In an announcement made on June 11, 2021, regional commuter airline Air Antwerp said it was ceasing operations. Best known for its three times a day service between Antwerp (Belgium) and London City Airport, the airline is almost certainly stopping operations due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Created following the demise of VLM Airlines, Air Antwerp obtained its flight license (AOC) in 2019. It took over the VLM Airlines route between Antwerp International Airport (ANR) and London City Airport (LCY). During its brief history, aviation data and statistics website ch-aviation lists Air Antwerp operating a single Fokker 50 registration OO-VLS leased from Swedish lessor Amapola Flyg.
LCY to ANR took just over one hour
Designed by Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker to be an improved version of the successful Fokker F27 Friendship in the early 1980s, the Fokker 50 operated by Air Antwerp was configured to carry 50 passengers.
The Fokker 50’s maximum range is range 1,080 nautical miles (2,000 km) at a typical speed of 286 knots (530 km/h). This is more than ample for the just over one hour, 191.3 mile (308 km) flight between Antwerp and London.
Looking at data provided by RadarBox.com we can see that Air Antwerp only operated a minimal number of flights between Antwerp and London in the fall of last year. Furthermore, the closure comes after Air Antwerp suspended all flights in March 2020 due to Belgian restrictions imposed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Air Antwerp was business travel dependent
Heavily dependent on people traveling for business, Air Antwerp could see the writing on the wall and knew that people flying for business would be the last sector to recover once a sense of normality returned. In a written statement carried by Belgian aviation website Aviation24.be, Air Antwerp spokesperson Yves Panneels said:
“The board of directors of Air Antwerp has therefore decided to completely halt the operational activities of the regional carrier and dissolve the company.”
In what will probably be the airlines’ last tweet, it posted the following message to its followers:
— Air Antwerp (@AirAntwerp) June 11, 2021
Air Antwerps’s nine employees were placed on temporary unemployment during the medical emergency and are now officially terminated following the airline’s closure. When looking back on the airline’s brief history, spokesperson Yves Panneels said;
“The first six months went very well, and until the start of the corona period, the airline was perfectly in line with the business plan.”
Air Antwerp, along with TUI fly Belgium, were the only airlines operating out of Antwerp International Airport (ANR), leaving the airport operators looking for someone else to come in and resume the City of London connection.
Why was there a flight between ANR and LCY?
Considering that Brussels Airport (BRU) is only a 32-minute drive from Antwerp other than for a business person’s convenience, it is hard to imagine why a flight between London and Antwerp is needed. While 32 minutes does not sound like a long time, factoring in additional transportation time for other airports demonstrates the convenience of the service.
Located in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, the Port of Antwerp is Europe’s second-largest seaport, after Rotterdam. Add to this the fact that London City Airport (LCY) is located in London’s Dockland just east of Canary Wharf and a flight between LCY and ANR makes sense. Besides its massive port, Antwerp is the center of the world diamond trade employing 30,000 people in a business that handles 84% of the world’s rough diamonds.
While it is a shame to see a niche airline like Air Antwerp fold up shop, they may not be the last victim of COVID-19.
Can you think of any other airlines that might cease operations this year due to COVID-19? If so, please tell us in the comment.