Uncertain times for Brussels Airlines staff, and for Brussels Airlines CEO Bernard Gustin : on Monday at 13:00, a meeting of the Board of Directors of SN Air Holding will be held in Frankfurt and in addition to the future integration into Eurowings, there is another and important item on the agenda: a management change.
It is no longer a secret that Lufthansa wants to integrate Brussels Airlines into Eurowings by 2019, but it was not yet known to what extent.
The Brussels Airlines CEO would like to keep the hybrid model (bizz&class / flex&fast / light&relax / check&go on short- and medium-haul flights and business/economy plus/economy on long-haul) together with the Belgian touch (Belgitude), and have Eurowings adopt that business model, but, according to financial newspaper De Tijd, Gustin was, on a previous board meeting in November, brutally silenced by Carsten Spohr, the Lufthansa CEO.
The newspaper added that the chances are very likely that Brussels Airlines will be compelled to adopt the Eurowings low-cost model. Brussels Airlines spokeswoman Wencke Lemmens explained to financial newspaper L’Echo: “We are going through a one-year analysis phase, and Monday is not D-Day.” Another source added: “Of course there are tensions as we are at a turning point in our history.”
It was learned this afternoon that CEO Bernard Gustin and his number two, Chief Financial Officer Jan De Raeymaeker, received a letter announcing the end of their contract with Brussels Airlines.
According to information received by La Libre Belgique, Lufthansa wants a radical change of management within the company. Thorsten Dirks, the boss of Eurowings, told the two Belgians that he wanted to end their contract. The German boss has offered them to sign a document on the terms of this end of their contract, which they have refused. “We made them understand that there was no question that the Germans do this on their own,” says a source familiar with the issue. “In Belgium, there are rules of governance and this type of decision must go through the Board of Directors. The Germans have accepted this principle.”
As a result, the Directors of the company are called Monday at 13:00 in Frankfurt. On the agenda, this change of management and the terms of the end of the contract of the two Belgian managers. The case seems a done deal because the Belgian Directors are a minority (four against five Germans) and have no veto right since January 1 this year. This decision should be endorsed Monday since a simple majority is enough. “The Germans have played the trick,” said a source.
Bernard Gustin, whose turnaround of Brussels Airlines has been lauded internationally, and Lufthansa did not have the same views for several weeks. The Belgian boss wanted to maintain his successful “hybrid” model, while the Germans intend to integrate the European network of Brussels Airlines into their low-cost subsidiary Eurowings while keeping the African flights operated by Brussels Airlines.
More news next Monday, 5 February.