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Last SWISS Aircraft Returns to Service From Pandemic-Era Storage

The airline says its fleet is now back to 'full strength' after its last COVID-stored aircraft returns to revenue service.

SWISS returned its last aircraft from long-term storage on Dec. 19, 2023. (Photo: SWISS)

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) – which is a member of the Lufthansa Group – has welcomed back the last of its aircraft that were stored in Amman, Jordan as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Registered as HB-IJO, the Airbus A320 returned to revenue service on Tuesday morning, marking a milestone for the airline’s recovery.

Like many other airlines, SWISS was forced to massively reduce its flight operations in the spring of 2020 due to the dramatic slump in travel demand caused by the pandemic. As part of this response, 25 of the airline’s aircraft were stored in the Jordanian desert.

The aircraft were placed in a long-term storage program, which was overseen by the carrier’s maintenance staff along with a local maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) provider. According to the airline, they were subjected to regular inspections, hydraulic system flushes, and engine function checks. Jordan’s hot and arid climate made it an ideal location for long-term aircraft storage, as the low humidity helped to prevent rusting.

The 26-year-old A320 – one of the airline’s longest-serving – operated its first post-storage revenue flight as LX974 from Zurich to Berlin. The aircraft had been stored for just over three years.

Bouncing Back

While many airlines rapidly returned their aircraft to service as demand increased, a handful still remain in storage programs. As of March 2023, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that 6,300 aircraft remain in storage worldwide, accounting for roughly 83% more than in pre-pandemic times.

Aircraft in storage at Victorville Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Typically in dry desert climates, facilities worldwide have hosted scores of stored airlines. In October 2020, roughly 20% of U.S. airline fleets were in long-term storage, according to trade group Airlines for America (A4A). These aircraft were scattered in so-called ‘boneyards’ in Victorville, Calif. and Marana, Ariz. among others.

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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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