Belgian Skies Wide Open for ET Cargo

The governments in Brussels and Addis Ababa have reached an aviation accord. Ethiopian Cargo could profit most from the deal. It enables the carrier to offer scheduled services from Brussels or Liege to third countries. However, the airline has not reacted to the deal so far, confirming their departure from Maastricht and returning to Brussels.

Boeing 777Fs are ET Cargo’s main workhorses on flights to/from Europe  -  picture: ms
Boeing 777Fs are ET Cargo’s main workhorses on flights to/from Europe - picture: ms

Rumours started early last week that Belgian and Ethiopian aviation officials were in advanced discussions to reach a bilateral air service agreement (ASA). Last Friday the first smoke signals went up, indicating that both delegations had reached a breakthrough. Meanwhile, the Office of Belgium’s Minister of Transport has confirmed the deal.

The ASA’s main content:
A carrier, registered in Belgium, is allowed to use Addis Ababa as platform for international flights to targeted destinations. Conversely, identical traffic rights are given to an Ethiopia-licensed airline in Belgium, which, as things currently stand, can only be ET.

ET Cargo’s Belgian flights were all charter ops
The accord might end an internal Belgian controversy in which Ethiopian Cargo was pushed into the role of victim. A controversy about traffic rights, where the integrator TNT pressed the start button, by objecting to any political intentions allowing ET Cargo to operate line-haul flights to third countries out of Brussels Zaventem Airport. Hence, in the past all ET flights out of Brussels and Liege to places like Dubai, Shanghai or Hong Kong were granted, only in part, on an ad hoc basis by the Belgian aviation authorities.

From BRU to MST …
Finally, last November ET Cargo got tired of being part of the intra-Belgian quarrel on liberalized traffic rights. Consequently, the carrier decided to exit Brussels and utilize neighbouring Maastricht Airport in the Netherlands instead. A sharp drop of tonnage was an immediate consequence for the Brussels airport in the aftermath of the move. 

TNT is out of the game
However, due to the imminent takeover of TNT by FedEx, times have fundamentally changed. This, because TNT had to sell its own fleet as a precondition set by the EU competition watchdogs to wave the FedEx deal through. No longer being a Belgian operator there is no substance to any of TNT attempts to block a more liberalized traffic regime in Belgium.

… and now back to BRU?
Meanwhile, the operator of the Brussels Airport confirmed to CargoForwarder Global that their management is talking to Ethiopian Cargo about a return to the airport. Notwithstanding, no further statement was given at this time, about the current state of the debate.
The carrier declined the opportunity to comment.

Heiner Siegmund  /  Michael Taweel

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