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Flying on empty

Swiss is finally heading into clearer skies. Swiss

Since Swiss took off on April 1, 2002, the national carrier has been beset by cash worries, and concerns that it was too big to fit into the crowded aviation market.

Swiss has spent most of its short history gradually scaling back its operations.

October, 2, 2001

All Swissair flights are grounded, spelling the end for the national carrier. The fall-out from the September 11 attacks was the last straw for the 70-year-old airline, which was on the verge of collapse because of a failed expansion strategy pursued by top management.

October 22, 2001

The federal government, the cantons and business agree on a financing plan for a new airline (which does not yet have a name), and stump up SFr4 billion to wind down Swissair and get the new carrier airborne.

November 19, 2001

Management announces that the new national airline is seeking to join one of the three main alliances: Oneworld, Star (led by Lufthansa) or Skyteam (Air France).

January 31, 2002

“Swiss” is chosen as the name for the new national airline. Rumour has it that “Air Fondue” and “Mountain Air” were among the other suggestions.

March 25, 2002

The management of Swiss, formed from the remains of Swissair and the regional airline, Crossair, announces linkup with Oneworld member American Airlines. Swiss CEO André Dosé says he expects to join Oneworld before the end of the year.

March 31, 2002

Swiss takes off for the first time – helped by a SFr2 billion cash injection from the federal government. The airline boasts 133 planes – of which 26 are long- and medium-haul carriers – and 12,000 employees.

May 1, 2002

Dosé says a deal with Oneworld can be concluded within a year, but admits talks with British Airways are “tough”.

September 16, 2002

Swiss posts a first-half loss of SFr447 million, but Dosé says the new carrier will be in profit in 2003.

November 19, 2002

Swiss cuts 300 jobs and reduces fleet by eight planes.

November 22, 2002

Oneworld dashes Swiss’s hopes of joining, saying the crisis in the aviation industry has foreclosed to admission of new members for the time being.

February 25, 2003

Weak demand prompts Swiss to announce further cuts – 700 jobs are to go, and the fleet will be reduced to 112.

March 6, 2003

Swiss signs a code-sharing agreement with Australia’s Qantas, including participation in the frequent flyer programme. Qantas is the sixth Oneworld partner to form such an agreement with Swiss.

March 25, 2003

Swiss posts a full-year loss of SFr980 million for 2002, and warns it will finish 2003 in the red.

May 16, 2003

In a newspaper interview Dosé warns that Swiss won’t survive unless it finds a merger partner. He refuses to comment on speculation that Swiss is in talks with Lufthansa.

Air France boss, Jean-Cyril Spinetta says Swiss is too big, with 26 long-haul routes – a view apparently shared by British Airways and Lufthansa. Air France ends alliance negotiations with Swiss.

June 24, 2003

Swiss announces plans to cut a further 3,000 jobs (out of 9,500), and reduces its fleet to 39 long- and medium-haul routes and 35 short ones.

July 14, 2003

Swiss shares jump on rumours of a takeover by Lufthansa, despite denials from both sides.

July 16, 2003

Swiss resolves a long-running dispute with former Crossair pilots, securing their agreement to cut 559 jobs out of 970 full-time positions at a cost of SFr60 million.

August 4, 2003

Barclays Bank starts working on raising SFr600 million in cash for Swiss. The move is seen as an alternative to a takeover by Lufthansa.

August 11, 2003

The Swiss board examines various scenarios to keep the airline flying, and quashes speculation that Swiss might have to seek protection from creditors. A new business plan is agreed.

August 19, 2003

Swiss posts a half-year loss of SFr333 million.

September 23, 2003

Swiss finally joins Oneworld, and signs a strategic alliance agreement with British Airways.

November 23, 2003

Chief commmercial officer William L Meaney steps down after 11 months on the job. He was credited with masterminding Swiss’s shift to a low-cost strategy.

January 15, 2004

Passenger numbers for 2003 drop by eight per cent due to the sizing down of the fleet.

January 20, 2004

Björn Nef leaves the board of directors.

February 03, 2004

Switzerland’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau releases a report into the Crossair crash of November 24, 2001 in which 24 people died.

It said serious pilot errors were to blame and also criticised shortcomings of the aircraft operator, Crossair. Dosé was head of operations and later head of Crossair.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced it had opened a criminal investigation into possible negligent homicide and grievous bodily harm by negligence.

February 24, 2004

Swiss announces a net loss of SFr687 million ($546.5 million) for 2003, down from SFr980 million the previous year.

March 1, 2004

Swiss calls on the Air Accident Investigation Bureau to re-examine the contents of the 2001 crash report.

March 10, 2004

Former Crossair boss André Dosé stands down from his post as Swiss CEO amid an ongoing inquiry into the crash.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR