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Swiss public believe Swissair needs change of direction

Part of the Swissair fleet at Zurich airport

(Keystone Archive)

Whenever a major corporate news story breaks, board members and analysts are quick to air their views and the markets react swiftly. The opinions of the general public are, however, rarely heard.

Ever since SAirGroup's announcement last month of the departure of its chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser, speculation has been rife over the direction the owners of Swissair will now take.

On the streets of Zurich, most people seem to agree that the company, which had been pursuing a host of tie-ups with smaller, sometimes loss-making airlines, needs to take stock. But they have considerably differing views on what the group should do.

Christian Jürges told swissinfo: "They have to change the policy they have had until now - a lot of people have been shaking their heads about what they've done."

Over the past few years, Bruggisser had been busy setting up Swissair and Crossair at the centre of their own network of airlines - the Qualiflyer Group -ignoring the prospects offered by a deal with airlines such as British Airways or Lufthansa.

The public in Zurich believe the Qualiflyer's days are numbered and the SAirGroup's airlines will have to swallow their pride and get into bed with some of the other major airlines.

Pedro Bernal told swissinfo that since "everybody these days is thinking in big terms, Swissair has to search for an alliance with someone else".

His sentiments were echoed by Kevin Brosnaghan: "The way things are moving on the international scene, they (SAirGroup) have to move towards an international alliance."

Self-interest is also to the fore. Nicole Feit said: "It would be a wonderful idea if they offered miles with American Airlines because I travel to the US a lot, or even with other European airlines such as Air France."

SAirGroup has promised a return to core values for its Swissair and Crossair units, with quality as the watchword for both the airlines. However, the quality currently offered by the company doesn't always meet public approval.

"I think there are a lot of other airlines with better quality," explained Bernal. "Quality is not especially a Swissair thing."

"They are up to the standard of other international airlines," said Kevin Brosnaghan. "But it's not particularly better than the others."

The big decision for SAirGroup in the coming two weeks is whether to continue its partnership with loss-making Belgian airline, Sabena.

Opinion on the streets of Zurich is divided. "Swissair has a certain responsibility," explained Christian Jürges. "It can't just go out and leave the people there - it's a tragedy."

Others were less understanding. One man told swissinfo that SAirGroup had to do what was in the best interests of is clients, and that might mean dumping Sabena.

by Tom O'Brien


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