SABENA bankrupt

SABENA Avro RJs and BAe 146s

SABENA’s Avro RJs and BAe 146s, grounded at Brussels (Daniel Alaerts)

Belgian national airline SABENA suspended all operations on 6 November. Since 5 October, SABENA had been operating under ‘Judicial Composition’, a status similar to that of US Chapter 11 bankruptcy that gave it time to attempt to re-organize. The European Commission agreed to allow the Belgian government to provide a Euro 125 million bridging loan to keep the company flying as it attempted to re-organize. As with Swissair, SABENA’s hopes focused on re-organizing operations around those of its regional subsidiary, Delta Air Transport (DAT). DAT, which operated six BAe 146-200s, fourteen Avro RJ85s, and twelve RJ100s, had a much leaner cost structure than its parent airline and was the only profitable part of the SABENA group. DAT operated about a third of SABENA’s European flights and carried about a quarter of its passengers. However, SABENA failed to secure sufficient new financing for the effort. A last-ditch effort to arrive at a deal with Virgin Express fell through when the latter pronounced the proposed plan “unworkable.” SABENA had planned to suspend operations on 7 November, just ahead of a 8 November deadline to submit a new business plan. However, wildcat strikes on the 6th precipitated events. The bankruptcy filing only affects SABENA itself. DAT and several other subsidiaries are not technically included, and efforts to restart operations around DAT continue.

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