Sabena stood for Societé Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne and was the national airline of Belgium from 1923 to 2001. Sabena had one of aviation’s oldest and best-known backronymic (back acronym) nicknames—“Such A Bloody Experience Never Again” was cited in print in 1962. “Such A Bad Experience, Never Again” was cited in 1978 and “Same Awful Bloody Experience Never Again” was cited in 1990.
The Societé Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne, or Belgian “Anonymous Society” for Exploitation of Air Navigation, better known internationally by the acronym Sabena, was the national airline of Belgium from 1923 to 2001, with its base at Brussels National Airport. After its bankruptcy in 2001, the newly formed SN Brussels Airlines took over part of Sabena’s assets in February 2002, which then became Brussels Airlines. The airline had its corporate headquarters in the Sabena House on the grounds of Brussels Airport in Zaventem.
14 October 1962, The Register (Danville, VA), “European Airline Initials Intrigue Overseas Tourists” by Erskine Johnson (NEA), pg. 8-D, col. 1:
They soon learn that BOAC means British Overseas Airways Co.; BEA is British European Airways, and that SABENA, in full, means Service Aviation for Belgium and the Netherlands.
And SABENA’s flight crews bristle when they hear the translation:
“Such A Bloody Experience Never Again.”
Google News Archive
2 April 1974, Youngstown (IN) Vindicator, pg. 3, col. 1:
Are Fodder for
By ROB WARDEN
CAIRO—The acronyms that airlines proudly use to identify themselves—TWA, MEA, BOAC, and so on—all have been translated into extremely uncomplimentary phrases by young Egyptians.
For instance, the Belgian Airline, SABENA: “Such A Bloody Experience, Never Again.”
The Wild Boy of Burundi:
A Study of an Outcast Child
By Harlan L. Lane and Richard Pillard
New York, NY: Random House
The cold and the cramped seats taught us the true meaning of Sabena: Such a Bad Experience, Never Again.
Google News Archive
15 February 1987, St. Joseph (MO) News-Press/Gazette, “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade,” Parade Magazine, pg. 2, col. 2:
Q. Have you heard in airline circles that Air France is referred to as Air Chance, that WAL (Western Air Lines) stands for “What an airline!,” that SABENA (the Belgian airline) is an acronym for “Such A Bad Experience, Never Again” and that ALITALIA (the Italian airline) stands for “Always Late In Takeoffs, Always Late In Arriving”?—H.J., El Segundo, Calif.
Modern Marketing Communications
By Frank William Jefkins
The Belgian airline Sabena even had its acronym converted into ‘Same Awful Bloody Experience Never Again’.