while passenger feedback has been so far mostly positive.
No flights were cancelled during the first 30 days of CSeries operations, even though the aircraft had to remain on ground once for technical reasons. However, on 19th July as HB-JBA was climbing out of Zurich enroute to Manchester as the SWR390, the crew stopped the climb at FL280 due to the failure of one of two air conditioning systems. Initially they continued towards Manchester, but decided to return to Zurich about 30 minutes after take-off, as the aircraft was about 60nm east of Paris. Although not a critical system, the decision to return was based on “better repair options”. The flight was subsequently operated by a replacement Airbus A320-214 (HB-IJR), which arrived in after a delay of three hours.
The SWISS spokesperson added that the glitches had been in areas that you can expect during EIS. “There have been never signs that the entire fleet introduction is in danger,” she added.
Support from Bombardier, has been a significant factor in the aircraft’s reliability. with around 20 Bombardier specialists based in Zurich to support the SWISS operation initially. This. as well as daily experience in operating the new aircraft, have reduced initial uncertainty “significantly.”
HB-JBA has operated at a higher reliability rate compared to other new-generation aircraft types, according to Ms Mueller. “We are satisfied with the values, since they meet the expectations of a new aircraft.”
The target is to operate the CS100 fleet with 99% dispatch reliability year round, however in order to get reliable operational information; there must be a minimum of five CS100s operating scheduled services, for at least three months.
Delivery delays take the gloss off good operational performance
SWISS had expected initially to take delivery of one aircraft per month in July, August and September, with deliveries after that expected to increase to two aircraft per month. Speaking to the Hungarian and international media in Budapest, Thomas Klühr, SWISS CEO, noting that Budapest was the second city in the Swiss network, where the CS100 is flying, said that with the delivery of a total of nine CS100s in 2016, the aircraft would gradually fly on all of SWISS flights from Hungary to Switzerland. However, since those comments, it has been confirmed that the third aircraft is now not scheduled to be delivered until October, while the CS300 – the larger C Series variant – is now expected to enter service with airBaltic in the fourth quarter.
In a statement on 6th September, outlining the status of the C Series programme, Bombardier adjusted its C Series delivery forecast for the full year, from 15 to seven aircraft, as a result of engine delivery delays by its supplier Pratt & Whitney. The C Series uses Pratt & Whitney PW1524G- type geared turbofan engines, which provide a 20% fuel saving and make the CS100 substantially quieter than other aircraft in its category. SWISS originally ordered 20 CS100s and 10 CS300s, plus 30 options, but on 5th June, it announced that it would convert five of the 20 CS100 orders into CS300s. It is also expected to decide whether to upgrade a further five of the aircraft to the larger CS300 model by the end of the year. “It’s still open, but I think it’s very probable that we will decide for the larger,” Mr. Klühr has confirmed. In relation to the 30 aircraft options, he said that the decision on whether to exercise those is up to parent Lufthansa’s executive board. “It’s a wonderful aircraft, so I think the chances are good, but I don’t know when the final decision will be made,” he added.
The new aircraft were intended to primarily replace the present SWISS Avro RJ100 fleet, between now and mid-2017. Further C Series deliveries will partly replace other aircraft types and partly permit some modest growth of the SWISS short – and medium-haul fleet. In addition to the initial routes to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Manchester, Prague and Budapest, the delivery of the second aircraft allowed Warsaw and Brussels to be served by the end of August. Nice, Stuttgart, Hanover, Milan, Florence and Bucharest were expected to follow in September and further points currently served with Avro RJ100 equipment, will switch to C Series operation, with each successive delivery.
The Zurich-London City route is scheduled to change to C Series service in the first quarter of next year and at the Farnborough Air Show, Bombardier said it would soon begin validations of the C Series aircraft’s capability to safely conduct steep (5.5º) approaches to London City Airport and its capability to land and stop safely on its 4,948-foot (1,508-metre) runway.
Commenting on the delivery delays Mr. Cromer said that while the C Series engine was performing very well in service, they were “working very closely with Pratt & Whitney to quickly address this supplier ramp-up issue and to ensure we have a strong supplier base to support our long-term growth objectives.” “We are very confident in our production ramp-up plan, including our ability to meet our production goal of 90 to 120 aircraft per year by 2020” he added.
The Company also confirmed that the two CS100 aircraft in service with SWISS had collectively flown nearly 400 revenue-generating flights, and accumulated almost 600 flight hours.
