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Swissair AG/S.A. (German: Schweizerische Luftverkehr-AG; French: S.A. Suisse pour la Navigation Aérienne[2]) was the national airline of Switzerland between its founding in 1931 and bankruptcy in 2002.

It was formed from a merger between Balair and Ad Astra Aero (To the Stars).[3] For most of its 71 years, Swissair was one of the major international airlines and known as the "Flying Bank" due to its financial stability, causing it to be regarded as a Swiss national symbol and icon. The airline thrived into the 1980s when it was one of the "Seven Sisters"[citation needed] of Western European commercial aviation. It was headquartered at Zurich Airport and in Kloten.

In 1997 the Swissair Group was renamed SAirGroup (although it was again renamed Swissair Group in 2001), with four subdivisions: SAirlines (to which Swissair, regional subsidiaries Crossair and Balair, and leasing subsidiary FlightLease belonged), SAirServices, SAirLogistics, and SAirRelations.

Burdened by over-expansion as a result of the controversial “Hunter Strategy” in the late 1990s and after the economic downturn following the September 11 attacks, Swissair's assets dramatically lost value, grounding the already-troubled airline in October 2001.[4] The airline was later revived and kept alive until 31 March 2002 by the Swiss Federal government. The final Swissair flight landed in Zürich on 1 April 2002.

On 1 April 2002 former regional subsidiary Crossair renamed itself Swiss International Air Lines and took over most of Swissair's routes, planes and staff. Today, Swissair Group still exists and is in the process of being liquidated. Swiss International Air Lines was taken over by the German airline Lufthansa in 2005.[5]

History

Swissair Fokker F.VIIb-3 m (CH-192) piloted by Walter Mittelholzer in Kassala (Sudan), February 1934.

Founding years

On March 26, 1931, Swissair – Schweizerische Luftverkehr AG (English: Swissair – Swiss Air Transport) was founded through the fusion of the airlines Ad Astra Aero (founded in 1919) and Balair (1925). The founding fathers were Balz Zimmermann and the Swiss aviation pioneer Walter Mittelholzer. In contrast to other airlines, it did not receive support from the government. The name "Swissair" was the proposal of Dr. Alphonse Ehinger, president of the directorial board of the Balair, although "Swissair" was first de

It was formed from a merger between Balair and Ad Astra Aero (To the Stars).[3] For most of its 71 years, Swissair was one of the major international airlines and known as the "Flying Bank" due to its financial stability, causing it to be regarded as a Swiss national symbol and icon. The airline thrived into the 1980s when it was one of the "Seven Sisters"[citation needed] of Western European commercial aviation. It was headquartered at Zurich Airport and in Kloten.

In 1997 the Swissair Group was renamed SAirGroup (although it was again renamed Swissair Group in 2001), with four subdivisions: SAirlines (to which Swissair, regional subsidiaries Crossair and Balair, and leasing subsidiary FlightLease belonged), SAirServices, SAirLogistics, and SAirRelations.

Burdened by over-expansion as a result of the controversial “Hunter Strategy” in the late 1990s and after the economic downturn following the September 11 attacks, Swissair's assets dramatically lost value, grounding the already-troubled airline in October 2001.[4] The airline was later revived and kept alive until 31 March 2002 by the Swiss Federal government. The final Swissair flight landed in Zürich on 1 April 2002.

On 1 April 2002 former regional subsidiary Crossair renamed itself Swiss International Air Lines and took over most of Swissair's routes, planes and staff. Today, Swissair Group still exists and is in the process of being liquidated. Swiss International Air Lines was taken over by the German airline Lufthansa in 2005.[5]

On March 26, 1931, Swissair – Schweizerische Luftverkehr AG (English: Swissair – Swiss Air Transport) was founded through the fusion of the airlines Ad Astra Aero (founded in 1919) and Balair (1925). The founding fathers were Balz Zimmermann and the Swiss aviation pioneer Walter Mittelholzer. In contrast to other airlines, it did not receive support from the government. The name "Swissair" was the proposal of Dr. Alphonse Ehinger, president of the directorial board of the Balair, although "Swissair" was first deemed "un-Swiss". In the first operational year, 64 people were employed including ten pilots, seven radio operators, and eight mechanics. In total, their planes offered 85 seats and operation was maintained only from March to October. The route network had a length of 4,203 kilometres (2,612 mi).

The 1st Swissair logo.

On April 17, 1932, Swissair bought two Lockheed Orions, making them the second European airline to use American planes, after the Czechoslovak operator CSA purchased a Ford Trimotor in 1930. The Orion was the fastest commercial airplane of its time and was put to use on the "Express line", Zurich-Munich-Vienna. This led Lufthansa to ask Heinkel for a model that could top Orion's speed, leading to the Heinkel He 70. In 1933, the first trans-Alpine route was introduced in 1933: Zurich-Milan.

For the first time in Europe, flight attendants were employed aboard the Curtiss Condor beginning in 1934. Nelly Diener, the first flight attendant of Europe, became world-famous. She lost her life after just 79 flights in a crash near Wurmlingen, Germany, on July 27, 1934. The cause of the crash was material fatigue.

