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Swissair Group steps up alliance talks

Swissair is to cut its fleet as part of a major reorganisation Keystone Archive

The Swissair Group is stepping up talks on joining a major international alliance after announcing a restructuring programme that will require drastic cuts to its operations over the next three years.

André Dosé, the head of the company’s newly created airlines division, Swiss Air Lines, says the company needs to find a partner quickly.

“There need to be very rapid moves in this question,” he said in the interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

The report says negotiations with the One World Alliance, which includes American Airlines and British Airways, were intensifying. Swissair already has a transatlantic partnership with American Airlines.

As part of its restructuring plan, Swissair Group on Monday said it will combine Swissair and the regional airline, Crossair, into Swiss Air Lines to cut costs.

Swissair’s long-haul network will be severely cut back, and the fleet reduced. The moves are expected to lead to thousands of job cuts over the next three years.

Three thousand employees of the company’s catering arm, Gate Gourmet, are to go immediately as demand for in-flight meals in North America plunges.

Swissair Group’s plan follows the government’s announcement at the weekend that it would set up a task force to look at ways to secure the company’s financial survival in the wake of the attacks on the United States.

The decision also came after a meeting on Saturday that included the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, the transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger and Swissair’s chief executive, Mario Corti.

Under the leadership of the former parliamentarian and entrepreneur, Ulrich Bremi, the task force will include politicians, Swissair management and bankers.

Swissair says the recapitalisation programme will be ready by 10 October with a shareholder vote due on 9 November.

Swissair’s financial position had been vulnerable before the attacks on the US two weeks ago. Last year, the group reported losses of nearly SFr3 billion ($1.9 billion) due in large part to a failed foreign expansion policy.

Analysts have broadly welcomed the establishment of the government task force though some have warned that it should not go beyond helping the company recover from the immediate effects of September 11.

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