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Swiss spins off regional operations

Swiss will soon operate its low-cost short-haul flights under a new name

(Keystone)

Switzerland's troubled national carrier, Swiss, has announced it is to create a new regional subsidiary.

The new entity, to be known as Swiss Express, will offer low-cost air connections, especially within Europe, Swiss said in a statement on Friday.

The subsidiary is expected to commence operations with the start of the 2003/2004 winter timetable.

Swiss said its move was "in response to new market conditions".

The airline said it would make a formal announcement about Swiss Express, and present further information at a news conference in Basel later on Friday. It also hinted at further job cuts.

"Further topics to be presented at the conference will include additional tactical and strategic actions being taken by the airline, including cost economies on the personnel front," Swiss said.

However, the airline expressed continuing confidence in its ability to keep going in the face of financial problems.

Swiss said its liquidity at the end of the first quarter amounted to SFr861 million ($640 million) and it expected to have liquidity of SFr500 million by the end of the year, "even without additional measures or new credit facilities.

The national carrier quashed suggestions that the state of the economy, combined with Sars and the war in Iraq, could mean the end of Swiss.

"There is no question of the airline being grounded," it said.

Swiss was founded a year ago following the collapse of the former national airline, Swissair. Since its formation it has been bedevilled by problems and has struggled to blend its long-haul and short-haul divisions into one operation.

The company, which made a loss of SFR980 million last year, has already axed around 1,000 jobs and cut 20 aircraft from its fleet.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss Express is due to start operating at the end of this year.
The airline had SFr861 million in cash at the end of the first quarter.
Swiss expects to have liquidity of SFr500 million by the end of this year.
The company, formed last year, has already axed around 1,000 jobs and cut 20 aircraft from its fleet.

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