Does anyone understand how once weekly airline service works?

Here’s a completely random question that’s going through my head on a Friday afternoon — does anyone understand how once weekly flights work?

Edelweiss (a Swiss subsidiary) flies once a week between Zurich and Tampa. The schedule is as follows:

So perhaps this is a stupid question, though I’ll ask anyway. The flight is only once a week, so does the crew literally stay in Tampa for a week? Do they deadhead back to Zurich? Do they somehow work both directions?

I never understood the economics of once daily domestic flights or once weekly international flights, though this specifically is one thing that boggles my mind. Anyone have any insight?

Comments

  1. bmvaughn says

    Could be that Swiss has different labor laws and they staff 150% of necessary staff and rotate them through over the two flights. Meaning if it’s usually 10 staff, bring 15. 5 sleep at a time.

  2. James says

    I agree completely. Who are these people who fly RDU-CUN specifically on the one day a week Delta offers direct service? Would they not fly through Atlanta? They must every other day of the week, right?

  3. JohnBom says

    @that John thanks… I always wondered about small airlines like 7i doing CLT-CUR…

    Thanks Lucky for asking the question.

  4. says

    Oh, and the economics is pretty obvious for charter flights (Ach, Schweizer, you vant Orlando holiday for €300? Zen you vill leaf on ze Vednesday at funf o’clock in ze mornink!).

    There are also several routes that are weekly commuting routes — here in NZ, from the capital Wellington to numerous smaller cities, often on tiny planes. I seem to recall that DC has similar routes.

    And weekly flights are often to holiday airports where there’s a big standard “changeover day” for holidaymakers — bucket and spade resorts on the Med, or French ski areas, that kind of thing.

  5. Josh G says

    What don’t you understand about once daily domestic flights? Plenty of airlines have these on many routes. Some even have domestic stations for a single daily flight (ie AS) but they generally have a third party handling agent.

  6. Mark says

    I would have thought the same crew would return…but on a long-haul flight that might not be possible

  7. says

    Once daily is the only way some cities can see any service. There’s certainly going to be demand from those unwilling (or practically unable) to drive to a more distant airport.

  8. says

    I think that Lucky’s point is that the fixed costs to operate out of a station are pretty hard to recover from when you have very few seats in and out of that airport. You have costs associated with serving a market even when you contract out all of the ground handling. Once-daily flights are hard enough to make money on, considering those fixed costs. But once weekly… You need to be darned sure that plane is packed to the gills every single time, and that you keep your costs to pretty much zero, and do it without any marketing spend in that city to boot.

  9. lucky says

    @ The Weekly Flyer — Not that I know of. Maybe it’s possible through Miles & More, though I’m not even sure of that…

  10. BrewerSEA says

    I’m bored on GoGo so researched it. Despite the existence of some press releases from 2008 suggesting that M&M could redeem on Edelweiss, my conclusion is that this is not the case. However, M&M can earn on WK operated flights as long as one books the LX codeshare.

  11. Dax says

    My guess is that while this is technically a scheduled flight it is actually intended for use by vacation charters and is only intended to meet their schedule. My guess is that many seats are presold so that even if there are empty seats they do not prevent the route from at least breaking even. Otherwise they would most likely have ceased operations quite some time ago.

  12. Sean M. says

    Once weekly longhaul services make sense in markets that are heavily VFR or package dependent. There are less and less of these markets nowadays, but they still do exist. If done right, these can still be profitable (eg. Ghana International Airlines used to operate ACC-DUS-ACC on Sat/Sun only but this worked because the market was targeted at the Ghanaian diaspora living in Germany who overwhelmingly preferred to travel on the weekends. Despite competition from Lufthansa’s then 5-weekly nonstops FRA-ACC, the GIA flight was the market leader for O&D traffic between Ghana and Germany within 6 months of its launch).

    There are multiple ways to make it work operationally for the crew. The old school way is to give the crew a week layover, but that is a one-way ticket into bankruptcy nowadays. More common would be to position a crew in to Tampa (probably from one of their destinations in the Caribbean or Mexico) on the day before the flight and then position the inbound Tampa crew out to replace them. Alternatively, the crew for the return can be positioned into Miami or Orlando and the inbound crew simply stays on board the aircraft and deadheads home from Tampa.

    From a cost standpoint, the operating costs on these routes are primarily fuel. I doubt that Edelweiss even has a single staff member at the outstation – maybe a GSA representative but that is about it. There is virtually no marketing or sales work (the route is heavily dominated by Europe-origin traffic) and everything else can pretty much be subcontracted with minimal oversight from HQ. Additionally, in markets like Tampa, there are probably some incentives (either in cash, marketing support or reduced fees) provided by the airport authority.

  13. Mark says

    A friend of mine was working on doing mods to some 777s when he worked for Temco (they do contract maintenance for many airlines) where they were adding in a crew rest area above the passenger compartment. This was to allow airlines to have a second crew resting on the outbound leg so they could just swap crews for the return.

  14. Jason says

    I’m friends with one of the Edelweiss flight attendants on the TPA route. The entire crew is put up in a hotel for a week and then works the flight home the following week. Pretty sweet deal. Apparently that flight makes tons of money for them even with the cost of housing the crew for the week.

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