SNBru
Topic Author
Posts: 149
Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 10:33 pm

Old Sabena Schedule

Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:27 pm

Hi all,

I have a question about the old Sabena schedule. I know one of the reason why the airline went bankrupt (and almost never made profit) was a bad management. For reasons of prestige, Sabena was for example one of the first European airlines to order the B747, though one can doubt if it was the best aircraft for a moderate airline as Sabena. And for doubtful reasons they operated a time ago a flight to Teheran with incredible bad load factors.

I know Sabena had a strong network in Africa. But my question is: just before the bankruptcy, before 9/11, how was their route schedule for example on transatlantic and Asian routes? Did they serve South America, Australia? Which cities did they operate themselves with their widebody fleet?

I hope this thread wasn't discussed before; I couldn't find it.
 
HB-IWC
Posts: 4033
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2000 1:09 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Mon Mar 28, 2005 11:45 pm

In the last years before bankruptcy, Sabena used to serve the following destinations:

North America

JFK - up to three daily flights until the very end, operated with Airbus equipment, and before that with B742 and B743.

EWR - a daily flight, which was closed a couple of months before the end of the airline. EWR was opened in 1998, as a cooperation with Citybird, and operated for a couple of seasons with MD11. After that, it became an Airbus route.

BOS - daily flight until the very end, operated with Airbus equipment. One of the last routes operated with A310.

ORD - daily flight until the very end, operated with Airbus equipment. Before that, ORD was the last station to receive the DC10 in 1998 and the B743 in 2000.

CVG - daily flight operated with A342/343, then MD11 and then B743, before returning to A343. Operations started on May 15, 1997, and the flight was closed in March 2000, as the cooperation with Delta came to an end. One of Sabena's more successful routes.

ATL - daily flight operated with A332/A343, until August 6, 2000, when the cooperation with Delta came to an end.

DFW - the substitute of the ATL flight, as SN started cooperating with AA. Daily flight with A332 until the very end.

YUL - daily operation, started on May 15, 1998, with an MD11 leased from City Bird. The route later switched to A332/333/342/343. Yields were good in summer but weak in winter.


South America

As part of its cooperation with City Bird, Sabena operated twice weekly for to GRU with MD11 for about a year, under a code share agreement with VARIG. The flight was never a big success and was stopped. Daylight operation on the BRU-GRU sector.


Africa

JNB - daily flight, operated with B743, then A342, and then MD11. The daylight flight ex BRU was never a big success, and in its last days of existence, Sabena's management scrapped the JNB route. Sabena cooperated with Nationwide airlines out of JNB for onward connections to CPT and DUR.

West Africa - extensive coverage including the cities of Dakar, Banjul, Bamako, Lome, Lagos, Conakry, Ouagadougou, Douala, Yaounde, Abidjan, Monrovia and others. Earlier, Sabena had also operated to Ilha do SAl, Freetown, Nouakchott and Libreville, but those routes were closed. Flights to Dakar and Banjul were operated by Sobelair, the rest of the network by A332/333 and later MD11. Earlier the A310 was deployed mainly on the West African network.

Central and East Africa - flights to Nairobi, Kigali, Entebbe-Kampala, Kinshasa, and earlier to Brazaville and Bujumbura. Opertions with A330/340, and before with MD11 (NBO, KIG, EBB) and B743 (FIH).


Asia

NRT - thrice and later four weekly services from BRU, with B743 and later A342/343. The NRT flight was a loss maker.

MAA - Sabena opened a thrice weekly flight to MAA in 1999. Flights were operated until the airline collapsed with A332. Good loads but poor yields.

BKK, HKT - B763ER flights operated by Sobelair, were bookable under SN flight number for a while.


Earlier, up until the late 1980s, Sabena used to maintain a much larger intercontinental network, with particularly in Asia a wide range of destinations that were all closed down, including Mumbai, Singapore, Jakarta and Manila.
 
Elagabal
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 7:40 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 4:49 am

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall reading in the FT that Sabena *never* made an annual profit, in all its long and storied existence.
 
texan
Posts: 4059
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 2:23 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 4:53 am

I have the old Swiss Air/Sabena flight schedule program on my computer. Email me if you'd like the program and I'll send it over.

Texan
"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library."
 
iakobos
Posts: 3255
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2003 6:22 pm

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 6:37 am

Elagabal,

Completely wrong !  Wink
Sabena had ONE profitable year, though nobody (even me old bones) remember exactly when... but still just enough to entertain the idea.

