Airline gloom deepens as Swissair axes 9,000 and Airbus cuts production sharply

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The Independent Online

The crisis-torn flag carrier, Swissair, yesterday axed 9,000 jobs and halved its flight schedule, while Airbus Industrie added to the gloom in the aviation industry by sharply cutting back on its aircraft production plans.

Mario Corti, the Swissair chairman, announced the job cuts to thousands of staff assembled in a hangar at Zurich airport. The redundancies are equivalent to 12 per cent of the airline's workforce and come despite a $280m emergency cash-injection from the Swiss government.

The aftermath of the terrorist attacks on America was also felt in New Zealand, where Gary Toomey, the chief executive of the country's national airline, Air New Zealand, also resigned following the collapse of its Ansett subsidiary last month. Air New Zealand has subsequently been renationalised.

Meanwhile, the Toulouse-based Airbus followed its US rival Boeing in cutting production forecasts. Airbus had planned to build between 330 and 350 aircraft next year. But it now expects output to be as low as 300 aircraft.

Airbus, which is 20 per cent owned by BAE Systems, also said it would have to use its own balance sheet to help cash-strapped airlines fund the purchase of aircraft already on order.

According to an internal Airbus briefing paper, production next year is expected to be in the range of 300 to 330. Mike Turner, managing director of BAE Systems, said the Airbus co-chief executive, Noel Forgeard, and its executive vice-president of marketing, John Leahy, had spent the last few days talking to US and other airlines and would produce a new production plan next month.

Meanwhile, Sir Richard Branson's Australian airline, Virgin Blue, appointed Goldman Sachs to advise on its planned flotation, but said the offer would not go ahead until the second half of next year because of the turbulence in the airline industry.

The airline, which posted a profit of A$500,000 (£177,000) for its first seven months of trading, is valued at up to A$1.5bn (£530m). Virgin hopes to bring on board a "cornerstone investor" such as a rival airline or private equity group.