Markus Binkert: There is continuously growing demand for flights from Ukraine to Switzerland
An exclusive Interfax-Ukraine interview with Chief Сommercial Officer at SWISS International Air Lines Markus Binkert
Question: What are your company's plans for 2014?
Answer: One of our focus points for 2014 will be our activities in Geneva and the further development of our Geneva operations base with its own flying personnel. The crew base in Geneva will comprise some 150 cabin crew members and 80 pilots. Due to our new set-up in Geneva and the focus on point-to-point traffic, we're striving to respond with even greater effectiveness to the needs and wishes of customers in French-speaking Switzerland.
Question: What amount of investment in the development of your company is planned for 2014, and in which areas will it be made?
Answer: Over the next few years we will continuously invest in our fleet, i.e. with the replacement of our Avro-fleet with the new generation Bombardier C Series as of 2015.
Moreover, as of 2016 we will also start the rollover of our Airbus A340 with six Boeing 777-300ERs. The total investment will be more than CHF 3 billion.
Question: What are your plans regarding development in Ukraine?
Answer: SWISS, as the national airline of Switzerland, will continue to focus on clients traveling from Kyiv to Switzerland for both leisure and business. In particular, the tourism infrastructure in Switzerland offers countless opportunities to spend an exciting time in Switzerland all year round.
While in winter, of course, Switzerland's world famous mountain resorts and ski-slopes are an extremely popular attraction, the Swiss summer offers vast cultural and touristic highlights around Switzerland's scenic landscape and its pulsing cities like Zurich, Lucerne or Geneva.
Together with our strategic partner Switzerland Tourism, we offer a number of products for agents and, of course, for customers directly to visit Switzerland.
In addition, we like to invite Ukrainian travelers to take advantage of our award-winning hub in Zurich, so they benefit from perfect connections to the United States, and to Spain, Italy and France.
Question: How do you rate the services at Boryspil airport?
Answer: When our inaugural flight to Zurich took place on October 27, SWISS was very warmly welcomed by Boryspil airport, and SWISS together with the airport hosted an eventful inauguration day. The newly opened airport has good infrastructure and a beautiful airport lounge where our business class passengers, senators and honoraries can enjoy a fantastic view of the apron. In addition, Wi-Fi access is free, which is certainly a benefit.
In other words, our first impression is a good one and we look forward to having a sustainable and amicable partnership with the airport.
Question: Which services do you use in Ukraine and are you satisfied with their quality?
Answer: We mainly use the services of the passenger-, aircraft- and cargo-handling companies at Kyiv airport. Based on the above mentioned experience on opening day, but also those we had during the preparation phase, we're satisfied that we're reaching the quality levels we set ourselves. Of course we should see further progress now, and in the coming weeks and months, but we're pretty confident that the services delivered will meet the expectations of our passengers traveling to and from Boryspil airport.
Question: Do you plan to expand the number of routes, and if so, to which Ukrainian cities?
Answer: Not for the moment. However, a flight to Geneva is a possible option.
Question: Regarding legislation: How do you rate the quality of Ukrainian aviation legislation? What changes to it would your company like to see?
Answer: We're not in the position to comment on that, but SWISS will of course adhere to the local legislations at all times.
Question: What is your forecast for the development of the aviation market in general, and the aviation market of Ukraine in particular?
Answer: With respect to Ukraine, we have learned that there is continuously growing demand for flights to Switzerland, which greatly influenced our decision to start flying to Kyiv. This is also underlined by statistics from Switzerland Tourism on nights spent in Switzerland by Ukrainians. In 2012 it was already close to 80,000 and we are optimistic that we'll soon get to 100,000 overnights, given the new flight by SWISS.
In addition, we note the strong demand for [destinations in] North America, Spain, France and Italy. Through our hub in Zurich, Ukrainian travelers can connect in less than one hour to many destinations in these countries.