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Swissair to get half its fleet airborne

Some 7,000 people protested at the handling of the crisis as Swissair resumed its flights Keystone

Swissair is planning to get half of its fleet into the air on Friday, a day after the embattled carrier resumed flying thanks to an emergency credit injection by the government. The airline said 137 flights were planned for Friday.

This content was published on October 5, 2001 - 08:18

In a statement on Friday, Swissair said it was planning 46 long-haul flights, and 91 within Europe. However, a spokesman said it was still not possible to say when normal services would be resumed. He added that the flight programme for the weekend had yet to be decided.

After being grounded for two days because of a cash crunch, Swissair managed to get 30 per cent of its flights into the air on Thursday after an SFr450 million ($281 million) cash injection from the government.

Protests at the debacle were held in Bern on Thursday, when 7,000 demonstrators demonstrated against Switzerland's two largest banks, Credit Suisse and UBS, over their dealings with the national airline. Some protesters said the banks displayed "incredible arrogance".

Organisers said the protest, staged outside the main branch of UBS, was to show solidarity for Swissair and its employees. As the demonstration intensified outside their building, UBS employees locked the main entrance to prevent protesters from entering.

Solidarity for Corti

The protesters, who included a large number of Swissair employees, unfurled banners reading "Shake up the banks", "Save Swissair and its jobs" and "We trust Mario" - a reference to the embattled Swissair chairman, Mario Corti, who has emerged largely unscathed from the current crisis.

The two banks have come under fire for not doing enough to ensure Swissair could keep flying until October 28, when its former regional subsidiary, Crossair, is due to take over its routes.

A smaller demonstration in Basel attracted around 100 protesters.

EU seeks clarification

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the Swiss ambassador to the European Union, Dante Martinelli, was summoned to an urgent meeting with the European Commission in Brussels.

The request for a meeting came after the commission expressed concern at the Swiss government's bailout package for Swissair. In a statement, the commission said it was seeking further clarification as to why the Swiss government "felt able to give aid without consulting with EU authorities".

As the political fallout following the government bailout polarised debate about the future of Switzerland's national airline, thousands of Swissair passengers left stranded since Tuesday were finally getting back in the air.

Swissair said on Thursday it was currently operating around a third of its scheduled routes.

Government defends bailout

Defending the Swiss government's decision to bail out the troubled airline, the finance ministry spokesman told swissinfo on Wednesday Swissair was "a national problem, a problem of credibility for our country"

The government said the decision was a temporary solution to the airline's cash crisis, which had grounded the entire Swissair fleet, and left 38,000 passengers trapped in airports around the world.

Switzerland's two largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, have come under fire for not doing enough to ensure that Swissair could keep flying until October 28, when its former regional subsidiary, Crossair, is due to take over the bulk of its routes.

UBS, which has come in for particular criticism from the Swiss public for its handling of the financial crisis at Swissair, said in a statement it hoped the "regrettable situation of the past two days will quickly improve as a result of this solution".

Both Credit Suisse and UBS have pledged to pay SFr110 million ($68.2 million) to cover the cost of employee deposits at Swissair Group's in-house savings bank.

swissinfo with agencies

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