Belgian flag carrier Sabena is attempting to follow Swissair's example of resurrecting itself through its regional subsidiary.

Delta Air Transport (DAT) took over Sabena's slots following the latter's collapse in early November and started serving 35 routes. Mirroring Crossair's rescue of Swissair, the Belgian Government is trying to persuade local business leaders to invest in the new entity.

Although the European Commission (EC) allowed a €125 million ($110 million) bridging loan to be transferred from Sabena to DAT, arguing that the Belgian Government's aim is still to rescue the airline, future funding remains uncertain.

The c200 million of new funding for DAT includes substantial input from Belgian regional development agencies, and it remains to be seen whether this will prove acceptable under EC guidelines on state aid. Brussels-based Virgin Express, which operated codeshare flights for Sabena to destinations including London, has agreed a similar deal with Sabena/DAT under a temporary arrangement. It has also held talks about closer co-operation.

Virgin Express has stepped up its operations at Brussels in the wake of Sabena's collapse as have a range of other carriers. Austrian Airlines, British European and Lufthansa have all added capacity, while Air France is doubling the peak-hour rail capacity it takes between Brussels and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Ryanair is adding services out of Charleroi Brussels South. The low-cost airport is confident of attracting at least one and maybe two Boeing 737s from Ryanair in addition to the two that already operate from there.

The future of Brussels International airport meanwhile, is less clear. About 50%of traffic was generated by Sabena, and a spokesperson says that it is too soon to judge the full effect on the airport. "It all depends on whether we have a home carrier or not," he says.

Source: Airline Business