SWISS had a very busy week as far as aircraft purchase announcements are concerned. On Thursday, March 14 SWISS confirmed an order with Boeing for 6 777-300ER aircraft. This order was part of Lufthansa Group’s previous announcement from a few weeks ago when it indicated that it would order up to 108 aircraft over the coming years. SWISS made it official with their own press release citing the details around the order.
The six new 777s are set to replace SWISS’ A340 aircraft beginning in 2016. There are currently 15 A340s in the SWISS fleet with the oldest aircraft being approximately 10 years old. With the move to the more efficient 777, SWISS will recognize a 23% improvement in fuel efficiency and carbon emissions. The new 777’s will be featured on SWISS’ ultra-long haul routes to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg.
This is an interesting move by SWISS since the 777s will be the only Boeing aircraft in their fleet (except for one 737-800 on lease from PrivatAir). Up until now, ‘LX’ has been an Airbus loyalist. In my opinion there are 2 keys as to why the decision to move to Boeing:
One, Airbus does not have a suitable alternative to their aging A340. The best alternative currently is the new and unproven A350 which has not yet had her first test flight which means it is still years away from being a regular presence in any fleet. Additionally, the A350 is a very close cousin to Boeing’s 787 with both sharing a composite fuselage and lithium battery technology (though Airbus has suggested that it will go away from Lithium batteries). With the challenges that Boeing has had with the Dreamliner it may be safe to assume that Airbus will have similar ‘teething’ issues with their A350. This uncertainly makes it difficult for any airline to commit to the A350 and expect it to be delivered precisely on time. On the other hand, the 777 is a proven workhorse in fleets around the world with excellent operating metrics and fantastic reliability and can be delivered relatively quickly. The 777 makes a perfect stop-gap aircraft for the fleet.
The second key is Lufthansa Group’s decision under their SCORE efficiency initiatives to improve efficiences across all airlines in the group. The 777 is already in Austrian’s fleet and will be added to Lufthansa Cargo’s fleet later this year. It only made sense to leverage Boeing with a relatively large 777 order to gaining pricing and logistical efficiencies throughout the group.
Also this week, Bombardier introduced its CS100 for the first time to the public. SWISS is the launch customer for the new Bombardier model with 30 on order and will be using the CS100 to replace the 34 Avro RJ100 aircraft in the fleet at this time. This is the first time that a Bombardier aircraft is part of the Swiss fleet.
With the CS100, SWISS will recognize a 25% improvement in fuel consumption over the ‘Jumbolino’ (a term of endearment for the Avro!). Personally I’ll be sad to see the Jumbolino leave the fleet. It is a small aircraft with 4 jet engines that gives it a unique look and because of that, earned the nickname of Jumbolino. The new CS100 is a twin engine aircraft with jet engines mounted on the wings which is a first for Bombardier aircraft. The CS100s are expected to start joining the fleet next year.