Poll: Government should protect Swissair

Despite the drop in share price Swissair remains a favourite among the Swiss people

Nearly two-thirds of Swiss responding to a poll in the newspaper "Le Matin" say the government should act to keep Swissair from bankruptcy.

This content was published on July 16, 2001 - 11:30

According to the Swiss newspaper, 64 percent of those surveyed feel the aviation group, which includes airlines and aviation-related services such as catering, should receive aid from the government, which is also a Swissair shareholder.

The poll indicates that despite last year's losses and continued financial problems, Swissair remains the pride of many Swiss. The airline suffered a record SFr2.9 billion ($1.64 billion) net loss in 2000, attributed to an overly ambitious overseas expansion plan.

Seventy per cent of respondents said they believe Swissair executive chairman Mario Corti will be able to guide Swissair back to financial health.

In a separate interview with the Swiss business journal "Finanz und Wirtschaft" published on Saturday, Corti said the recovery process could take time. "The problems with Swissair are large and it is not realistic to expect that we can extract ourselves from them in a few months' time."

Corti announced cost cuts and asset sales on Thursday to boost profits and slash debt, but he stopped short of drastic layoffs or an overhaul of Swissair's route network.

Corti told Finanz und Wirtschaft that Swissair aimed to improve reporting by introducing quarterly earnings statements early in 2002 and monthly load factor (capacity use) reports beginning in August. Swissair now reports on earnings every six months.

The first steps in an overhaul of the overstretched group were to pull out of investments in flagging airlines in France and Belgium, Corti said; management and profitability structures also need to be updated and debt levels cut.

The Le Matin poll indicates that Swissair has high name recognition and is a favourite among the Swiss. Asked to name the internationally renowned Swiss company to which they felt the greatest attachment, 29 per cent chose Swissair, while 25 per cent named food and drink giant, Nestlé, and 22 per cent picked watchmaker Swatch.

Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said they would fly Swissair as much as possible, while 30 per cent said they would only pick the airline if its ticket prices matched those of its rivals.

swissinfo with agencies

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