Following dire times caused by the pandemic, the Zurich-based airline succeeded in achieving a financial turnaround in 2022 - also due to a significant contribution from its cargo division. Traditionally, the freight unit’s results are not documented separately, but are an integral part of the carrier’s overall annual balance sheet. This includes cargo sales contributed by Swiss subsidiary, Edelweiss, whose lower deck capacity is marketed by Swiss WorldCargo. Currently, leisure carrier Edelweiss serves more than 70 destinations worldwide, carrying cargo in its belly holds.
In fiscal 2022, Swiss posted an operating profit of CHF 456 million (EUR 459 million), versus a loss of CHF 405 million, the year before. Management attributes the turnaround to optimized cost structures, stable flight operations, and favorable market conditions. Adjusted EBIT margin for the year returned to double digits at 10.4%, and total revenues for 2022 were around twice its previous-year level at CHF 4.41 billion (EUR 4.44 billion). Thanks to the profit, Swiss’ liquidity situation has notably improved, enabling management to further invest in staff, customer experience, and to push ahead with its ambitious sustainability agenda. “Despite some substantial challenges throughout the aviation sector, we have flown our company firmly back into the profit zone, also thanks to an operational stability of more than 99% in the summer months,” Swiss CEO, Dieter Vranckx applauded his airline’s remarkable performance. “The scheduling stability that has been such a key element in this success will remain one of our top priorities this year, too,” he announced.
Freight has embellished the result
Asked about the performance of the freight unit in 2022, Swiss World Cargo’s Head of Marketing & Communications, Alexandra Dahl, indicates that more than 600 so-called “preighter” flights were operated: the carrier’s long-haul Airbus A330, A340, and B777 passenger aircraft contributed substantially to the earnings of Swiss Air Lines. These were often cargo flights to and from the Far East, because there was hardly any demand from travelers on those routes until the pandemic ended, partly due to the strict lockdown policy of the Chinese government.
In terms of volumes, Swiss carried 300,000+ tons of air freight last year. From the second half of the year onwards, this traveled increasingly as belly cargo in the lower deck compartments of passenger aircraft. According to Ms. Dahl, special commodities, such as pharmaceuticals, medicines, valuables, and other sensitive items, contributed 25% to the products flown. They all require particular services and care, which is why they have the highest rates in air freight and have become a main contributor to the company’s earnings.
Strong passenger growth
In 2022, Swiss transported 12.8 million passengers, an increase of 116% on the previous year. It operated 107,000 flights, 89% more year-on-year. Across the network, seat load factors for the year climbed to 80.9%, an increase of 26.5% on 2021. In comparison, the factor was slightly higher on intercontinental services than on European routes.
“With an adjusted EBIT margin of over 10%, our financial results for 2022 are substantially better than we had originally expected,” commented Swiss CFO, Markus Binkert. “They also allow all our stakeholders to share in our success. Our employees, for example, have been awarded more than CHF 100 million in the form of various one-off payments and variable salary components,” the manager demonstrated his generosity.
In addition, the airline announced a personnel matter: Ashwin Bhat, former Head of Cargo at Swiss and current CCO at Lufthansa Cargo, was newly elected to the Swiss Board of Directors. His nomination should further support the implementation of the carrier’s ambitious freight goals.
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