SWISSAIR IS to offer Delta Air Lines a role in its planned link-up with Belgian flag carrier Sabena, in a move which could see the Swiss airline complete its goal of pulling together its partnerships into a grand global alliance.

Singapore Airlines, Swissair's other partner within the Global Excellence alliance, could also take part, while Austrian Airlines, which, together with Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), sits within the European Quality Alliance (EQA), has also been offered a role. Swissair President, Otto Loepfe says that, such a partnership could be set up by 2000.

Swissair wants to buy a 49% stake in Sabena and is discussing the possibility of increasing this to a majority holding at a later date. Swissair's ambitions to take a controlling stake in Sabena are restricted by Switzerland's position outside the European Union (EU), but this could eventually be resolved if EU and Swiss negotiators manage to thrash out a new air-services agreement.

Loepfe admits that the position of SAS, the third EQA partner, remains in doubt, however. "We have to redefine our partnership with SAS," he says. Swissair's attempts to negotiate a closer link with SAS have been sluggish since the failure of the Alcazar talks at the end of 1993.

SAS president Jan Stenberg set in motion a strategic review of the airline's future after his appointment in 1994 and has recently opened partnership talks with Swissair's arch rival, Lufthansa.

Source: Flight International