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Impounded Crossair jet returns to Switzerland

The Crossair jet was finally able to leave Nice on Sunday Keystone Archive

The Crossair jet released from impoundment by French authorities on Friday flew back to Zurich on Sunday.

This content was published on December 16, 2001 - 10:27

The jet, impounded in the city of Nice on Thursday evening, was released late on Friday after four hours of negotiations in a French court.

But it was not until Sunday morning that the aircraft, an Embraer 145, was finally given clearance to take off and fly back to Switzerland.

Justice authorities in France had seized the aircraft on the demand of Holco, owner of the French independent airline, Air Lib.

Air Lib, formerly known as AOM-Air Liberté, was until recently controlled by the collapsed Swissair Group.

Holco is seeking around SFr90 million the company says is owed to it by Swissair.

Crossair is due to take over the rump of Swissair's routes when it re-launches in spring 2002 as Switzerland's new national flag carrier.

Waiting for documents

Crossair spokesman, Patrick Jeandrain, told swissinfo the aircraft was unable to return to Switzerland until Sunday because there was a delay in receiving the official papers from the French authorities.

"On Friday night, the judge decided we could take the plane back," Jeandrain said.

"The only question then was that we had to physically receive the papers to be able to leave France," he added.

On Friday, Crossair rejected the decision by French justice authorities, saying the aircraft seizure was "illegal".

Jeandrain said the release of the aircraft did not mean the legal wrangling with Air Lib was over.

"The case with AOM-Air Liberté [sic] will now follow a normal course," he said.

"This means we will obviously go to court and give our arguments".

Normal operations

Meanwhile, Crossair says it will continue to operate a normal schedule of flights to and from France.

"Our position is that the claim the airline has is against the Swissair Group and definitely not against Crossair," Jeandrain told swissinfo.

However, the chairman of Air Lib, Jean-Charles Corbet, told Swiss television on Friday that Crossair must resolve the issue of Swissair's debts to his airline.

"If Crossair does not understand that you can't look to the future without resolving the debts of the past, its plan [to take over the rump of Swissair's routes] has no chance of success," Corbet said.

Crossair says it cannot be held responsible for debts owed by Swissair to its former subsidiaries.

However, Jeandrain did confirm that André Dosé, Crossair's chairman, would travel to France on Monday for talks with Air Lib's management.

"There will be an informal discussion between Mr Dosé and the chairman of Air Lib, notably about the commercial case between both companies."

by Ramsey Zarifeh with agencies

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