Crossair is hoping to have lined up a global airline alliance to join by the end of this year. The choice will have a major influence on the final number of narrowbody and widebody aircraft the airline agrees to take from its financially stricken former parent Swissair which is being merged into Crossair.

The Swiss Government has asked Crossair to take over 52 of Swissair's aircraft, including 13 Airbus A330 and 13 Boeing MD-11 widebody long-haul aircraft, during the next five months but this is meeting growing resistance from the airline. "We don't need big aircraft; we need the right size aircraft and the right size for tomorrow is smaller," says Moritz Suter, Crossair chairman. Instead he is understood to prefer starting with as few as 10 ex-Swissair widebodies.

Critical to the plan will be Crossair's success in joining one of three global alliances, with discussions on-going with Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance. "We're looking with urgency to join an alliance and we have a plan to do so by the end of the year," says Thomas Brandt, Crossair executive vice president of operations.


Twenty-six widebody and 26 narrowbody aircraft are seen as the minimum number needed to sustain Swissair's subsidiaries, such as SR Technics, rather than Crossair's needs. "We are now looking into a business plan that is based on market volume and will then review those numbers," says Brandt.

Another consideration for Crossair is that it will start taking delivery of 30 Embraer 170s from the end of 2002 and 30 more stretch 195s from December 2004, at a rate of about 14 jets per year. The smallest aircraft in the Swissair fleet is the A319, which is "20 tonnes heavier than the 195 and carries almost the same passengers", adds Suter.

The 70-seat 170 will replace Crossair's 29 remaining Saab 2000s and all 20 of its BAE Systems Avro RJ85/100s by 2007. Also earmarked for retirement, by April 2003, is Crossair's fleet of eight Boeing MD-80s which are employed on its lucrative charter business. The airline had been planning to order A320s as a replacement, but in light of the Swissair situation "this is now the subject of some discussion", says Brandt.

Source: Flight International