What is the story of Sabena Airlines

Like a phoenix from the ashes: Brussels Airlines as the successor to the legendary SABENA

In 1923 the Belgian state founded the airline Société Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne, or SABENA for short, as the successor to its predecessor, SNETA, which was launched in 1919. The company initially offered cargo flights and from 1924 passengers were also carried.

The flight plan included European capitals and connections to the Congo, which was then a Belgian colony. In the following years the airline steadily expanded its route network and even during the Second World War, at least the important Africa connections were able to be maintained.

After the end of WW2, regular operations with DC-3 were resumed and the name was changed to SABENA - Belgian World Airlines. On June 4, 1947, a Sabena machine crossed the North Atlantic for the first time and landed safely in New York. SABENA joined SOBELAIR in 1949 and expanded its subsidiary into a charter airline.

With the independence of the Congo, numerous inner-African routes were lost, but the connections between Europe and the former colony remained an important line of business.

In the 1960s, the jet age began for SABENA with the Caravelle and the Boeing 707, which massively shortened flight times and increased passenger traffic. Subsequently, the Boeing 727 and the Boeing 747 were also procured.

In 1990 the airline changed its name to SABENA World Airlines and treated itself to a new design. But the (economic) times had changed and SABENA was dependent on donors - Swissair and Air France took part in the company.

By the beginning of the 2000s, the fleet was largely standardized on Airbus, but the attacks of September 11, 2001 plunged aviation in general into a deep crisis from which SABENA was not spared. At this point in time, Swissair already owed SABENA $ 84 million, but went bankrupt itself on October 2nd. Another heavy blow for SABENA. On October 3, SABENA finally had to apply for bankruptcy protection, the machines remained on the ground. The management tried hard to find new investors - in vain. On November 6th, the pride of Belgian aviation was finally insolvent.

Flight operations were continued on an interim basis via Delta Air Transport. At the beginning of 2002 the new start as SN Brussels Airlines took place.

The new beginning
SN Brussels Airlines (SN was the two-letter code of SABENA) emerged from the insolvent SABENA in February 2002. Its subsidiary Delta Air Transport (DAT) was separated from the company structure and from then on flew under the name SN Brussels Airlines. The aircraft wore a paint job reminiscent of SABENA with a stylized S on the vertical stabilizer. The new beginning took place with just 1,400 employees. Initially, only 29 European destinations were on the flight schedule of the "new old" airline, which was on the move with 32 regional aircraft.

The first flight of SN Brussels Airlines took place on February 15, 2002 from Brussels to Geneva and was carried out on the Avro Jet with the registration OO-DJS.

But as early as April 2002, in cooperation with Birdy Airlines (later taken over by SN Brussels), Africa was included again in the flight plan. Four years later, SN Brussels merged with Virgin Express and from then on operated under the name of Brussels Airlines, the livery was also adapted.

Today, 15 years later, Brussels Airlins serves 73 European and 21 intercontinental destinations. Africa is still an important market for Brussels Airlines. The fleet consists of 45 short- and medium-haul aircraft and 10 long-haul aircraft. The company now employs 3,500 people and, according to its own information, indirectly secures 11,000 additional jobs.

Lufthansa recently announced (Austrian Wings reported) that it would take over Brussels Airlines. The Belgian flag carrier will in future fly under the umbrella of Eurowings in the Lufthansa Group. In any case, the future of the airline with the blue-red tail unit seems to be secured.