Rollercoaster month for DAT


December is proving a rollercoaster for Delta Air Transport (DAT)‘s efforts to re-establish itself as an independent airline following the bankruptcy of parent SABENA. DAT restarted operations on 10 November, with its fleet of six BAe 146-200s, fourteen Avro RJ85s, and twelve RJ100s, building up services over the next several days until it served 35 destinations. DAT had to establish a reservation and ticketing system, as these functions had previously been provided by SABENA. A series of promotions were launched in an attempt to attract passengers back. The first offered flights for as little as EUR50 per segment, the second for a higher but still generous EUR150 per roundtrip. They helped to increase load factors from a disastrous 30% to about 40% in early December — still low, but improving. Meanwhile, a team team led by Maurice Lippens, vice chairman of the Fortis group, and Etienne Davignon, a former diplomat and European Commissioner, worked to develop a business plan for a new Belgian airline based on DAT and find the estimated EUR200-300 million in new financing needed for the task. Several Belgian companies have pledged contributions, but many have been less than enthusiastic about doing so, with some reporting feeling “bullied” into investing. A key part of the plan involved another SABENA subsidiary, Sabena Interservices Center (SIC), itself in bankruptcy proceeedings, to take equity in the new airline in lieu of payment for a EUR100 million loan. A restructuring plan for SIC which included the provision fell apart on 13 December, when several creditors withdrew their support.

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