Two decades on from the alpine airline giant’s collapse, Keith Otto profiles the history of a European heavyweight once considered to be as reliable as a Swiss watch and as financially stable as a Swiss bank
Swissair was founded in 1931 with the merger of two smaller Swiss airlines: Ad Astra, a loss-making regional carrier, and the more profitable Balair. The result was Swiss Air Transport Company, although the name was soon shortened to Swissair. The new airline had a mixed fleet, but it quickly established a reputation for operating the latest aircraft despite restricting its operations to the summer months.
In April 1932 – less than 12 months since Ad Astra and Balair had merged, the carrier took delivery of the first of a pair of two Lockheed Model 9 Orions – the first US-built airliners to be bought by a European carrier. The Orions quickly gained a reputation for speed and reliability and operated mainly on what became the airline’s ‘Blue Riband’ route between Zurich, Munich and Vienna.