|Quoting A330DAT (Reply 13):|
It is not for nothing that Sabena had chosen to operate (in MD-11) precisely to this city. I will not get into details why the sabena flights were not a success but it was mainly for two reasons:
1) The lack of a decent marketing campaign on the part of Sabena to promote the region
2) The boycot of Varig who forced Brazilian travel agencies not to sell Sabena tickets. Sanctions would be for Varig not to pay commission on it's own flights.
Since I know this story a bit closer, let me say this:
1. the start of BRU
operations was ill-advized to put it lightly. Actually, it wasn't advized at all, and came out of nowhere just like the arrival of the 2 MD11s came out of nowhere. Sabena didn't really need these planes, but once then CEO Paul Reutlinger himself arranged for these 2 birds to joing the fleet, they had to fly somewhere, obviously.
The choice was made for EWR
, because of the Citybird cooperation was was due to take place on the route (SN/Citybird codeshare) but which later fell through because of the veto of then codeshare partner Delta. Furthermore, Sabena decided to restart YUL
- not a bad choice either, seeing as how the frequency of BRU
quickly increased from the initial 4 flights to daily.
Nevertheless, a new route had to be found for the 2 remaining roundtrips of the MD11 fleet (7 EWR
+ 4 YUL
+ 1 spare left for 2 open rotations) and the powers that be came up with GRU
just about two months before the opening of the route on May 15, 1998. The decision to open GRU
should be seen in light of the then attitude of unrestraint growth at Sabena - the same attitude which also brought the 34 A32S frames into the airline.
With about six weeks to go, someone then launched the idea of codesharing the route with VASP, and that's what happened, but there was no support from VP
at all for the Sabena operated flights, as that airline was only concered with filling up its own 4 flights at BRU
Strangely enough, the entire GRU
adventure was embarked out without any help of Sabena-partner Swissair, which at that time had daily operations at GRU
and might have been some help. To the contrary, Swissair was handled by RG
, whereas Sabena was in bed with VP
Obviously, two months doesn't even come close to the amount of time one needs to effectively start selling a flight. Add to that the Sabena started GRU
operations in the low season, and the VP
, as said before was concerned only with filling up its own flights, and the virtually empty flights came as no surprise.
Even after the initial couple of months, the flights remained empty, though, and crucially, Sabena failed to attract any high yielding traffic because of its twice weekly frequency. VP
didn't attract any C-traffic either, but VP
flights went full anyway with Brazilians. The SN
-operated flights also suffered because of the commercially less interesting daylight southbound sector.
Little surprise then that Sabena decided to cut its losses after a year in favor of additional YUL
2. With respect to your second point, that is factually incorrect and I will consider it one of the many Sabena myths. According to the then Sabena country manager Brazil, Roger Verlinden, the main problem with the flight was the lack of cooperation of VP
and the absence of any marketing efforts on behalf of Sabena. There were never any issues with Varig, let alone that there would be a boycott. On the contrary, towards the end of the Sabena operations at GRU
, when the flight was often canceled, SN
rather than VP
to reroute its passengers, because the service standards of VP
were so abyssmal.
All in all, I would say that there was no particular reasoning behind Sabena's opening of GRU
let alone any kind of marketing research. The route appeared for no reason and I suspect that there was even some motive of grandeur and personal pride on behalf of the then management at SN
whilst making this ill fated decision.