In the wake of the corona crisis, air traffic has fallen by up to 95% compared to last year, since March 2020. Skyguide’s income has therefore subsequently collapsed to an unprecedented low. More than 80% of skyguide’s income is derived from the fees which airlines pay for landing and overflight services. Despite the cost-saving measures taken, the financial reserves of the company’s non-profit, federally-funded operations will be exhausted in the current year. Given this background, the Parliament approved the Federal Council’s proposal to inject as a capital contribution of CHF 150 million today.
Without skyguide, neither civil nor military air traffic is possible within Switzerland. Air traffic control fulfils a sovereign mandate which entails being in a position to guarantee the air police service of the Swiss Air Force and the protection of Swiss airspace as well as to handle civil air traffic safely and efficiently at all times
Increased efficiency through technology
To counter the massive decline in income, skyguide has adopted a savings plan as soon as the crisis broke. The company has taken salary measures – such as cutting variable salary components for 2020 by a quarter, converting variable salary components into annual leave and freezing wages. In addition, the company has reduced its project portfolio to those projects that are safety-relevant or sustainably increase efficiency. Skyguide is achieving the latter primarily through its Virtual Centre programme.
With the Virtual Centre programme, skyguide is bringing together the two physical centres in Geneva and Dübendorf to create a virtual centre. This will enable the company to manage all Swiss airspace independently of location in future. This will enable the company to adapt capacity much more rapidly to rising or falling demand from airspace users. In this way, the skyguide will optimise the use of operational resources and increase, not only economic, but also ecological efficiency.
In return for the capital injection, the Federal Council expects skyguide to implement these cost-cutting and efficiency-enhancing measures consistently. In total, the cost-saving measures will result in a reduction in expenses of CHF 90 to 100 million by 2024.
The Federal Council also expects the staff representatives and skyguide to draw up a joint plan by the end of 2021 to raise the retirement age of air traffic controllers from today’s 56 to at least 60 years to ease skyguide’s long-term financial burden.
“The current operational and financial challenge is unprecedented in the history of aviation. But today’s decision makes me feel confident,” says Alex Bristol, CEO of skyguide. “In the future, Virtual Centre will enable us to respond much more quickly and efficiently to rapid changes in air traffic volumes.”