Swissair screwed up in a number of ways.
They dumped Geneva as a secondary hub. The 30% of the Swiss population which consitute Geneva's market were told that they would have to fly through Zurich in order to fly anywhere else. On top of that, the Swissair shuttle service that they instituted to take this traffic is all-economy. Naturally, most of Geneva's passengers responded by giving Swissair the finger, and switched to other airlines. Swissair used to have about 30-40% of the passengers who went through Geneva, by the end of last year that number I believe fell below 10%. So Swissair permenantly pissed off a big chunk of their home population (not to mention the huge number of businesses and international organizations based in Geneva.
For example, my company, based in Geneva, has switched to Lufthansa over the past couple of years as its prefered airline.
Prior to 1995, SR had MD-80s which did the bulk of short-medium range flights. The MD-80 is not wide enough for 6-across seating, but a little wider than really needed for 5-across. The result was that 5-across economy seating was fairly roomy. In business class, SR had 4-across seating, nice big chairs and plenty of legroom. The result was an airline where the short and medium-range, intra-european service was the best in Europe, and always filled. Their long distance service was considered second to none, except perhaps Singapore Airlines.
In 1995 they bought the A320 series, and by the end of 1996, all the MD-80s had bee replaced. The A320 is just wide enough for cramped 6-across seating. In order to save money and improve yield, they installed "convertable seats" throughout the plane, which means that in business class, you just push a button, one of the seats collapses partly, and the remaining 5 seats become about 1 inch wider (Big F%&/ing deal). Legroom does not change, and if you are more than 6 foot high you feel like a pretzel, even in business class. The seats themselves, in spite of being leather-covered, feel cheap - you feel all the supports and crossmembers under your butt and behind your back.
For high volume routes, they use all-economy seating throughout the plane. The resulting high density ensures that a bunch of people will not have room to put their bags, and every single time you hear someone complaining, and saying something like "I'll never fly this airline again!".
So, in my mind, the acquisition of the A320 class planes marked a very drastic decline in seating comfort on SR.
Finally, they had the terrific idea of buying bankrupt or near bankrupt, non-competitive airlines all over Europe. They hoped to turn them around and make a killing in the process, but forgot that they bought many of these airlines in countries with militant unions and bureaucracies who had absolutely no intention to switch from nice cushy jobs to actually becoming productive.
Make no mistake, Swissair management did this to itself.
But I really feel sorry for all the employees, especially the flight crews and ground staff who have always been very courteous and professional in the approximate 1 million miles I have flown with them over the years.
PS - SA-JET, The ex-CEO you spoke about was Jeffery Katz. I met him and spoke to him for several hours when he was seated next to me on a flight (I'm sure he hated that flight
). I complained to him long and hard about all these things, as well as other things like Swissair's habit of serving weird shit for breakfast, like Leek Pancakes. He didn't seem like he heard a thing I said, coming out with BS like, " business travellers don't mind cramped all-economy seating for short flights" and a lot more.
The only thing you should feel when shooting a terrorist: Recoil.