Bulach, a small town in the region of Zurich, is in the spotlight: the Swissair case is happening there. The members of the Board of the dead and gone SairGroup and the former heads of the airline are brought before the court. About thirty hearings are expected between now and the 9th of March, prelude to a verdict that can only be symbolic. It is a fact that incompetence doesn’t lead to a prison sentence. The end of Swissair in 2001 was a national drama for the whole of Switzerland ,a hard blow for European air transportation and nothing but injustice for two countries, France and Belgium, that were the collateral victims. The collapse of the Swiss entity sent AOM-Air Liberté, Air Littoral and Sabena to their graves.
The Swiss refuses obstinately, from vote to vote, to belong to the European Union and Swissair got frightened, fearing isolation. It was, in actual fact, not really a problem considering the bilateral agreements, including air transportation, that were negotiated between Berne and Brussels. The management team led by the ineffable Philippe Bruggisser, supported by a lacklustre and distracted Board, began a policy of foreign growth that should have allowed them to avoid the political obstacles. Since the doors of Europe were closed, Swissair wanted to imitate itself, on the other side of the walls, by buying up shares in Community companies. Those share holdings were necessarily less than 50%, to abide by the Community laws, but they could have allowed them to impose their will, with the right approach. So said, so done.
Absolutely everyone knew that AOM-Air Liberté was not easily profitable, weakened by past episodes. Even British Airways had given up on them. Sabena was experiencing a very public financial psychodrama that had started several decades before. Even worse, the rot was there and there was no way it would recover.
Apparently, from up in their ivory tower, the heads of
Swissair didn’t see things the same way. On the contrary, they thought themselves capable of succeeding where the locals had failed. How big-headed can you get! What a bad mistake! The result was an economic disaster that blasted the whole Swiss establishment with dramatic bankruptcy and, today, an out of the ordinary court case.
The act of accusation, a whole hundred pages long, talks in particular about incompetent and disloyal management and for that very reason is quite unique in the history of air transportation. The people responsible for this incredible waste have chosen a defence system that, like the rest, is singularly lacking in brilliance: they plead not guilty but shut themselves into total silence. What a pity! We would have all liked to hear them out with their explanation of faulty analysis and their incapacity to understand the relationships woven between Switzerland the European Community. Since the 1930’s and up until the shaky team that led them to its demise got into power, Swissair was constantly cited as an example for the excellence of its management and the quality of its financial results.
Since the discussions are intended to be sober and controlled, it is certain that no untoward words will be pronounced. No-one will say that Bulach is the scene of the court case about Swiss pseudo neutrality at the same time as that of stupid managerial mistakes. In any case the mocking finger is being pointed at the whole of the air transportation sector.