Swiss International Air Lines plans to go head-to-head with its Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines (SIA) on the Singapore-Zurich route to take advantage of burgeoning business traffic between the two cities.

The airline is returning to Singapore on May 13 with a daily nonstop service from Zurich, says Arved von zur Muhlen, head of sales and marketing international. The carrier used to operate to Singapore as an extension of its Singapore-Bangkok service, but terminated the Singapore leg after the 2008 global financial crisis, says Muhlen. The carrier will operate an Airbus A340-300, but needs a more fuel-efficient aircraft longer-term, he adds. SIA operates a daily Airbus A380 service.

“The A340 is not the most fuel-efficient, but it’s great for passengers. In future we will look at replacing the A340. Only two aircraft spring to mind—the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777,” Muhlen says. “We expect in the course of next year, there will be a decision. It’s a Swiss and Lufthansa board decision and it [the proposal] is laying on the table.” Swiss is part of the Lufthansa group. According to the Aviation Week Intelligence Network, Swiss has 15 A340-300s, and this is the only A340 model in its fleet. Muhlen was speaking at a press briefing yesterday in Singapore that Swiss organized with help from the Lufthansa Group. Muhlen says the 777-300ER is a possible replacement for the A340s.

The Airbus A350-1000 would be appealing, Muhlen says, because Swiss believes it could fill a larger widebody on some of its routes, such as its flights to New York and Bangkok. He concedes, however, that the -1000 is still in development and that Swiss may be unwilling to wait. But he adds, “My personal opinion is that Swiss could get [second-hand] A340-600s as an interim solution,” while the carrier waits for the A350-1000. One reason Swiss is returning to Singapore is that it now has the capacity to do so, says Muhlen. He says now that Swiss has received additional Airbus A330s, it has freed up A340 capacity to deploy elsewhere.

Business traffic between Singapore and Switzerland also has picked up. Swiss banks have been shifting more business to Singapore, which has some of the strictest secrecy laws in the world. Large Swiss banks, such as UBS and Credit Suisse, have expanded their operations in Singapore over the past four years, and smaller Swiss banks also have established offices in the city. Muhlen says the airline has secured Swiss banks as corporate customers for the new Singapore service, but he declines to name them.

The Swiss ambassador to Singapore, Thomas Kupfer, says there are 4,000 Swiss nationals in Singapore, the largest Swiss community in Southeast Asia. The Swiss Tourism office also recently established an office in Singapore, its first in Southeast Asia. A Lufthansa spokesman, who also was at the event, says Swiss is able to fill its aircraft to Singapore with Swiss bankers and other business people in business-class, and European tourists in economy-class. Singapore is less of a leisure destination, but Muhlen says Swiss has an arrangement with SIA under which its passengers can connect on SIA flights to Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.