Franz faces uphill struggle to turn Swiss around

Christoph Franz will begin work as CEO on July 1.

New Swiss CEO Christoph Franz has been hailed by airline managers as the man who will turn the carrier’s financial fortunes around.

This content was published on April 20, 2004 - 13:38

But some aviation analysts have greeted his appointment with scepticism and warned that the 43-year-old German will struggle to succeed where his predecessor failed.

“The task will not be simple for Franz,” warned Patrik Schwendimann, an analyst at Zurich Cantonal Bank.

“In the long run he has to prove himself, and he is dependent on how the aviation business develops,” he added.

Franz – who holds a doctorate in business administration – was previously in charge of passenger sales at Germany’s national railway, Deutsche Bahn, where he was responsible for some 70,000 employees.

But he was abruptly forced out in 2003 after a disagreement with the board of directors over a new ticketing system which led to a public outcry and a decline in passenger traffic.

Previous experience

He has not been actively involved in the commercial aviation business since he stepped down as a member of the management team at the German airline, Lufthansa, in 1994.

While at Lufthansa he was responsible for helping to forge a new business plan for the airline following the 1991 Gulf War.

Munich-based aviation analyst Dieter Schneiderbauer said Franz’s managerial experience would be an asset to Swiss as it struggles to stem two years of multimillion-franc losses.

“By choosing Christoph Franz, [Swiss] has come up with a manager who has experience in aviation and public transport,” Schneiderbauer said.

Poisoned chalice?

But Swiss aviation expert Sepp Moser questions whether Franz will be able to steer Swiss towards profitability.

"He has no executive experience, but that doesn't mean he has got to be bad," Moser said.

"But that is not the problem. The problem is the airline's structures and financial situation."

Swiss has not made a single franc in profit since it took to the skies in 2002 in the wake of the collapse of its predecessor, Swissair.

Last year the airline reported an operating loss of SFr498 million ($386 million).


Key facts

Christoph Franz worked at the German airline Lufthansa between 1990 and 1994.
He went on to work at Deutsche Bahn until 2003.
Franz starts work at Swiss on May 1 and will take up his position as CEO on July 1.

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