The collapse came after the airline was unable to secure a cash injection of Pounds 229m needed to remain airborne yesterday. Doubts about Sabena’s future were cast last month when part-owner Swissair went back on its promise to give the airline Pounds 221m.
Besides problems linked with the September 11 attacks, Sabena has been trailing an outstanding debt of Pounds 1.2bn which it accumulated when the airline industry was liberalised in the 1980s.
It is thought that the Belgian government, which owns 50% of the company, might have come to Sabena’s aid, but it was unable to, due to European Union objections. Last month, the EU granted Sabena an emergency loan of Pounds 78m.
Belgian employment minister Laurette Onkelinx was reported on BBC online as saying the airline’s collapse was ‘an economic and social disaster’ for the country. He said Belgium could not escape debate about ‘responsibility’, but suggested that Swissair should be accountable for Sabena’s failure.
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