Air Belgium has announced it will be increasing the number of flights on offer from its base at Brussels Charleroi airport to Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. Starting from 20 November 2020, the airline will offer two weekly flights to both Fort-de-France and Pointe-à-Pitre. Currently, it only offers one to each destination.
It’s safe to say that everyone was a little confused when leasing airline Air Belgium announced last year that they would begin to offer direct flights to the Caribbean. The airline was making a success of itself by leasing its aircraft; British Airways was one of its biggest customers using Air Belgium’s Airbus A340s in place of the grounded Boeing 787.
Eyes were peeled to see how successful the new routes to the Caribbean would be for the airline. Especially considering the airline was forced to scrap its Hong Kong routes, as its wet-leasing operations were clearly more successful. These new Caribbean flights would be the airline’s only flights operated under its own name.
But what they got wrong in Hong Kong they appear to have gotten right this time. Initially, the airline tested the Caribbean waters by offering one flight to Martinique and one to Guadeloupe per week for the winter 2019 season. However, at the start of October, they quickly announced they were extending the schedule to include the summer 2020 season up to 5 September.
The new schedule
Now, before the summer season has even begun, the airline has announced it will begin offering two flights a week to both Fort-de-France and Pointe-à-Pitre for winter 2020. The current route includes a triangular, non-direct return connection between the islands. This has been changed for the new schedule which will have direct return flights. Tickets for the new flights go on sale today.
The new routes to both destinations will have three services: Business Class is the most expensive starting at €1,739 return; Premium Class begins at €739 return; Economy starts at €401 return. All classes will get food and have individual entertainment screens.
The new schedule, which starts in November, looks like this:
According to Air Belgium’s press release, the demand for flights from its Brussels base has “more than doubled” since the airline initially announced flights to the Antilles. The destinations had not been accessible directly from Belgium before the Air Belgium routes.
Clearly the success of the Caribbean routes is making Air Belgium think carefully about their next move. The airline confirmed that it will continue to “develop its activities and will soon be announcing its new destination.” Exactly where that new destination may be, is not currently known.
What will be interesting to watch is what Air Belgium decide to do with their aircraft. The airline has a small fleet of just three Airbus A340s. Previously, the airline leased aircraft to other airlines due to ongoing problems with the grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners. As the leasing operations come to an end, the airline now has more aircraft at its disposal to operate new routes.
The airline also recently secured a loan from investment fund Sogepa. The extra €1.9 million comes in addition to the €4million loan Sogepa had already given the airline in August 2019. The new money may well give the airline the boost it needs to open new routes, buy new aircraft and move away from wet-leasing altogether.
What do you think of Air Belgium’s future? Where do you think their next destination will be?