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 favorable Adjusted EBIT for 2023. But with rising costs and geopolitical uncertainties, the market environment may be more challenging.
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 most robust nine-month result in its more than 20-year history. Total revenues for the nine months increased 26.4% to CHF 4.0 billion (Q1-Q3 2022: CHF 3.2 billion).
“I am both proud and grateful that our SWISS team was able to achieve such a favorable 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 industrywide 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 substantially contributed to the strong overall operating result for the first nine months of 2023.
Positive Trend Leads to Record SWISS Earnings In Third Quarter
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 rose 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 due to various external factors such as strikes, adverse weather, and personnel shortages at partner companies. With careful planning and the considerable efforts of the SWISS workforce, some 99% of all SWISS flights operated as published. However, there were flight delays in achieving operations stability.
A Challenging Market Environment
SWISS is experiencing a stabilization of its profit levels. However, the airline industry is encountering increased energy expenses, among other challenges. Despite these obstacles, SWISS remains optimistic and anticipates a positive operating outcome for 2023.
“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 endeavors, actions to raise our punctuality will be at the top of our priority list.”
Strong Growth in Passengers
In the first nine months of 2023, SWISS Airlines saw a significant increase in passenger numbers. They transported around 12.4 million passengers, which is about a third more than the same period last year. To accommodate this demand, SWISS operated over 97,000 flights, marking a 25% increase compared to 2022.
Regarding available seat kilometers (ASK), SWISS’s total production showed a remarkable growth of 33% year-on-year. Additionally, the total traffic volume measured in revenue passenger-kilometers (RPK) grew by 42% compared to 2022. These numbers indicate strong performance by SWISS Airlines.
Notably, the SWISS effectively utilized its aircraft fleet. The airline achieved a systemwide seat load factor of 85.1% in the first nine months of 2023. This represents a significant improvement of 5.4 percentage points compared to the same period last year.
Moving on to the third quarter of 2023, SWISS saw further growth in passenger numbers. The airline carried approximately 4.9 million passengers. This is a significant increase from the 4 million passengers in the third quarter of 2022. The airline operated over 36,500 flights during this period. That is about 18% more compared to the same quarter last year.
Although the seat load factor in the third quarter of 2023 slightly decreased by 1.3 percentage points to 88.2%, SWISS Airlines maintained a strong capacity, achieving 89% of its 2019 level. This performance indicates the resilience and adaptability of the airline amidst challenging circumstances.