Switzerland's SkyWork inaugurates cost-cutting programme

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Swiss regional carrier SkyWork Airlines has started its cost-cutting programme as the company's main shareholder and strategic head, Daniel Borer, steps down from the supervisory board.

The Berne-based airline says the efficiency improvement programme, dubbed 'SkyFit 2013plus', will slash costs and increase revenues. But it has not disclosed financial targets nor specified any timeframes for the initiative.

Reducing "individual jobs" cannot be avoided, says the carrier. But this is to be achieved "as much as possible through natural [staff] fluctuation".

The airline has not disclosed how many of its approximately 180 employees will be affected.

While its number of bookings has increased recently, SkyWork says it is coming under pressure from rising fuel prices; Europe's weak economic climate; and growing yield pressures in the airline industry. Fuel costs have risen 25% since June 2012, it notes.

The management has assessed potential improvements across all areas over the past months and started a number of initial measures, including a new catering concept, supplier renegotiations and a tighter marketing budget.

The company says that it "learned from mistakes" during the evaluation.

To improve revenues, SkyWork started offering seat reservations and travel insurance. Additional measures will later be introduced.

Its current thrice-weekly flights from Berne to Belgrade, Serbia will be abandoned for the summer 2013 schedule. But the airline wants to introduce a new route from Basel to the Italian island of Elba for the summer.

Borer took control of the airline in 2010. He will retain his shareholding but step down from the role as supervisory board president, saying he intends to stand "second row" in future.

Following the growth of recent years, Borer says his role as "initial investor" has now been completed. The company will move from the "capital-intensive start-up phase to the consolidated operational phase".

Tomislav Lang, the airline's chief executive, has been appointed to the supervisory board and has taken a share in the company.

Board member Sébastien Mérillat succeeds Borer as president.

SkyWork operates a fleet of three 72-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s and four 31-seat Dornier 328s. The airline carried 158,000 passengers in the first nine months of 2012, and it targeted 230,000 passengers for the full year.

The airline's financial results have not been published, but Lang said a year ago that he was hoping to break even in 2013.