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Swiss seeks younger flight attendants

Younger and less costly staff are to serve passengers of Swiss

(Keystone)

The national airline Swiss is offering special redundancy packages in a bid to encourage around 900 experienced flight attendants to quit.

The company, which is part of Germany's Lufthansa, says it hopes to bring in younger staff who had to bear the brunt in previous rounds of restructuring.

Swiss International Air Lines has put aside a total of SFr15 million ($11.9 million) for the measures, confirmed a company spokesman on Sunday.

He added that the offer for attendants with 13 years of professional experience was an incentive to take on new challenges.

Swiss said it believed about 50 employees would accept the offer which includes an average severance package of SFr72,000. The company did not specify whether it will force others to quit.

The spokesman added that previous cuts at Swiss had mainly affected Swiss young staff. He said the company was back on track after a series of cost-cutting measures over the past few years.

"It's the right moment to hire younger and less expensive staff," he said.

Union response

The cabin crew union, Kapers, said it was satisfied with the plan.

"We have always insisted that flight attendants and pilots are treated on the same terms by the management of Swiss," said Kapers president, Urs Eicher.

He said Swiss had never made such a generous offer to cabin crew before. Employees above the age of 40 now had the financial support to look for new professional opportunities.

But Eicher cautioned: "Nobody should be forced to leave because he or she is too old for the company."

There are too many highly experienced and expensive flight attendants working for Swiss, the SonntagsBlick newspaper quotes Eicher as saying.

In a first stage the national carrier approached cabin crew with more than 15 years' professional experience. Swiss says 35 of them accepted the plan.

Later employees with 13 years' experience were encouraged to take up the offer. So far only six of them have agreed to quit.

SonntagsBlick said several flight attendants were disappointed and complained about being mobbed by the company.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Former national carrier Swissair collapsed in 2001 as a result of its expansion strategy and a mountain of debts.

With government backing, Swiss was launched on March 31, 2002 as a merger of the remains of Swissair and the regional airline, Crossair.

In March 2005 the airline announced its takeover by Lufthansa for €279 million (SFr430 million).

After receiving antitrust clearance in July of the same year, the German airline increased its stake to 49%, which it is expected to increase to 100% by the end of 2006.

Swiss has 6,539 employees and operates flights to 69 destinations in 42 countries.

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