Rebounding Air Belgium is bucking the trend, turning a profit in April and looking optimistically towards the future. In mid-December this year, it is launching a new route to Mauritius, and come 2021, it is eyeing new transatlantic destinations in the United States and the Dutch Antilles.
Relative newcomer hybrid airline Air Belgium is eyeing new destinations westwards, rather than the Asian routes it had initially intended for its four A340 aircraft. The Brussels-Charleroi-based carrier says it is planning to fly to the United States in 2021.
While it has not specified any destinations in particular, it is not planning to enter into North American competition with its compatriot.
“…but no city already linked with Brussels Airlines”, Air Belgium CEO Niky Terzakis said on the matter, according to Aviation24.be.
For 2021, Air Belgium also intends to launch a route from the Belgian capital to one destination in the Dutch Antilles. Prior to that, however, the airline will, if all goes according to plan, launch a new twice-weekly service to Mauritius from Brussels Airport in mid-December 2020.
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Partial change of airports
Although the Mauritius flight will operate from Brussels Aiport rather than the airline’s base at Charleroi, there is no plan to switch homes entirely. The CEO said that his carrier was going to “serve the market where it is located according to the customers,” but that this in no way diminishes its desire to continue developing operations from Charleroi.
Beginning July 15th, Air Belgium will resume its Caribbean triangle route, flying from Charleroi to Martinique and Guadeloupe in the French Antilles. The service, which was launched in December 2019, was quite successful, and the airline had plans to expand it from once to twice a week before corona happened.
April went surprisingly well
Despite having flown only cargo- and repatriation-flights during the current outbreak with subsequent travel restrictions, no airline employee will be furloughed as a result of the crisis. The airline even had revenues of €10.5 million ($11.8 million) in April and expects employment to increase as a result of future plans.
The April results were part of an ongoing profitable trend for the airline, which managed a massive turnaround last year after a disastrous 2018. For 2019, it reported a €5.6 million ($6.3million) pre-tax profit, with revenues totaling €62.5 million ($7.4 million).
Wet-leasing after failed bet on Hong Kong
The turnaround came from focusing on wet-lease agreements for airlines including British Airways and Sun Express. Before that, Air Belgium had failed rather epically to get its regular long-haul routes to China up and running. After delays in securing overfly rights from Russia along with other issues, it inaugurated it service to Hong Kong in June 2018, only to cancel it four months later.
The carrier promised it would bring back its China flights in due time (apart from Hong Kong, it was also planning to launch services to Beijing, Shangai, Xi’an, Wuhan, Zhengzhou, and Taiyuan). However, while CEO Terzakis said, according to Aviation24.be, that China would not be “forgotten,” no mention of specific routes or timelines has been made.