The delivery delays with the C Series have impacted on the Avro RJ100 replacement programme. Four of these have been taken out of service (HB-IXQ, HB-IXW, HB-IXX and HB-IYQ) and were replaced by Helvetic Airways 112-seat Embraer ERJ 190-100LRs leased from Bernina Aircraft Leasing, which acquired the aircraft from Niki (flyniki.com). On 9th September, it was confirmed that SWISS had adjusted its scheduled Bombardier C Series service entry on various routes in Europe, as a result of aircraft delivery delay, see here.
Delivery delay with HB-JBB affects planned naming ceremony
SWISS had planned to bestow the name ‘Canton de Genève’ on its second CS100, HB-JBB, in a ceremony on 6th August, followed by a spectacular overflight of the Geneva Lake Festival site. However HB-JBA was substituted and received the traditional ‘water salute’ from the airport fire service, following its first landing in Geneva at 16:00. It then provided a fitting backdrop to the naming of HB-JBB, for which a model was used to represent the aircraft.
The formal naming was jointly performed by Luc Barthassat, the Geneva Government Councillor responsible for The Environment, Transport & Agriculture, and Geneva actress and comedienne Brigitte Rosset, in a ceremony that was overseen by SWISS’s Head of Western Switzerland Lorenzo Stoll.
“I am hugely proud of our new Bombardier C Series, which we’ll be operating from Geneva from the second quarter of next year,” said Mr. Stoll. “We’re very grateful to our partners the Geneva airport authority and Canton Geneva for all the support they constantly give us in developing our air services for the Geneva region. And in naming our second C Series aircraft Canton de Genève, we at SWISS are further underlining our commitment to Western Switzerland. So we have two events to celebrate today: this innovative aircraft in the colours of Canton Geneva, and our spectacular Geneva flypast!”
The city of Geneva held it’s first-ever new-style Geneva Lake Festival from the 4th to 14th August and HB-JBA performed the spectacular low flypast of the city’s lakeside promenade and festival site at 18:30.
Separately, SWISS is coming under pressure to turn its Geneva operation into profit and may cut its European network from the current 40 destinations, to 30, as part of a market turnaround plan, dubbed ‘Geneva Reloaded’. Routes currently served include Dublin and routes to the United Kingdom and domestic services to Lugano and Zurich, as well as various destinations in Algeria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Morocco, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and Sweden.
SWISS’ long-haul services to New York JFK are not affected by the two-year plan, which runs until 2018. However, SWISS regional European operations at the airport could be turned over to Eurowings if they are unable to generate a profit and Eurowings has reportedly been tasked with devising its own business plan for a possible Geneva market entry.
On a more positive note, from 7th July SWISS travellers from Geneva have been able to enjoy a new digital entertainment experience. The experimental new facility, which has been developed together with SITA and the Geneva airport authority, is now available in the departure halls and lounges and soon aboard SWISS flights from the airport within Europe.
The new ‘SWISS e-media’ service, which is being offered exclusively to SWISS customers, provides almost instant access to TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Travellers can thus read the daily paper, browse a magazine, enjoy the programmes provided by Swiss Radio & TV or play games, and can download the content directly to their smartphone or tablet device. Thanks to the easy-to-download app, they can also take this content with them and continue to enjoy it aboard their flight.
The three-month SWISS e-media trial has been devised by SITA, the IT provider for the aviation industry, but is fully in line with SWISS’s own policy of constant innovation and further product development.
Other fleet news
Following delivery of its fifth new Boeing 777-3DE (ER), HB-JNE, (c/n 44586), on 22nd June, SWISS took delivery of the sixth of nine aircraft, HB-JNF (c/n 44587), on 22nd July. The ‘triple seven’ was given the honour of transporting the Swiss delegation off to the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on 1st August. The delegation of athletes and officials travelled to Rio on a special SWISS flight, the SRR96 operated by HB-JNA, which then flew on to São Paulo.
SWISS is the Official Airline and Partner of the Swiss Olympic and Swiss Paralympic teams. SWISS’s involvement in Swiss national sports also extends to partnerships with the Swiss Football Association, Swiss Ice Hockey and the Swiss Handball Federation. And SWISS further supports various international sporting events in Switzerland such as the International Lauberhorn Ski Races in Wengen, golf’s Omega European Masters Crans-Montana and the Weltklasse Zürich annual athletics meeting. Prior to the departure there was a party on the Observation Deck at Zurich Airport, both to celebrate the team’s departure, and also the Swiss National Day. Fans enjoyed various musical and culinary attractions, as well as the chance to see their sporting idols close-up and in the flesh.
