Meeting the challenges
Switzerland's air freight business has held up well in the face of the onslaught of the global industry downturn, largely thanks to the strength of the Swiss economy an export trade that has remained relatively impervious to the financial meltdown seen abroad. However, obstacles remain.
Oliver Evans, chief cargo officer at Swiss International Airlines and head of Swiss WorldCargo, observes that even in what is a very difficult time for the air freight industry, cargo continues to be an important contributor to the health of Switzerland's flag-carrier.
New routes have been launched by Swiss and they have provided a small boost to the cargo wing's offering. Beijing was opened up in February, for example, and while the Chinese market has been difficult for many freight carriers in recent times, for Swiss WorldCargo business on the route picked "surprisingly fast", Evans noted.
"We are doing rather well on the service," he considers, although the carrier offers very little freight capacity (18 tonnes a flight) on its A340-300 service in comparison to the total available space on offer to the Chinese capital.
Finally, Tampa in Florida recently joined the Swiss International Air Lines network and, for Swiss WorldCargo, it also forms another link in its US trucking chain and complements the existing freight capacity - which is in high demand - into Miami.
Swiss International Air Lines is also flying an A330 in collaboration with Swiss Group carrier Edelweiss Air on a weekly non-stop service from Zurich to Florida's west coast Tampa International airport.
Because it offers no dedicated freighter space and it is not one of the larger main-line carriers with many service, Swiss has less problem filling its bellyhold space than some other airlines, Evans pointed out.
Hence, for example, its pharmaceutical product offering is in high demand, pharma being one part of the logistics industry that is seeing consistent expansion. Another area of consistently high margins is the valuables segment, also a specialty of Swiss WorldCargo.
But Evans does not regard this as a problem for the smaller freight carrier, adding that Swiss WorldCargo has a proven recent history of efficiency and minimising costs, and that the savings asked for by Lufthansa are no more than those that would be demanded by Swiss itself.