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Business

Swissair's Last Landing

Swissair has gone out of business. It's the end of an era in aviation. But a new airlines called "Swiss" took to the skies on Sunday.

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"Captain Swiss and his crew hope you had a pleasant flight..."

For decades, passengers regularly voted Swissair as their favorite airline. It was known for its punctuality and friendly service. But in the end that didn't help rescue the Swiss carrier.

Swissair had ambitious plans for expansion in Europe. But they turned out to be much too costly. In 2000, Swissair flew deep into the red.

The situation for the Swiss carrier got even worse in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Swissair – like many other airlines – was faced with new and unexpected economic problems. Insurance premiums were going up and passenger numbers were going down. In the end, the cash simply ran out.

Swiss icon

The end of the national airline turned into a trauma for the Swiss. They were always extremely proud of their national carrier. They considered it a national institution as durable and reliable as the Swiss franc.

When they saw Swissair planes grounded last October because the airline could no longer pay its fuel bills, this dealt a heavy blow to the Swiss psyche. Zurich airport was turned into one big parking lot for Swissair planes. Some 50 jets with the Swissair logo on their tailfins were immobilized. Throughout the world, thousands of Swissair passengers were stranded.

Eventually, taxpayers' money helped Swissair take off again for a few months. But on Wednesday, the ultimately last Swissair flight took off with destination South Africa.

New airline

In response to this "national tragedy", Swiss companies and the government provided 2.7 billion Swiss francs (€ 1.84 billion) to form a new airline. The new carrier, called "Swiss", was built around the former regional carrier Crossair in record time of only five months.

"Swiss" was due to rise like a phoenix from the flames on Sunday. Its first flight went from Basle to Zurich.

But "Swiss" President and Chief executive Andre Dose knows that the new airline will not be making a profit for quite some time. On the contrary: he's counting on a deficit of one billion Swiss francs for the first year alone.

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