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Wings bar revives spirit of Swissair

Landing for a drink at Wings (Wings)

Pilot Marc Schröder's dream to keep a part of the tradition and spirit of the collapsed airline Swissair alive has taken off in the centre of Zurich.

With a small crew of former Swissair staff, Schröder has opened a bar with the feel of a airliner but a lot more atmosphere.

And Wings Airline Bar and Lounge has a prime location - it's on the ground floor of the building that houses the city's renowned Saffran Guild.

It's run mainly by people who worked for Swissair or now the company's successor "Swiss". They include not only flight attendants and ground staff but also a handful of pilots.

No check-in, no passport

With the windows of the long-haul MD 11 fixed to the walls, the ambiance of the airline world is unmistakable. Aircraft trolleys and other Swissair memorabilia add to the attraction of the bar, in which you don't have to check in, show your passport or queue up at the gate.

The idea came to Schröder last year after the news at a union meeting one evening that 300 Swissair pilots were to lose their jobs.

"This was a really sad evening and the next morning, I had the idea to do something constructive, something good in all these times of bad news," he told swissinfo.

"So I put in our Internet forum a message saying that if we could not build our own airline, let's build at least our own airline bar."

Brainstorming with wine and cheese

The Internet message brought in many replies. "We started with some brainstorming at my home with a glass of wine and some cheese, then we got to the specifics and now we've opened the place," he added.

Schröder is now chairman of the board of the company behind the venture, although he not that comfortable with the role since flying is still very much in his blood. He spends 90 per cent of his working time flying Airbuses as a first officer for "Swiss".

"Flying is a beautiful job. As long as I can do it, I will because I think it's the best job in the world," he enthuses.

Window - symbolic value

Schröder and his crew chose MD 11 windows to adorn the bar because they felt that the window has a symbolic value for aircraft passengers.

"Through the window you see other worlds - you see mountains, seas, other countries - and we as the Wings airline bar want to be a window ourselves for the people working in the airlines who stop over in Zurich," he said.

"On the other hand we want to be a window to the people of Zurich into the airline world," he added.

The windows came from the technical division of the old SAirGroup - SAirTechnics - which came up with other ideas to put in the bar, too.

Knives and forks

"We got an offer of main gears from a B747 and many large items which would never have fitted into this small bar," Schröder says. Knives, forks spoons and other Swissair items were snapped up at an auction near Zurich earlier this month.

Wings does not want to be a bar of nostalgia but a place in which the positive aspects of flying and travelling come to the fore.

For example, newly-created airline drinks at the bar range from "Take-off" and "Looping" to "Happy Landing."

For those on the move, the bar offers customers an "Airport Connected Area" where they can plug in their Laptops and surf on the Internet or check their E-Mails free of charge.

Schröder says it's all part of the aim to keep the Swissair spirit alive.

"That spirit was so special because all the people working at Swissair were like one big family. Friendliness, open-minded, international, open to other cultures - these are words that describe the spirit at Swissair," he says.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

Key facts

The Wings Airline Bar and Lounge employs mainly former Swissair staff.

The idea came after the grounding of Swissair in September 2001.

The company that runs the bar has a share capital of SFr505,000.

Original windows from an MD 11 are fixed to the bar walls.

The bar plans to donate one per cent of turnover to the Swissair Group's staff foundation for children's relief.

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