Many in the airport ground handling scene will remember Alex Verougstraete as being a tough negotiator, but a fair partner and someone who held his business together with a strong
Alex Verougstraete passed away this month during a vacation in Oman. He was 78 years of age.
A family business which started in 1949
Alex was still a small boy when the Herfurth family founded Belgavia back in 1949. It was called Herfurth Air Service in those days and set up as a service provider for Herfurth Shipping at Deurne Airport, better known today as Antwerp Airport.
The company moved on into the handling business and in 1970 it was renamed Belgavia. It was during the nineties that Alex Verougstraete who was by then Chairman/CEO of the group decided to rename it as Aviapartner also with an eye on further international expansion.
During that period the strong growth expansion of Aviapartner really took off thanks to Alex’s strategic insight and determination to bring the company into the European airport handling scene as a reliable partner for airlines across the continent.
A strict guiding hand
Some might have said that Alex was not a person whom you could easily approach.
He was quiet but determined. Loyal to his staff and an honest negotiator, something which his business partners came to respect.
Aviapartner progressed under his leadership in Brussels and other European airports and offered a variety of services which included freight handling, aircraft ground handling, ticketing, passenger check-in services, inflight catering and many others.
In the mid-nineties, the Verougstraete family decided to sell a quarter of their shares to Antwerp-based Ackermans & van Haaren, an industrial holding company. In 2005 Aviapartner was sold completely to British equity company 3i.
By that time, Aviapartner was present in some 6 countries, 34 airports and 5,000 employees stood on their payroll.
Ground handling pioneer
At the same time, Alex at the age of 65 decided to step down and officially went into retirement. He himself said that he was not someone who would sit back and read newspapers or watch TV.
Until his passing, Alex Verougstraete spent a lot of his pastime on travelling the world, philanthropy and enjoying cultural events.
He was one of Europe’s ground handling pioneers, also bringing the independent and private ground handling companies together in a structured way. He will be sorely missed.
His body was flown by Etihad Airways to Brussels on February 15th where it was met by his old colleagues and friends at BRU.
Rest in peace Alex.
John Mc Donagh