The SWISS fleet in 2022

With a fleet of 88 aircraft, Swiss International Airlines (SWISS), part of the Lufthansa Group, is an airline with an interesting mix of aircraft. One of the most fascinating aspects of this airline’s fleet is that it now operates two relatively rare Airbus jets in the skies: the A340-300 and the A220-100. The former was written off by many airlines as outdated and inefficient, while the latter was overshadowed by the more popular A220-300. Being the only Lufthansa Group airline to operate the passenger A220 and Boeing 777, let’s take a look at this airline in today’s article…


Let’s first look at the composition of the airline’s fleet as a whole, going through each type of aircraft operated by SWISS, and the number listed as operational.

The A330 is a solid workhorse for the airline, performing long-haul operations more efficiently than its A340 counterpart. Photo: SWITZERLAND

Narrow-body Airbus

The airline owns nine of the smaller A220-100s. Interestingly, this was the worldwide launch customer for the type, known at the time as the Bombardier CSeries. It’s not just the -100 operated by Swiss. Indeed, the carrier also operates 21 of the largest and most popular A220-300s.

For larger capacity intra-European services, the airline relies on its collection of A320 Family aircraft. These include 11 A320ceos, six A320neos, eight A321ceos and two A321neos. A320ceos have the highest average age of any type, approaching 22 at the time of this article’s publication. On the other hand, the A320 and A321neos are the youngest as the airline continues to swap CEOs for NEOs as deliveries come in.

The A220 (CSeries) posed some problems and challenges for SWISS in its early years. Photo: SWITZERLAND

The SWISS widebody fleet

Moving on to Airbus wide-body aircraft, the airline has 14 A330-300s and five A340-300s. Flying exclusively with Swiss since their finalization by Airbus, the A340s now have an average age of nearly 19 years. The Airbus A330s, which have an average age of nearly 12 years, are a solid and reliable long-haul workhorse for the airline. Sadly, more than a third of the carrier’s A330 fleet is currently listed as parked – sitting in the hot and arid climate of Amman, Jordan.

On the Boeing side, the airline operates only one type of Boeing aircraft, the 777-300ER. There are currently 12 in the fleet – something we’ll take a closer look at later in this article.

The carrier is one of the few still flying the A340. Photo: SWITZERLAND

A shrinking fleet?

Since reviewing the Swiss fleet last year on our website, we notice that the number of aircraft has actually decreased since July 2021. Last year, we noted that there were 92 aircraft in the fleet. However, there are now 88. The main change is the retirement of older A320ceos, which have been reduced from 21 to 15. These phase-outs actually started last summer, with three leaving in 2021 and two earlier this year.

However, it should be noted that the A320s that were withdrawn from Swiss this year did not go overboard. Indeed, they now operate for leisure-focused carrier Edelweiss Air. This carrier is also based in Zurich and, like Swiss, is a member of the Lufthansa Group.

With just 88 jets, the Swiss fleet is smaller than that of its Lufthansa Group counterpart, Lufthansa (with 286 aircraft). However, it is still larger than the other members of the Austrian group (61 planes) and Brussels Airlines with its 40 planes.

Some older A320s have been phased out and transferred to partner airline Edelweiss. Photo: SWITZERLAND

CSeries Launch Client (A220)

As we briefly touched on earlier, SWISS, through its parent company Lufthansa Group, was one of the first airlines to order the Airbus A220, known at the time as the CSeries. In fact, the carrier was the type’s launch customer, first operating the CS100 (now the A220-100) in 2016. The airline now has 30 A220s.

In both variants, suggests that the longest routes depart from Geneva, to the Cypriot city of Larnaca and to Ponta Delgada airport in the Azores archipelago.

The airline, unfortunately, has had to deal with all the growing pains that can accompany the entry into service of an entirely new type of aircraft. Following a series of incidents, SWISS actually grounded its entire Airbus A220 fleet for a short time in 2019. The multiple incidents involved SWISS’ Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines. In one case, an A220 had to divert to Paris after flames were reportedly seen coming from the engine. Investigators even appealed to the public to help find parts that may have fallen from the plane at the time.

