The close economic ties binding Belgium and Georgia are a natural consequence of Sabena Belgian World Airlines' status as the first foreign flag carrier into Atlanta, John L. Lindekens, the airline's vice president for its New York-based North-South America Network, told GlobalFax last week. Once you have an established air link the rest follows, he added.
Mr. Lindekens was in Atlanta to attend a reception commemorating the 20th anniversary of the first Sabena flight between Atlanta and Brussels on June 2, 1978.
The reception held at the Buckhead Club in the Atlanta Financial Center on May 14, coincided with the announcement that Delta would begin code sharing on Sabena's new flight between Atlanta and Brussels the next day.
Mr. Lindekens credited former President Jimmy Carter with facilitating the arrival of the Sabena flight to Atlanta, which previously had been blocked despite previous requests by Sabena to open an Atlanta flight.
He said that Sabena had had a profitable Atlanta office, which booked passengers on its flights out of Europe to the Holy Land, but that federal authorities turned down their requests for the Brussels-Atlanta flight. Sabena executives, however, persuaded then-Gov. Carter of the importance of the flight, which was allowed once he became president.
Passengers on the inaugural flight included Mary-Beth Busbee, wife of then-Governor George Busbee; then-Mayor of Atlanta Maynard Jackson, Peter White, president of the Southern Center for International Studies; Robert Shaw, the former conductor of the Atlanta Symphony, Milton Ford, the former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism (GDITT) and Louise Suggs, an international consultant with GDITT and an honorary member of the Consular Corps.
Sabena discontinued its flights in February 1991, because of financial difficulties, but joined with Delta in code-sharing between the U.S. and Brussels in June 1993.
Some 60 Belgian companies have a presence in Georgia, and Atlanta and Brussels are Sister Cities.
For more information, call Werner Boel, executive director, the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce at (404) 870-8085.