The last SkyWork flight landed in Bern Airport on Wednesday night, as ongoing financial difficulties forced the company to declare itself bankrupt. Some 11,000 passengers are affected.
The company, founded in 1983, said that negotiations with a potential partner to pull the company from recurring funding shortfalls that intensified in October last year had failed.
As a result, “SkyWork Airlines has decided to hand in its operating license to FOCA [the Federal Office of Civil Aviation]”, the company wrote in a press releaseexternal link. It will also file for bankruptcy, and a court will decide on next steps.
The company employed over 100 people and its six turboprop Saab 2000 planes served 22 European destinations from its hub just outside the Swiss capital.
The grounding of its fleet leaves 11,000 pre-booked passengers facing the challenge of securing refunds or alternative travel arrangements.
Urs Holderegger, a FOCA spokesman, warned that while those who booked via travel agencies may succeed in securing compensation, those who booked directly with the bankrupt airline may not have such luck.
In a bankruptcy case, European passenger rights no longer apply: "an insolvent company no longer exists, therefore there are no compensation obligations", he told Swiss state broadcaster, SRF.
FOCA has outlined the options available to stranded travellers hereexternal link, and is also manning a ‘Passenger Rights’ telephone hotline for those with further questions.
Those with SkyWork bookings are advised not to come to the airport, and rather to contact the booking or travel agent where they initially bought tickets.
The wind-down of SkyWork also leaves Bern Airport in a difficult situation, as the airline represented 60% of the total flights serving the Swiss capital.
Locals interviewed by SRF were downbeat about the decision, which will likely have negative effects for the emblematic airport, where just this Wednesday one of the last SkyWork flights brought home a triumphant Young Boys Bern soccer team from Zagreb, where they had qualified for the Champions' League for the first time.
But authorities at the airport – where almost 300,000 passengers pass through each year – said that its existence was not threatened, and that the immediate priority would be to maintain flights to the most popular European destinations SkyWork had served.
The summer service of Helvetic Airways, which flies from Bern to holiday destinations in Italy, Spain, France, and Greece, remains unaffected, the airport confirmed.
The decision also comes as tough news for the struggling airport of Lugano in Southern Switzerland, which had just last week announced that SkyWork would begin serving a route to Geneva in October. Maurizio Merlo, CEO of Lugano Airport, said that the sudden and unexpected nature of SkyWork's demise left "a bitter taste in the mouth".