Swiss is set to rid its fleet of the Airbus A340, with the big four-engined jet facing a use-by date of 2024 or 2025 at the latest.
While Switzerland's flag carrier hasn't settled on a direct replacement for the A340, it's expected to tap into a group order placed by parent Lufthansa for both the Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 787-9, which would also be shared with sibling Austrian Airlines.
Speaking at an overnight CAPA Live online forum, Swiss CEO Dieter Vranckx said the A340s continued to earn their stripes due to both their globe-striding range and extensive cargo capacity, "and we know that during the last 12 to 18 months, cargo has played an important role in keeping up a large degree of our intercontinental network."
"But I would see the period somewhere between 24-25 (as) the period to get them out of the fleet."
Part of this timeline also comes down to the airline's plans to halve its CO2 footprint by 50% by 2030, as the fuel-thirsty A340s – which were regular visitors to airports across Asia and the USA – will make way for more efficient aircraft.
Swiss will continue to rely on its Boeing 777, which Vranckx described as "the largest one we have on the intercontinental side in our fleet, but it has proven an extremely efficient aircraft (with) really large cargo capacity."
However, Vranckx said the airline had no plans to use its single-aisle A321neo jets to replacement the larger twin-aisle jets on key routes such as the trans-Atlantic corridor.
"We continuously look at opportunities, we evaluate market changes (and) also traffic flow changes. But for the moment we don't see a direct need for Swiss to go into narrow-body long- haul."
"Our model, which we had before corona and during corona, has shown that our balance of passenger revenues and cargo revenues is really crucial for a long-haul profitability," he added, saying that all Swiss A321neo aircraft would remain assigned to Swiss' European network.
And while business and corporate travel will continue to grow as the pandemic recedes into the rear-view mirror, Vranckx expected the recovery to be steady but slow.
"It's going to take a while before the corporate travel will reach levels which we have seen before corona," he admitted.
"Traditionally Swiss has a healthy mix in the premium cabins of corporate travel but also private travel. And therefore, we have seen also in the past that when demand reduces on the corporate side that the leisure premium traffic is picking up and partly compensating that."
"We know in our business that (corporate travel) always comes back. The question rather is, when is it going to come back to a full return? It will be a recovery which takes a little bit longer than what we have seen in the past, especially if you have seen the 2008 financial crisis, the 2001."
"That was rather a V type of recovery, a steep decline, but then a rather quick recovery within six to 10 months. The expectation is that it will take longer in this recovery."
"It's very difficult to make predictions at this stage (but) pre-Covid levels for total traffic, that we're looking rather at '25, '26."