Swiss International Air Lines only serves the airports of Geneva and Zurich with its aircraft in Switzerland. If other departure airports are desired, such as Basel-Mulhouse or Lugano, the flights offered by Swiss are operated by other airlines, e.g. Austrian Airlines (code sharing).
Nevertheless, Swiss offers supposedly pure Swiss connections from/to Basel and Lugano on its booking platform. These are flights with stopovers. In these cases you travel to Zurich and then by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) train to Basel or Lugano – with the so-called airtrains. The train is included in the airfare and, interestingly also has a Swiss flight number (e.g. LX7414). Compared to direct flights to Basel and Lugano (if available at all), offers for connections with airtrains are roughly in the same cost range, with offers to/from Lugano being slightly more expensive than those to/from Basel.
The airtrains are particularly interesting for adults without a GA travelcard or Half-Fare travelcard. If you live on the train line between Zurich and Basel or Zurich and Lugano, you save the train ticket from/to the airport.
It remains to be seen whether the airtrains will become an adequate alternative to Milan-Malpensa airport for the people of Ticino. What speaks against this, however, is that it is often difficult to find a suitable route from Lugano. Often only connections with one overnight stay in Zurich are offered before the journey continues by plane the next day.
Example for the travel period 4 August – 11 August 2020
Round trip flight Basel – Vienna costs 99.00 CHF* (direct flight, operated by Austrian Airlines), the flight train Basel – Vienna costs 117.00 CHF* (stopover in Zurich), the flight train Lugano – Vienna costs 185.00 CHF* (stopover in Zurich)
Further prices for connections by air for a journey from 4 August to 11 August 2020:
- Basel – Madrid; 132.00 CHF*
- Basel – Barcelona; 135.00 CHF*
- Basel – London; 141.00 CHF*
- Basel – Amsterdam; 144.00 CHF*
- Lugano – Barcelona; 166.00 CHF*
- Lugano – London; 189.00 CHF*
* Due to dynamic pricing, these fares are constantly changing. The prices listed are not updated and are only used as an example in this blog post.
Below you can see a boarding pass for a Swiss airtrain. The layout of the boarding pass is exactly the same as for the actual flight. The abbreviation “ZDH” stands for Basel SBB railway station.