SNBru,
I know that "bad management" is thrown away as a main cause, it is too easy.
Sabena, like many others, was a public service.
For most of SN's existence, the management was never asked to run a business but to administer a public service, under the higher auspices of the mainstream political parties running the successive governments.
Socialists, Christian Democrats and Liberals share (theoritically) the responsibility , the management has never been anything else than an instrument.
 
Pe@rson
Posts: 16001
Joined: Sat Jan 13, 2001 6:29 pm

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 7:28 am

Concerning SN's African routes: which were, if you know, its most profitable, and which were, if you know, its least profitable?
"Everyone writing for the Telegraph knows that the way to grab eyeballs is with Ryanair and/or sex."
 
HB-IWC
Posts: 4033
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2000 1:09 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 2:05 pm

Quoting Pe@rson (Reply 5):
Concerning SN's African routes: which were, if you know, its most profitable, and which were, if you know, its least profitable?

For historical reasons, Kinshasa has always been a popular and high yielding route for Sabena, and its successor SN. I wouldn't say it was Sabena's best performing route, as there were highs and lows depending on the unstable political situation, just like in many other places in Africa Sabena used to fly to, but the route overall did well, as did other routes that were considered too risky to operate for other airlines, including Monrovia, Freetown, Bujumbura and Kigali.

As for the worst performing route in the African network, that must have been, at least in the final years of the airline, the Johannesburg route. There was just an overcapacity on that route and Sabena's daylight patterns on BRU-JNB were less commercially viable, resulting in low fares, in particular a lot of low-yielding connecting fares Europe-BRU-JNB, and heavy losses on the route. As an indicator of how bad the JNB route was at the time, it is interesting to note that both Alitalia and Austrian stopped their JNB routes just around the same time.
 
CV990
Posts: 4224
Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 3:49 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 9:57 pm

Hi!

When we talk about old Sabena schedule I was thinking about the 60's or the 70's! Let me just give some clues about SABENA and their operation in LIS. They used to have a flight dur~ing the 70'd that came from BRU to Casablanca via LIS operated with the 707. They also had their regular flight to LIS flying the Caravelle VI-N and latter with the 727-29QC. Besides that SABENA would make some nice surprises like one that I saw in early 70's ( maybe 1972 or 1973 ) when I saw landing a DC-10 that I presume came or from South America or from Africa. It was the first time I saw a DC-10, and I tell you it was awesome!
regards
CV990, the Maserati of the skies!
 
donder10
Posts: 6944
Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2001 5:29 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:31 pm

Elagabal,

Completely wrong ! Wink
Sabena had ONE profitable year, though nobody (even me old bones) remember exactly when... but still just enough to entertain the idea.

I've read on here before that they were profitable for just one quarter in their history although it could well be wrong.
 
odafz
Posts: 269
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2004 8:00 pm

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 11:08 pm

SN also operated to Central America with a weekly flight to Mexico city and then continuing to Guatemala City. I think the route was the following : BRU-YUL-MEX-GUA . What was suprising is the plane was arriving in MEX at 23.00 local time and departing to GUA the next day at 6.00 . I do not think the flight had a great success.
 
cornish
Posts: 7651
Joined: Fri Feb 18, 2005 8:05 pm

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Tue Mar 29, 2005 11:14 pm

Quoting Iakobos (Reply 4):
Sabena had ONE profitable year, though nobody (even me old bones) remember exactly when... but still just enough to entertain the idea.

Sabena actually made a profit in 1998 - that was the one profitable year from 1958 onwards. I think that was about the time when Swissair decided to invest in the airline.
Just when I thought I could see light at the end of the tunnel, it was some B*****d with a torch bringing me more work
 
Tango-Bravo
Posts: 2887
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2001 1:04 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Wed Mar 30, 2005 6:46 am

Quoting SNBru (Thread starter):
For reasons of prestige, Sabena was for example one of the first European airlines to order the B747, though one can doubt if it was the best aircraft for a moderate airline as Sabena. And for doubtful reasons they operated a time ago a flight to Teheran with incredible bad load factors.

