In a statement issued today, Brussels-Charleroi Airport (CRL)-based Air Belgium said it is ready to expand its fleet with the arrival of cargo aircraft. During the summer of 2020, with airlines worldwide all grappling with COVID-19, Air Belgium announced that it looked into diversifying by carrying freight.
In its statement, Air Belgium said that it would soon introduce four cargo aircraft into its fleet and intends to have six cargo aircraft by the end of 2021. The first two planes are expected to be operational as early as March 2021 and will be based at Liege Airport (LGG).
About Liege Airport
Operating what it calls “The most flexible cargo airport at the heart of Europe,” Liege Airport is one of the few airports in the world that has done well during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. Located in the middle of the Amsterdam-Paris-Frankfurt golden triangle, 73% of all European air cargo passes through it. Offering a network of excellent uncongested motorways, Liege airport is less than a day’s drive from most major European cities. While focusing on air freight, Liege Airport can offer prices and facilities that much larger airports cannot match.
While acting as an essential link in the fight against the coronavirus, Liege Airport saw a 24% increase in cargo, going from 902,480 metric tons in 2019 to 1,120,643 metric tons in 2020.
When speaking about this on the airport’s website, CEO of Liege Airport Luc Partoune said the following in a press release seen by Simple Flying:
“2020 was the worst year for the global airline industry; COVID-19 had a significant impact on passenger transport. Alternatives to the transport of goods in the holds of passenger planes had to be found. There was a lot of pressure on full cargo planes, which are our specialty. We also transported large quantities of medical equipment to fight against the pandemic (masks, respirators, protection kits, etc.), so much so that we became the hub for the World Food Programme.
“The lockdown also had a direct effect on consumption patterns, which is reflected by a boom in the e-commerce sector, a sector which has become much more important to us as we have handled over 500 million packages this year, compared to just over 320 million in 2019.”
About Air Belgium
Before announcing its move into air freight, Air Belgium operated a fleet of four Airbus A340-300 aircraft. Concentrating mostly on competitively priced long-haul flights for business and leisure travelers. The majority of Air Belgium’s passenger flights are between Brussels and Pointe-à-Pitre – Fort-de-France in the French West Indies.
When speaking about moving into the air freight business and operating out of Liege Airport, CEO of Air Belgium, Niky Terzakis, said :
“In such an uncertain period, this is good news for the airline. We are delighted to be able to begin this diversification into the commercial and cargo sector, which my team and I know well. This will complement our existing passenger business, which has been severely impacted by the current travel restrictions. This demonstrates once again the resilience and flexibility of our airline’s development potential. As well as the ever-growing attractiveness of Liege Airport.”
Air Belgium should do well with cargo
While getting to air freight might sound like a good idea given the uncertain times we live in, Air Belgium has an ace up its sleeve. Before starting Air Belgium in 2016, Niky Terzakis was running Belgian cargo airline TNT Airways out of Liege Airport, so he knows both the cargo business and Liege airport very well. He was also the person responsible for transferring Dutch TNTs activities to Liege.
While no mention of what cargo aircraft Air Belgium plans to operate, there have been rumors of Airbus A330Fs as being the planes they want to use. Returning to his roots in Air Freight shows how Niky Terzakis and Air Belgium can easily adapt to market conditions.
What do you think about Air Belgium getting into cargo? Please tell us what you think in the comments.