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Sabena pilots accept airline rescue package

The future of Sabena is set to be decided on February 23

(Keystone Archive)

Pilots of SAirGroup's Belgian subsidiary, Sabena, have accepted a plan to rescue the company.

At an extraordinary meeting, the airline's 1,100 pilots voted to accept a deal with management on a SFr79 million ($47 million) restructuring plan. Sabena's owners say the plan is essential if Sabena is to stay airborne.

Up until Saturday, the pilots had rejected the savings plan proposed by the management of the airline.

If the restructuring had not been accepted, Belgium might have witnessed the biggest financial disaster in its history. The lack of additional funds would also have meant insolvency.

Both Sabena's management and the unions had been under pressure to reach an agreement before an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders on February 23. Discussions at the meeting are due to focus on a badly needed recapitalisation plan.

Sabena has planned to cut 700 jobs and reduce salaries. The company hopes to save SFr531 million with the restructuring.

Switzerland's SAirGroup currently holds 49.5 per cent of Sabena, while the Belgian state owns the rest.

Sabena's future is inextricably linked to that of the SAirGroup, which is also in the process of re-examining its activities following a disappointing performance from its airline business.

SAirGroup has ceased to invest more money in buying or increasing stakes in other airlines, and decided to invest further in Sabena if unions approved the restructuring programme.

Under the restructuring plan, SAirGroup and the Belgian government are to invest SFr386 million into the carrier.

swissinfo with agencies


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