The price Sabena would have paid (in lost traffic) would have been much higher than not having 747s when the "Jumbo" was "all the rage" with airline pax, especially across the Atlantic. Plus, Sabena was (IIRC) the first airline to convert an all-pax 747 to a Combi with rear fuselage main deck cargo door. While the afformentioned route to Teheran may have had poor pax load factors, it may have been break-even, perhaps even profitable, on the basis of cargo revenue, which historically accounted for a large percentage of Sabena's revenues.
 
SNBru
Topic Author
Posts: 149
Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 10:33 pm

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:37 am

Thank you all for this information.

Does anyone know on which routes (out of Europe) Sabena was making a lot of money. Or were they all break-even or worse, making loss?

It was a surprise to hear that the NRT flight was a loss maker, given the fact that most other European airlines make a lot of money out of this particular route? Why not Sabena?
I guess the BRU-JFK/BRU-BOS route was a profit maker, together with a lot of European routes (BRU generates a lot of diplomatic and political traffic due to the headquarters of NATO and EU institutions). Is this assumption correct?
 
HB-IWC
Posts: 4033
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2000 1:09 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Wed Mar 30, 2005 1:52 pm

Quoting SNBru (Reply 12):
It was a surprise to hear that the NRT flight was a loss maker, given the fact that most other European airlines make a lot of money out of this particular route? Why not Sabena?

Because Sabena's flights were mainly filled with low yielding Japanese tour groups, which would jet around Europe for a couple of days, also on Sabena, for bottom fares. Anyone who has ever taken the SN207/208 BRU-NRT-BRU flight will be able to testify that there were hardly any Westerners on that flight. In 1999, I saw documents regarding the route that clearly stated that the A343 would have to be filled 106% for the route to break even at the then average fares. When the A342 was used, the figures were even worse.

Quoting SNBru (Reply 12):
Does anyone know on which routes (out of Europe) Sabena was making a lot of money.

As sated before, the money was being made mainly on certain parts of the Africa network. All the rest was pretty much loss making. Even some of the key transatlantic routes never made any real money, notwithstanding great performance during the summer.

Quoting SNBru (Reply 12):
I guess the BRU-JFK/BRU-BOS route was a profit maker, together with a lot of European routes (BRU generates a lot of diplomatic and political traffic due to the headquarters of NATO and EU institutions). Is this assumption correct?

The BRU-BOS route lost money because of weak performance outside the summer season, the BRU-JFK/EWR routes suffered from overcapacity most of the year. Overall transatlantic yields were also down because Sabena would attract up to 80% connecting traffic on those flights, and only about 20% higher yielding O/D traffic.

As for the European network, Sabena successfully established a hub-and-spoke network with BRU at its center, and with some of the shortest transit times available in Europe. At one point the minimum connecting time was down to just 25 minutes.

Sabena established that system in order to appear on the top line of computer reservation systems, and that strategy actually worked, in that Sabena succeeded in attracting large amounts of connecting traffic. Unfortunately the yields on connecting traffic are far lower than those on O/D traffic and, because of too short connecting times, Sabena suffered huge losses because of large numbers of missed connections and the costs related to cleaning up these irregularities.

Apart from that, the European network was also suffering from overcapacity. In its drive to establish the hub and spoke network, with up to 6 daily waves of connecting traffic, Sabena felt obliged to 'complete' its hub by adding flights to destinations which didn't allow for 4 or 5 daily flights, and flew empty planes to destinations like Belfast, Sheffield, Warsaw and others, because there were simply too many flights in the system.

So, all in all, the European network was a loss-making venture as well.
 
vatry
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 2004 9:00 pm

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Wed Mar 30, 2005 5:57 pm

Also remember Sabena operating BRU-LGW-ATL with 741/743 in the 80's as a code share with BCal.
 
dstc47
Posts: 1253
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 1999 3:53 am

RE: Old Sabena Schedule

Wed Mar 30, 2005 10:26 pm

I suspect many European services were chronic loss makers, though there may have been revenue sharing or transit traffic reasons for some of the strange timings / routings SN had.

The political imperative to go to all places, and to Eastern Europe too, before the economic and political climate there opened up, even if little airline business was really there, must have bled money away from SN. The very mixed fleet was no help either, hardly any aircraft type SN did not have or hire in.

I recall one Sunday night service from Dublin out to Brussels, on a B737QC, - it must have been early 1980's.

Myself, my wife, and one other passenger were the SLF and there were two pallets of mushrooms up the front. The loaders spilled some of the mushrooms, which is the reason I can recall it still.