Posts: 534
Joined: Fri Feb 18, 2000 6:07 pm

'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 19, 2000 4:45 pm

In an article from december 7th in a Belgian financial newsmagazine, TRENDS, the future of Sabena is predicted to be very very bad. Without any measurments, Sabena's losses for this and next year will be 23 Billion BEF (around $5OO million). Sabena needs 9 billion BEF in cash to survive, whether SAir, which owns SN for 49,5% or the Belgian government, which owns the rest (untill SAir takes a participation of 85%) will have to give this money is not decided yet, though rules of the EU do not permit direct support from the government any more.
Some employees of Sabena blame SAir for the losses, saying that the SAir group disadvantages SN. They give the example of the Brussels-Johannesburg route on which SN looses 1 Billion BEF a year. The flight from SR in Zurich leaves earlier than the Sabena flight so that even with a transit flight BRU-ZRH passengers arrive earlier in Johannesburg with SR than with SN. By planning their flights in this way, SN cannot make the flight succesfull because it has the competition from within the group.
Other charges made are that SN has to lease aircraft from SAir leasing company Flightlease but these leases are more expensive than at other leasing companies.
Sabena has agreed with his employees to have an audit to investigate the money flows from Sabena to SAir. This investigation will be done by International Pilot Services Corporation.
The author of the article says that Sabena is virtually falliet and that the future for Sabena, with or without the proposed measurments, doesn't look good. Let us hope he is wrong.
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 19, 2000 6:09 pm

Still wondering why Qualiflyer is unsuccessful and falling apart?
Fortuneately, Austrian Airlines pulled out before Swissair could tighten the grip on them. This is not an alliance of equal, it is a one-way road for Swissair's profit only.
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 19, 2000 6:12 pm

Sabena as the only major airline for Belgium won't go down. However it may be reduced in certain ways.

It's extensive african network is probably the best in the world and it is unlikely this will be discarded.

What SN needs is a strong alliance base. If it (along with Swissair) joined Oneworld it would gain the advantage of global coverage which it does not currently enjoy as well as the benefit of greater patronage on its stromg routes such as regional Europe (through DAT) and Africa. For example there may be a huge Britain-Africa market which BA could tap into through Sabena and Oneworld.
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 19, 2000 7:20 pm

Sorry, but losses at Sabena can not be in SAir's interest at all. When you own 45.5 % of an airline (and have the intention to buy up 85 %) you want it to make money and not losses.

RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 19, 2000 8:49 pm

Ah, Sabena - Such A Bloody Experience, Never Again. So true.

In many ways, it's a problem of Sabena's making, not SAirs. That said, SAir has an unfailing ability to pick 'dog' airlines that cost them lots of money - SAA, Air Liberte (which burnt BA big time), AOM and now possibly MAS and Turkish.

The level of customer service and positive customer culture is abysmal at SN, which dates back to their government ownership. Employees were virtually guaranteed jobs for life, and it showed in poor service and arrogant monopolistic attitudes. This still happens - the case where they sued CityBird for operating BRU-FIH on behalf of a Congolese airline is a perfect example.

At the same time, this attitude problem is not merely a Sabena one, as anyone who has flown Virgin Express will attest. Disputes with the pilots and other staff are common, and meant that VEX Ireland was unable to be allowed to market its services! In turn, this is one of several reasons why VEX Ireland is now being sold off by Voyager Group. In the meantime, the VEX operation simply devalues the Virgin brand.
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash/to Ceilidh

Tue Dec 19, 2000 10:30 pm

When have you flown Sabena for the last time Ceilidh? I hope recently so you have the right to comment on Sabena like this. I hope to read your last trip report here very soon to proove whether Such a Bloody experience never again is true. My experience with Sabena has been very very good, better then Virgin, better than average in Europe. So can we please have your most recent trip reports with SN? Thanks.

RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 19, 2000 11:45 pm

I flew them last three weeks ago - the flight was delayed by 3 hours, baggage was mishandled, staff were rude. I ran a regional airline in Central Africa based in BJM which provided feed for SN through KGL and EBB, and we had staff travelling on them weekly - invariably there would be problems with pax reservations. SN bumps the lowest fare pax, but tells them that there are full fare seats available.

Over 10 years ago, we operated codeshare cargo flights ex OST with SN to West Africa, South America, the Middle and Far East - we had major problems with them then, too. At least though we used to get ID tickets - which was more than we ever got from them in Burundi!

RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Sun Dec 24, 2000 10:29 pm

Unfortunately I wouldn't believe anything that Ceilidh claims after his little defrocking as a liar and charlatan on this forum. One day it's "hello I'm an airline CEO", and the next it's "hello I'm a lawyer". Trashcan the criticism of other Ceilidh.

RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Mon Dec 25, 2000 12:22 am

A330 - quite right ... one shouldn't generalise and I apologise if it appeared that I did so.

