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Swiss faces its critics

Swiss plans to create a new regional airline to be known as Swiss Express

(Keystone)

Shareholders and pilots from the national airline Swiss have expressed their deep misgivings about the direction the troubled carrier is taking.

The future of Swiss was the subject of an at times heated annual meeting of Swiss shareholders in Basel on Tuesday.

André Dosé, the CEO of Swiss, used the meeting to defend plans to spin off the airline's regional network.

Swiss expects to launch the new airline - to be known as Swiss Express - by winter, in an effort to reduce costs by 20 per cent.

But concerns about the plan, as well as the airline's current rate of daily losses - believed to be worth more than SFr2 million ($1.5 million) per day - dominated the meeting.

More than 150 pilots gathered outside the meeting's St Jakob park venue in Basel to protest against the Swiss Express plan.

Pilot anger

A spokesman from the Swiss Pilots Association - which represents former Crossair pilots - told swissinfo that the plan was an attempt to marginalise the airline's regional pilots.

The pilots have also threatened to take strike action, a move which could have serious consequences for Swiss.

Swiss shareholders were equally critical. Rudolf Weber, an outspoken shareholder activist, told the meeting that the new airline had been a disappointment.

"We, who were Crossair shareholders and who were unwillingly made Swiss shareholders, have lost an immense sum of money," Weber said.

"This is not an annual meeting. This is a funeral march," he added.

The negative tone was echoed by several speakers. However, others said the airline was increasingly threatened by doomsayers, both within the company and in the national media.

Pieter Bouw, the board president, launched an impassioned appeal for shareholder support for the airline's management.

"In a battle being fought on many fronts, at a time when crises do not follow one after the other, but rain down on us all at once, the management has worked with self-sacrifice to deliver good results," Bouw said.

"Success will only be possible if we are lifted by confidence," he said.

Also on Tuesday, shareholders approved a motion by the board to cut the value of shares from SFr50 ($37.4) to SFr32.

swissinfo, Jacob Greber in Basel

In brief

Swiss shareholders and pilots gathered in Basel for the company's AGM.

Swiss management defended its decision to create a new regional airline, Swiss Express.

Shareholders and pilots were critical of the plan which aims to cut costs by 20 per cent.

Some 150 pilots demonstrated outside the meeting in protest at the plan.

They argue that such a move would marginalise the airline's regional pilots.

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