Swissair Resumes Flights After Govt Bailout

Less than 24 hours after the announcement of a government bailout Swissair resumed flights Thursday following a two-day shutdown with takeoffs for South Africa, the United States and Macedonia, the airline said. 

``We want to offer an optimal flight program again as soon as possible,'' said Swissair spokesman Siro Barino. 

Flights for Johannesburg, Los Angeles and Skopje took off from Zurich by late morning, said spokeswoman Gabi Estermann. 

The airline, which received a $281 million bridge loan from the Swiss government late Monday, planned 50 flights for Thursday. 

Crossair, the regional airline that Swissair sold to two giant Swiss banks, UBS SA and Credit Suisse Group, in a massive overhaul announced Monday, is flying an additional 110 flights in Europe with joint Swissair and Crossair flight numbers, Barino said. 

Before the shutdown Swissair had 486 flights scheduled for Thursday. 

Besides attempting to resume as normal schedule, the airline was also trying to move thousands of passengers who were stranded following the shutdown of the airline Tuesday in a squeeze between banks and creditors. 

The loan announced Wednesday by Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger was intended to enable the airline to operate until Oct. 28, when Crossair is to take control. 

``This crisis has caused huge damage,'' Villiger told a news conference after an emergency government session with airline and bank representatives. ``It's the image of Switzerland that is at stake.'' 

Swissair, whose situation worsened dramatically after the U.S. attacks threw world airlines into disarray, has been trying to recover from a failed expansion strategy that led to a loss of $1.79 billion in 2000. 

The U.S. attacks will cost the group $1.9 billion to $2.3 billion by the end of this year, the airline said.