Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

Swiss carrier Crossair is forecasting bumper results for 1998 on the back of a 26% surge in scheduled passenger traffic.

But the SAirGroup regional subsidiary complains that European air traffic control (ATC) delays reached their worst ever level last year - a situation it describes as "no longer tolerable" for passengers.

The airline says in a letter to staff and shareholders that profits for 1998 will be "considerably higher" than for the previous year, with turnover breaking through the SFr1 billion ($743 million) barrier for the first time.

Crossair added nine aircraft to its fleet last year, bringing the total to 74 and achieving a 17% increase in capacity. Passenger load factor for the first nine months rose to 51.6%.

The airline did not meet its growth targets for charter traffic, however, blaming a fall-off in demand for flights to Egypt using its Boeing MD-80 fleet and its decision to transfer some charter capacity to scheduled routes.

Meanwhile, ATC problems at Crossair's EuroAirport Basle-Mulhouse-Freiburg hub began to ease, only to be offset by worsening ATC delays in Europe as a whole.

The airline is calling for "-drastic measures, both politically and by the authorities, to put a halt to this unfavourable development". It adds: "It is a problem affecting all of Europe, which can only be solved by the rapid privatisation of the ATC services."

Crossair's rapid expansion has placed a strain on its infrastructure at Basle, and it plans to spend SFr115 million enlarging its headquarters and aircraft hangar. Construction work is due to be completed by the end of 2000.

The airline says a decision on its fleet renewal strategy has been "-postponed into next year at the earliest", with deliveries due to begin in 2002.

It says it is keeping all its options open in its future selection of new-generation aircraft.

Source: Flight International