Will economy passengers using Swiss at Geneva soon have to pay for their onboard food and drink?

Last March, Switzerland’s respected Tages Anzeiger asked the question “Soon pay for the food at the Swiss?”

At that time it was just speculation.

But since then matters at Swiss have moved a step further. Last Sunday’s Tages Anzeiger published an update, “Swiss wants to ask passengers for food for check out”.

Tages Anzeiger reports that a working group has been established in Geneva to examine the different types of catering that would be possible on short-haul flights. It seems increasingly likely that a charge will be made.

A Swiss spokesperson is quoted as saying, “We are currently working on different concepts to further improve the travel experience of our passengers from Geneva.”

Whatever is decided would be introduced in the autumn. This suggests towards the end of October when European airlines introduce their winter timetables.

Why Geneva ?

Swiss’ short-haul operations are lossmaking at Geneva. It faces severe price competition and it needs to operate as economically as possible.

Easyjet is the dominant carrier. It is far stronger at Geneva than at Zurich which is Swiss’ main base.

According to figures published by rts.ch in 2016, Easyjet was handling 40 per cent of the Geneva market in contrast to Swiss’ 15 per cent share.

Tages Anzeiger reports that Easyjet has allocated no fewer than 14 aircraft to its Geneva operation. Easyjet Switzerland’s CEO Thomas Haagensen expecting a 10 per cent passenger growth in 2017.

Last year, we reported that, unless Swiss became profitable by 2018, it would have to quit Geneva.

Local media reports suggest that Swiss is losing CHF30 million a year at Geneva. And Swiss CEO Thomas Kluhr wants the Geneva operation to become profitable by the end of 2018.

If not parent Lufthansa might well use Eurowings (its budget subsidiary) to take over the Swiss operation at Geneva as it will soon be doing at Belgium’s Brussels Airlines (another Lufthansa subsidiary).

In recent times Swiss has used Geneva as a laboratory for new ideas.

Geneva was where Swiss launched its one-way pricing model. It was also Geneva where Swiss introduced HBO (hand baggage only) fares four years ago.

At the time such HBO fares were a major change for an airline that had traditionally prided itself on quality and full service to all passengers.

Finally it must be remembered that Swiss instigated BOB catering in Europe some 15 years ago. It was only when Lufthansa acquired Swiss that BOB was scrapped.

  • Business Traveller requested comment from Swiss. The airline replied, “We are currently working on different concepts to improve the passenger experience for our passengers flying ex-Geneva. We plan to introduce them in the autumn and will provide further information in due time.”