Belgian probe blames Swissair for Sabena collapse

Sabena's collapse was a major embarrassment for the Belgian government Keystone Archive

A Belgian commission into the demise of the country's national carrier, Sabena, has firmly laid the blame on the management of the former Swissair Group.

This content was published on January 30, 2003 - 17:45

The damning report says Swissair's failure to honour its commitments towards Sabena, in which it held a 49.5 per cent stake, directly led to the carrier's collapse in 2001.

The parliamentary commission's 323-page report also blamed the Belgian government - the majority shareholder - and Sabena executives for mismanagement and for failing to defend the carrier's interests against Swissair.

However, it steered clear of holding specific people responsible.

Sabena went bankrupt in November 2001, resulting in 12,000 job losses.

Just a month earlier, the Swissair fleet had ground to a halt after fuel suppliers refused deliveries in retaliation for unpaid bills. Switzerland's flagship carrier finally collapsed in April 2002.

Disastrous decisions

The commission's report, released in Brussels on Thursday, said Swissair had acted in "bad faith" when it pressurised Sabena to purchase 34 new Airbus planes that it did not need.

Commission spokesman Servais Verherstraeten said the Swiss carrier had put its own interests ahead of Sabena's with "catastrophic" consequences for the Belgian carrier.

Swissair also "failed to honour its pledges" to increase its stake in Sabena, leading a cash crisis, which finally drove the heavily indebted airline into the ground.

"Sabena's strategy was aligned to the business plan of the minority stakeholder and not to its own," the report said.

Legal action

Last week, the Belgian minister of Public Enterprises, Rick Daems, said he was considering launching a lawsuit against former executives of the Swissair Group.

Daems's widely publicised comments came a day after Ernst & Young published a damning report into the collapse of Swissair.

It said the grounding of the Swissair fleet in 2001 could have been avoided had the management kept a proper grip on the carrier's finances.

Daems said the findings supported Belgian claims of management incompetence at the airline.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

A Belgian commission has accused the Swissair Group of starving its flagship airline, Sabena, of cash and pushing it into bankruptcy.

Swissair held a 49.5% stake in Sabena, which collapsed in November 2001.

The Belgian findings come a week after Ernst & Young blamed management incompetence within Swissair for the Swiss carrier's collapse.

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