SWISS also flew the Swiss Olympic delegation of competitors and officials from Rio back to Switzerland on 22nd August, the day after the Games’ formal closing ceremony.
With the arrival of the new Boeing 777s, SWISS continue to remove their Airbus A340-313s from service, the most recent being that of HB-JMG, which was ferried to Manchester, on 12th September, for painting into Edelweiss Air c/s. Three other aircraft, HB-JML, HB-JMN and HB-JMO were previously removed from service and now in storage.
SWISS launches new ‘Made of Switzerland’ brand identity
SWISS has launched a totally new brand identity under a new ‘Made of Switzerland’ claim and with a new ‘The little big differences’ creative concept. The actions mark a further step in SWISS’s ‘Next-Generation Airline of Switzerland’ strategy. The new identity, which was launched with an extensive Switzerland-wide advertising campaign from 5th August onwards, features a new design concept which, among other things, focuses on SWISS guests on their travels, and an appealing TV ad that highlights what are described as “typically Swiss characteristics” in a warm and charming way, This is to ensure that customers feel at home throughout their air travel experience, from the welcome aboard to the varied regional cuisine and the popular SWISS chocolates. See here
“With our new brand identity we’re putting the spotlight not only on our typical SWISSness, but also – and above all – on our customers and their wishes and needs,” said SWISS Head of Marketing Bernhard Christen.
Other service enhancements
On 1st September, SWISS announced that it had established a new www.swissholidays.com travel portal, which enables customers to compile their own individual vacation packages, including flights and hotels. The new portal features a wide range of travel products at highly attractive prices for appealing tourist destinations all over the world.
SWISS now gives customers the opportunity to book not only flights, but entire vacation packages online. The airline’s new www.swissholidays.com travel portal offers scheduled flights from Switzerland on SWISS and further partner carriers, together with a selection of over 10,000 hotels and 140 vacation destinations, all of which can be freely combined. SWISS is working closely with tour operator holidays.ch AG to provide the new facility.
SWISS First and SWISS Business travellers on long-haul flights from Switzerland are now being offered tasty delights from Canton St. Gallen, in the latest chapter of the airline’s ‘SWISS Taste of Switzerland,’ inflight foodservice programme, which runs from 1st September until 30th November. The special meal creations are from the award-winning Einstein Gourmet restaurant of the Hotel Einstein in the city of St. Gallen. Its avant-garde French cuisine features such delights for SWISS First passengers as scampi with carrot and ginger chutney and toasted cashew nuts, followed by panko-crusted salmon with coconut risotto and pak choi, with a dessert of St. Gallen biberli mousse with Granny Smith apple and walnut ice cream. Guests will further be offered a selection of the finest Swiss cheeses, including a chällerhocker from the Toggenburg region.
Finally SWISS has joined a number of other airlines in offering a range of à la carte meals in Economy Class, on long-haul flights from Switzerland, which can be ordered in advance for a fee. The new choices extend to six different meals, each of which has been specially selected to meet established customer wishes and tastes. The new à la carte options comprise Zürcher Kalbsgeschnetzeltes (traditional Zurich-style sliced veal in a creamy sauce), a ‘Swiss Brunch’, a platter of Swiss cold cuts and cheeses, a light dining option, a gourmet selection and a Japanese meal. The prices for these vary between CHF 29 and 49 (around €26.50 to €44.80). The customer can also opt for a half-bottle of Californian Chardonnay or Italian Sangiovese to accompany their meal.
The new à la carte meals are intended not to replace SWISS’s regular Economy Class food and drinks, but to offer supplementary individual options to the customers concerned. A limited number of such à la carte meals will be available per flight. The new meals can be ordered now at https://www.swiss.com/ch/EN/book/swiss-choice/a-la-carte-dining for any long-haul flight from Switzerland, carrying a SWISS flight number, operated by SWISS and departing on or after 7th September. All such meals must be ordered in advance, 24 hours at the latest before departure. The new à la carte Economy Class meal option is not available on SWISS services to Cairo, Tel Aviv or Shanghai.