MIAMI – SWISS (LX) and representatives from air transport, business, tourism, and social partners linked to the trade, got recently together for a virtual summit, named ‘Back in the Air’, during which three capital demands were formulated with the aim to return to free travel.

Switzerland’s travel industry has strongly felt the blow coming from the Covid-19 pandemic with losses touching all sectors linked to tourism and travel. Hotel occupation has shown a drop of 40%, travel agencies were down by 80% in bookings while passengers volumes at Swiss airports dropped by 75%.

In March 2021, LX has transported 228,050 passengers and registered a drop of 74.4% compared to March 2020, and a staggering minus 90.6% in comparison to the same month in 2019.

"Switzerland relies on having well-functioning air transport services…travel must be made possible and plannable again." SWISS CEO, Dieter Vranckx Click To Tweet

As a consequence, social impact is severe with thousands of jobs at stake, both in air transport and all ancillaries connected to the industry and recovery may not come in a short time. Air transport is a complex operation which cannot be restarted on short notice but landlocked Switzerland requires it as an essential part of the facilities offered to the numerous international corporations present on its soil.

The aim of the Back in the Air summit, attended by over 50 representatives of air travel and tourism, was to, define concrete actions needed to restore travel freedom and hand them over to the political world for their action.

Swiss HB-JCG Airbus A220-300. Photo: Julian Schöpfer/Airways

Three Key Demands

The summit concluded by producing three key demands:

Formal hand-over to the Swiss President, Guy Parmelin – Photo : Swiss Media

A risk-based approach: No travel restrictions between countries with a similar risk of infection. Safety should be achieved through an extensive vaccination and test-and-trace strategy.

Vaccination and testing: Anyone who can prove that they have been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have tested COVID-negative should be free to enter, leave or travel within Switzerland. A negative antigen test result should be considered adequate proof of no COVID infection.

Digital records: Records of vaccination, recovery and/or negative COVID test results should be digitalized, and should also be internationally standardized and recognized.

The demands were formally handed over to Switzerland President, Guy Parmelin, on the occasion of an official visit to Zurich (ZRH) Airport.

Zurich Airport. Photo: dxme from Schweiz, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Comments from SWISS, Flughafen Zürich AG CEOs

LX CEO, Dieter Vranckx, commented on the initiative by saying, “As a business and industrial location and as an export nation, Switzerland relies on having well-functioning air transport services, travel must be made possible and plannable again – responsibly, with an awareness and appreciation of the associated risks, and with due and full regard to the protection concepts required.”

The economic damage to the entire airport ecosystem is huge because international air travel has been severely restricted for more than a year now,” said Stephan Widrig, CEO of Flughafen Zürich AG, the operator of Zurich Airport. “Along with the gradual normalization of domestic public life, we also need reliable rules now for travel, to make this plannable again for everyone.”

Featured image: Swiss Airbus A330-200 HB-JHL – Photo : Alberto Cucini/Airways