On Thursday, Air Belgium announced that it has had to delay the launch of its new long-haul flights to the French West Indies and Mauritius. The revision of the flight schedules is due to the authorities’ ever-changing travel restrictions in both Belgium and the destination countries.
Revised flight schedule to the French West Indies
In a notification issued on October 15, Air Belgium said it had revised its flight schedule to the French West Indies due to the COVID-19 health crisis. The Belgian government has classified Martinique and the islands of Guadeloupe as red zones. Being in a red zone means that either the Belgian authorities strongly discourage travel to the affected zone or the destination country’s authorities have prohibited non-essential travel from Belgium.
The islands’ authorities have made it mandatory for travelers to take an RT-PCR test on both inbound and outbound journeys. Visitors are also subject to many restrictions, including limited access to beaches and, in the accommodations that are open, reduced services. Air Belgium says,
“The daily evolution of the crisis in the islands drastically affects the arrival of travellers and makes our passengers’ journeys complicated and unstable for the days to come. Given this situation, we have to modify our flight schedules to the French West Indies.”
On the positive side, the indications are that, in the coming weeks, the islands will be welcoming visitors back. Air Belgium states that it will relaunch its flights on December 15, 2020.
Revised flight schedule to Mauritius
Shortly before Air Belgium was due to begin operating its first flights to Mauritius, the authorities decided to keep the island closed to tourists. Returning Mauritian citizens, residents, and long-term tourists are allowed to stay in Mauritius. However, they must undergo several RT-PCR COVID tests and comply with a strict 14-day quarantine in specific accommodations chosen by the authorities.
If the island does reopen its borders before the end of the year, the authorities have said that visitors would be subject to similar measures. Air Belgium says that travel to the island would be “extremely challenging, if not impossible” with these drastic and prohibitive conditions.
With the uncertainty over the reopening of Mauritius’ borders to tourists, the airline has delayed the launch of its flights to the island until March 30, 2021.
In addition to the coronavirus crisis, Mauritius, which is heavily dependent on tourism, is also coping with the clean-up operations after an oil spill. A cargo ship ran aground in July, spilling over 1,000 tonnes of engine oil in what was described as the worst ever ecological disaster in the Indian Ocean.
Air Belgium’s Caribbean plans thwarted for now
Air Belgium only launched its direct flights from Brussels Charleroi Airport to the French West Indies in December 2019. The airline even revealed a stunning new livery to celebrate the opening of the new weekly service.
In February this year, in response to double the expected demand, the airline announced that it would be increasing its flights to Martinique and Guadeloupe to twice weekly from November 20, 2020. But those plans have been put on hold for now.
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