Newcomer Air Belgium has been granted its AOC and will launch flights between Brussels South Charleroi Airport (BCSA) and Hong Kong this April. The carrier will also take belly cargo, even if the runway at Charleroi puts some limitations on tonnage uplift.
Operation with Airbus A340 aircraft
The company will operate four Airbus 340s given back to Airbus by Finnair as part of a purchase deal. It will offer passenger services in three classes: economy, premium and business. In the start-up phase the frequency is four weekly flights, starting mid-April.
The company’s newly appointed spokesperson for cargo, manager Pascale De Mieter admits that the existing runway at the airport at Brussels South Charleroi Airport (BSCA) is too short for take-off at full payload. “This will not prevent us from taking belly cargo,” she says. “Ex Hong Kong that means up to 14 tonnes, conversely eastbound from Brussels South it will be 2 to 6 tonnes for the time being, depending on the weather circumstances and the number of passengers.”
According to the company’s information, a great deal of its staff have cargo backgrounds. Air Belgium has selected Alfa Airlines as its GSSA. “They too have the necessary experience in air cargo and they have given proof of their ability to go the extra mile with other airlines. The focus will be on volume (i.e. not too heavy) freight like courier, consumer products and pharma,” Mrs De Mieter states.
BCSA has embarked on a very ambitious growth plan that includes focusing on the handling of belly hold cargo. The core of the project is a runway extension from currently 2,550 m to 3,200 m. The airport may well be betting on the displacement of flights from Brussels Airport should BRU’s pending noise problem not be solved properly.
The reason why Air Belgium has opted for BSCA rather than Brussels International is in the fact that 12.5% of its share capital, € 20 million, comes from the investment vehicle SRIW of the regional Walloon government. Another 12.5% was invested by the Federal Participation Company.
Former TNT chief Terzakis at the helm
CEO Niky Terzakis, former helmsman of Liege-based TNT Airways, owns 20 percent of the shares. The rest of the shareholders, among which are Asian investors, have preferred not to disclose their identities. Terzakis is believed to be one of the driving forces of Air Belgium’s cargo strategy.
Brussels Airport’s Head of Cargo Steven Polmans says that he would have preferred to have seen the company touch down at ‘his’ airport. “It is logical that their long-haul passenger operations are linked to cargo. I do not think that this will harm our logistics platform in BRU. On the contrary: the cargo will come from BRU mainly, so this will offer additional connectivity for our clients.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels