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Couchepin hints at state aid for Swissair

Pascal Couchepin suggests that the government might step in to help Swissair

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has hinted that the government might step in to prop up the ailing carrier, Swissair, if the United States takes part in a financial rescue plan to try to prevent its major airlines from going bankrupt.

Speaking in Zurich on Monday, Couchepin said any move by Washington to pump cash into US airlines would likely lead to other countries following suit.

"If the United States, which was the first to liberalise air traffic, were to officially support its airline companies, I imagine that it would be very difficult for the rest of the world to argue that their own airlines could [be allowed to] collapse because of the tide of events, while the American competition was receiving state aid," he told swissinfo.

His comments came as Swiss aviation expert, Sepp Moser, told swissinfo that Swissair was on the "verge of collapse".

The Swiss government has till now said it was not prepared to give any financial aid to Swissair, which has been facing a crisis after reporting losses of SFr2.9 billion ($1.81 billion) for 2000 and a loss of SFr234 million in the first six months of this year.

Since last Tuesday's terror attacks against New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon, major US airlines have announced cuts in services of around 20 per cent.

Continental Airlines on Saturday announced it would lay of 12,000 staff and its chief executive officer, Gordon Bethune, warned that as many as 100,000 jobs could be lost in the industry.

Swissair shares took a battering at the Zurich stock exchange on Monday, falling by 16.67 per cent to SFr48.756 at the close of trading.


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