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Sabena (Belgian Airlines System)

Société Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne

Last modified: 2003-01-18 by ivan sache
Keywords: sabena | airlines | star (yellow) | cross: saltire | airplane |
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[SABENA flag]by Mark Sensen

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History of SABENA

Sabena was founded on 23 May 1923, and opened its first scheduled service between Brussels and Strasbourg (France) in 1924. Scheduled services were further opened to London, Paris and Amsterdam.
The first successful flight between Brussels and Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) occurred in 1925, and a scheduled service between these two cities opened in 1938 (56 hours of flight).
In 1947, the first transatlantic service to New York was opened.
In 1953, SABENA was the first airline in the world to launch an helicopter scheduled service, between Brussels and the European capitals.

In 1964, SABENA carried for the first time more than 1,000,000 passengers in a year.
In 1969, a scheduled service to Tokyo was opened. Then followed scheduled services to Montevideo and Santiago (1974).

Due to increasing financial problems, SABENA signed a partnership agreement with Air France in 1992. Air France withdrew in 1994.

In 1995, SABENA signed a partnership agreement with Swissair, which took a 49.5% equity holding.
In 1998, SABENA was among the founding members of the Qualiflyer group, created by Swissair. Swissair increased its equity holding to 85%.

In 1999, SABENA carried for the first time more than 10,000,000 passengers in a year and served 165,000 flights (83.1% in Europe, 6;6% to Africa, and 9.2% transatlantic).

In April 2001, the fleet included 12 long-haul aircrafts and 66 median-haul aircrafts. SABENA has 11,000 employees and 1,500 more in outstations.

Source: SABENA website

Ivan Sache, 12 July 2001

Description of the flag

In 1973, SABENA adopted its current logo, a stretched blue S on white, which was put on a blue field.

Variant of the flag

[Variant of SABENA flag]by Mark Sensen

A variant shows a white airplane in the upper right corner and the words 'belgian world airlines' in white below the emblem.

Mark Sensen, 12 July 2001

Old flag of SABENA

[Old flag of SABENA]by Mark Sensen

The triangle on the hoist red, on the fly black, the upper triangle blue with a yellow fivepointed star, and the lower triangle yellow.
Source: K.A.Ivanov [iva71]

Mark Sensen, 17 March 1996

[Old flag of SABENA]by Vincent Morley

I found a drawing of an old Sabena flag in I.O. Evans, The Observer's Book of Flags [eva63]. The proportions appear to be 8:11 and the yellow of the star is brighter than that in the lower segment of the flag. I think the symbolism is fairly obvious, combining the Belgian colours with those of the Congo.
I'm not convinced that the design is similar enough to that of Burundi to have inspired the latter.

Vincent Morley, 3 November 1997

[SABENA, 1936]by Mark Sensen

[SABENA, 1963]by Mark Sensen

Congo-Kinshasa (later Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo) became independent in June 1960, and the yellow star was dropped from the flag in 1963.

Source: Michel Lupant Flaggenmitteilungen [fbn] no. 100, 20 July 1984.

Mark Sensen, 12 July 2001