Herman De Wulf/BRUSSELS

Sabena is to make further reductions in its route network as it seeks to stem record losses which it is estimated will reach a record Bfr7 billion ($163 million) in 2000.


The Belgian flag carrier, in which Swissair parent SAirGroup has a 49.5%interest, revealed some network restructuring in late 2000. It says flights to Johannesburg and New York Newark will cease this month - three months earlier than planned (Flight International, 5-11 December).

The re-organisation will also see scheduled services to a number of European destinations terminated, some of which have only recently been introduced. Bergamo (Italy) will be dropped this month as will tourist destinations such as Palma de Majorca (Spain), Ajaccio (Corsica), Jersey (Channel Is-lands), Funchal (Madeira), Porto Santa (Cap Verde Islands) and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Although these routes traditionally have high load factors, Sabena says that they are losing money on them because the market insists that its scheduled fares are as low as charter ones.

The network downsizing follows several years of expansion at Sabena with annual growth rates in excess of 15%, which some observers believe was too fast. The unions are becoming uneasy about the restructuring, with pilots and cabin crew particularly concerned about redundancies.

Concerns are being fuelled by recent management changes which have seen several executives removed, including chief of flight operations Captain Jacques Drappier. He has been replaced by a retired air force Colonel, Jacques Waldeyer, who was previously in charge of Belgian Air Force operations.

As such, he needs to sit civil aviation exams to be qualified for his new role at Sabena.

Source: Flight International