top of page

Swiss adapts fleet and operations to keep freight flying

Cargo iQ member Swiss International Air Lines has been on some journey since the start of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the middle of March.

The airline’s cargo arm Swiss WorldCargo moves cargo solely in the belly of its Boeing and Airbus passenger aircraft, but after much of its fleet was grounded, it had to think outside the box to keep the cargo flowing from Switzerland.

Swiss WorldCargo’s Head of Cargo, Ashwin Bhat (pictured above), explains how the carrier has adapted its operations to meet demand.

Please describe the journey that SWISS International Air Lines has been on during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic was completely unexpected, and required us to quickly change our way of working and adapt our processes in diverse ways.

SWISS and Swiss WorldCargo quickly reacted so that even with passenger travel restrictions, we would continue to ensure connections between Switzerland’s supply chains and the rest of the world, and vice versa.

Since then, we have developed our network of cargo-only routes, which have served to transport important medical goods and equipment to/from Switzerland, while also ensuring the continued flow of regular cargo.

What actions has SWISS taken operationally since the COVID-19 pandemic started?

At the beginning of the crisis, Swiss WorldCargo quickly established a charter project team from different and diverse departments throughout SWISS, dedicated to ensuring that the global supply chains could still be connected and that cargo could continue to be shipped throughout the world.

Due to passenger travel restrictions, the charter team was able to ensure that cargo-only flights could continue to take place and transport goods throughout the world; this, in turn, ensured continued connections between Zurich, Switzerland and the rest of the world.

A major initial focus was the import of PPE (personal protective equipment) and other medical/humanitarian goods, transported from abroad to Switzerland.

How has SWISS remodified and adapted its fleet during the crisis?

SWISS has continued to benefit from its long and short-haul aircraft, including Boeing 777-300ERs, Airbus A340 and Airbus A330, which are particularly well-suited for carrying cargo.

Alongside the development of its cargo-only network, SWISS also began to modify certain aircraft within the fleet. Specifically, the Boeing 777-300ERs were refurbished to remove the seats, which can add several tons of additional cargo capacity on a given flight.