Swissair, Austrian Airlines and Sabena have enhanced their integration with a joint order for up to 29 Airbus A330s and the launch in February of a joint North Atlantic operation with Delta Air Lines.

Officially, the A330 order follows a joint evaluation, but in practice Sabena has closed its fleet evaluation department and relies on Swissair, its 49 per cent shareholder, for this function. Swissair has also assumed responsibility for marketing Sabena's entire cargo capacity, in a move which is expected to lead to a $27 million improvement in combined profits by 2000.

Swissair has ordered nine A330-200s, five of which will be leased from ILFC, and has options on 10 more. Austrian's A330 order is for four aircraft, while Sabena has ordered one with five options. Sabena is taking three former Air Inter A330s on operating lease as interim lift.

The four partners have established a revenue pool on the North Atlantic; revenues from routes from the US to Zürich, Brussels and Vienna will be divided up according to a pre-agreed formula, according to Swissair president Philippe Bruggisser. Known as Atlantic Excellence, the joint operation began on 1 February and involves the four partners abandoning fixed quotas of seats on their flights; instead, each will have access to all available seats.

The partners will offer identical fares and use the same booking categories across the Atlantic. They have also established a common yield management operation in Atlanta.

To satisfy the conditions attached to US anti-trust immunity for the alliance, certain seats on the Atlanta-Brussels, Atlanta-Zürich and Cincinnati-Zürich flights will be removed from the revenue sharing and fares aspects.

The integration of the transatlantic operations coincides with the unveiling of Swissair's new group holding structure. The parent company is to be known as SAirGroup (pronounced ess-air-group) and will preside over four subsidiaries:

* SAirLines, encompassing Swissair, Crossair and the Traviswiss distribution entity;

* SAirServices, including the Swissport (ground services), SR Technics (maintenance), and Atraxis (IT);

* SAirLogistics, which incorporates Swisscargo and the Cargologic handling firm; and

* SAirRelations, including Swissôtel and the Gate Gourmet catering company.

This separates the non-airline companies from the airline; currently the airline is also the holding company. As well as increasing management accountability, the SAirGroup structure 'will provide the units with substantial flexibility, along with the entrepreneurial freedom to enter strategic alliances or divest units,' says chairman Dr Hannes Goetz. However Bruggisser says there are no plans to seek separate stock-exchange listings for any of the subsidiaries. The proposal will go before a shareholders' meeting on 22 May.


Source: Airline Business