Swiss chief steps down over crash inquiry

Swiss chairman, Peter Bouw (left), is taking over as CEO from André Dosé Keystone Archive

André Dosé, the chief executive of Switzerland’s embattled national airline, Swiss, has stepped down.

This content was published on March 11, 2004 - 08:43

Swiss said Dosé had vacated his post after becoming entangled in an investigation into an airline crash two years ago that left 24 people dead.

The shock announcement comes less than two weeks before the airline is due to announce its full-year results.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the carrier’s board said chairman Pieter Bouw would take over Dosé's responsibilities on an interim basis with immediate effect.

The board thanked Dosé for his efforts in building the airline, formed from the rump of Swissair, which collapsed in late 2001.

“André Dosé led Swiss through the most turbulent times, and he managed - despite difficult overall conditions - to initiate a turnaround,” the airline said in a statement.

Media speculation

In recent weeks, there has been intense media speculation that Dosé could be prosecuted by Swiss authorities investigating the crash of a Crossair jet near Zurich airport in November 2001.

Dosé was in charge of Crossair at the time of the accident.

“I made this decision because any potential investigation would have the effect of making it impossible for me to operate as chief of Swiss,” he said.

“For this reason the board suggested suspending me during this period."

A report by Switzerland’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau last month blamed the crash on pilot error, but also criticised shortcomings within the airline.

Investigators took issue with the lack of safety controls and substandard pilot training at Crossair.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office has opened a criminal investigation into possible negligent homicide and grievous bodily harm by negligence.

“I am today neither accused nor have I in any way been contacted by federal [investigating] authorities,” said Dosé.

Personal attacks

The board hit back at recent media criticism of Dosé’s work at Swiss.

“The board condemns the imputations, personal attacks and prejudgements to which Dosé has been exposed in the last few weeks and days,” the board's statement said.

The board thanked Dosé for stepping aside, saying it was “a decision he has taken in the interests of the company”.

Dosé’s departure has also triggered a board reshuffle.

Bouw, who headed the Dutch carrier KLM between 1991 and 1997, will maintain his post as chairman.

However, Swiss said he would be assisted by a second deputy chairman, the Swiss businessman and journalist, Walter Bosch.

Bosch will also act as “independent lead director”, to ensure the carrier respected “good corporate governance”, the airline’s statement said.

Ailing airline

Dosé's departure comes as the airline struggles to rebuild public confidence in the face of financial problems and ongoing losses.

Swiss last year narrowed its net loss to SFr687 million ($546.5 million), down from SFr980 million the previous year.

The unaudited figure was unexpectedly released last month ahead of its full-year results due on March 23.

To cope, the carrier launched a major restructuring which will see it slash its staff and fleet by one third.

Swiss also needs to convince its banks to lend it more money, or face a cash crunch in coming months.

Aviation analyst Sepp Moser told swissinfo that Dosé’s departure was “certainly bad timing” and that he “may have to take some responsibility” for the Crossair crash.

“His resignation is linked to all the troubles in this company, including the financial troubles, structural problems and cultural clashes between former Swissair and Crossair employees,” said Moser.

“These problems have still not been solved.”

swissinfo, Jacob Greber

In brief

November 24, 2001: A Crossair Jumbolino crashes on the final approach to Zurich airport killing 24 people. Nine passengers survive.

February 3, 2004: The Swiss Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau publishes its final report into the crash. Pilot error blamed, but Crossair and the Federal Office for Civil Aviation also come in for criticism.

March 1, 2004: Swiss calls on the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau to re-examine the contents of the report.

March 10, 2004: Former Crossair boss André Dosé stands down from his current post as Swiss CEO amid an ongoing enquiry into the crash.

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