Bankruptcy-threatened Belgian flag-carrier Sabena has won a last-minute reprieve following a breakthrough in talks between the airline and its trade unions over the Blue Sky cost-cutting plan.

The scheme aims to save €350 million ($327 million), with €52 million to come from workforce cuts, of which savings totalling €27.5 million have been agreed.

Last Thursday's deal, which prompted Sabena's shareholders - the Belgian state and SAirGroup - to agree to continue operating the airline, followed a wildcat strike by Sabena pilots which appeared to move the airline towards the brink of folding. The strike was called off after management met with a Belgian Cockpit Association delegation amid a lack of support from other unions.

Sabena's shareholders have postponed until 23 February a meeting which will consider approving the €250 million recapitalisation of the airline, already agreed in principle but dependent on full workforce acceptance of Blue Sky for its final authorisation.

SAir, which owns 49.5% of Sabena, is also due to supply an extra €100-150 million of funding, and is separately due to increase its stake to 85% later this year, dependent on a treaty between Switzerland and the EU.

Source: Flight International