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Swiss World aims for long-haul start-up in November

Kevin O'Toole/LONDON

Swiss World Airways, the new carrier being set up in the wake of Swissair's removal of long-haul services at Geneva, has announced plans to start flying to North America by November.

The airline aims to begin services from Geneva with two leased Boeing 767s, serving New York Kennedy and possibly destinations such as Chicago, Miami and Montreal. Boeing also says that Swiss World has accepted a $203 million "proposal" to buy two new 767-300ERs for delivery in the fourth quarter of 1998. In all, the plan is to operate a fleet of five in the first phase of development.

An agreement has already been concluded with AMR to act as North American sales agent and a five-year contract has been signed with British Airways Engineering to provide aircraft maintenance.

Swiss World emerged from the protests which followed Swissair's decision in March 1996 to move the bulk of its intercontinental services from Geneva, to concentrate flights at its main hub in Zürich.

The move further fuelled the tense relations between Switzerland's French- and German-speaking capitals, outraging politicians in Geneva.

The Canton of Geneva resigned its place on the Swissair board, and is backing instead the Swiss World project as an alternative French-speaking national carrier.

The airline's initial plan is to gather start-up capital of SFr50 million ($35 million) from a mix of Swiss and foreign investors, as well as the pledge of cash from Geneva.

Swissair is adamant that Switzerland cannot support two intercontinental hubs, although it maintains a daily service from Geneva to New York. The airline says that on African routes, which were the first to be transferred to Zürich in November 1996, transfer traffic was up by nearly 60% over the first four months.

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