You may ask yourself the question: Why would Virgin Express want to merge with the new DAT?
Here in Belgium the name Virgin, unfortunately, has got a very bad reputation. There is no distinction within the general public between Virgin Express and Virgin Atlantic. Virgin is Virgin and it stands for bad service, unprofessional crews and aircraft that are never on time. Again this is the opinion of the general public.
The reality is a whole different story. Certainly there have been problems in the past (who hasn't had problems) but it goes to say how a reputation or how people perceive things, can often turn things around. That is especially true in the airline industry. It was like that for Sabena too. A good example was once given in a comparison between Swissair and Sabena. Swissair, having a good reputation, decides to "improve" the service on the Brussels Zurich route. For the snack they gave an apple to each passenger. The reaction: "Hmmm, very good, it's something fresh, something different and it's healthy. Good idea". The exact same service was then presented on the Sabena flights. Same route, same aircraft. The reaction: Maybe you can guess? "WHAT?? Is this all I get?? That’s cheap. This service sucks!" My point is that a reputation does not always reflect the reality of things.
Virgin Express is a very good airline (as Sabena was) with a very good service, well maintained aircraft and most of all deserves better credit.
And so we come back to the topic of discussion "Virgin in merger talks..."
Solving the "Image" problem with Virgin and DAT (ex-Sabena) is one reason but there are others.
Since the bankruptcy of Sabena, Virgin is beginning to see the true potential for growth out of Brussels. "If we don’t do it, someone else will". With Sabena out of the way, another problem arose. Slots and landing rights. More particularly the 9 daily London Heathrow slots. The landing rights have since been transferred to DAT, which is why it is very important for VEX to maintain good relations with DAT. In the interest of both parties, it was decided, well, "why not merge both companies?" Richard Branson, ambitious as we all know him, and never missing an opportunity when he sees one, knows DAT is in urgent need of cash and invests 25 million Euro in the project, at the same time giving him more say.
Many problems still need to be ironed out. Davignon and Lippens would like to fly with Airbus A319 aircraft, while VEX pilots see it as a threat to their jobs because it would be cheaper to hire (already trained) ex-Sabena pilots with new contracts, than to have VEX 737 pilots go through conversion.
The combination of a good "Business class" product and the popular VEX-style "Economy class" has in my view good chances of success. The main focus: concentrating mainly on European flights. "Air Belgium" seems more and more likely to be the new brand name although even at the top they have not yet made a definite decision.
In the end I am sure both parties will realize the importance it is to be united. (perhaps some day with VG Airlines?) There is enough competition outside Belgium to worry about.
What’s your opinion?