SWISS Cutting Fleet By 15% (15 Aircraft)

SWISS Cutting Fleet By 15% (15 Aircraft)

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SWISS has announced plans to shrink its fleet, including retiring five long haul aircraft. Oddly the airline isn’t saying which aircraft it will retire, even though you’d think the choice would be obvious.

SWISS’ plan to retire 15 aircraft

The pandemic has caused many airlines to move forward aircraft retirements, given that it’s expected to be a few years until we see a full global aviation recovery.

SWISS has announced plans to reduce its fleet (as well as the fleet of its regional partner Helvetic Airways) by roughly 15% compared to its 2019 fleet size. For context, currently SWISS operates just over 90 aircraft in its mainline fleet, while Helvetic Airways operates just over a dozen aircraft.

The airline plans to retire 15 aircraft, which will include:

  • Retiring five long haul aircraft, either A330s or A340s
  • Retiring 10 short haul aircraft, including SWISS mainline aircraft and planes belonging to partner Helvetic Airways; presumably this will include some A320-family aircraft, as well as some Embraer 190-family aircraft (I can’t imagine SWISS will retire brand new A220s, so those are the only remaining options)

As SWISS CEO Dieter Vranckx describes this plan:

“In the future SWISS will be smaller. But it will also be more focused, more digital, more efficient and more sustainable. The transformation planned will be conducted over the next three years through our ‘reach’ strategic programme, with which we aim to realign our company to the changed market situation and achieve sustainable cost savings of some CHF 500 million.”

SWISS plans to retire 15 aircraft

Could SWISS not retire the A340?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a bit surprised by SWISS stating it will retire either A330s or A340s. For context on SWISS’ long haul fleet, the airline currently operates:

The 777 is currently SWISS’ flagship aircraft

Now, if the airline were to retire five long haul aircraft, it seems to me like the A340-300 would be the obvious choice:

  • The plane has the worst fuel economy in SWISS’ long haul fleet
  • The plane is the oldest in SWISS’ long haul fleet — the A340s are an average of 17 years old, the A330s are an average of 10 years old, and the 777s are an average of three years old
  • While there’s commonality between the A330 and A340, it’s still more efficient to have a streamlined fleet in terms of maintenance, aircraft scheduling, etc.

Why would SWISS not retire the A340?

  • SWISS just spent tens of millions of dollars refreshing the cabins of the A340, a project that was wrapped up just before the pandemic brought global travel to a halt
  • While the A340-300 has worse fuel economy than the A330-300, the plane has greater range; that being said, there aren’t too many markets served by SWISS where that range should make a significant difference
  • The A340-300 has a higher maximum takeoff weight than the A330-300, so the plane can carry more cargo
SWISS just spent a lot of money refreshing its A340 fleet

So yeah, I’m very curious to see what long haul aircraft SWISS retires. While most airlines have retired the A340, SWISS seems quite committed to the aircraft, having just spent so much money refreshing the planes. Could SWISS really be considering keeping these older A340s and retiring some A330s instead, or is the airline just being intentionally vague for now?

Sister airline Lufthansa is in the process of retiring its entire A340 fleet, while the airline continues to fly all of its A330s.

Is there a chance SWISS keeps its A340s?

Bottom line

SWISS is planning on shrinking its fleet by 15 aircraft, which represents about 15% of its fleet. The airline plans to retire 10 short haul aircraft and five long haul aircraft.

What I find surprising is that SWISS is allegedly deciding between retiring some A330s and retiring all A340s. Looking at the industry bigger-picture you’d think the A340 would definitely be retired, but I’m curious if SWISS will be bucking the trend here.

What do you think — is there any chance SWISS retires A330s rather than A340s?

Conversations (23)
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  1. José Arrais Guest

    The A340 is already almost 18 years old, older than the A330, but it as better range versus payload. I bet that the older A340/A330 will go. The A359 will replace the A340 superbly and the 789 the same with the A333.. although I think the best airplane to replace the A333 would be definitely the A339neo.

