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Network – Part 1

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The role of Current Schedule Planning is to work closely with Revenue Management to plan aircraft capacity for maximum efficiency, i.e. deploy larger aircraft (e.g. Airbus A321) on flights for which demand is strongest and smaller aircraft (e.g. Airbus A319, Avro) on flights for which demand is relatively light.

For cities hosting a trade fair, for example, we know up to a year in advance that demand will be strong and can see in our system how full flights are for that destination at that time of year. The following series of pictures shows the status of the A320 and A321 fleet on 31 March. All “yellow” flights are full; while “orange” indicates a very good level of bookings and “blue” shows relatively light demand (see photo on the left side). The fact that a relatively large number of flights are full is due to the start of Easter holidays in parts of Europe. You can see that the flights from London are nearly sold out, which indicates that many people from Britain have chosen Switzerland as their skiing holiday destination.

Flights to southern destinations show a strong booking pattern. They will be transporting mostly Swiss passengers or passengers transferring in Zurich to an onward flight. Our primary goal is to transport as many passengers as possible at the highest level of revenue. In other words, we not only want our flights to be “yellow” (full), we also want to generate as much revenue as possible on its network. The A320 can carry a maximum of 168 passengers. The question is: where to deploy the A321? On this particular 31 March the decision is relatively simple: many passengers fly from north to south, which means that on the following weekend some of them will be making the homeward journey in the reverse direction. And two weeks later, when the Easter holidays everywhere are finished, demand will be strong for seats on flights travelling from south to north.

But there are other days when the decision is not so straightforward. For example, on a Tuesday in March many flights are “blue” (weak booking pattern). On such days we try to use the A321 as little as possible and instead use the A320/A319 and AR1 as much as we can (see photo on the left side). This allows us to lower both our costs and the impact our flights have on the environment as smaller aircraft burn less fuel than big ones do.

Of course, the planning must also be workable in reality and give due consideration to various other factors. The minimum ground times per aircraft must be observed and technical aspects must be considered, along with the fact that on certain routes only certain types of aircraft can be used. This is particularly relevant for Edelweiss Air operations. For SWISS-operated flights to Egypt and the Canary Islands we try to deploy aircraft that have a higher maximum take-off weight because they can carry larger volume of fuel. We also need to keep in mind that some relatively small airports do not have highloader equipment, which means they are incapable of loading and unloading containers. In such cases, only certain SWISS aircraft can be used. The SWISS fleet includes three aircraft that are suitable for “open load” ground handling, which means that items of baggage are loaded directly into the belly of the aircraft instead of first being placed in a container that is then loaded via highloader.

Certain airports, such as London City and Florence, require pilots to have a specific rating for take-off and landing. These destinations can be served only with AR1 equipment. The challenges of deciding which aircraft to use relates primarily to our European fleet. The reason for this is that aircraft deployment on long-haul routes is largely fixed. An aircraft change on these routes is quite rare.