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#AskTheExpert with Michael Trestl, Flight Scheduling

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In our new blog series #AskTheExpert SWISS employees will answer questions from the social media community about current challenges in their field of expertise and highlight the solutions that have been developed for our customers. Michael Trestl, our Head of Network Management, is our first expert and tells us a few things about his current working life. 

Based on which criteria do you select new destinations or routes? 

Decisions concerning our route network are based on a variety of factors such as the development of demand, customer needs or international and local traffic flows. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, we also have to consider the travel restrictions that apply in the respective countries. 

How do you assess the demand regarding specific destinations during the summer months? 

We monitor the concrete development of demand for the coming summer months on a daily basis, as the situation is very dynamic and constantly evolving. We rely on a variety of quantitative but also qualitative indicators, for example the search queries via our website, general Covid-19 developments in the individual countries, general traffic flows, but also on the current developments in the countries regarding travel restrictions. 

Under the current circumstances, how did you decide which destinations will be operated in June 2020? 

The flight schedule for June includes up to 140 weekly short-haul frequencies and approximately 20 weekly long-haul frequencies. The focus is primarily on local passengers but also on transfer passengers. In intercontinental traffic, we rely not only on passenger volumes but also on the demand for freight, which still remains. The cargo demand also determined a large part of the destination portfolio in June. 

How do you decide which destinations will be operated next during the ramp-up phase? 

Decisions on further route relaunches will depend very much on how the pandemic develops, which countries allow tourist traffic and where we can meet the demand to offer an attractive flight programme for our guests.  

Will SWISS have any Cargo-only destinations post-covid? 

Currently the demand for cargo transportation is very important for SWISS. Especially in intercontinental traffic, where we have removed seats on some aircraft to be able to transport more cargo. In other aircraft, we also transport freight on the passenger seats. In the long term, however, we do not see all-cargo flights as a business model for SWISS. We will most probably return to our original business model: passengers in the cabin, cargo in the belly. 

How does one become a network manager?  

There is no specific training for this. What is required is a pronounced economic understanding, an interest in aviation and international developments as well as an understanding of the interrelationships of the diverse processes in an airline. 

How much of the pre-covid traffic do you think will return by the end of the year? 

It is currently very difficult to predict how traffic will develop until the end of the year. Depending on the further development of the pandemic and international travel restrictions, we expect traffic volumes to reach around 50% by the end of 2020. 

How can you plan your schedule with so many other airlines flying to the same airports? 

So-called “slots” help us to coordinate and stabilize our flight plan at the various airports around the world. Slots are allocated time slots for take-offs and landings which are given to the airlines by the respective airports or their authorities. This helps to balance the volume of air traffic in terms of time and to ensure that flight operations run as smoothly as possible. 

How long does it take to restart the intercontinental flights? 

More lead time is required for long-haul flights than for short-haul flights, as the complexity is higher. As the individual destinations have very different regulations, the lead time can vary from a few weeks to several months. 

What are some of the biggest challenges under the current circum- stances? 

  • No basis for planning and predictability due to the constantly changing environment.
  • Requirement: Flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness to daily /hourly changing conditions.
  • Rapid response to crisis-related travel restrictions and the collapse in demand (e.g. flight schedule reduction at the beginning of the pandemic).
  • Maintaining a minimum connection between Switzerland and the world out of our responsibility as “Airline of Switzerland”.
  • Planning of special flights (e.g. repatriation and cargo-only flights).
  • Identifying Ramp-Up demand structures and designing appropriate flight schedules.
  • Designing new hub structures to make the most attractive offer possible for local and transfer passengers.
  • Close coordination with internal and external interfaces (e.g. flight operations, etc.)