  2. Aman Guest

    Some of the west coast and Asian routes may not be able to serviced by A330 and the 77W have way too much capacity for these thinner routes.
    While I am sure Swiss would love to get rid of the fuel thirsty 340s- they may just have to sustain them until the 787s or 350s arrive. So they may well have to retire some 330s initially- particularly given that bringing in newly minted wide...

    Some of the west coast and Asian routes may not be able to serviced by A330 and the 77W have way too much capacity for these thinner routes.
    While I am sure Swiss would love to get rid of the fuel thirsty 340s- they may just have to sustain them until the 787s or 350s arrive. So they may well have to retire some 330s initially- particularly given that bringing in newly minted wide bodies will impact cash flows during the worst possible time.
    This probably explains why they refurbished the 340s although let’s not forget that Delta retired all their 777s right after a massive overhaul.
    It’s honestly a toss up!

  3. Scotto Guest

    David's radar is spot on. Sound analysis.

  4. Niko_jas Guest

    How is being " more digital" a thing to promote as a positive when talking about being shrinking the airline? What nonsense!
    To get us from A to B Swiss needs planes. Being " digital" doesn't change that basic fact.

  5. Jumpseatflyer Guest

    Next to the 777, the A340 has proven to be a workhorse during the crisis. As David mentioned, fuel is cheap right now and the A340 is more flexible due to some factors. The range of the 333 is limited and it also has no crew rest, unlike the 340, which means F class has to be blocked for resting purposes on some routes. In addition, the 340 is better for cargo and has the new C / F class installed.

  6. Kent Guest

    Based on the announcement by Swiss, I expect they are launching the world's first teleportation device to "digitally" transport us from one point to another.

    The retired aircraft will most likely be A340s - akin to the LH retirements.

  7. Nick Art New Member

    The A330 in question will be stored and not retired. There won't be any route cuts, but frequencies will be reduced.

    Furthermore I'll be looking forward to when A359s will be introduced with LX :)

  8. David Guest

    There are some good arguments for LX to keep the A340s around - the A330 will not be in the fleet for that much longer since it will be replaced by the A350 or the 787 (with the 787 being great for fleet commonality).

    The A340s have been recently refurbished. They have a much bigger cargo capacity. Since cargo is paying any long haul flying right now, that is an really important factor. In...

    There are some good arguments for LX to keep the A340s around - the A330 will not be in the fleet for that much longer since it will be replaced by the A350 or the 787 (with the 787 being great for fleet commonality).

    The A340s have been recently refurbished. They have a much bigger cargo capacity. Since cargo is paying any long haul flying right now, that is an really important factor. In the end the A340 has space for one extra pallet and a lot of additional MTOW.

    Additionally fuel is really cheap right now.

    The A330s are in storage right now. I can bet my ass off that LX will keep the A340s and sell a few A330s.

    There is actually one more factor; Edelweiss. Since they are keeping A340s anyway, a big chunk of the economics of scale for selling A340s is gone anyway.

    Last but not least the resale value proposition is a lot better for the A330 compared to the ultra cheap A340-300s.

    Therefore I strongly believe in the retirement of 5 SWISS A330-300.

    1. Al Guest

      Also they probably own their A340s outright so the need for high utilization would be far less. Additionally, in my experience they are refurbished a340s are more comfortable than their a330s in economy class

    2. dvmzhu New Member

      Agree, was just trying to mention that Edelweiss still have 4 A343 at the moment, and they won't get retired unless Edelweiss suddenly quit long haul market

  9. RF Platinum

    I think Swiss will keep the A340 around for a while longer having made that recent investment.
    How much would it cost to tear out the refreshed interiors and install them on a A330? Lol.

  10. Cedric Guest

    The 330s will also need a refresh soon…it’s not cheap to refresh a cabin. The oldest 330s are from 2009. Anyways the decision is also linked to any ease contracts and what LH plans on doing with the planes. FYI, SWISS has stated that no destinations are being but, rather frequencies will be adjusted.

  11. David A Marquette Guest

    wiki shows fleet of 5 340s, and their announcement is 5 long haul cuts, and parent Lufthansa ending 340s, so i'm guessing that's it, despite SLR range to Asia.

