Why Denver International Airport wants you to fly to Switzerland

Denver International Airport's iconic pitched roof. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Denver International Airport's iconic pitched roof. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) dia; denver international airport; aerotropolis; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty
Denver International Airport’s iconic pitched roof. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

When you’re Edelweiss Air, you don’t need journalists to come to you — you just bring five of your own to Denver International Airport’s “Discover Switzerland” event promoting your new nonstop flight to Zurich next year.

“These are the journalists from Switzerland. They came from the biggest newspapers from the biggest media in Switzerland,” said Edelweiss Air’s head of corporate communications Andreas Meier. “They will do coverage about Denver, the beautiful city, the beautiful mountains here.”

What you do need is people to come take your new flight. Though actually, the airport might want it more. 

“We really want our locals to embrace this flight and enjoy the connection,” said airport CEO Kim Day. “You have to help us. You have to be our advocate. You have to go out there and reserve the flight. I say book early, book often.”

Yet Alain Chisari, Chief Commercial Officer of Edelweiss Air, told the audience that the airline expects to reach 80 percent seat fill factor in the first year. Fill factor is a percentage that compares passenger miles flown relative to miles flown — basically it’s a measure of how utilized the flight is. Eighty percent seems pretty good.

Internationally, the July average is 84.7 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association. So there’s definitely room to grow. But why does DIA care so much, particularly about getting us to embrace going to Switzerland?

“Every seat sold on an airplane improves the profitability,” said Patrick Heck, chief commercial officer for the airport. “And every flight has two places.”

Sure, Heck acknowledges that the point of sale will be skewed towards Switzerland, but every seat matters.

“So if you sell that one more seat, it’s really going to improve the profitability and really help that flight succeed, which is what makes those flights want to stay and bring all the economic benefits that they bring because they all bring a lot,” Heck said.

In the case of the Zurich flight, the expected economic benefit is $21 million a year in tourism dollars, according to the airline.

So next year, depending on how it goes, Edelweiss Air will set a new schedule that could increase the frequency or ditch the flight.