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Crossair manager pledges to rebuild trust

Crossair pledges to end crisis of confidence Keystone

A senior manager of the regional airline Crossair has told the travel trade that the new airline to be built around Crossair and the collapsed Swissair will do everything it can to inspire public confidence.

Arjen Pen, Crossair’s executive vice president for sales and marketing, told visitors to Switzerland’s leading industry show, the Travel Trade Workshop, in Montreux, that without their support it would be difficult for the new airline to take off.

“Our first priority is to create confidence among the general public and our trade partners,” Pen told swissinfo.

It was the first time that the industry had heard directly from Crossair since Monday’s announcement of a SFR4.2 ($2.5 billion) rescue package aimed at creating a new national airline.

Travel industry suffering

The travel trade has been hit hard over the past few weeks following the collapse of Swissair, which caused such headaches for travel agents as cancellations and ticket transfers to other airlines.

The grounding of Swissair exacerbated an already precarious time for the industry in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States and the US-led attacks on Afghanistan.

“We have now a very solid capital base to build this new airline. There are very positive forces within both companies to create the bigger company based on the successful platform of Crossair,” Pen said.

The Montreux fair, which attracts about 11,000 visitors, has been putting on a brave face, with leaders of the three largest Swiss tour operators advising the trade to spread optimism.

Really bad year

However, no one doubts that the current year will go down as one of the worst in recent history.

The president of the Travel Trade Workshop, Kurt Wyprächtiger, said events at Swissair had caused much uncertainty.

“It was really bad that we had this grounding of the (Swissair) aircraft because that took away lots of good will of people. They could not get information about what was going on and it ended up with some people having to buy new tickets,” he told swissinfo.

“This was really a sad thing because confidence went down the drain a little bit,” he added.

Looking forward to the new airline, Wyprächtiger said that it should be given every chance to achieve success.

New crew

“We’re confident in the people who will be running this new airline and we have been told that only the best from Swissair and Crossair will build up that new crew,” he said.

The managing director of Globetrotter Travel Service in Bern, André Lüthi, underlined that the new airline had to act quickly to regain confidence that had been undermined.

A newly appointed board member of the Swiss Travel Agents’ Association, Lüthi told swissinfo that some smaller agencies could run into financial difficulties soon.

“In the next five to six weeks, the new airline has to do a very good job in communication to win back the trust from the travel agents because Swissair lost a lot,” he told swissinfo.

Experts have warned that it will be difficult to unify the two corporate cultures of Crossair and Swissair into the new project. However, Pen told swissinfo that the situation could be worse.

“These are two Swiss-based airlines. This is not a merger between two foreign companies such as the Daimler/Chrysler scenario where you had the German from Stuttgart and the American from Detroit,” he said.

“I’m quite positive that we can create on the basis of the Crossair culture a new culture for this new airline,” he added.

Pen told swissinfo that the large global airline alliances had already been in touch about future cooperation. Analysts feel that sooner or later, the new Swiss airline will have to join such a partnership.

by Robert Brookes

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR