About Crossair :
They ordered 25 ERJ145s, 30 ERJ170s and 30 ERJ190-200s, mainly to replace their turboprop aircraft.
SR and SN both cancelled or delayed aircraft orders, but NOT Crossair !
IMHO, the Crossair orders will be divided amongst Crossair and DAT, so the "low-cost" operators can continue to grow.
Someone mentioned "Sabena wil SELL the 737s", but all these aircraft are placarded to be Leased or even Subleased, so unfortunately no cash to be found there.
A comparative study is now made to determine which aircraft will be withdrawn from the fleet :
1. Leasing costs
2. Operating costs
3. CREW costs
4. How many flights and destinations justify a A321 or B737-300,...
5. How flexible can they operate when keeping a mixed Boeing-Airbus fleet or operate with just one Boeing or Airbus fleet. ( fleet and crew scheduling )
6. How will the crews react and deal with the SN Business Plan ?! What are the risks in the social field ? What if DAT-crews go following the example of Comair-crews ? What will be the costs to keep a social peace ?
According to the standards, parameters and targets used in the study the result will show a withdrawal of approximately 10 Medium Haul aircraft from the joined 737-320 fleet.
One might think that crews and ground staff will unconditionally accept any Business Plan because SN is on the edge of, but :
SN is on the edge of.... for nearly eighty years now, so it's quite comprehensible that all SN-employees are kind of used to that "on the edge" feeling, and have become quite indifferent to the bad financial situation, information given by the management (be it correct or not) or even threats of closing the company.
Besides the employees that have become indifferent, there are also the ones that keep their eyes and ears wide open. They will also realize that :
1. Brussels ranks amongst the least expensive airports to operate from or for turn-arounds, and is the cheapest of all its neighbouring hubs (AMS, CDG, LHR, FRA). (source = AEA)
2. Fuel prices at BRU are LOW (Sabena tankers fuel on nearly all its EUR flights !) (again :AEA)
3. Gross wages ( Social Charges ) are known to be high in Belgium, but flight crews gross wages are not above the average of SN's European competitors.
4. SN cockpit crews are young (many retirements lately + Carreer plan + recent expansion of fleet). This means that crew wage costs are LOW at this moment.
5. Contrary to what some people think, SN pilots ARE productive : nearly all A320 pilots will simply bust their flat rate this year and end up with 700 - 750 hrs. (not bad at all !)
6. Cabin crews are taken advantage of in all sorts of ways : mixed sector flying, part-timers flying the same amount of hours as full-timers due to no "firewalls", starting crew members fly for free during 2 months ( so-called training, but in the meantime they are operated as fully-qualified ! ), wages are not very attractive (to use an understatement). Imposing cost savings measures is fine, but taking away people's dignity by takning away their crew meals and making them slice the lemons........ ( one can laugh, but in fact it's sad.)
7. Ground staff is also not well-paid, hence the last strike at the Technical department : Sabena had to increase wages of the youngest engineers by 10% to prevent the from leaving the company. Older colleagues were not really pleased with the measure, so : strike.
8. Contrary to how it should be : SN is still receiving financial support from the Government in what you could call "the Belgian way"....
9. Sponsoring, Publicity, Public Relations expenses are practically non-existant at SN compared to other Companies. (SN doesn't even ever wash its aircraft !)
10. SN's Medium Haul fleet is deployed with a rather high Daily Utilization Rate, due to short Turnaround times both in BRU as in outstations. Crew rotation is also often a limiting factor, indicating that crew scheduling is very well optimized.
11. Ground Ops staff has become more and more flexible over the past few years.
Many of the non-indifferent (remember ?) will conclude that if SN is not turning on profit now, the reasons for the continuous losses are to be found elsewhere, in the structure of the company itself, where many people still live like the company is state-owned. Maybe the "4.000 employees too many” figure is not very arbitrary...at least not what "office staff" is concerned.
So the explanation by the SN management that the low load factors are at the origin of the Business Plan is "very thin". This could very well turn out to be Another Plan to cover up the inefficient structure of the company. ("The management is not motivated, there are too many internal conflicts !")
By the way :
Some figures presented recently to the SN-employees are even false !
On some flights the so-called “optimum level of booking is even reached, so SN can improve revenues on those specific flights by 10% by applying upgrading.
Sabena has seen a “total international” load factor increase of 4.1 points in February as to Feb 2000. (European average 1.4, source AEA). A “Reutlinger-Brugisser”-effect with some inertia ?
The investments due to the Reutlinger-Brugisser strategy have nearly all been done, meaning the biggest costs have been made, so a continuation of the present strategy and operations shouldn’t be that risky at all.
Especially not if AA would step into the spotlight. Extensive talks between SN and AA at top-level both in DFW and SFO should be leading somewhere, shouldn’t they ?
“SN should increase its frequencies”
Is BRU airport able to cope with this ?
“SN needs to maintain or improve its quality image”
OK, but what about the Virgin operated flights to BCN, FCO and LHR ?
Concerning the “not motivated management” :
Some substitutions have taken place already, replacing "old crocodiles" by young and competent people (mostly, except for a few).
But there's still a long long way to go, and time is a big enemy, because the ones that feel their substitution is near can and will start working counter-productive, be it to claim their place or to get even with old enemies. This situation is far more explosive than one might estimate !
If by attempting a Tabula Rasa too fast you only take away the cloth and leave the dishes and cutlery and you will seriously damage the table ! A Tabula Rasa should be executed with a slow but firm movement of the arm.
Keep up the flying spirit and hang in there SN-crews !
A small note about the Crossair-orders to end with :
Crossair fleet is already outnumbering the SR Medium Haul fleet (84 aircraft/ 6.000 seats at Crossair against 41 Airbuses / 6.174 seats at Swissair), but with the latest orders of ERJs, they would end up with a 116 aircraft fleet with 10.000 seats ! (props gone). That's quite a lot, so I would say either they will transfer a bunch of ERJs to DAT, or either...they will also considerably reduce the Swissair Medium Haul fleet....!