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Airline Swiss back in black despite volcano chaos

Swiss International Air Lines posted positive first-half figures despite the Icelandic volcano eruption, higher fuel prices and unfavourable exchange rates.

Improved air-freight business in the last six months boosted profits to SFr61 million ($58 million), compared to SFr65 million in the same period last year. But April’s flight chaos, caused by volcanic ash, cost the airline SFr30 million.

The Icelandic volcano was also blamed for a 4.6 per cent fall in passenger numbers, to 3.4 million, compared to the same period last year.

The airline said it was positive about future business as its financial results improved in the second quarter to a SFr71 million profit compared to the SFr10 million loss posted in the first three months of 2010.

Swiss remains on track to spend SFr500 million on expanding its fleet and to recruit 500 new staff by the end of the year.

“The developments of the past few months enable us to look ahead with greater confidence than we could have mustered just a few months ago,” group chief executive Harry Hohmeister said in a statement. “Business has picked up, and the trend is particularly encouraging on our intercontinental routes.”

The airline was also on target to beat its 2009 annual profit of SFr146 million, Hohmeister added.

With the number of passengers per plane increasing significantly on long-haul flights, Swiss has recently added a service to San Francisco and increased the number of flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Montreal and Sao Paulo.

However, the airline warned that “seat loads” across its network remained “under sizeable pressure”, particularly in Europe, meaning planes are not as full as executives would like.

Switzerland’s main airline was taken over by Germany’s Lufthansa group five years ago. Lutfhansa posted a €104 million (SFr143 million) first half loss this year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR