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Sabena's Demise  
User currently offlinePIA777 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1738 posts, RR: 6
Posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 2673 times:

Just got done watching a show on Sabena Belgium Airlines. I caught the last parts of the show, it was on some World news channel with English subtitles and they were talking about its bankruptcy and they also showed the final flight as this previously posted picture shows:


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Photo © Pieter Declerck



They interviewed a very emotional flight crew of this last flight. The First officer talked about his 5 kids and a mortgage. He later killed himself
a couple of months after the last flight. It was very Sad.

PIA777




GO CUBS!!
34 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineBlake From Belgium, joined Sep 2004, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2575 times:

Although the pilot's suicide was very sad, especially for his wife, a Sabena FA, and his kids, statiscally speaking it is very "average" to find people taking their own lives after seeing their dream-carreers vaporize.

Sabena's demise already makes good reading in various books, if you master Dutch or French.....

Anyhow...the major players in the demise all walked away from their responsibilities...and that too is very sad. Getting people to justice won't bring the FO back, but it would make for a better balance.

Alitalia probably next...


User currently offlineSn26567 From Belgium, joined Aug 2004, 131 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 2530 times:

There were two organisations responsible for the demise of Sabena: the Belgian Government, which owned 51%, never took its responsibilities, and Swissair, which took away all the valuable assets of Sabena - and even that did not help them avoid their own bankruptcy.


ex-Sabena #26567
User currently offlineTUNisia From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 1844 posts, RR: 5
Reply 3, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 2454 times:

I too just watched this documentary last night on LINK TV. It was quite sad to say the least. The music that they chose to use throughout the documentary was fitting. I wish there was a documentary like this made for TWA. Anyways, did anyone notice in that picture above when you view it as large and look through the cockpit windows on the left side you can see the same people from the TV documentary... sad.

:[

TUNisia

[Edited 2004-09-05 15:29:19]


Someday the sun will shine down on me in some faraway place - Mahalia Jackson
User currently offlineAZA330 From Italy, joined Feb 2004, 289 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 2353 times:

Sabena was a great airline. I had on board of one of their A330-300 one of the best flights of my life so far. It was a great flight. I was very very sad when they showed on the news here in Italy the last flight landing in Bruxelles. If I remember it was an A330. But I didn't know about the captain...this is really sad...
Ciao


User currently offlineRCS763av From Colombia, joined Jun 2004, 4393 posts, RR: 12
Reply 5, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 2324 times:

The last flight was an A340-300 coming from Africa. Very sad indeed, Belgium is my second country, as i am Colombian and Belgian thanx to my grandma who was born in Brussels.


Les escribo desde el frío de mi verde altiplano.
User currently offlineBENNETT123 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 7471 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 2260 times:

Is it true that SN never made a profit.

User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17001 posts, RR: 67
Reply 7, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2244 times:

Goodness knows if they ever made a profit.

In any case their simulator facility is still up and running. It has always, and still does, run with a profit.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineLastBaron From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 290 posts, RR: 2
Reply 8, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2238 times:

SN made good profits in the 1950s and 1960s. Back in "the day," SN was a world-class act. By the 1980s, SN had become a behemoth so large, it was in many ways a liability for the Belgian government, which must have breathed a sigh of relief when a carrier of no less stature than Swissair came in as a "white knight." Hence the disbelief in so many parts of the world when Swissair crumbled and took SN down the drain with it. A pity, indeed, and sad to see the revived SN Brussels right now seems to be just another Eurocarrier. When will they come back to the US? It would very be nice to see the birds with the big S on their tails here again...

[Edited 2004-09-06 02:24:10]

User currently offlineIakobos From Belgium, joined Aug 2003, 3312 posts, RR: 35
Reply 9, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2213 times:

With a very few exceptions, SN did not show profits.
Sabena World Airlines was a state enterprise and being profitable was not a target, not even a dream.
After WW2, Belgium had a major priority in restoring communications with its colonies, in addition to its desire to play a substantial role in Western Europe.
Nobody cared about load factors, except the fuel company and the catering department.
(I flew Congo-Belgium with as little as 8 pax on board...for a crew of 8)
As a state enterprise in the 50's and 60's it also became a very big employer, e.g. five persons in my family worked for SN..., and everybody was proud and happy to work in the airline industry....a nice uniform, a standing ...and have extremely well paid jobs.

The golden age did not last for ever, and economic factors started to become demanding. That's where the unions came into play.
Instead of realizing that it was counterproductive to fight against the tide, they defended everyone's job with teeth and claws, etc.....

SN did try and actually associate itself with airlines (other than Swissair) long before the last act. I remember long talks with KLM, the Air France management, and probably more.


User currently offlineBENNETT123 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 7471 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2204 times:

I knew that it is popular to blame SR, but surely the Directors/ Staff must of realised that the situation could not last.

User currently offlineLastBaron From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 290 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2204 times:

AerLingus seems to be in a similar state these days - their fares are so low during what is usually "high season," it was astounding to see the ability to book BOS-DUB for $585 last week with 1 days' notice (!).

I now see why my grandfather loved SN so much, Iakobos. He must have been on one of the similar flights with 1:1 pax:crew ratio!  Smile


User currently offlineIakobos From Belgium, joined Aug 2003, 3312 posts, RR: 35
Reply 12, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 2192 times:

Baron,

If I tell you some stories you might not believe it.
One that you will certainly take for granted though: when the planes crossed the Equator, a party was thrown onboard. (an old tradition involving the well know god Neptune)
Though not as wild and entertaining than the one they had onboard ships, it included enough to remember it vividly 50 years later.
(free champagne was as common as coke)


User currently offlineBlake From Belgium, joined Sep 2004, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 2099 times:

SR gets blamed because they were effectively "in charge" of managing SN at the time of the demise. Not illogical huh?

Belgian directors on the board were told by the Belgian government to "look away" and not to oppose the SR decisions, after the Swissair deal was signed.

Staff indeed saw the dark cloud hanging, especially the pilots, but were unable to trigger a change...it was simply too late and the government couldn't care less...( hadn't done so for a long time ).

The strong stories from the past come from the SN business model of those days: cost plus. Any shortage on the balance sheet was compensated for by government. That's why government wanted to get rid of SN in the first place..they were tired of dumping money in SN. They wanted SN to become an independent and profit making airline. They assumed this could only be done by "selling" SN to somebody else.....but failed to choose the right partner, or could not find a suitable one (this history alone can fill a book).
There were talks with KLM, but these were blocked off for political reasons (language related). There was a period when Air France was a SN partner, but this was halted after a short period. Then came SR and the rest is history.

After the demise there were talks about a Vrigin Express merger, but these were halted because of "cultural differences" between management styles.

Weren't there rumors lately on BA taking over SNBA?

It is very unlikely that SNBA will come back to the US. Too much competition on the transat sectors. I think they have agreements with Delta for the US flights out of Brussels.
SNBA is concentrating, next to the European network, on African routes that can make a profit (so without Ecuadorial festivities I guess).

Personally, I believe SNBA should adopt the Luxair business model.

Cheers.





User currently offlineBENNETT123 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 7471 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 2074 times:

Blake

I think that this is too easy.

When SR took on SN it was already dead in the water, which imply in your MAIL regarding the attitude of the Belgian govenment. Whilst they were in charge when it failed, it is very convenient to ignore the preceeding decades.

Perhaps their mistake was to get involved. When SR stepped in, no one else wanted it. It might have been wiser if SR had refused to touch SN with a barge pole.

Perhaps you can remind me of the last year that SN made a profit. I am hardly a fan of FR and the MOL approach, but profits are nice once in a while.


User currently offlineIakobos From Belgium, joined Aug 2003, 3312 posts, RR: 35
Reply 15, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks ago) and read 2056 times:

Somewhere you are right Bennett,

SR "only" wrote the last chapter and the sad but unavoidable conclusion.
The rest belongs to history, with as many contributing writers as: the unions (several chapters), the government (idem), the French community, the Flemish community, national, regional and local narrowmindedness and at times a mistimed sense of solidarity in the public.

I suppose that most of the blame can be put on the various prime ministers of all tendencies, who would not risk their position and career and just did enough to keep it afloat and shift the problem to their successors.


User currently offlineAirbear From Australia, joined May 2001, 648 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks ago) and read 2047 times:

It is really amazing... the similarities between the closing down of both SN in Belgium, and AN in Australia. Two great airlines ... political interference ... and mismanagement by another airline that should have known better.

The only difference is that in the case of SN, "justice" was done in that SR went down, too, as a result of their actions, whereas after AN, Air New Zealand escaped without any real damage, thanks to the NZ government rescue, and now continues to fly and prosper. Good luck to it!

And please ... fans of Swissair and ANZ ... please don't savage me. SR was a great airline in its own right. I had many wonderful Y-cl. flights between Asia & Europe in the DC-10 days, as well as within Europe. They were a truly class act until the last couple of years. As for ANZ... well... I only ever flew one return trip on the SYD/LAX non-stop "Disneyland Specials", which were an ordeal for all concerned, pax (the adults, anyway...) & crew alike. So it wouldn't be fair to judge the airline on those flights alone.


User currently offlineBlake From Belgium, joined Sep 2004, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (9 years 10 months 4 weeks ago) and read 2026 times:

Hi Bennett123,

You're right, blaming SR is too easy. That's why I said: "SR get's blamed because.".....I am surely not blaming SR solely (and not targetting Swiss people because of it), public opinion in Belgium however is, because that's the impression we got from hearing and seeing the news-reports: SR came in, sucked the life out of it and dumped SN when the pool was dry...only to fail themselves shortly afterwards.

However, I disagree that SN was dead in the water before. When they had to abandon their cost-plus business model on the government's request, in my opinion they should have followed a much more modest business model like Luxair. Find a niche (but surely not LCC since not feasable on Belgian soil) and play it at your best. If Luxair can, why shouldn't SN could have. Because not sexy enough? Not prestigious enough? Because that wouldn't carry the Belgian flag across the globe? Reasons unclear until today.

SR indeed should have been wiser, not to not get involved with SN, AOM and others, but not to start an insane overambitious plan to start a global alliance "Qualiflyer" based on under-capitalized smaller airlines and head on with Skyteam, Oneworld...

Belgian government was blind for these mad plans, and only saw the promised capital injection in SN, which cut them free of doing something about the under-captilization at SN...

The first signs of SR's different plans were the ordering of many and large Airbusses for SN....Later on many of the delivered A340's and A330's flew empty, and remained even grounded for a while because this was cheaper then flying them empty!

Many other examples clearly show that the SR strategy was certainly not the only and oldest reason for SN's demise, indeed the structural problems for SN were many and profound, but it made any other realistic business model impossible at the point when it was perhaps still possible.

For the profits, I don't have the books (lot's of papers disappeared...), but from what I've read you can hardly sum up 12 months total showing profits.
They didn't have to make profits, given the cost-plus business model. When they had turned themselves around, the possible positive cash disappeared towards Airbus and SR...

It's just something we Belgians should take a good look at and not repeat ourselves in the future. I hope the Swiss and others do the same.

regards,
Blake.


User currently offlineLX23 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 347 posts, RR: 2
Reply 18, posted (9 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 1981 times:

SN showed a grand total of 1 year's worth of profits by most accounts I've heard in Belgium and Switzerland.--blaming SR is just the convenient way for those responsible from before of not taking the blame.

SR was by no means clear of any guilt, but their idea was to step in and "aid" some airlines that were seriously in trouble (TAP, Sabena, Air Lib) so as to have them as alliance partners later... the only one that did not go down the drain was TAP.

SR had it's own problems, and disappeared due to that. SN disappeared when SR stopped throwing money at it. While most people would think this was cause and effect, it can be said that they were spearate cases of gross mismanagement. Yes, SR was "managing" SN at the time, but what they were REALLY "managing" was a haemorrage of money (SN)
just my 2 cents...but I don't really think SR was the bigger part to blame


User currently offlineBicoastal From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (9 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 1928 times:

Has anyone seen studies/reports on how the former Sabena employees are doing? How many found jobs with other airlines? How many are still unemployed? How many have transitioned to other jobs outside of the industry?

I doubt any employer would have hired the former union activists at Sabena, but I wonder what has happened to the others? How many pilots are now flying with Ryanair, Easyjet and other new LCCs?

When Sabena folded, there was a lot of whining on this forum from and for their employees. So, I'm wondering what has happened to them.


