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SWISS Social Media Team
For travel writers to be able to inform their readers about the new route, they themselves need to have the opportunity to experience first-hand the benefit and appeal of the new destination. To this end, international journalists representing various media interests – business, travel, and lifestyle – were invited to participate in the inaugural flight. As the date of this event approached the workload for Media Relations intensified. Such a trip requires thorough preparation as, in effect, it is a media conference that happens to take place above the clouds. During the twelve-hour flight, more than a dozen journalists talked with and interviewed Harry Hohmeister, who of course did not miss the opportunity to be aboard the first flight. The importance of this new service, the inflight product and the future plans of SWISS were among the topics under discussion. The goal, of course, was to have the new destination’s appeal communicated to the wider world as fast as possible.
Imagine if SWISS were to fly with an Airbus A340 to San Francisco and nobody knew anything about it. A scheduled flight with 219 seats and not a single passenger on board? Simply inconceivable. Our goal is to have passengers occupying as many seats as possible on our A340 to San Francisco – right from day one. Only in this way can this new service be a success. So it is essential that news of this destination be communicated as quickly as possible. A simple word-of-mouth promotion would be nowhere near adequate. Travel agencies also need to know about it as they are instrumental in delivering this new product to the market. Business travellers who regularly fly to the Bay Area also need to be informed, and so do travel buffs and people who are particularly enamoured with San Francisco, whether they live in Zurich, Milan, Paris or Moscow. Spreading the word is a central factor in this undertaking.
In my role as Director USA I am responsible for the passenger sales and marketing organization. Our USA Headquarters are based in Long Island and our office in the Empire State Building is home to the New York sales team. We have established gateways and teams in Boston, Chicago, New York (JFK and EWR), Miami and Los Angeles and I am very pleased to work in this dynamic and challenging marketplace.
As a Country Manager, opening a new gateway is truly a highlight. For me the preparation for the launch of our new SWISS San Francisco – Zurich flight revolved around three key themes - teamwork, timelines and excitement. The whole USA team was thrilled when they heard the announcement that we were expanding our USA network, especially when they caught a glimpse of the “flower power” aircraft design.
The process began with detailed analysis and estimates to evaluate the viability of the operation. Once the decision was made and the start date announced it was full steam ahead and a USA action plan was devised by working closely together with Sergio Carin, project lead for the start-up and based in Zurich. The count down to 02 June was running and immediately the pressure was felt to attract passengers and generate bookings.
Captain Peter Küng, First Officers Werner Haas and Peter Kuster
The final phase of the first SWISS flight to San Francisco on June 2 was more or less over a solid blanket of cloud. Only rarely could we see the mountains and lakes of Nevada through gaps in the cloud cover. The weather forecast for our destination also called for heavy cloud, prompting us to prepare for an instrument approach. We began our descent from the northeast. However, we were pleasantly surprised when the clouds along the coast suddenly dissipated, granting us a clear view of the lush green valleys to the north of the city and the scenic backdrop of large forests and famous vineyards.
Below on the left we could already see the San Francisco Bay and, in the distance, the skyscrapers of downtown. And jutting through a low cloud were the two tallest towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. Our three-member cockpit crew enjoyed a fantastic view for a few special minutes before the airport and its four runways came into view.
Sergio Carin of SWISS Americas is the project leader for Sales and Marketing in connection with San Francisco. He shares insights into the selling of San Francisco as a new destination.
Sergio, can you tell us what your job involves?
My main task is to represent the markets at Head Office, make sure that the voice of Sales is heard and that we get the support we need for the local organisation. This means having the necessary Sales & Marketing tools and setting up activities that will help to drive sales.
Does this apply to all of our intercontinental routes or just the Americas?
My area of responsibility is the Americas, which covers North and South America. Specifically the three markets where we have a presence: USA, Canada and Brazil.
What was your role in connection with San Francisco?
I started working on San Francisco two or three years ago. Firstly by analysing the market conditions, then estimating how well we could sell this destination and what kind of revenue it would generate. The basic question was: what would it take for a San Francisco operation to become economically viable. Sales and Network worked hand in hand in calculating the various options: six flights weekly versus daily flights, schedule etc. That was the planning side of the project. Once we knew that we would indeed begin serving San Francisco, the organizational and communication phase started This meant making sure that we have the right people in our Sales Team to cover all the requirements, as well as working with local agents in San Francisco, who now have Zurich to market as a gateway to Europe. I also had to make sure that agents worldwide are aware that we now offer San Francisco as a destination in North America. At head office, I had to make sure that the entire partnership was working smoothly, initially leading up to the inaugural flight and then later for regular day-to-day operations. This job involved a lot of coordination.