Flying high

Swiss International Air Lines is not out to spoil you silly. But it scores on ? quality, reliability, and hospitality?


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It’s funny how airlines acquire their own image. Take Virgin Atlantic. No matter how much on the straight and narrow you are, flying Virgin will conjure up all sorts of images — not all of them the sort you’d discuss with your mother. Or then there’s Singapore Airlines. Great food, great service but down to brass tacks it’s always about those wonderful women. Closer home, take Air India. Despite Praful Patel’s best intentions — it now serves world-class wines — it still has to make a leap of faith to overcome its sarkari tag.

For an airline that prides itself on ‘quality, reliability and hospitality’, Swiss International Air Lines certainly delivers. Despite its planned acquisition for 310 million euros by Deutsche Lufthansa — recently approved by the Swiss cabinet which owns 20 percent of the airline — the airline remains stolidly Swiss, supremely smooth, and completely unperturbed.

Going by news reports, the airline is undergoing a bit of turbulence — the pilots’ union is on the warpath — but you won’t get a whiff of it when you fly. This is not an airline under siege. Far from it. Swiss achieved a systemwide seat load factor of 74.2 percent for the first three months of this year — a 2.6 percent point improvement over the same period last year.

Swiss currently flies to 74 destinations worldwide, which includes 47 European cities as well as 27 intercontinental destinations across North America, South America, Africa, the Middle and Far East. It operates a conveniently timed daily Mumbai-Zurich flight, flying out at 1.40 am and arriving in Zurich at 6.20 am, just in time to make it to business meetings. You can, in fact, shower or use the workstations at the arrival lounge at Terminal 1. “We will also arrange reservations for hotel accommodation and car rental, check-in to a Swissôtel or for a SWISS flight, and find out about rail services,” says Aditya Khullar, Swiss’s Mumbai-based market development officer. The lounge is open to all Swiss passengers.

The flight back is a fun flight, flying out of Zurich at 10 am and getting back to Mumbai at 9.40 pm. Business class has an efficient in-flight entertainment system — though personally I can’t understand why all airlines don’t switch to personal video players; like SAS in the good old days. The airline also follows a ‘taste of Switzerland’ concept with regional themes that change every three months.

Swiss isn’t out to spoil you silly — you have to be an eastern carrier to be able to pull that off. But for ‘quality, reliability and hospitality’ it does score.