Well, whatever it will be called it won't be DAT and it won't be Virgin, according to this press release. Note, however, that they are still only in discussions; nothing has been agreed as yet.
Brussels, 28th December 2001.
Virgin Express (NASDAQ: VIRGY; Euronext: VIRE), announces that it has entered into exclusive discussions with Airholding sa/nv and DAT. Airholding sa/nv recently became the new owner of DAT, the short-haul operating division of the former Sabena.
The objective of the discussions is to explore the benefits of a possible merger of the two companies to create a single Belgian airline that would benefit from the strengths of both companies and aimed at reviving the Belgian airline industry. Confidentiality agreements have been signed to allow for the full exchange of information. As a next step the companies have now signed a new commercial agreement that will be in effect until 28th March 2002 and which is an extension of the previous agreement signed on 14th November 2001.
The concept for the proposed new Belgian airline is that it will be a Brussels-based, business-oriented carrier. At the same time the new carrier will maintain appeal to all cost-conscious travellers, who have come to appreciate the excellent value offered by Virgin Express over the last five years. The parties intend that merger negotiations will be completed during the first quarter of 2002, subject to approval by, amongst others, the EC authorities and the shareholders of Virgin Express shortly thereafter.
If successful, the two airlines will be integrated under a new brand name.
Following the bankruptcy of Sabena on 7th November, passengers booking directly with Virgin Express continue to grow, although yields have suffered as a result of DAT’s promotional prices and DAT accepting passenger tickets from the former Sabena. Load factors have also been reduced in the last two months of the year, following the problems caused by the 11th September tragedy and the cancellation of our wet lease arrangement with Sabena, which at that stage accounted for approximately for 40% of our revenues.
David Hoare, Chairman of Virgin Express, commented: “There is now a unique widespread desire to build a new big Belgian flag carrier that will provide a comprehensive network and a caring service. We are very excited by the prospect of our possible participation in this venture and hope that our discussions will culminate in the successful creation of a new airline early in 2002.”