02/20/2012

Zurich to Beijing: cheaper via Geneva!

Since Saturday 11 February Swiss Airlines runs a flight to Beijing. According to an article in this paper, it will be cheaper to fly from Geneva, via Zurich, than from Zurich directly!


In the article in this paper on 18 February, the CEO of Swiss Airlines, Harry Hohmeister, was proud to offer a direct flight from Zurich to Beijing, initially 5 days per week, later every day. The inauguration flight, on 11 February, included numerous important invited guests, including the Switzerland Transport Minister, Doris Leuthart.

One of his remarks was that the people of Geneva could pay less than those of Zurich, even though it requires a Geneva-Zurich flight prior to the long haul flight from Zurich. I was curious about this statement, so I checked up on the web site of Swiss Airlines. Indeed, at the standard economy fare of 1946 CHF one way from Geneva, we pay less than the Zurichois, who pays 2134 CHF standard fare: a difference of 188 CHF! the business class traveller saves the same amount, but the first class fare is identical.Because of this difference, a Zurichois could actually save money by going to Zurich airport, taking the train to Geneva airport (89 CHF full fare, 44.50 CHF with the half fare tariff) and then happily flying back to Zurich after checking in the baggage for the whole journey.

Interestingly, the same principle seems to apply to other Swiss flights to Asia: Geneva passengers pay between 100 and 200 CHF less. Curiously, the one flight where I found virtually no difference is for passengers to Johannesburg.

Is there a rational explanation for this: surely, but I cannot reason out what it is. Does Geneva airport somehow directly or indirectly help Swiss financially in this matter? Does Swiss want to get Geneva passengers to choose to go via Zurich, rather than a different European airport? Or does Swiss just think that Zurich people are generally rich enough so that 188 CHF is not worth worrying about?

Anyone care to tell me the real explanation?

The TdG article stated that the flight used a new Airbus A340-300: an aircraft used by very many companies for long-haul flights. The "new" description is actually a slight exaggeration, since aircraft of this type came into operation in 1993. The actual aircraft used for this inaugural flight appears to be the one registered as HB-JMK, built in 1997 for Austrian Airlines, who then sold it to Swiss Airlines in 2007. It is thus nearly 15 years old! Not surprisingly, this type of aircraft is in the middle noise category (III : the least noisy category is V).

If Mr Hohmeister hopes to make money with this service, for which he talks of attracting passengers from other European countries, I suspect that he will have to make some special offers. In checking on all possible fares from Geneva to Beijing on a Sunday evening in mid-March, using eBookers.ch, there were several offers in the range from 500 to 1000 CHF. Cheapest is to go to Brussels and take a flight with Hainan, a Chinese airline. For a flight via Frankfurt with China Airlines, think of just under 800 CHF. Otherwise, for just under 1000 CHF there is the choice of going via Doha (Qatar Airlines) or Dubai (Emirates). These latter two airlines are pushing hard to catch the traffic to Asia and beyond.

Over to you, Mr Hohmeister.

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Comments

What a mess!

Posted by: Patoucha | 02/22/2012

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