Air Antwerp now have an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and are ready to start service. As such, the carrier has today announced the commencement of their first route; Antwerp to London, which will launch on September 9th. The route will be served using a 50 seat Fokker 50.
Startup Belgian airline Air Antwerp has successfully gained its AOC and is ready to start flying next month. As such, it has made its first route announcement, which will be from Antwerp to London. But not London Heathrow, nor even Gatwick. No, Air Antwerp is looking to bring its passengers right to the heart of England’s capital, flying into London City with a retro-cool Fokker 50 aircraft.
CEO of Air Antwerp, Johan Maertens, commented in a press release,
“Obtaining the AOC is an important milestone in the early history of our airline. I gladly take the opportunity to thank our team for their dedication and professionalism with respect to the preparation and handling of our AOC application. My sincere appreciation and thanks also go to the teams of the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority and the Federal Public Service Mobility for the excellent collaboration during the application process.”
Set up as a joint venture between KLM and CityJet, Air Antwerp is starting it’s career with just one Fokker 50. It’s predecessor, VLM, used to serve the London City – Antwerp market, but ceased trading in August 2018. Air Antwerp’s Fokker carries the registration OO-VLS, undoubtedly in a nod to the forerunner airline.
Meet the Fokker
While it’s always nice to see a new airline starting out, when its one that operates somewhat out of the ordinary aircraft, we get even more excited. The Fokker 50 is a turboprop plane, made in Holland (although the wings were made in Belgium) in the 1980s and 90s.
The original launch customer of the type was Ansett Airlines of Australia. Other commercial airlines who once operated the type include TAAG Angola, Austrian Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Iberia and Norwegian Air Shuttle.
In 1996, however, production of the Fokker 50 was terminated. The manufacturer had gone bankrupt, and as such, the last new Fokker was delivered in 1997. At more than 20 years old (at their newest), the Fokkers are a rare breed of passenger plane.
Today, just a handful of operators remain. Alliance Australia is thought to still have five in service, Swedish Amapola Flyg has 13, and Air Panama has two. There are also a few thought to be hanging around Africa with various leasing companies, as well as some in the Middle East – Iran in particular.
Air Antwerp’s first aircraft, and the one which will serve this new route, is a Fokker 50 registered OO-VLS. The aircraft has something of an interesting history, having been around since 1990. It was originally manufacturer for Ansett Australia themselves, but was never taken up. It headed instead to Lufthansa CityLine as its first operator, after which time it spent years with Iberia’s Air Nostrum, Belgian VLM, Irish CityJet and even Amapola Flyg in Sweden.
While the Fokker is no A220, and won’t promise a particularly quiet or comfortable ride, it’s incredibly exciting to see it coming to London City. With the youngest of these aircraft now over 20 years old, the chances to fly this pointy-nosed beast are going to be few and far between in years to come.
Flying into London City
Landing at London City Airport is not for the faint of heart. Described by some pilots as like trying to land on an aircraft carrier, with a steep approach, short runway, water all around and often horrific turbulence.
As such, there are only a handful of passenger planes which can land at the airport. These include the Bombardier Q400, the ATR 42 and 72, various Embraer regional jets and the Fokker 50. The Airbus A220 has also been approved for London City, and is already operated there by Swiss Airlines.
For passengers, it’s the best airport in London. Located right in the heart of the capital, just six miles from the City of London and even closer to Canary Wharf. It’s a firm favorite with business travelers looking to get to and from meetings without massive transit time involved. Clearly, this was a strong reason for Air Antwerp to launch this as their first route, as Maertens said,
“Business travellers will finally be able to fly again from the centre of London to Antwerp. Also for the Antwerp business world – in particular, the diamond industry and the port community – it is good news that there is again a direct link to the London Docklands.”
The new service will launch from September 9th, 2019, and will be the only direct service between London and Antwerp. Previously, Flybe operated a route from Southend to Antwerp, but will be cutting this service from a week before the launch of Air Antwerp’s service.
The route will be serviced three times a day in both directions. The schedule, as it stands, looks as follows:
- Departing Antwerp 07:10 and 14:15 Monday to Friday and at 17:35 Sunday to Friday, arriving respectively at 07:15, 14:25 and 17:40.
- Departing London City at 07:45 and 14:55 Monday to Friday and 18:10 Sunday to Friday, arriving respectively at 09:45, 16:55 and 20:10.
Air Antwerp has already put in place a codeshare with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. As such, tickets for the route can be bought from next week at both www.airantwerp.com and www.klm.com.