André Dosé has resigned as chief executive at Swiss, citing a judicial hearing into a fatal air crash back in 2001 at Crossair, but he faced other pressures too.

Dosé briefly headed Crossair before the regional metamorphosed into Swiss after the demise of the parent Swissair Group. However, sources close to Swiss say that Dosé had, in any case, already lost key support among the banks that have backed Swiss since the carrier's launch in early 2002.

Swiss strongly refutes any suggestion that lack of confidence played a part in the decision. The carrier says that Dosé offered his resignation after it became clear that he might face a personal legal battle over the Avro RJ100 crash, in which 24 people died.

Swiss has struggled ever since its launch, and is in the middle of tough negotiations over a SFr500 million ($395 million) loan to boost cash reserves that have dwindled through a difficult 2003. Swiss says that it is now only looking for SFr300-400 million as its position has improved, but was clearly struggling to reach a deal for the original amount.

Patrick Schwendimann, financial analyst at Zurich Cantonal Bank, says that the banking community is likely to wait until the carrier's first quarter results are announced in mid-May before making any decisions on a loan. This would give bankers time to assess the results of a downsizing plan that started late last year. Swiss has also agreed a SFr50 million credit line with codeshare partner British Airways, but this is secured against eight valuable slot pairs at London Heathrow that are used on its London-Zurich route.

Swiss chairman Pieter Bouw, former chief executive at KLM, will replace Dosé on a temporary basis. Finding a longer-term replacement will not be easy, and Schwendimann believes that as much as they want to find a Swiss national, familiar with local politics, Bouw may well approach former contacts from his days at KLM.

Local media reports have even suggested that Andre Viljoen, the current chief executive at South African Airways, could be a candidate, although similar stories emerged around Viljoen's predecessor Coleman Andrews when Swissair was in trouble, only to prove erroneous. Former SAA executive vice-president Bill Meaney recently left Swiss, a move that sources close to Swiss put down to a boardroom struggle with Dosé. Headhunter Egan Zehnder is heading the search for Dosé's successor.

Swiss has tried to keep Zurich's position as a major international hub, but Schwendimann says that Swiss has seen its long-haul yields hit by the extra capacity laid on by neighbouring competitors, such as Lufthansa and Air France. Short-haul services have performed better, with load factors up, but yields are still struggling.


Source: Airline Business