"Swiss" faces cancellation woes

Many Swiss planes are experiencing technical difficulties Keystone

Technical problems have caused the new national airline Swiss to cancel 240 flights over the past month.

This content was published on July 29, 2002 - 18:18

To get to the bottom of the problem, the head of Swiss, André Dosé, has put together a task force, which is due to announce its findings within a week.

But aviation analyst, Sepp Moser, told swissinfo that the cause of some of the problems was already clear.

"Swiss has changed the type of hydraulics oil they use on their regional airplanes and this oil has turned out to be corrosive and aggressive against sealings, which has led to the problems."

Swiss runs a total of 700 flights per day to destinations all over the world. The recent cancellations represent 0.15 per cent of all its flights.

"It is a lot of cancelled flights. But it is not quite as much as it seems because one cancelled flight in the morning can mean that a plane is out of service for the rest of the day, which will result in up to six more flight cancellations, " Moser said.

Former Crossair planes

The planes most affected by problems appear to be those used by the former regional airline Crossair before it was integrated into Swiss. They are mostly used for short-haul shuttle flights.

The former Swissair planes, which joined the Swiss fleet earlier this year as long-haul carriers, appear to be free of technical difficulties.

Manfred Winkler, a spokesman for Swiss, said technical failures were the reason for the cancellations, but he was quick to point out that the recent spate of problems was "out of the ordinary".

He added that passenger safety was never compromised and that despite frustration at not being able to reach their destinations, Swiss could not let a plane take off with technical problems.

The investigative task force is made up of experts from Saab, Embraer and Avro - three companies that have supplied Swiss and the former Crossair with planes or parts in the past.

Staff shortage

In addition to technical problems, Swiss announced on Wednesday that it was suffering from a shortage of cabin crew. The Swiss national carrier attributed the situation to its own staff taking a vacation after the first months of the new airline's existence.

It said that despite operating with fewer staff during the summer holiday season, flights would still meet service obligations.

Pilot debate continues

Meanwhile, the dispute between Swiss and the union representing pilots from the former regional carrier Crossair is continuing. On Monday, the "Swiss Pilots" union announced that it would not take part in negotiations with Swiss scheduled for Tuesday.

"Swiss Pilots" said it wanted "time out" for reflection.

It said that the national carrier could not or would not consider treating Crossair pilots equally with its now defunct international counterpart, Swissair.

Last month, the union of former Swissair pilots voted in favour of a new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA), which will cut their pay and pension benefits. Former Crossair pilots have still to vote on the new agreement.

Despite offering Crossair pilots a 16 per cent salary increase on top of the 28 per cent rise in 2001, the union is unhappy about the contract because it still means that Crossair pilots would earn less than their Swissair counterparts.

The Crossair union has challenged the agreement, and is seeking a decision from an arbitrator.

"Irresponsible" behaviour

The head of swiss, André Dosé, accused the former Crossair pilots of "irresponsible" behaviour. Swiss said that it would push ahead with negotiations to resolve the dispute.

swissinfo with agencies

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