Sabena has taken a stake in Belgium start-up City Bird, adding a surprise twist to the low-cost carrier's flotation, and the airlines have unveiled a co-operation deal to cover new long-haul services. The listing had been delayed as news of the deal was released, but went ahead on 30 October, valued at around $40 million.

Sabena appears to have spent around $2 million on shares, with options on a further $3 million, giving it a share of around 11-12%.

The airlines will also codeshare on flights to new destinations Montreal, New York and Sao Paulo when they are launched on 1 May, 1998. The services will use two City Bird aircraft in Sabena colours flown by Sabena pilots, in a deal understood to have been worked out with the unions. Passengers will be ticketed separately and served by different cabin crews, however. Sabena appears keen to avoid a repetition of complaints from full-fare passengers flying on European routes taken over by no-frills operator Virgin Express.

City Bird says that the codeshare will represent sales of around BFr2.4 billion ($66 million) over 1998.o

Source: Flight International