Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

The SAir Group says that its core Swissair airline operations are due to show a profit for the first time in eight years when the 1997 results are revealed.

The airline points to soaring load factors, which have climbed to 70% from just above 60%, as well as a 16% improvement in seat costs, to around SFr0.09 per passenger kilometre (ó9.8 per mile). The aim is to cut this further, to SFr0.07, by the end of 1998.

Sabena, in which Swissair holds around a 49% stake, is also due to unveil a substantial financial improvement, having put behind it the industrial unrest and restructuring costs which left it with record losses of BFr9 billion ($240 million) in 1996.

Unofficial estimates are that Sabena's 1997 figures, to be released in April, will show a much- reduced loss of BFr1 billion, following a recovery which has seen a 30% rise in passenger traffic and 26% for freight. The target is to make profits in 1998.

Meanwhile, Swissair has confirmed that plans to take a stake in Italian carrier AirOne, triggered by Alitalia's decision to ally itself with KLM, is due to be complete by April. The Swiss carrier is expected to take a share of close to 30% in the Alitalia rival.

AirOne, which will now become a full partner in Swissair's Global Alliance, says that its operations virtually doubled in 1997, giving it passenger figures of around 1.4 million and sales in the region of L200 billion ($113 million).

Source: Flight International