Will Sabena ride again?

As SN Brussels prepares to merge with Virgin Express and operate under a single brand in autumn, bets are on to guess the new airline’s name (see also http://www.luchtzak.be/article11492.html). And, with SN retaining rights to the Sabena name, there’s talk that the moniker might ride again. But some might question the wisdom of associating with a bankrupt carrier.

When the original Sabena finally gave into the inevitable and declared itself bankrupt in November 2001, it became Belgium’s largest bankruptcy ever. SN Brussels emerged from the embers of the ill-fated Sabena and joined forces with Virgin Express in October 2004. The combined group is edging into profit, with 2005 revenues of €946 ($1,200) million and net profit of €12 million. 

Airline Business caught up with SN recently and asked if there was any truth in the rumours the new carrier could use the Sabena name. According to an official press release, the new group name and corporate identity would be announced at the appropriate time to “minimise customer confusion”.

But we weren’t to be deterred by such corporate-speak and pressed the SN spokesman for more details about the new identity. Apparently a name has been decided but it wouldn’t be revealed until autumn. And yes, SN Brussels admitted that Sabena remains a possibility for the merged carrier.

Though SN was evasive on its future identity, it was more than happy to promote its new Airbus A330-300 which had completed a scheduled service from Africa that morning. SN now has a total of three of the type, and is looking to double this number within the next two years as it focuses on its long-haul routes. The aircraft feature SN Brussels’ revamped in-flight product, including lie-flat beds (pictured) in business class.



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