Less than two weeks later, it was revealed that software settings could be causing the problems. Indeed, as we reported at the end of 2019, the problems seemed to only have started after the release of a software update. The software would have allowed the engine to behave in a way that allowed for destructive vibrations.

Where are the A340s now? And where are they going?

The Airbus A340 is becoming increasingly rare as a commercial passenger aircraft. The global health crisis has played a major role in this, with airlines like SAS, Iberia and Virgin Atlantic having retired the quadjet during the pandemic. However, SWISS retains its A340s.

As we have already noted, SWISS currently has five A340-300s, all of which are active at the time of publication of this article. Unsurprisingly, tasked with operating high-capacity long-haul services, you’ll find A340s flying from Zurich to cities such as Johannesburg, New York, Chicago and Hong Kong. The airline also deploys the type to Dubai from time to time.

It was expected that the carrier would remove this part of its fleet. Until the end of last year, a timetable had not yet been revealed. However, last November. According to Executive Traveller, Swiss is expected to phase out its Airbus A340 fleet in 2024 or 2025 at the latest. Interestingly, although the airline is considering this elimination, it has not yet selected a direct replacement for the type.

The A340s will leave the fleet within two or three years. Photo: SWITZERLAND

However, Executive Traveler notes that the airline is expected to tap into a bulk order placed by parent company Lufthansa Group. This could see the airline operating the Airbus A350-900 or the Boeing 787-9, or both types. With the A340s currently seating 243 passengers in three classes, the Boeing 787-9 or A350-900 will do well as replacements for the type, potentially even offering a bit more capacity.

While Swiss CEO Dieter Vranckx praises his A340 fleet and their range and cargo capacity, he knows their time is limited. Speaking at an online CAPA event in November, Vrankx said:

“…We know that over the past 12 to 18 months freight has played a significant role in sustaining much of our intercontinental network…but I would see the period somewhere between [20]24-25 (as) the period to get them out of the fleet.”

The flagship Boeing 777

But starting from the A340s, the Swiss collection is interesting in that it is mainly Airbus but with a single type of Boeing aircraft: The 777-300ER. This type is the airline’s flagship jet and is a relatively young part of SWISS operations. The average age of these jets is just over five years.

With more capacity than the A340-300, Swiss will continue to rely on these popular high-capacity jets. The airline’s CEO says it has “proved an extremely efficient aircraft (with) a very large cargo capacity.”

The Boeing 777 is the airline’s flagship aircraft. Photo: SWITZERLAND

Originally slated to fly with a premium economy cabin in 2021, the carrier’s 777s have only recently, in recent months, received their new seats. At the end of February, the airline presented the first of the 777 equipped with the premium economy class. The entire 777 fleet has since been fitted with the all-new product and is, in fact, the only aircraft type operated by Swiss to offer a premium economy cabin.

SWISS Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Tamur Goudarzi Pour said in a press release at the time:

“Our SWISS Premium Economy Class is a superior product compared to our international competitors… Our Premium Economy Class should be particularly attractive to travelers who have already traveled in economy class and wish to improve their comfort and convenience in flight .”

This class is pretty much in line with the premium economy experience offered by other full-service carriers. This includes access to noise canceling headphones and a larger in-flight entertainment screen. Swiss passengers in premium economy class also receive comfort kits with a focus on sustainability. Supplied by the company Skysupply, these use kraft paper and pulp to reduce the use of plastics.

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A fleet in transition

With the ongoing replacement of its A320ceos with A320neos, combined with its aging A340s, the Swiss fleet is definitely in a period of transition at the moment. With its narrow-body fleet well on its way to full modernization, the replacement of the airline’s A340s will be the next big and exciting change on the horizon.

Although not as big and exciting as airline group member Lufthansa, Swiss and its collection of planes will certainly be worth watching over the next two to three years.

Have you ever flown on one of these SWISS aircraft? For you, which type do you prefer? And do you think it should go with the A350 or the 787? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Executive Traveler