SABENA HAS STARTED discussions with struggling Antwerp-based regional VLM over a possible collaboration pact. Both airlines deny that a take-over or equity injection is on the agenda.

Some observers, however, question the motives of Sabena, suggesting that its co-operation strategy is a ploy to keep the small independent out of the Belgium-Switzerland market. Routes between the two countries are expected to be liberalised following Swissair's acquisition of a 49.5% stake in the Belgian flag carrier. VLM has already applied for the Antwerp-Zurich route.

VLM, founded in February 1992, has recently undergone financial and operational restructuring, which included a capital injection and the cessation of two of its routes to Liverpool in the UK and Hanover in Germany. Its only routes now link Antwerp and Rotterdam with London City Airport, using Fokker 50s.

Source: Flight International