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Swiss airline profits lose altitude

Earnings rose but profits dipped at Swiss International Air Lines last year as record fuel prices and the strengthening franc took a slice out of margins.

The airline reported a 6.5 per cent decline in profits to SFr507 million ($435 million) but a record 13.5 million passengers helped to boost operating income 7.6 per cent to SFr5.3 billion.

Swiss warned of weakening demand in the last quarter of 2008, particularly in cargo but also in passenger numbers. The drop-off in freight business continued into 2009, with cargo volumes falling 23 per cent.

Swiss said it was responding to the tough conditions by cutting the frequency of some routes or using smaller aircraft. Staff overtime has been slashed and workers have been offered unpaid leave, but the workforce increased from 7,277 to 7,337 employees last year.

The airline, which is owned by Germany's Lufthansa, also announced that it would continue its fleet renewal programme by replacing its Avro RJ100s with more fuel-efficient short haul aircraft on European routes between 2014 and 2016.

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