User currently offlineSpitfire From France, joined Feb 2001, 801 posts, RR: 7
Reply 20, posted (9 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 1886 times:

I'm retired from January 1, 2004. Not found any correct job in a "civilized" company (or country). Now living in France....Disgusted of Belgium !!!!
Spitfire



Sabena ... Never to be forgotten (12 years already , what a shame !! )
User currently offlineLX23 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 347 posts, RR: 2
Reply 21, posted (9 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 1874 times:

@Spitfire: Just out of curiosity, can you define "civilised", and what would your profession be?

User currently offlineSpitfire From France, joined Feb 2001, 801 posts, RR: 7
Reply 22, posted (9 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 1860 times:

LX23,

...Where my wife and children could live with me, happily, peacefully and free !!! (Just have a look to some "gulf" countries ....). And for my profession, look at my profile... A340 Captain.

[Edited 2004-09-06 17:45:01]


Sabena ... Never to be forgotten (12 years already , what a shame !! )
User currently offlineBlake From Belgium, joined Sep 2004, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (9 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 1839 times:

With all respect, but I cannot accept the statement that SR came in to "help" some airlines "out of trouble". That makes them almost modern Robin Hoods and soon marters of the whole history.
They came in with a plan for sure, but I'm afraid it was not that noble nor innocent. They were not social workers!

Example: SR was rebooking passengers from SN flights to their own's in Johannesburg, especially business class passengers. Result: SN flight leaves almost empty and without making a profit, SR flight leaves with good load factor, plus a positive "connection" flight from Zurich to Brussels.

How's that for helping SN out of trouble?

Some studies on former SN employees have been released, and results published in newspapers. I think almost 80% has found new jobs, but of course not always in the airline business. Most pilots were forced abroad if they wanted to continue in the business, certainly those on the long range sectors. Others have found jobs in the newer airlines that were created after Sabena left, like Thomas Cook Belgium....I think "scattered" would be a right word.

Don't think any went to Ryanair....not many 737's left in the SN fleet at bankruptcy time. Updates welcome.

If I am correct, then the often interviewed pilot's union spokesman F. Van Rossem still flies A320's abroad....but on "interim" jobs?

Do not know of any website where you can read up on the figures.

This is the website of an ex-SN A320 captain now flying for Thomas Cook (I think some captions will speak for itself):

http://users.pandora.be/guy.daems/photos/photos.html

Cheers.


User currently offlineEzycrew From Spain, joined Oct 2001, 460 posts, RR: 4
Reply 24, posted (9 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 1790 times:

SR's intention was not to "help SN". It was to take participations in European Airlines, in order to expand beyond tiny Switzerland, which is not in the EU and back then had no billateral Civil Air agreements with the European Union.

The only airlines up for sale were the failed ones, namely SN, AOM, Air Liberté, Air Littoral, TAP and LTU. It was stupid from SR's management to take such risks, and Swissair and Switzerland paid dearly for it.


25 Post contains images LX23 : Hence why I use the word "help"...they didnt so much care about the other airline as need it for their expansion...(that's what i tried saying in the
26 Post contains images Yyz717 : There were two organisations responsible for the demise of Sabena: the Belgian Government, which owned 51%, never took its responsibilities, and Swiss
27 JoFMO : @ Ezycrew: so you could say, that the dimise of SR was indirectly caused by not being integrated in th EU, because therefore you said they were forced
28 RJ100 : JoFMO, noone forced Swissair to take such a high risk. Even without being an EU member you can keep up an airline... Regards, RJ100
29 Blake : As for responsibilities: the Belgian parliament started a commission that had to carry out an investigation on the responsibilities in the failure of
30 Donder10 : Sure SR played a large role in the eventual collapse of SN,its demise had been inevitable for years.I read that Sabena had only made a profit in a sin
31 Hz747300 : Do Belgians miss Sabena? It is something I have wondered about since in the US we do not have a state (state not solely meaning government owned, but
32 StearmanNut : I have watched this documentary a few times. I can certainly sympathize with ex SN employees. It was like seeing a close-knit family ripped apart by t
33 PA110 : It amazes me how many Belgians are still in utter denial about SN's situation, and the role of the government. As a former SN employee, who left the c
34 Blake : As a native Belgian: no I do not personally miss Sabena. I just think that what happened to SN is a textbook example of how not to turn over an airlin
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