The death throes of Swissair

Swissair employees demonstrating against the grounding on October 4, 2001 Keystone

The beginning of the end for Swissair started in January 2001, when the management's disastrous expansion strategy finally came home to roost.

This content was published on October 2, 2002 - 17:57

By October 2, reeling from the effects of September 11, Swissair was forced to ground its entire fleet. Within six months, the airline had disappeared.

January 23, 2001

SAirGroup CEO, Philippe Bruggisser, is sacked without notice, leading to a reshuffle at the helm of the airline. Chairman of the board, Eric Honegger, takes over as CEO, while Crossair boss, Moritz Suter, assumes control of the airline division. Beat Schär becomes Swissair boss.

February 3

Paul Reutlinger, former boss of the Belgium airline Sabena and in charge of Swissair's French operations, steps down. Swissair had bought stakes in both loss-making groups as part of a disastrous expansion strategy, under which it aspired to lead its own airline alliance.

March 7

Moritz Suter resigns as head of the airline division after only 44 days in the job.

March 9

Nine out of ten board members of the board, with the exception of Mario Corti, announce their resignations. Eric Honegger says he wants to keep his position for another year.

March 16

Corti takes over from Honegger as chairman of the board and as SAirGroup CEO.

April 2

Corti announces an annual loss for 2000 of SFr2.9 billion.

April 23

The Swissôtel chain is sold for SFr410 million to Raffles in Singapore. After a row over a reported SFr5 million handout was defused; Eric Honegger agreed to settle for a SFr480,000 pay-off.

April 25

More than 11,000 people attend the extraordinary AGM, which is the largest in Swiss corporate history. The group is renamed Swissair Group. Three big banks provide a loan of SFr1 billion.

May 23

Swissair Group refuses to rule out job cuts, and says some tiers of management may go as part of plans to reduce costs by at least SFr500 million by the end of this year.

June 5

Swissair cuts financial lifeline to loss-making French regional airline AOM/Air Liberté.

June 15

Swissair Group announces it is to restructure its aircraft-leasing portfolio, which is controlled by its subsidiary, Flightlease. AOM/Air Liberte goes into receivership.

June 29

Swissair sells its share in the French regional airline Air Littoral to the carrier's former boss, Marc Dufour.

July 12

Corti reveals rescue package for Swissair Group and announces that no redundancies are envisaged.

July 17

The Belgian government and Swissair agree to pump another SFr650 million into Belgium's ailing airline Sabena. In return for paying 60 per cent of the share Swissair is freed from its obligation to increase its share in Sabena to 85 per cent.

August 9

Sabena reveals a new rescue package that involves cutting 1,600 jobs.

August 30

Swissair Group announces it plans to shed 1,250 jobs and sell some of its major assets after reporting a first half loss of SFr234 million. The company's equity has shrunk to SFr555 million and it says it is obliged to sell its profit-making subsidiaries Swissport and Nuance.

September 5

Government rules out financial help for Swissair.

September 11

The terrorist attacks in the United States force Swissair to cancel all long-haul flights. The stock markets take a nosedive.

September 20

Swissair estimates the losses caused by all flight cancellations following the September 11 terrorist attacks at SFr65 million and expects flight bookings to plummet by 15 per cent.

September 22

The then Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, and the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, agree to raise money for the ailing national airline.

September 24

Corti reveals a new rescue package. Swissair and Crossair merge. André Dosé becomes CEO of flight operations. Thousands of jobs are due to be cut.

September 29

Mario Corti warns that employees might not receive their October salaries, as the airline sinks into liquidity crisis under debts of SFr17 billion.

September 30

Pilots of the loss-making Belgian airline Sabena continue their strike. Swissair is due to inject SFr200 million into the airline on October 1, 2001.

October 1

Switzerland's two biggest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, offer financial support for the troubled SAirGroup. Under "Project Phoenix" a new company should be formed that is based on Swissair's policy but follows Crossair's financial structure.

October 2

Swissair grounds all its flights because it cannot meet everyday expenses such as fuel bills and landing fees. UBS announces that the bridge loan is not to be used for daily operations but for flight-related businesses.

October 3

Swissair planes are still grounded. Crossair takes over some of its flights. The Swiss government grants a bridging loan of SFr450 million to allow Swissair flights to operate until October 28.

October 4

Swissair resumes operations on some of its scheduled flights. The SAirGroup and some of its subsidiaries go into receivership.

October 5

The government's task force takes up its work.

October 8

The Federal Office of Civil Aviation sets up its "Big Lift" task force.

October 22

The government agrees on the 26/26 plan, which calls for Crossair to take over 26 long-haul and 26 medium-haul flights from Swissair. It also says it will grant another bridge loan of SFr1 billion, which should keep Swissair going until March 2002.

November 16/17

Parliament agrees on a total loan of SFr2.05 billion.

December 6

The government allocates 31 short and medium-haul flight routes to Crossair. At an extraordinary Crossair AGM it is decided that the loan will be increased to SFr2.74 billion. Eleven members are chosen for the board of directors. The former boss of the Dutch national carrier KLM, Pieter Bouw, becomes head of the new board of directors. Moritz Suter steps down.

December 11

Some 3,827 jobs are cut and 6,000 more redundancies are expected in the coming months. Worst affected by the Swissair debacle is canton Zurich, where most of the job cuts are likely to be.

December 20

Government hands out concessions for 15 further short- and medium-haul flight routes for Crossair.

March 31, 2002

First official flight by Switzerland's new national carrier, "swiss", lands in Zurich after symbolic flight from Basel.

April 1, 2002

The last Swissair flight touches down at Zurich airport from Buenos Aires marking the end of an era.


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