Air Belgium, once thought about to go bankrupt, has revealed that they might have a new route on the way!
A brief history lesson of Air Belgium
To clarify, Air Belgium is, in fact, the second airline with that name. The first ran for 21 years and then shut down in 2000.
Despite being launched in 2016, Air Belgium only began by running a single route to Hong Kong with four Airbus A340’s in 2018.
They had grand plans to expand throughout China, reaching to Zhengzhou from late September followed by Wuhan in October, and finally Taiyuan in November 2018. They would also offer transfers from local Chinese airlines (through Hong Kong) and possibly an extension (fifth freedom flight) onwards to Korea or Japan.
Unfortunately, almost right from the get-go things went wrong and they had to park the route one year in. This was mainly due to a lack of traffic, with the airline only reaching 60% filled seat capacity on average. They also blamed their Chinese tour partners who had promised to provide a certain number of tour customers.
“Under these conditions, Air Belgium is unwilling to carry out the winter program as initially planned and to endanger its financial position. In good faith we’ve tried to find a solution for our partner’s defaulting situation to date,” Belgium Air
Plus, their fleet of A340-300s are actually a bit out of date and incredibly fuel hungry. With four jets doing what two could do, they are not cheap to run. Combined with rising fuel prices this has made their running costs much higher than competitors.
To prevent massive losses in the more quieter winter months, they decided to park their planes. Naturally, this is pretty unheard of for an Airline to ground their entire fleet and made industry experts concerned.
The carrier also dismissed rumors that it was facing bankruptcy. The termination of the contract with Chinese tour operator UTour for the Brussels Charleroi-Hong Kong flights nonetheless affected Air Belgium’s situation. According to the airline, the tour operator failed to provide the agreed number of passengers and demanded too low prices.
They did find some business, however, leasing out a single A340 for British Airways (As a wet lease). They have been pretty quiet until recently when they signed a deal to be able to fly into mainland China.
We have been issued our Operating Permit by China's Civil Aviation Authority. A new milestone in the launch of our first China mainland service, to Zhengzhou, Henan. pic.twitter.com/NkNZ6zQhLx
— Air Belgium (@airbelgium_off) October 24, 2018
Could this be their new route?
The ink is just dry on their flying permission from the Operating Permit by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and already have annouched a route Brussels Charleroi to Zhengzhou in Henan province.
This route is a popular cargo route but currently has no actual passenger services. As China grows and has more international travelers, routes like these have the most growth potential.
They have not revealed any details about the route yet, but we can predict that it would be 3-4 times a week frequency, taking 10 hrs, 45 mins.
Whether or not this new route will be a scheduled route or a more on-demand service remains to be seen. Regardless of their direction, we love this new snappy airline that’s using big (inefficient) jets to find new (unknown) routes!
Do you think this is a good direction for the airline?