In the 1990s Swissair initiated a large expansion program known as the “Hunter Strategy” in which it aimed to grow by buying small airlines rather than forming alliances. It acquired 49½ % of Sabena, the Belgian national airline and bought important stakes in several minor airlines like Air Liberté, AOM, Air Littoral,Volare, LOT, Air Europe, TAP Portugal,Turkish Airlines, South African Airways, Portugalia and German holiday carrier LTU.
The financing of the Hunter Strategy, however, proved too costly and coupled with increasing losses in their investments, Swissair parent SAirGroup faced a cashflow crisis due to the slump in demand following the terror attacks in the USA at 9/11. On October 2, 2001, Swissair’s fleet was grounded. The largest bank in Switzerland, UBS AG, was blamed by many for refusing to extend Swissair’s line of credit, and protestors who demonstrated the day after the grounding carried banners reading “Bin Ospel” or “UBS = United Bandits of Switzerland”.
Two large bridge loans from the Swiss Federation were needed to finance the continuation of flight operations. When flights resumed, captains had to carry large sums of cash in order to provide collateral for fuel purchases at foreign airports. Finally, on March 31, 2002, Crossair took over most of Swissair’s assets, Swissair passed out of existence and Crossair was renamed Swiss International Air Lines. It is now usually known simply as “SWISS”.