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Airline debacle harms Swiss image

The image of grounded Swissair jets has damaged Switzerland's reputation Keystone

Government ministers, newspaper editors and public relations specialists have agreed that the collapse of Switzerland's airline conglomerate, Swissair Group, has damaged Switzerland's image abroad.

This content was published on October 3, 2001 - 10:31

Switzerland no longer signifies reliability, wrote Le Temps, a French-language daily, in its Wednesday edition. The image of Swissair's failure is now ingrained in the public consciousness.

Zurich's prestigious Neue Zürcher Zeitung took a similar view, saying that the Swiss image of seriousness and readiness may no longer apply.

Shareholders, airline customers and even the government are treated as if the country was a banana republic, The Berner Zeitung says. Switzerland's value as a place to do business has plummeted.

Defense Minister Samuel Schmid said late Tuesday he was deeply "shamed" by the Swissair developments, which included the seizure of two planes at London-Heathrow airport for failure to pay landing fees.

A "reputation destroyed"

If Swissair's name is compromised, then so is Switzerland," says Klaus Stohlker, a Swiss public relations specialist. "Switzerland has had nothing but bad headlines in the media abroad in the past few days."

The revelations about Swissair's finances will have long-term consequences, he said. "The reputation of the Swissair brand was destroyed," when the airline announced it would abandon its financial struggle.

"Switzerland is losing a lot of trust and credibility, which is urgently needed."

As Crossair takes over many European routes from Swissair, Stohlker says it could take up to two years for the Crossair name to become widely known.

"Crossair is an excellent European brand," Stoelker said. "The team, including Moritz Suter and the new CEO were able to build that brand up."

"But they have to upgrade the brand, because only a minority of Europeans - those who fly regularly with that company - know that name," Stohlker says. "And outside Europe, nobody knows Crossair."

As for Swissair, it's too late, he says. "Swissair seems to be a ruin."

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