SWISSAIR IS IN talks with Italy's new low-cost carrier, Noman, on commercial links which may lead to it taking a share of up to 33% in the airline.

Noman, which was formerly known as Fortune Aviation, began scheduled passenger operations on 22 January, offering no-frills services between Rome and Milan's Linate Airport, in competition with flag carrier Alitalia and Air One. At the time of the start-up, Noman's fleet included the two 99-seat ex-Fortune Aviation McDonnell Douglas (MDC) DC-9-15RCs (rapid convertibles).

Load factors had reached 49.2% by mid-May, with Noman's stated goal being 50%. The airline has recently launched new services from Milan to Olbia in Sardinia, competing with Alitalia and Meridiana. Other destinations are planned, including Catania and Palermo. The airline's planned growth is being hampered by insufficient financing for new aircraft and technical operations. The carrier however, is to double its fleet this summer with additional aircraft, possibly MDC MD-80s.

Swissair representatives have visited Noman's headquarters at Ciampino, Rome, with talks so far centring on timetable co-ordination, which would enable Swissair to link its international flights with Noman's domestic network. Sources at Swissair confirm the airline's interest in a link with Noman, but denies plans for any shareholding.

Noman's general manager, Giulio La Starza, says that no precise timetable for an agreement with Swissair has yet been reached. He declines to reveal to financial conditions which might be attached to the deal.

Source: Flight International