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Aviation: Brussels Airlines

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.