More capital for the really important fleet

At Air Zermatt AG, the name alone reveals that cars tend to play a minor role in the daily work. They are indeed very much relied on, but the far more important fleet does not have wheels, but rotors. Because helicopters are in a completely different league in terms of cost, the traditional company from Valais does not want to unnecessarily tie up capital for a fleet on wheels and, above all, it wants to keep the fleet as flexible as possible. The magic phrase for this is car subscription.

When an Air Zermatt AG helicopter leaves one of its three heliports in Valais, it is sometimes a matter of life and death. The company has already saved the lives of many skiers and mountain climbers who have had accidents, and every year more are saved. Fortunately, lives are not at stake in all of the approximately 2000 helicopter rescues per year; in proportion to all the flights that Air Zermatt completes, the percentage of rescues where lives are at stake is actually relatively small. The majority — around 75 per cent — are purely commercial helicopter flights such as transport or tourist flights, and a further 5 per cent are used for education and training. These sectors are the financial backbone for the rescues, so to speak.

Air Zermatt AG is first and foremost a private company that, like any other company, should earn more money than it spends. With rescue flights alone, we would never be able to make ends meet. On the contrary: "Strictly speaking, this division of the company is making a loss. And that’s a good thing. After all, rescue flights are not about earning money, but rather are primarily about saving lives," emphasises Gerold Biner, long-time CEO and one of Air Zermatt’s 14 current pilots. Gerold Biner can certainly understand why Air Zermatt is sometimes publicly criticised for commercialising the use of its helicopter fleet in such a way. "In a way, our helicopters are perceived as flying ambulances. And you don’t use ambulances for excursions or transport jobs," he sums up. At the same time, however, it must be noted that the costs for a helicopter fleet are immense — and not only in terms of acquisition.

Gerold Biner, CEO of Air Zermatt AG

One hour of flight costs four mechanic hours



Quite similar to a vehicle, the purchase price (which is in the seven-figure range for a helicopter) only represents a part of the actual costs. For operation and maintenance, one has to dig deep into one’s pocket again. With a helicopter, however, the situation is again quite different. For example, if a helicopter flies for one hour, on average about four mechanic hours are needed. A helicopter like this is, after all, a complex high-tech piece of equipment where everything must always be in perfect working order. And that costs a lot. Quite a lot, in fact. Because pilots, fuel, operations management and much more are needed to get a helicopter in the air, it soon becomes clear why such flights are expensive and why the aircraft need to be used as much as possible by the owner. In addition, the 75 or so permanent Air Zermatt employees should receive their salaries regularly — regardless of whether the rescue service is currently busy or not.

What is economically justifiable for helicopters through optimal utilisation would of course make no sense at all for cars. Just imagine if for every hour of driving a car had to spend four hours in the workshop. Probably not a single company would operate its own fleet any longer. For the time being, far fewer strong arguments are sufficient for Air Zermatt AG to not purchase its own passenger cars. "Since our helicopters require a large part of our resources, we are naturally very keen not to tie up additional capital in other areas," explains Gerold Biner. In figures, Air Zermatt owns 13 helicopters and no cars. The company operates a few light commercial vehicles for transporting materials, but it definitely does not want to have its own cars. So that the management and employees are nevertheless adequately motorised for the journeys between the bases in Zermatt, Raron and Gampel, Air Zermatt currently subscribes to eleven vehicles from Hertz Switzerland, whereby the number varies after only 30 subscription days thanks to the flexible return option.

The variable subscription fleet consists exclusively of Volvo models, which is no coincidence, because Air Zermatt has a long-standing partnership with the Swedish premium brand. As it does, by the way, with Hertz Switzerland. The helicopter airline has even named a sightseeing flight to the world-famous trio of mountains, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, as well as the Aletsch Glacier after the car rental company and offers the "Hertz Prestige Collection Flight" from Zermatt for groups of up to five people. You can currently win such a sightseeing flight in our competition!

Bei der variablen Abo-Flotte handelt es sich ausschliesslich um Modelle von Volvo, was kein Zufall ist. Denn Air Zermatt verbindet mit der schwedischen Premiummarke eine langjährige Partnerschaft. Wie übrigens auch mit Hertz Schweiz. Die Helikopterfluglinie hat sogar einen Rundflug zum weltberühmten Bergtrio Eiger, Mönch und Jungfrau sowie dem Aletschgletscher nach dem Autovermieter benannt und bietet den «Hertz Prestige Collection Flight» ab Zermatt für Gruppen mit bis zu fünf Personen an. Einen ebensolchen Rundflug können Sie aktuell bei unserem Wettbewerb gewinnen!



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