Actually, we're not all rude and drunk.  

As I said earlier, despite the fact that we provided SN with feed fro its pax to both EBB and KGL, we never got as much as one ID90. As we were sending VAL shipments to BRU, we had a weekly courier on SN - and we would frequently have problems with his ticket. Unfortunately, there was no other simple way for us to send the shipments direct to Belgium - otherwise we would have used them. As for myself, I invariably traveled on KQ via NBO.

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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Mon Dec 25, 2000 12:41 am

This is an endless problem... I think Sabena is in real danger but it has everything to succeed : A good fleet, a good geographical position in western Europe, a good hub in Brussels which has a good potential (even though for me AMS is better).
When SR decided to take control of SN it was in the view of having a strong position in the European Union and not to make the charity for Sabena. With such views you can't succeed in improving a company's financial situation... As A320FO said it is a one-way road for Swissair's profit only.

I Therefore think the best way to succeed for Sabena would be to withdrawn from SAirgroup's grasp and enter OneWolrd with only a strategic alliance with BA. No Stake. But it is too late to do so.
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Mon Dec 25, 2000 1:15 am

I am working as a student for SN for 3 years and I can see the improvement regarding customer services (tkx to Sair). But I also think that the Qualiflyer Group "is a one way road for Swissair's profit only"
I really don't understand why SN drop BRU-JNB route! I think this flight is nearly full every days. And if I'am wrong what about a frequencies reduction? Because SR has a twice daily flight to JNB (an MD-11 and a B743 operated by SA)!!!!
And now Crossair is likely to take over loss-making SN short-haul routes!!
Anymore future for SN??

«Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae.»

RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Mon Dec 25, 2000 1:52 am

SN has been looking at various alliances for many years now - nearly 20 in fact! I remember very well one of the first ones, with BCal back in the mid 1980s which was originally supposed to have been a full merger but simply ended up as a codeshare between BCal and SN on the BRU-LGW-ATL route with an SN 747.

According to friends I have at SN (and DAT) the biggest problem is with the staff - they understand the problems, but like those at Eastern are prepared to see the company collapse before any restucturing/paycuts will be permitted.

SN is not the only Belgian airline with these problems - VEX has them as well.
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 26, 2000 9:21 am


It's been obvious from various previous posts of yours in these forums, that you're in the business of making rather feeble statements with the sole purpose of provoking. Even in your replies, disguised as apologies, you continue to insult people.

I'm not going to spend any more time or energy on this than to say I am personally rather growing tired of it. I'm sure you couldn't care less about that. All I can say is, IMHO, any CEO with a bit of class would at least have the common sense not to make bold statements on other airlines. Aviation professionals (in the true sense of the word) usually share that common sense, not to mention respect for eachother's efforts.

So forgive me if I chuckle and leave things at this. It is obvious you're trying to start another riot. I don't know how many people will be tempted this time, but I will not be one of them. Never have, never will be.

Have a nice day,


RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 26, 2000 8:24 pm

Tristar - not at all! All that I am doing is offering my own personal perspective. As someone who has been around in this industry considerably longer than you have - and who has dealt with the highest levels of SN management - I feel qualified to make these observations. Your own post reflects what I have been saying here about Belgian attitudes in general - instead of being constructive, you're attacking the messenger.

FYI, CEOs of airlines - and every other business - do spend a fair amount of their time discussing the competition!

Perhaps you might rather care to state exactly why you think SN is a great airline; the benefits it offers potential investors/alliance partners; and the reasons you feel it will be around in say five years time?
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 26, 2000 9:41 pm


Needless to say, I am very impressed by, not to say overwhelmed with, your expertise in aviation... Really, Ceilidh, I will not be tricked into making statements about your past - simply because I don't know anything about it, and I have no interest whatsoever in judging whatever you may or may not have accomplished.
It's still sad to see you have a wholly different view on that, not realising what the best part of the world in general and the aviation industry in particular does know. While SN is still officially government owned, the government can no longer guarantee the jobs of the people working for the company. Then again, I can understand you have a much clearer view on the contracts we sign than any of the actual employees - that does make sense.

I think you may not have fully understood my point about how aviation professionals don't seem to trash competition in public. You cunningly replaced that verb with "to discuss". While it may be a neat trick, it doesn't work for me. And you will certainly not get me to discuss corporate information in a public forum - nor in private, for that matter. With all your aforementioned expertise, I'm sure you know employees have a certain set of rules to abide by, not discussing their company - even in the event their pride doesn't keep them from doing so.
Hence I find it insulting that you would even ask me to do just that.

Furthermore, I am not impressed by your blunt attack on my people in general. If you want to turn to insulting an entire nation, that's your prerogative. I will, however, join my colleague A330 (whose post seems to have vanished from the thread at this particular time) and react to that no further.

