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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Airline resumes Sabena's African routes
SN Brussels Airlines plane
Brussels Airlines takes up Sabena's routes
Brussels Airlines, the carrier formed from the rump of bankrupt airline Sabena, has started flights to the Belgium flag carrier's former African destinations.

Sabena enjoyed an extensive network of lucrative routes to Africa, many to former Belgian colonies, and had developed a loyal customer base despite competition from rivals Air France and British Airways.


We chose the (routes) that were most profitable at the time of Sabena, (because) there were a lot of people using them and there's a lot of demand from African countries

France Nivelle
Brussels Airlines
The resumption of African routes by Brussels Airlines comes as a new Ugandan passenger airline, AfricaOne, prepares to launch at the end of April.

Kenya Airways, one of Africa's most profitable airlines, relaunched its Flamingo Airlines unit as a low budget airline on Thursday.

Fresh start

The first Brussels Airlines flight took off on Friday morning en route to Entebbe, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya, the first two of 11 planned African destinations.

"We chose the ones that were most profitable at the time of Sabena, (because) there were a lot of people using them and there's a lot of demand from African countries," France Nivelle of Brussels Airlines told the BBC's World Business Report.

Other routes from Brussels will include Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kigali in Rwanda, Dakar in Senegal, Banjul in Gambia, Conakry in Guinea and Monrovia in Liberia.

On 21 June, Yaounde and Douala in Cameroon as well as Luanda in Angola will be added.

Many have not been served since Sabena's bankruptcy in November last year, but some routes will not the resumed.

"Unfortunately we cannot do everything, there are a few destinations we won't be flying," said Ms Nivelle referring to Bamaco in Mali, Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Lagos in Nigeria, Lome in Togo and Abidjan in Ivory Coast.

Financial outlook

Three Airbus 330-300 aircraft and 50 pilots will be leased by Brussels Airlines from fellow Belgian carrier Birdy.

Brussels Airlines is reportedly still losing money and filling only about 40% of its seats, though it expects its new African routes will lift this by five percentage points.

"We are starting from a different angle with private investors, our cash position is much better than anticipated and our business plan allows for positive cash flow in the last quarter of this year," said Ms Nivelle.

Merger talks with Virgin Express, Sir Richard Branson's Brussels-based airline, failed earlier this year, but a year-long co-operation agreement was reached on eight routes.

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France Nivelle, Brussels Airlines
"Our cash position is much better than anticipated and our business plan allows for positive cash flow in the last quarter."
See also:

07 Feb 02 | Africa
Air Afrique finally goes bust
04 Jan 02 | Business
Nigeria Airways halves workforce
20 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Modernising Africa's skies
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