Airlines Remembered


Photos © R.Leeuw

Swissair ceased operations March 30th 2002
Homebase: Zurich, Suisse
Founded: 1931
ICAO callsign: Swissair
Flightnbr prefix: SR / SWR
Operations: passengers & cargo

The winter of 2001/2002 saw the demise of 2 flag carriers in Europe: Sabena and Swissair.
On March 26th 1931, Basler Luftverkehr (Balair) and Ad Astra Aero AG merged to form Schweizerischen Luftverkehrs AG, trading as Swissair. It used Fokker F VIIbs on the route Zurich-Munich. All through the years Swissair operated well known types of aircraft: Douglas DC-2 and DC-3, changing to DC-4 for the post-war era, together with Convair 240s, later 440s. Douglas DC-6s and DC-7s were used before Swissair made the transition to the jet age with the DC-8 and Caravelle.
Swissair also used the Convair CV990 for Far East Services. As a faithful client of Douglas, the DC-9 was ordered and introduced (1966). The DC-10 was also taken up in the fleet, but the Boeing 747 was ordered too.
Swissair became launch customer with Airbus Industries for the A310 and they were added to the fleet starting in 1978.
One more time a shopping trip to McDonnell-Douglas was undertaken, for the MD-11, of which the first were acquired in 1991.
Airbus delivered A321s & A320s in 1995 (replacing MD-81s), later followed by A319s. For the long-range A330s were acquired, replacing the Boeing 747s (last one was to leave in 1999).
By the year 2001 the fleet comprised off: Airbus A319-100 (9), A320-200 (20), A321-100 (12), A330-200 (16) and McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 (19).

In 1995 a 49% share was undertaken in Sabena, which was on the rebound from Air France. A major restructuring started, with subsidiary Balair/CTA being integrated into Swissair and Crossair. Shares and investments in other airlines followed: Air Europe, Air Littoral, Air One, AOM, Cargolux, LOT, LTU, South African Airlines, Air Portugal, Ukraine Int'l and Volare in Italy. Swissair founded the Qualiflyer Group.
But most of these companies came up with heavy losses in 2001, aggrevated by events on Sept. 11th ("9/11"). Swissair found itself with heavy losses and banks hesitant to cover these losses. The Qualiflyer Group was the weakest of all airline alliances. And although Swissair had a reputation for "Swiss Perfection", it proved to be not enough. On October 02nd 2001 (13u30lt) Swissair ceased all flights due to the fact that fuel companies refused to issue credit; Crossair took over most European flights.
On March 30th 2002 the last Crossair/Swissair flight was performed and the next day the first flight of the new Swiss Air Lines ("Swiss") was made. After many months of selling of shares in airlines, ground handling, catering and restructuring the fleet, personnel (flightdeck crew took a 35% cut in salaries), etc... Swiss was ready for a new future; although on a smaller scale, the new airline is expected to operate 128 aircraft and serve 123 destinations in 60 countries.

JP Airline Fleets 2001/2002
Airlines Worldwide, B.I. Hengi (NARA-Verlag and Midland Publishing, 2000)

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