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An Interview With André Dosé

When he was named president and CEO of the new SWISS International Air Lines, André Dosé had his work cut out for him. Not only did Dosé have to start up a major carrier in a battered global economy, he also had to regain national pride. In 2002, the Zurich Business Journalists' Association named Dosé Entrepreneur of the Year, praising his "consummate skill at keeping an airship shaken by internal and external turbulence on a fairly even course." A little less than a year after SWISS International's wheels lifted for the first time, Dosé talked about his background in the aviation industry as well as his formula for running a successful company.

1. What is your role at SWISS?
I am currently president & CEO of SWISS International Air Lines. I took on the job because I was tremendously attracted by the challenge it posed. And no, there is no other place I'd rather be right now.

2. How often do you travel? And is it usually for business or pleasure?
Too often! At least once a week, and mainly for business purposes.

3. Why did you initially join the aviation industry?
I started flying a plane when I was 16 years old. I'd always been fascinated by the idea of flying, and it was a dream come true when I started doing it.

4. Has being a pilot affected the way you run an airline?If so, how?
I don't think it has really affected how I do my job at SWISS; but, having been one myself, I think I understand our pilots' interests and concerns, and I know how their unions work, which does help.

5. What have you been doing to regain people's confidence in a SWISS national airline? Was it difficult to start up during a time when other carriers have been shutting down?
We've been winning people's confidence back by giving them a top-quality product. It's the best way to go—as we demonstrate, and have proven to us, every day. But yes, right now is an extremely difficult time to start a new airline: it's like rowing upstream.

6. With the recent rise of budget airlines, what do you think is the future for the more traditional major carriers?
I think that in Europe the traditional carriers will always have a large market share. But I can see the low-cost airlines gaining 20 to 30 percent of the market. So I'd say there's room for both types of carrier.

7. When the economy first went sour, there seemed to be two approaches to staying afloat. American-based airlines cut fares and flights dramatically, while many in Europe maintained their rate base while scaling back flights. What do you think is the best way to be profitable when economic times are tight?
Well, we have to bear in mind that SWISS has a strong and solid high-yield market. It would be wrong to jeopardize that by adopting a "discount" approach. Our philosophy is to focus on expanding our yields, rather than primarily our market share.

8. How's the in-flight food?
We're currently launching a new food and beverage concept that underlines Switzerland's culinary variety. That means that the food in all three classes on our flights out of Switzerland will focus on a different region every three months.

9. What is your favourite seat?
It used to be the left-hand one in the cockpit. Nowadays I don't mind taking a seat farther back.

10. What words of advice can you give our readers, who might be somewhat leery of travel in the current state of political affairs?
Traveling is the best way of getting to know other cultures, and that can only help to enhance understanding among people all over the world.

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