Swissair demise marks an end of aviation era


The Swissair name was legend and its history rich, but in the end the cash simply ran out.

The demise of Swissair at the end of March signalled the end of an era, the sad finish to one of the world's most respected airlines that flew the flag of a small country around the globe.

"Swissair was a temple, a god, an idol," parliamentarian and billionaire businessman Christoph Blocher said about the disproportionate role the airline played in the national psyche.

Swissair ended operations as a consequence of the financial collapse of its parent company in October of last year. The company's intended rescuer called the collapse "these terribly dramatic and traumatic events".

Mario Corti was brought in as chairman at the start of the year with the aim of becoming the airline's saviour but before the year was out he became the company's undertaker.

A new airline, called "SWISS", has been put together around former regional carrier Crossair with 2.7 billion Swiss francs ($1.6 billion) in capital.

The airline was founded in 1931 by the merger of small airlines Balair and Ad Astra, using Fokker propeller aircraft. The first European airline to fly the Lockheed "Orion" in 1932 and to employ a stewardess - Nelly Diener - in 1934, it became the national airline of Switzerland in 1947 with public authorities taking a 30 per cent stake.

By 1967 it employed 10,000 staff. In 1968 it was the third European airline with an all-jet fleet and started cooperation with Scandinavia's SAS and KLM of the Netherlands.

Cooperation with Crossair started in 1982. The first female pilot, Gabriela Luethi, joined in 1985.

But the trauma began last October when Zurich airport was turned into one big parking lot where some 50 planes with the Swiss flag on their tailfins were immobilised.

SWISS soars ahead - Page 34