SWISS posts record earnings for first nine months

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Total revenues for the nine-month period were raised 26.4% to CHF 4.0 billion (Q1-Q3 2022: CHF 3.2 billion).

SWISS achieved a record operating result for the traditionally busy summer period to build further on its already strong earnings for the first half-year. The resulting CHF 615.9 million Adjusted EBIT for the first nine months of 2023 is the best in the company’s history. Total revenues for the first nine months amounted to CHF 4.0 billion. SWISS transported some 12.4 million passengers in the January-to-September period. The company also benefited from cost savings deriving from its restructuring in 2021. SWISS expects to report a highly favourable Adjusted EBIT for 2023 as a whole. But with developments such as rising costs and geopolitical uncertainties, the market environment may prove more challenging ahead.

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) benefited from high summer air travel volumes to post a record operating result for the 2023 third-quarter period which built further on the already strong earnings of the first half-year. Customer demand was particularly high in the leisure travel segment. For the first nine months of 2023 SWISS generated an operating profit or Adjusted EBIT of CHF 615.9 million, an improvement of around 114% on the prior-year period (Q1-Q3 2022: CHF 287.5 million) and the strongest nine-months result in its more than 20-year history.

“I am both proud and grateful that our SWISS team was able to achieve such a favourable operating result in the key summer months,” says SWISS Chief Financial Officer Markus Binkert“In doing so, we have further strengthened our financial foundation; and we have shown that, having overcome the pandemic, we can also stand firmly on our own two feet from a longer-term perspective.”

“In the third quarter, too,” Binkert continues, “we benefited from the fact that the industry wide demand for air travel exceeded the available capacity. Also working to our advantage were the competitive cost structures that we had given ourselves through our restructuring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our administrative costs, for instance, are still below their pre-pandemic levels.”

While the demand for air cargo services is now well down on the prior year and has returned to pre-crisis levels, SWISS’s airfreight division also made a substantial contribution to the strong overall operating result for the first nine months of 2023.

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Positive trend solidified in third-quarter period

In what is traditionally the busiest season in air travel terms, SWISS saw the positive business trends of the first half of 2023 further intensify for the third-quarter period. Adjusted EBIT for July to September amounted to just under CHF 277.6 million, an increase of around 25% on the prior-year period (Q3 2022: CHF 220.5 million) and the strongest quarterly result the company has ever reported. Total revenues for the period were raised some 10.6% to CHF 1.5 billion (Q3 2022: CHF 1.3 billion).

SWISS’s flight operations faced particularly challenging conditions in the peak summer months as a result of various external factors such as strikes, adverse weather and personnel shortages at partner companies. But thanks to careful planning and the considerable efforts of the entire SWISS workforce, some 99% of all SWISS flights could be performed as published. Sizeable volumes of delays were incurred, however, in achieving such operating stability.

Market environment becoming more challenging

SWISS is currently seeing a normalization of its yield levels. At the same time, the airline industry is facing rising costs – of energy, to take one example. As a result, the market environment looks set to become more challenging in the medium term. But SWISS still expects to report a very favourable operating result for 2023 as a whole.

“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to our whole SWISS crew for the outstanding team performance that made this record result possible,” says SWISS CEO Dieter Vranckx“And I am especially pleased that we are not only on track in financial terms: as our latest staff survey shows, the motivation and the satisfaction of our employees have also substantially improved. With the business environment becoming more demanding and with uncertain times ahead on the global political front, giving ourselves a sound financial cushion is all the more valuable. It also enables us to further invest in our guests’ air travel experience and in our own employees. And in all these endeavours, actions to raise our punctuality will be at the top of our priority list.”

Strong growth in passenger volumes

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SWISS transported some 12.4 million passengers in the first nine months of 2023, around a third more than it had in the prior-year period. Over 97,000 flights were operated, a quarter more than in 2022. Systemwide, SWISS’s total production for the first nine months was up 33% year-on-year in available seat-kilometre (ASK) terms. Total traffic volume for the period, measured in revenue passenger-kilometres (RPK), was up 42% on 2022. The SWISS aircraft fleet was utilized exceptionally well: systemwide seat load factor for the first nine months of 2023 amounted to 85.1%, a 5.4-percentage-point improvement on the prior-year period.

In the third quarter of 2023 SWISS carried some 4.9 million passengers, compared to 4 million in the prior-year period. Over 36,500 flights were performed, compared to just under 31,000 in the third quarter of 2022. Systemwide third-quarter seat load factor stood at 88.2%, 1.3 percentage points down on the prior-year period. SWISS’s third-quarter capacity in 2023 was at 89% of its 2019 level.