Air Belgium, the Charleroi-based airline, hasn’t quite made as a ‘household name’ status yet and it’s already scaling back. Building a smart model on serving Chinese customers by flying between Charleroi and Hong Kong, the start up seemed on to a good thing. However after a couple of hiccups it looks like the airline just isn’t ready. Its one scheduled route has been shelved. So what happened and what’s next for Air Belgium?
Taking advantage of growing Asian demand
As we reported last month, China and South East Asia are struggling with a lack of trained pilots. Basically, the demand for flight in and out of Asia is exploding. Airlines are buying up flight schools in the US and Australia like Girl Scout cookies. So when Air Belgium opened up shop in 2016, only listing scheduled flights to Hong Kong, it wasn’t as crazy as it sounded. However, from the very beginning, it struggled with logistical issues. Running an airline is no mean feat, even a small one.
Its maiden flight from Brussels to Hong Kong was scheduled to take off in October 2017 – but due to the small matter of a lack of air operator’s certificate (AOC), this was postponed until two months later, in December 2017. But in the end, we didn’t see take off until March 2018. There had also been some changes made in that time. Originally, it was due to depart from Brussels Airport but lower airport taxes and easier accessibility saw them shifting to Brussels South Charleroi Airport.
Air Belgium stops flights to China
So it came as a surprise to some when the Belgian newspaper L’Avenir reported yesterday that Air Belgium plans to stop all flights to Hong Kong, and instead focus on their charter business. However, even from the beginning some have suspected how things would pan out. Several commenters have speculated that Air Belgium might be better off just focusing on leasing out their planes instead of running their own routes. After all it’s been leasing out since it began. But leasing planes isn’t quiet as prestigious as being your own airline with scheduled routes.
What planes does Air Belgium own?
The airline currently has four A340-300s all of which came from Finnair. Its scheduled flights didn’t put a lot of demand on these planes and it has been leasing out aircraft to other airlines, namely, Air France and British Airways. From now on, the airline will concentrate on this revenue stream.
So this Air Belgium charter isn’t really news?
CEO, Niky Terzakis, has always put a lot of emphasis on how much of Air Belgium’s revenue comes from China. Originally he said, 60-70%. And just a few weeks back, he said the airline would launch their next China route between September and November of this year. But as with all airlines and their CEOs, CFO etc, you have to realise, a lot of what they say is spin – designed to build investor trust.
So the story coming out of L’Avenir is surprising and unsurprising and we’re not sure Air Belgium have completely given up. Right now, you can still get flights on airbelgium.com. However… it’s hardly recommendable.