Because Swiss is an airline that focuses on typically Swiss characteristics such as reliability and quality, they try where possible to rely on products from Swiss suppliers. This they do not only for reputational reasons but also because it makes economic sense: over time quality pays for itself. As an example, when galleys were sourced for the new Boeing 777, Swiss decided to go with galleys from the Swiss firm Bucher Leichtbau AG in Fällanden instead of Boeing’s standard galley builders because they had had excellent experience with this supplier equipping other aircraft types. Beat Locher, Head Aircraft Asset Management at Swiss, explains: “Our involvement with Bucher Leichtbau on the Airbus A330, for example, was of the best. They are small but they are reliable and work to very high standards of quality. Bucher galleys are extremely functional and in impeccable condition even after 20 years.”
Avoid every unnecessary ounce of weight
“A minimum of weight, a maximum of reliability”. This was Heinrich Bucher’s motto for the company he founded in 1953 and which specializes in airplane galleys and catering equipment. At the beginning of the 1970s, the nascent lightweight construction methods with aluminium allowed for product innovations which, because of their lower weight, gave Bucher Leichtbau’s airline customers significant cost advantages. Since 1977, the company has deployed its know-how in the development of emergency medical systems (EMS) for rescue helicopters and flying ambulances.
The Bucher Leichtbau’s success story continues. In addition to their galleys/catering and EMS areas, they are also focusing on reclining for medical evacuation in airliners and in VIP furnishings for business jets. They employ 350 people at their locations in Fällanden in Switzerland, in Sinn-Fleisbach in Germany, and in Everett in the USA, and generate revenues of around CHF 80 million annually. A number of airlines, as well as aircraft manufacturers Airbus, Bombardier and Boeing, are clients. Beat Burlet, the CEO of Bucher Leichtbau AG, says this about the success of his company: ”The bedrock for our sophisticated solutions are our highly-qualified employees, who pare down every unnecessary ounce and use the available space in an optimal way. Our products are highly dependable, we deliver them on time and our customer support is outstanding.” Burlet appreciates that Swiss opened the way for him to supply galleys on the Boeing 777. He wants to exploit this opening: “Following the success of the galley that we built for Swiss’s Boeing 777, we began development in 2017 of a new galley system for the upcoming Boeing 777-9X.”
Innovation from Langenthal
Galleys are not the only equipment built by a Swiss SME for Swiss’s new long-haul flagship. Lantal Textiles AG in Langenthal is a company that specializes in the design, production and distribution of textiles for airplanes, buses, railway wagons, luxury yachts and cruise ships. They are also a long-standing supplier for Swiss and were chosen for the curtains and seat coverings for the Boeing 777s. The company has about 720 employees and a turnover of a little over CHF 91m per year. It also supplied the aircushions for the business-class seats. The pneumatic air cushion system was developed by Lantal; the air-filled cushions replace the usual foam-filled cushions and provide very good seating and sleeping comfort compared to competitors’ products. In the meantime, Lantal’s client base includes over 300 airlines and all major aircraft and seating manufacturers worldwide.
Swiss, the “economic driving force”
Swiss relies on Swiss SMEs as suppliers. Not only to equip their airplanes, but also for the on-board catering. On-board service includes many products that originate with Swiss companies. In this way, Swiss not only proves its close connection to smaller and medium-sized Swiss companies and its commitment to high quality. It also provides Swiss SMEs with a daily boost by way of new orders.