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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Swiss press mourns national symbol
Zurich airport
The cross on the tailfin is a symbol of Swiss values
"Even in the darkest hours of its history, the Soviet Aeroflot never appeared as pitiful as this. Is this company, shamefully immobilised on the tarmac, really the one which was the pride of generations of Swiss?"

The white cross on red on the planes carried our reputation around the globe - since yesterday that's history

The shock expressed in the Le Temps editorial on Wednesday encapsulates the sense of shock and disbelief the Swiss press feels as it ponders the dramatic fall of one of the country's national symbols, Swissair.

"What a disgrace!" is the headline of the German language tabloid Blick.

"Everything we were proud of went to pot yesterday," writes its editor, Juerg Lehman.

"The white cross on red on the planes carried our reputation around the globe: it stood for quality and discipline. Since yesterday that's history. Worthless," he adds.

The broadsheet Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) agrees.

"The pictures screened around the world of confiscated planes and planes grounded due to lack of fuel; the reports of stranded passengers... will not only inflict massive damage on Swissair's image but on the whole of Switzerland," it writes.

Banks blamed

The papers are keen to establish who is to blame for what many of them describe as a "debacle".

Le Courrier denounces the management's claim that the loss of consumer confidence following the 11 September attacks was to blame as a "smokescreen".

How can the directors of the biggest banks in the country abandon the Swissair fleet without considering the damage inflicted to the national image?

Le Temps
It pins the blame on the company's directors.

While the Tribune de Geneve lets boss Mario Corti off the hook, it is less sympathetic to his co-directors, Philippe Bruggisser and Paul Reutlionger.

But many of the papers point the finger of blame at the two banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, involved in negotiating a rescue package for the airline.

"How can the directors of the biggest banks in the country abandon the Swissair fleet without considering the damage inflicted to the national image?" asks Le Temps.

The NZZ describes the "outrage" and "fury" felt at the banks' handling of the affair and warns that this will have consequences for the industry as a whole.

Swiss air passengers
Pictures of standed passengers have shocked the world, NZZ says
"This outbreak of emotion will be directed against both financial institutions, but then against banks in general, against the corporate world and against the market economy".

Blick, meanwhile, says "a helpless parliament which doesn't know what policy is any more" shares part of the blame for allowing itself to be pushed about by the banks.

"Switzerland," it declares, "is a banana republic."

New order

La Tribune de Geneve looks beyond the immediate situation to the future of the Swiss air industry and sees a new, and perhaps better order, emerging.

Swiss flight paths will be opened up to competition giving foreign companies equal access to Swiss based routes.

Swissair, it says, has been living off its reputation for too long.

"Maybe in the future," it concludes, "the Swiss will thanks Swissair's grave-diggers for having destroyed a dysfunctional company and shattered its myth".

See also:

03 Oct 01 | Business
Swissair shares wiped out
02 Oct 01 | Business
Swissair: Proud past, grim future
02 Oct 01 | Business
Q&A: Swissair in crisis
02 Oct 01 | Business
Swissair grounds all flights
02 Oct 01 | Business
Q&A: Booked on Swissair?
03 Oct 01 | Business
Sabena fights to survive
02 Oct 01 | Business
Airline collapse dents Swiss pride
02 Oct 01 | Business
Swissair accepts rescue plan
26 Sep 01 | Business
Aviation firms axe 26,000 jobs
30 Aug 01 | Business
Swissair cuts 1,250 jobs
09 Aug 01 | Business
Sabena flies into jobs storm
30 Jul 01 | Business
Pilot rescues French airline
02 Oct 01 | Europe
Swissair passengers stranded
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