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Bouw promises to retain strengths of Crossair

André Dosé, Crossair's CEO, will have to work with Pieter Bouw (right) who is taking over from founder Moritz Suter (centre) Keystone Archive

The newly elected chairman of Switzerland's new airline, Pieter Bouw, says his first priority is to preserve the strengths of Crossair.

Bouw, who is a former boss of KLM from the Netherlands, said he had been “really impressed” by Thursday’s marathon meeting of Crossair shareholders in Basel, where he was elected.

He said had much respect for Crossair staff in their support for their boss and founder of the airline, Moritz Suter, who stepped down in an emotional farewell at the meeting after 27 years at the helm.

“The first goal is to keep that mentality, drive and motivation of the people for the new airline,” he said.

Additional aircraft

Crossair will form the nucleus of the new airline and its share capital has been increased to pave the way for the addition of 52 aircraft from the collapsed Swissair.

Questioned about the major problem of bringing the two different corporate cultures of Crossair and Swissair together, Bouw said that the issue had to be approached not from the angle of the differences but from what would bring the two closer.

“What we first have to do is listen to each other and learn each other’s best practices. Some things are definitely better at Crossair and others are definitely better at Swissair,” he said.

The best of both would have to be chosen for the sake of the new company, he added.

“We have to forget about the past. That’s over. We can shape the future and let’s do that together.”

Crossair culture

Aviation journalist Sepp Moser told swissinfo that combining the two mentalities of Crossair and Swissair would be difficult.

“Swissair has always felt superior to Crossair and [Swissair staff] thought they were better than Crossair people,” he said.

“Now they have to accept the Crossair culture which is more easy-going and which comes with less pay, so it will be very difficult for the people at Swissair to adapt,” he added.

Separate questions have also been raised about Bouw’s abilities to adjust to Switzerland and its diverse culture.

“I have a lot of experience in adapting to other cultures,” said Bouw. “But it would be rather arrogant for me to say that I will adapt to the Swiss culture because it has unique elements that I will be unable to match.

“But I will try to understand it and work with it and I hope that people will be understanding enough to work with me,” he added.

“We have a lot in common. I admit that you have the mountains and we have the water. You are high and we are low but we both have quite an international orientation,” he added.

Chances of success?

Apart from the culture issue, there is no shortage of challenges facing the new airline, one of which will be the ambitious attempt to take over 52 aircraft from Swissair – 26 short-haul and 26 long-haul.

Moser told swissinfo that the aim of the business plan to take over the long-haul planes was considered “unrealistic if not crazy” by most international experts.

“The reason is very simple. With 26 long-haul aircraft Switzerland would have per capita five times the long-haul capacity of Germany and nobody believes that this will work,” he said.

The finances of the new airline, still to be officially named, has also prompted much speculation as to the chances of success.

“At first sight it is very comfortable because they have now billions of francs of fresh capital. But if you look at it a little bit closer it doesn’t looks so bright any more. The first year alone foresees a deficit of SFr1 billion and nobody knows what will happen after that first year,” he commented.

by Robert Brookes

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR