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Crossair in alliance talks with Lufthansa

Crossair's board will meet on Monday to discuss possible names for Switzerland's new national carrier Keystone Archive

Swissair's former regional subsidiary, Crossair, has reportedly been negotiating a possible alliance with the German carrier, Lufthansa.

This content was published on January 13, 2002 - 13:53

Crossair has held several meetings with Lufthansa, and more are scheduled, according to a report by the Sunday newspaper, "SonntagsZeitung." It said that Crossair boss, André Dosé, had already met his Lufthansa counterpart, Jürgen Weber.

The Swiss regional carrier is to form the backbone of Switzerland's new national airline following the collapse of Swissair. It hopes to find a business partner before April 1, when the new summer flight plan comes into effect, the newspaper said.

Oneworld, which includes British Airways and American Airlines, is also a potential candidate, according to another Sunday newspaper, "dimanche.ch". Star Alliance and Skyteam, which include respectively Lufthansa and Air France, are reportedly also potential business partners.

However, other decisions could affect the fate of Switzerland's new carrier.

Zurich to the polls

In a key vote on Sunday, the canton of Zurich is being asked to back a SFr300 million ($181 million) investment in a new company to replace the collapsed Swissair.

The vote will affect a rescue plan known as "Phoenix", in which Crossair is to expand its operations to take over 52 of Swissair's aircraft, 26 short-haul and 26 long-haul routes.

The Basel-based airline has already raised around SFr2.4 billion for the plan from the government, banks and private business, with only the cantons left to decide whether to participate.

Zurich support

Zurich's vote is crucial not only because it is providing the lion's share of the cantons' SFr400 million investment, but also because Crossair has made it clear that the Phoenix plan will not go ahead without Zurich's support.

Other cantons such as Lucerne, Glarus, Schaffhausen and Obwalden have also announced that they will only support the project if Zurich is on board.

So, a "no" vote on Sunday would kill the rescue plan in its current form and lead to the formation of a much smaller company. There would also likely be around a further 1,000 job cuts in the Zurich area on top of the thousands already axed.

Pros and cons

Most of the main parties represented in Zurich's cantonal parliament are recommending a "yes" vote on Sunday. They say a rejection would be a huge self-inflicted blow on a region that has already suffered greatly from the grounding of Swissair.

But the biggest party in Zurich, the right-wing People's Party argues passionately against the investment, saying that it is throwing good money after bad.

A new name

A crucial decision regarding Crossair's new name will be taken this week, after a board meeting on Monday aimed at discussing the issue. Several suggestions have been put forward from "Air Switzerland" to Swiss Airlines" to more abstract ideas such as "Mountain Air".

The Crossair board has been advised by several advertising agencies over the new identity. Most analysts expect the name to include some reference to Switzerland.

The board will also discuss the result from Sunday's vote in the canton of Zurich.

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