Swiss International Air Lines is cutting routes and aircraft in a bid to turn around the airline's finances next year. The carrier has lost SFr582 million ($396 million) so far this year. As a result of the changes, 300 jobs will go.

The carrier's charter fleet of seven Boeing MD-80s will be grounded, replaced by four leased Airbus A320s, "reflecting the travel sector's present difficulties", says the airline. Charter traffic represented only SFr141 million in revenue in the first nine months of the year, well below 2001 levels, and the reduced fleet will operate "at least for the next two years".

A number of routes "generating less-than-satisfactory results and with no prospect of longer-term success" will also be cut, and five aircraft will be returned or grounded: one Boeing MD-11, one A320 and three Saab 2000s. The A320 and 2000s will be returned to lessors. The airline has also reduced the A340-300 order placed in May by one unit to 12 aircraft. These will begin replacing MD-11s from the middle of next year.

The 300 job cuts will comprise 160 ground crew and cabin crew, which should go through natural attrition, and 140 air crew, including some redundancies. Swiss is negotiating with the pilots' union, but says: "In our opinion we do not need union approval."Deliveries of new Embraer 170s have been delayed by six months until the third quarter of 2003, with three due next year and nine in 2004. The rest of the delivery schedule for the 30-aircraft order has not yet been renegotiated. Some may be replaced by larger 175s, which will operate routes on which the 170's short field capability is not needed - although the airline admits "this will cost us flexibility".

Source: Flight International