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Swiss chairman questions need for a national airline

Pieter Bouw, chairman of national airline Swiss

(Keystone Archive)

Pieter Bouw, the chairman of Switzerland's airline, Swiss, says the concept of a national airline is losing significance.

He also insists the company does not have liquidity problems.

In an interview with the business magazine "Finanz und Wirtschaft" on Saturday, Bouw said the aviation market should be more open, and that competing international airlines should cooperate more with each other.

His statement comes after speculation last week that Switzerland's national airline was holding takeover talks with Germany's Lufthansa and British Airways. Swiss denied the claims.

But in his interview, Bouw questioned the importance of a national airline.

"The nationality of an airline will not carry much weight in the future," he said.

Controlling costs

Although Bouw stressed that Swiss does not have liquidity problems for the time being, he said the cost-cutting programme already in place would continue.

Earlier this year, Swiss announced a loss in 2002 of SFr980 million ($705 million) and said it would not reach its target of making a profit in 2003.

Last week, the company also announced it would cancel a large proportion of its long and short haul flights.

But Bouw stressed the company did not have problems with liquidity.

"The summer months should bring better results," he added.

When asked how long Swiss would be able to survive, Bouw said it depended on the company's ability to cut its costs. He added there was no immediate plan to cut salaries, but it may be necessary to do so in the future.

Justified bonuses

Meanwhile, Swiss CEO André Dosé claimed if it did become necessary to cut any salaries at Swiss, he would start with his own and those of other directors at the company.

Speaking on the German-language television channel SF DRS, Dosé also defended the bonuses recently handed out to management.

Managers at Swiss were given bonuses worth two to four months' of their salary, depending on their level of responsibility, despite the losses made by Swiss last year.

swissinfo, with agencies

Regional boost

Meanwhile, in a separate interview, Dosé said he planned to cut the price of tickets for regional flights in a bid to fill seats.

In an interview with SonntagsBlick, the German-language newspaper, Dosé said Swiss needed to boost its market share of regional flights.

But, he added, the company still needed to deal with problems with empty seats on its European flights.

"The European network is suffering from fixed costs that are too high, coupled with low ticket sales," he said. "Deals such as those offered by low cost airlines may offer a solution."

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