Swiss hopes to attract US travellers

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of Switzerland's new national airline yesterday said it was better placed to withstand any downturn in air travel caused by a war in Iraq because passengers would perceive it as a "neutral" carrier and therefore less vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The chief executive of Switzerland's new national airline yesterday said it was better placed to withstand any downturn in air travel caused by a war in Iraq because passengers would perceive it as a "neutral" carrier and therefore less vulnerable to terrorist attack.

André Dosé, who took over in January as head of Swiss International Air Lines following the collapse of its predecessor Swissair, predicted that a fresh conflict in Iraq would cause a huge drop in air travel for a few weeks and then a more gradual downturn lasting a year.

But he said Switzerland's reputation for neutrality would help stem the loss of passenger traffic. "We know that Americans prefer to fly on airlines which are perceived as neutral," he said. Swiss says that services on its transatlantic routes are 92 per cent full while it is selling 95 per cent of seats on the New York route.

Mr Dosé, a pilot and former footballer, said Swiss would perform considerably better this year than forecast in the business plan produced at the time of its 3bn Swiss francs rescue by the Swiss government and a consortium of private investors led by UBS, Credit Suisse and Nestlé.

In the first six months Swiss lost Sfr447m (£192m) compared with a forecast of Sfr664m. Mr Dosé said the airline would comfortably undershoot the Sfr1.1bn loss it was forecast to make for the year and remained on course to break even in 2003.

Mr Dosé said Swiss still hoped to join the OneWorld alliance led by British Airways and American Airlines but admitted that it would take a lot longer than he first thought to negotiate an agreement with BA.

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