Brussels-headquartered Air Belgium yesterday sent half of its Airbus A340 fleet into long-term storage in southern France. Air Belgium decided that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a decline in passenger numbers, that the two A340s were superfluous to its current needs.
The 12.5-year-old Air Belgium A340-300 registration number OO-ABD took off from Air Belgium’s hub at Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL) headed for Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport (LDE) in southern France yesterday. According to the Belgium aviation website Aviation24.be, the aircraft will be joined by sister aircraft OO-ABE and that the two planes would remain in France over the winter.
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The planes are not needed
When asked why the planes were being parked for the winter, a spokesperson for Air Belgium said,
“Given the reduced demand and current operational restrictions due to COVID-19, we have logically decided to differ maintenance and checks and temporarily park and store two aircraft for the winter.”
Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport is home to Tarbes Advanced Recycling & Maintenance Aircraft Company (TARMAC), a specialist in the long-term storage and recycling of aircraft. TARMAC also operates out of Teruel Airport (TEV) in Spain, where they can store up to 400 planes.
On TARMAC’s website, it says they offer the following services:
- The biggest aircraft storage capacity in Europe
- Aircraft & Engine maintenance provider (MRO) dedicated to your needs
- The world most innovative company in Aircraft & Engine recycling
Surinam Airways wet-leases from Air Belgium
The two remaining Airbus A340 aircraft OO-ABE and OO-ABB, are currently wet-leased by Surinam Airways on flights between Paramaribo and Amsterdam. Surinam Airways acquired a Boeing 777-200ER from Singapore Airlines last December to put on the Paramaribo to Amsterdam route but overlooked ETOPS certification problems. Four-engine aircraft like the Airbus A340 is certified to fly the 4,700-mile route, but twin-engine planes like the Boeing triple seven are not.
Paramaribo to Amsterdam is directly over the Atlantic Ocean, a long way from a diversion point. This means that the triple seven would have to hug the United States and Greenland until ETOPS is given, adding around three hours to the flight time.
The two Air Belgium Airbus A340s are also wet-leased by shipping companies to transport workers between Bergen, Norway, Cape Town, South Africa, and other destinations.
Air Belgium has canceled Caribbean flights
Air Belgium had planned to resume scheduled flights over the winter to the French-speaking Caribbean nations of Guadeloupe and Martinique. These plans and the launch of a new route to Mauritius have all been put on hold due to COVID-19. All four of Air Belgium’s Airbus A340s are leased from Airbus Finance and have an average age of 12.9 years.
Since Air Belgium came into existence in 2016, it has not had much luck operating as a regular airline but has, like in the case of Surinam Airways, been successful in using its planes for other airlines. Perhaps and especially now given current conditions wet-lease and cargo operations could be the way forward.
What do you think about Air Belgium’s decision to fly two A340s to Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport for storage? Please let us know what you think in the comments.