In 1936, Douglas DC-2s were acquired and London was added to the route network. In 1937, the bigger Douglas DC-3 was bought. In the same year, both founding fathers died: Walter Mittelholzer during mountaineering in the Steiermark, Austria, and Balz Zimmermann succumbed to an infectious disease.

Swissair became a very loyal costumer of Douglas in the years later on, as it purchased every single model in its lifetime.

On August 27, 1939, days before World War II broke out, the airspace over Germany and France was closed. Swissair was forced to suspend service to Amsterdam, Paris, and London. Two days later, Swissair service was closed completely. Of 180 employees, 131 had to serve in the army. In spite of the war, some routes were re-introduced, such as Munich, Berlin, Rome and Barcelona. In 1940, an invasion of Switzerland was feared, and Swissair moved their operations to the Magadino plains in Ticino. Operations were suspended definitively in August 1944, when a Swissair DC-2 was destroyed in Stuttgart during an American bombing raid.

On July 30, 1945, Swissair was able to resume commercial aviation.[6]

Ascension

Douglas DC-3 (1950s)
A Swiss Air Lines Convair 240 at Manchester Airport, England, in March 1950.
A Douglas DC-6B at Manchester Airport in 1954.

In 1947 the rise of shareholder capital to

On April 17, 1932, Swissair bought two Lockheed Orions, making them the second European airline to use American planes, after the Czechoslovak operator CSA purchased a Ford Trimotor in 1930. The Orion was the fastest commercial airplane of its time and was put to use on the "Express line", Zurich-Munich-Vienna. This led Lufthansa to ask Heinkel for a model that could top Orion's speed, leading to the Heinkel He 70. In 1933, the first trans-Alpine route was introduced in 1933: Zurich-Milan.

For the first time in Europe, flight attendants were employed aboard the Curtiss Condor beginning in 1934. Nelly Diener, the first flight attendant of Europe, became world-famous. She lost her life after just 79 flights in a crash near Wurmlingen, Germany, on July 27, 1934. The cause of the crash was material fatigue.

In 1936, Douglas DC-2s were acquired and London was added to the route network. In 1937, the bigger Curtiss Condor beginning in 1934. Nelly Diener, the first flight attendant of Europe, became world-famous. She lost her life after just 79 flights in a crash near Wurmlingen, Germany, on July 27, 1934. The cause of the crash was material fatigue.

In 1936, Douglas DC-2s were acquired and London was added to the route network. In 1937, the bigger Douglas DC-3 was bought. In the same year, both founding fathers died: Walter Mittelholzer during mountaineering in the Steiermark, Austria, and Balz Zimmermann succumbed to an infectious disease.

On August 27, 1939, days before World War II broke out, the airspace over Germany and France was closed. Swissair was forced to suspend service to Amsterdam, Paris, and London. Two days later, Swissair service was closed completely. Of 180 employees, 131 had to serve in the army. In spite of the war, some routes were re-introduced, such as Munich, Berlin, Rome and Barcelona. In 1940, an invasion of Switzerland was feared, and Swissair moved their operations to the Magadino plains in Ticino. Operations were suspended definitively in August 1944, when a Swissair DC-2 was destroyed in Stuttgart during an American bombing raid.

On July 30, 1945, Swissair was able to resume commercial aviation.[6]

Ascension

Douglas DC-3 (1950s)
[6]

In 1947 the rise of shareholder capital to 20 million Swiss francs enabled long haul flights to New York, South Africa, and South America with Douglas DC-4s. The modern Convair 240, the first Swissair plane with a pressurized cabin, was used for short- and medium-range flights from late 1948. The first Swissair DC-4 flight to New York was routed via Shannon, Ireland, and Stephenville, Newfoundland, on May 2, 1947, although it actually ended in Washington, D.C., due to fog at New York's LaGuardia Airport. The total elapsed time was 20 hours and 55 minutes.

The former Swissair logo

The public, including the federal government, the states of Switzerland (Cantons), municipalities, the Swiss Federal Railways, and the Swiss postal services took over 30.6% of the shares and enabled Swissair to get a credit of 15 million Swiss Francs to purchase the airline's first two Douglas DC-6B airliners for delivery in 1951. By that act, Swissair became the national flag carrier of Switzerland. The new pressurized aircraft were to replace the DC-4 on transatlantic routes.

In 1948, the airport in Dübendorf, which served as the base of Swissair, was relocated to Zurich-Kloten. Military aviation continued in Dübendorf. The next year Swissair plunged into a financial crisis due to a sudden devaluation of the British Pound because fares, except traffic to the United States, were calculated in British currency. At that time, the traffic to England made up 40 percent of Swissair's revenue.

In June 1950, Walter Berchtold, manager of Swiss Federal Railways, was elected to the directorial board of Swissair and served as the director. Until 1971, he created the corporate culture of Swissair. He grasped the importance of corporate image and corporate identity, and after the example of BOAC's "Speedbird", he introduced the arrow-shaped Swissair logo. Giving flight personnel a distinct uniform was also an important move. At the time, flight attendants' uniforms resembled the gray-blue ones of the Swiss Women's Army Corps, so Berchtold introduced ones in a modish marine blue, and Swissair initiated a veritable fashion competition among European airlines.