Again, you are very much showing yourself the better man. I'm sure you will come back with an amazing post in reply to this, however I have no intent to feed your display of hateposts any further. I'm sure you will consider that a victory, which tells us more about your attitude than it does about mine. (I don't even have to wonder how you will make that sentence sound.)

In closing, it's too bad you can't show the slightest respect for hard working people who have never judged you or your writings - let alone your activities in general. It leaves me wondering what exactly your goal is with making appearances in this forum.
Not that I will spend much time pondering on that.

With that, I have spent more time on this thread than I care for.
Have a nice day,


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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 26, 2000 10:48 pm

As an ex- Sabena employee, I think my opinion might be valuable.

On the employee point of view, it was a real disaster and definately shuch a bad experience never again.

Now on the passenger point of view, I never had any problem flying on Sabena. I've been bumped off the plane only once in JNB, and this because I had an ID90 ticket which is normal. I never had important delays nore luggage lost. I travelled many many many times with them and I think they are offering a average good service. Sabena has changed in the last 5 years since the SR takeover, that's a fact. a limo but with wings

RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Tue Dec 26, 2000 10:50 pm

TriStar - Hateposts?!?!?    - I am absolutely staggered that you could possibly even begin to call my observations 'hateposts'!!

I certainly was not asking you to impart confidential information - I was simply observing that as a cabin crew member with Sabena you obviously have your views on the company and I was inviting you to share them with the rest of us. We have, after all, shared our views on your company with you.

This is a discussion - it is not, to use your term, a 'trashing'.

When I observed that your comments - as shown again in your latest post - are demonstrative of Belgian attitudes in general this was a specific reference to the attitudes of personnel with VEX. I won't comment on those of CityBird staff, because I have had no direct experience with them - though I have had dealings with their senior management as well.

The general concensus of posters on this thread - and others dealing with SN - is that there is a very serious customer relations problem that is apparent at all levels of SN. I have personally encountered this on numerous occasions - from Pierre Godfroid down (you probably wouldn't remember him - he was no doubt well before your time!) . To balance things, I would agree with Gaut that SAir's training programmes are having some effect - but I suspect it is a case of too little, too late. There is at all levels an unwillingness to listen to the constructive comments of others - and instead an attitude of "we're right, you're wrong - no further discussion".

Regrettably, your own postings appear to reflect that attitude.

What, apart from its positioning at BRU, does SN have going for it? It has a very expensive fleet subleased in from SAir who - once again - are stripping out profits; it has overpaid staff and very high social costs. All of these factors translate to a crippling overhead that will be likely to wipe out the company in the recession we're moving into at the moment. In order to survive, SN needs to find itself a new parent that wants to transform the company into a viable independent entity and not take it for as much as it can through aircraft leases, reservations, revenue accounting and other systems; FFPs etc. In order for it to make itself attractive to such a company, it needs to reduce both staff numbers and especially its employment costs - just ask how much money the A330 flight deck crews are making, for example!

Will it be able to do this?

I hope so - but it is, in my opinion, highly unlikely.
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Wed Dec 27, 2000 12:51 am

The Sabena crews are earning less in terms of bring-home money than the collegues flying the same equipment for UK airlines. (I am referring to FO salaries).
It must be said that the flight hours are below the European Average (the BCA will kill me for that) but this enhances the overall safety of the operations.
Furthermore, In Belgium, we are not able to write-off our loan from the taxman, so we are left with a salary about the same as a cabin-crew member. (42.000bef. every month to the bank...) half the salary that is!

Sabena has changed remarkably the last 5 years, and this is mainly thanks to the very hard work of the Sabena employees, who have seen a continuous decrease in salary ( a couple of years ago with 17%) and I can tell you that SN pilots earn a very modest pay compared with some other Western companies (including Cal. Wings, I visited the site and was impressed about your wage-scale, Ceilidh,). Reason for this is the very high taxation by the Belgian gov., so Sabena is helpless about that...

By the way, how is Caledonian Wings doing, CEO?!


RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Wed Dec 27, 2000 1:55 am

A330 - I agree with you about the very high taxes imposed in Belgium - but the problem is not about your take home pay, it's about the gross pay and social costs that have to be paid by Belgian companies. At the end of the day, it's this overhead that makes companies uncompetitive - and this is one of the reasons why Virgin tried to get around it with VEX Ireland; and why Swissair wants to 'expatriate' Sabena crews.

How much are Captains earning on the 330s? I heard that was a seriously high number!
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RE: 'Sabena : Waiting For The Crash

Wed Dec 27, 2000 2:43 am

If the BRU-JNB flights were really, as reported in this thread, always full, one may wonder whether they were not sacrificed to the development of SR's Zurich hub. If the problem of this flight was a too late arrival, it seems SN should have been able to fix it, rather than stopping flying to JNB. Now, JNB will be a surprising absence on SN's extensive list of African destinations, perhaps something the next management of SN will need to rectify?

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