ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Financially troubled Swissair Group announced plans Tuesday to cut an unspecified number of jobs in a bid to save at least 500 million Swiss francs ($280 million) this year.

``We're not aiming at big layoffs,'' said Swissair spokesman Jean-Claude Donzel. The program, named ``Change 2001,'' is aimed at cutting unnecessary management levels.

``It is our goal to reduce hierarchies primarily at the middle management level,'' Donzel said.

The program will ``effect immediate improvements to internal structures and workflows and help restore the group to sounder business health,'' a company statement said

``While they are not its prime objective, the '2001' change program will inevitably also entail reductions in staff numbers,'' the statement said.

``These actions will demand considerable flexibility from the managers concerned, along with an unconditional willingness to accept new challenges.''

The program, headed by a company task force, ``will be conducted without external consultants, but with the active involvement of all employees,'' Swissair said. The first phases should be started by July 1.

The statement said the program also was expected to lead to a sizable reduction in invested capital by the end of 2001, but it did not elaborate.

Swissair Group has replaced its top management and embarked on a restructuring program since posting a net loss of 2.9 billion Swiss francs ($1.7 billion) last year.

``Our Group continues to operate in a difficult business environment, and we need to take swift and efficient action to return it to sound business health,'' said Mario A. Corti, who took over as chief executive earlier this year.