  12. Jay Guest

    One of the issues are the crew rest containers - or rather the lack thereof on the A330… SWISS have had to block all first class seats on some A330 flights to Asia in order to accomodate the crew

  13. Andy Platinum

    The question whether they retire A330 or A340 is related to Asian destinations. Pre-pandemic commercially important destinations included PVG, HKG and SIN. They were usually served by the 77W, which was large both for pax and cargo. Now, pax demand close to zero, but cargo is doing well on these very long routes, so the A340 is the best fit. The A330 doesn’t make it with full payload and the 77W is way too big...

    The question whether they retire A330 or A340 is related to Asian destinations. Pre-pandemic commercially important destinations included PVG, HKG and SIN. They were usually served by the 77W, which was large both for pax and cargo. Now, pax demand close to zero, but cargo is doing well on these very long routes, so the A340 is the best fit. The A330 doesn’t make it with full payload and the 77W is way too big for pax demand. So all depends on if and when pax travel to Asia will recover.

  14. Willem Guest

    I actually hope they keep the A340s, much more comfy business class than the more open configuration on their A330-300s. Also just cool to fly a plane ✈️ that is nearly gone...

  15. shoeguy Guest

    The A330s were delivered in 2010 to 2011 or 2012 no? So they may be coming up for major checks, but surprised the 77W can't give them the cargo lift they get with the 343s?

  16. uldguy Platinum

    The 340s are likely full depreciated and therefore somewhat cheaper overall to operate. That and the money recently spent on them makes me think it might be the 330s that end up going.

  17. stogieguy7 Guest

    Swiss will be more "focused" and "more digital"? WTF is this businessspeak supposed to mean? They'll email us from point to point? This guy is full of more BS than Calgary following the stampede. Seriously, the concept of being plain spoken has been lost and that's sad.

  18. Juan Guest

    I’d be curious to see the maintenance records. If they invested in new interiors for the A340’s it likely means they also did the heavy and expensive maintenance checks. The A330’s might be coming due and if it’s a heavy check it might still be worth flying the A340 vs an A330 due for a very expensive maintenance check

  19. Jason Guest

    Sorry - just a stylistic point ( the content is really good as always).

    I think to make the word Swiss possessive you can add 's. Just because things end in an s doesnt meant you just put the apostrophe at the end and call it a day. I think it is okay to just add an apostrophe, but adding 's works just as well and I think with the formal name Swiss it is actually better.

    Anyway, take or leave my advice, but I just wanted to put it out ther.

  20. Al Guest

    Hi Ben, minor correction: Helvetic is not a subsidiary of Swiss. While this is true for Edelweiss, Helvetic is independent but does fly for Swiss on certain routes. Really interested if they keep the A340s or not…

  21. Sharon Guest

    So which long haul routes will be disappearing??

    Will they still have Geneva long haul?

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David Guest

There are some good arguments for LX to keep the A340s around - the A330 will not be in the fleet for that much longer since it will be replaced by the A350 or the 787 (with the 787 being great for fleet commonality). The A340s have been recently refurbished. They have a much bigger cargo capacity. Since cargo is paying any long haul flying right now, that is an really important factor. In the end the A340 has space for one extra pallet and a lot of additional MTOW. Additionally fuel is really cheap right now. The A330s are in storage right now. I can bet my ass off that LX will keep the A340s and sell a few A330s. There is actually one more factor; Edelweiss. Since they are keeping A340s anyway, a big chunk of the economics of scale for selling A340s is gone anyway. Last but not least the resale value proposition is a lot better for the A330 compared to the ultra cheap A340-300s. Therefore I strongly believe in the retirement of 5 SWISS A330-300.

1
stogieguy7 Guest

Swiss will be more "focused" and "more digital"? WTF is this businessspeak supposed to mean? They'll email us from point to point? This guy is full of more BS than Calgary following the stampede. Seriously, the concept of being plain spoken has been lost and that's sad.

1
José Arrais Guest

The A340 is already almost 18 years old, older than the A330, but it as better range versus payload. I bet that the older A340/A330 will go. The A359 will replace the A340 superbly and the 789 the same with the A333.. although I think the best airplane to replace the A333 would be definitely the A339neo.

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