SWISS Strengthens its Top Management Team

SWISS is adding top-quality reinforcement to its Executive Management team: Karel Ledeboer, one of the world’s leading airline specialists on technical, safety, security and flight operations issues, is to assume the new post of Chief Operating Officer (COO) with immediate effect.  The appointment was announced by Pieter Bouw, Chairman of the Board, and André Dosé, CEO, at a media conference today.  Bouw and Dosé also outlined the various actions currently being taken to stabilise and enhance the company’s technical and flight operations.

“We have done and achieved a great deal over the last few weeks,” said Pieter Bouw, Chairman of the Board.  “SWISS exceeded most of its business targets in the first five months of the year.  And, while we are confronted with various problems in our technical services and among our cockpit and cabin crew corps, our Board and Executive Management are not simply passively observing this series of negative events.  Far from it,” Bouw emphasised. 

Operating safety that complies with the highest industry standards continues to have paramount priority at SWISS.  This entails not only analysing problems, but eradicating the weak points detected.  As a further key improvement, the company’s Technical Services and Flight Operations divisions will work more closely together.  To this end, and on the recommendation of CEO André Dosé, the SWISS Board has decided to create the new post of Chief Operating Officer or COO.  The company has already enlisted the services of Karel Ledeboer, an internationally-acknowledged aviation specialist, for the new position: he takes up his duties with immediate effect.  Ledeboer will perform this function in an interim capacity until a more permanent appointment can be made.  He will also be actively involved in the search for his successor.

Jorgen Orstam and Thomas Brandt, the heads of the company’s Technical Services and Flight Operations divisions respectively, welcome this strengthening of the SWISS top management team.  They will report directly to the new COO, who, as a member of Executive Management, will have full line responsibility and the corresponding powers and authorities. 

Karel Ledeboer is one of the world’s leading specialists in aviation technical services, safety, security and flight operations.  He has been a member of SWISS’s independent Safety Advisory Board since March; and he led a team of international specialists which conducted a detailed audit of Crossair’s flight operations back in spring 2000.  He also had many contacts with Swissair in his various capacities over the years, and was thus well familiar with the company.  “My aim is to help solve the present operating and technical problems swiftly and efficiently, to ensure that SWISS can continue to develop as smoothly as possible,” he told the media conference. 


A Dutch national who is 65 years of age, Karel Ledeboer is an aircraft construction engineer by profession.  He spent 33 years with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, rising to Executive Vice President Operations.  In 1994 he joined IATA as a Senior Director, where his responsibilities included infrastructure, flight operations, safety, security, engineering and airport development.  He also served as Secretary of the IATA Operations Committee, and was a member of the board and executive committee of the Flight Safety Foundation in Washington DC.

The response to Nassenwil: CEO André Dosé also took the opportunity of the media conference to state SWISS’s initial response to the recently-published investigation report on the Crossair accident at Nassenwil, near Zurich Airport, on January 10, 2000, in which seven passengers and three crew members died.  “This accident was a terrible shock, to Crossair and to me personally,” Dosé said.  “But Crossair did not wait for the present investigation report; it took action immediately.”

This action included appointing a group of international aviation specialists to conduct an audit of Crossair’s entire flight operations.  It also included adjustments to the company’s pilot recruiting policy, an intensification of initial and in-service training, new and stricter rules on the distribution of duties between Captain and First Officer (especially with regard to the Flight Management System), modifications to the Operations Manual, and an upgrading of the value attached to the autopilot facility.  And it included fitting all the company’s regional aircraft with a new system that warns of any excessive bank attitude.

“Further steps have been initiated as SWISS has been established,” Dosé continued.  “These include creating our own international Safety Advisory Board and equipping all our aircraft with the latest ground proximity warning systems.”  The company’s selection and periodic check procedures are also being further improved, Dosé explained.  Developments here have included tightening the selection criteria at the various selection levels.  The new procedures will apply to all SWISS pilots, and will be implemented by a mixed team drawn from the ranks of the former Crossair and Swissair. 

A package of actions: Dosé also offered a detailed update on developments on the technical services, flight operations and cockpit and cabin crew collective labour agreement fronts.  In the technical services sector, the company has long been working flat out to eradicate any weak points in its workflows, solve the problems deriving from the manufacturer’s side and recruit more specialists.  It is also enhancing the coordination between its Technical Services division and its Network Planning and Operations Control units.

Dosé is confident that agreement can soon be reached with the kapers cabin crew union on a new Collective Labour Agreement for flight attendant staff.  SWISS Executive Management will be meeting the kapers committee next week with the aim of concluding these negotiations by the end of August.  “I am sure that, given the basis of negotiations we have established, we can find a fair solution for everyone involved,” Dosé confirmed.

Dosé was less optimistic, however, about the company’s Collective Labour Agreement negotiations with Swiss Pilots (the former CCP).  “Regrettably, the Swiss Pilots Committee has not responded to our Board and Executive Management’s appeal that its members should be allowed to vote on the Basic Collective Labour Agreement we are proposing,” he explained.  “We must therefore assume that, unless it has a change of heart and submits the proposed new agreement to a members’ referendum after all, the Swiss Pilots Committee will let the final deadline imposed by our Board and Executive Management for signing it - September 15 - pass unobserved.”  This would mean, Dosé explained, that the approximately 1000 former Crossair pilots would continue to work under the existing CCP Collective Labour Agreement, modified to comply with the rulings of the court of arbitration, until 2005.  “I would be extremely sorry to see this happen,” Dosé added.  “The proposed new agreement offers my former colleagues substantial improvements and career prospects that the CCP Agreement simply cannot provide.”

The address by CEO André Dosé may be heard on the free telephone number 0800 20 30 40 until Monday evening.