Swiss sees itself as the airline of Switzerland. This is, of course, reflected in its network strategy. And just how is this manifested? Martin Apsel-von zur Gathen, Head of Network Management, explains Swiss’ strategic approach: “Customer focus is decisive in the development of our route network. In order to meet demand in Switzerland, we develop offers to fulfil local customer wishes and to provide clear additional benefits.”
A new destination wish list is one thing, but the realistic implementation of a plan is another. In general, airlines differentiate between three relevant customer segments: business travellers, tourists and so-called VFR travellers (Visiting Friends and Relatives). If a route has a good mixture of all these categories, then an important prerequisite for the successful operation of the route has been fulfilled. However, this mixture does not exist everywhere, and this is the case with Wroclaw. The city with more than 630,000 inhabitants in south-west Poland is the fourth largest in the country after Warsaw, Krakow and Lodz. But although it has many historic buildings, theatres and museums, it is nevertheless not a prime tourist destination for Swiss travellers.
At the request of Swiss companies
So why is Swiss introducing this new flight to Wroclaw? The city is an important economic centre in Southern Poland, and in the last few years, various Swiss companies, including major banks, companies in the life science sector and the electronics industry, have moved their business activities to Wroclaw. This is what Martin Apsel-von zur Gathen has to say about it: “Wroclaw has been on our ‘long list’ of potentially attractive destinations for a considerable time now. On this list, we collect all flight-plan wishes, as well as possible new destinations. More recently, it has increasingly come to our attention that Swiss companies are showing a strong interest in a nonstop connection to Wroclaw”. That is what tipped the scales in favour of the Wroclaw plan and of its implementation as a new Swiss destination.
Accurate assessment of demand is important
Assessment of demand is of critical importance when planning a new destination. Nowadays, we have state-of-the-art tools at our disposal. Statistics of airports, federal agencies and the airline trade association IATA supply precise data about the number of passengers, airlines booked and routes selected for every route and any desired time period. Potential demand can be estimated with great accuracy using this data as a basis. The next step is to translate expected demand into optimal flight frequency, flight times and aircraft deployment. “Business travel is the focus of flights to Wroclaw, and for this reason, we have structured the timetable to take the requirements of business travellers into account”, Apsel-von zur Gathen points out. “We are starting with a morning rotation on Monday, a midday rotation on Wednesday and an evening rotation on Friday”. The airline hopes that this initial offer will be a successful first step in meeting the needs of business travellers.
Serving the Swiss economy
With the decision to implement a new flight to Wroclaw, the Network Management Department’s work has been done for the time being. The next preparatory steps now lie predominantly in the commercial marketing of the new route. “At the moment, we are just monitoring the development of bookings. Our department will resume its activity when these flights have actually been taken up”, adds Apsel-von zur Gathen. “We will then analyse the network results precisely together with the Sales and Revenue Management Department”. In general, the Head of Network Management is expecting a strengthening of Swiss’ market position in Poland with the new route to Wroclaw. But more than anything else, he is happy that Swiss is demonstrating once again that they not only listen to the wishes of the Swiss business community, but also fulfil them.
Three questions for Martin Apsel-von zur Gathen, Head of Network Management, Swiss International Air Lines:
What is your department responsible for?
We are constantly analysing the development of all routes and all Swiss markets. Our objective is to continually improve our range of air services, as well as the efficiency of our route network.
What is the biggest hurdle when assessing a new destination?
A lack of available slots at airports and a shortage of capacity in our aircraft fleet.
What is required of you in your role as manager?
A broad understanding of the mechanisms of the aviation sector, a liking for figures and analysis, high flexibility and, of course, to have caught the aviation bug.