Air transport has its critics, very occasionally with at least a little justification, but what cannot be denied is that the ability to connect the globe and all its people, is one of humanity’s greatest achievements.
Belgium’s former national carrier Sabena was one of the pioneering airlines of Europe, with a long and distinguished history. Like many of its contemporaries however, it was also state-owned and as that history shows, while national ownership can bring some benefits, it also has, or perhaps had, disadvantages as well. One of them was a strong tendency towards a feeling of self-entitlement. Another was an inability to adapt to changes both at home and abroad, which meant that state-owned airlines made big losses rather than profits.
This might have been acceptable, to a degree at least, in the days when there was no competition and a sense of national pride was more important than merely making money but such a view requires costs to still be manageable since the bills were paid by taxpayers.
The lowering of competitive barriers across not just Europe but elsewhere also, combined with an entrenched and essentially unalterable way of doing things led to Sabena’s downfall (along with a number of other historic airlines).
Rising from the ashes was today’s Belgian national carrier, Brussels Airlines. It is a much leaner, more efficient and cost-conscious business than its predecessor and is now one that connects the country’s capital to 122 destinations, twenty-four of them in Africa, often considered to be a second home. Besides Africa, Brussels Airlines offers more than ninety destinations in Europe, three in North America plus Tel Aviv and Mumbai.
The company has over 3,900 employees and forty-eight aircraft operating some 250 flights daily, flying more than nine million passengers a year to, via and from Brussels Airport. Brussels Airlines now combines competitive fares with the highest service quality on board its Airbus A319, A320 and A330 aircraft. The airline also has some of the most colourful A320s anywhere with special liveries commemorating the Belgian National football team, Police Detective Maigret along with his cartoon counterpart Tintin plus the Smurfs and Tomorrowland.
With yearly changing Belgian Star Chefs, its wide offer of Belgian food and drinks and the five Belgian Icons, Brussels Airlines is an ambassador of its country, bringing the world to Belgium and the best of Belgium to the world.
Text © Kevan James, photography © Brussels Airlines