SWISS begins repatriating A320 fleet from 10 km (6 mi) away

Markus Mainka /

As the global commercial aviation industry was stopped on its tracks towards further growth by the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines scrambled to look for parking space on where to store their aircraft. Planes were parked at various locations: from deserts in the United States to runways on airports, even such busy airports as Frankfurt Airport, Germany (FRA). Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) was no exception, as the Zurich-based airline had to get creative to find proper parking space for its fleet.

It sent a convoy of seven aircraft to Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Amman, Jordan, presumably to let its maintenance partners, Jordan-based Joramco, to take care of their aircraft. The two sides entered into an agreement in 2017 that is set to last five years. The warm and dry climate also eases the processes of storing aircraft, as the risk of corrosion is reduced.

But aircraft parking can be a costly venture. Amidst the cash crunch that airlines face due to the coronacrisis and with the goal to cut costs, a premium price for aircraft parking is the last item on the expenses list that chief executives want to see.

For example, Zurich Airport (ZRH) charges $152 (CHF145) per minute for Maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW) Class 6 aircraft, to which the Airbus A320 family does belong, after it is parked at the airport for more than 30 minutes. After 180 minutes, the charges drop to $36.5 (CHF34.7) per minute. While charges are not applicable from 11 PM to 6 AM local time (UTC +1), the sum can get pretty hefty, considering that the first A320 that returned to Zurich Airport (ZRH) from temporary storage at Dübendorf Air Base, Zurich, Switzerland, was parked at the Air Base since March 19, 2020.

Presumably, that is why SWISS chose to store its aircraft at Dübendorf. The still-active military base was the home of 14 SWISS and three Edelweiss, a subsidiary of the Swiss airline, Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft.

On June 15, 2020, the Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) subsidiary announced that it began repatriating its aircraft from the airfield, which is 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away from ZRH. The first aircraft to come back from storage, a SWISS Airbus A320 (registered HB-IJD), took a whopping 22-minute Flight LX5201 to come back to the carrier’s main hub. Overall, it plans to finish the repatriation effort in three days and return all 17 jets to active service.



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