Swiss-Lufthansa Merger To Help Saudis

RIYADH, 25 July 2005 — Saudi nationals traveling to European destinations will be greatly benefited from the merger of the Swiss International Airlines and Lufthansa, enabling them to choose the best from an expanded route network and an even larger service offering. The two airlines, despite their partnership on corporate level, will market their products independently and maintain their individual operational identities in Saudi Arabia.

This was disclosed by Rolf Koller, general manager for Swiss International Airlines responsible for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen, here yesterday. Koller said that the German airline Lufthansa’s takeover of national carrier Swiss was approved by the European Union regulators early this month. Swiss and Lufthansa currently operate six flights a week from Saudi Arabia. At present, Swiss Airline with a fleet of 81 aircraft alone operate 25 flights to Middle East countries.

The airline has its offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. It’s fleet of 19 long-haul A340/A330 aircraft and 62 medium- and short-haul planes carried over 9.2 million passengers to and from 74 destinations across the globe last year. The Swiss Airline has on its pay roll over 7,700 employees. Lufthansa, Europe’s third largest passenger airline behind British Airways and Air France-KLM, is currently pursuing an ambitious business plan.

Referring to this new Swiss-Lufthansa partnership, Koller said: “The global airline industry has been changing radically over the last couple of years, which is seeing more consolidation and partnerships. This is a natural progression, considering the new global marketplace and can only be a positive step forward, both for the companies and passengers alike.”

The merger will also increase passenger loads on the flights operated by the two carriers to/from Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Switzerland, a non-Schegen state, is also pursuing the policy to attract more tourists and businessmen from the Gulf states. It is one of the few countries currently issuing visas within 24 hours to the Gulf nationals. “Bern also allows Europe-bound Gulf nationals holding multiple Schengen visa to enter the country,” said Koller. He said: “The Saudi travelers could also now enjoy more ways in which to earn mileage points and reciprocal lounge access.”

“Services will be further harmonized when Swiss joins the global Star Alliance, which currently consists of 16 airlines worldwide,” said Koller. “The Star Alliance member carriers offer travelers a global network consisting of 846 destinations in 151 countries, while Star Alliance customers enjoy access to 620 lounges around the world,” said Koller. Swiss Airlines will formally join the Star Alliance on June 12, 2006.

Referring to the “Geneva Festival 2005” to be inaugurated on Aug. 4, Koller said that a large number of Saudis were likely to attend this 11-day long celebration. This festival will feature a number of entertainment programs, including fireworks display and international music events. “This 50-year old festival brings together hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world together with members of the Swiss community to enjoy more than 240 free concerts and street shows,” said the Swiss general manager.

On the occasion of the festival, Swiss Airlines has also announced a joint promotion with a leading local bank, Samba, offering discounts and a chance to win one of the four business class tickets to any Swiss-operated destinations. “From now until Dec. 31, Samba Diamond and Gold cardholders can benefit from varying degrees of discounts,” he said. The airline also offers a variety of services including halal food, Arabic newspapers and music. There is also special assistance for passengers who speak only Arabic or families traveling with young children.

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