Air Belgium Announces New Routes, Airport Change

Filed Under: Other Airlines

My gosh, I can’t believe it has been almost a year since I’ve written about Air Belgium, one of the most unusual “real” airlines (to differentiate it from the likes of Global Ghana Airlines, for example).

What is Air Belgium?

For those of you not familiar with Air Belgium, it’s a Charleroi-based airline that started flying to Hong Kong in June 2018. The airline has four Airbus A340-300s that used to fly for Finnair, and the company’s initial plan was to operate those planes exclusively from Charleroi to destinations in Asia, with a particular focus on China.

Air Belgium A340

Long story short, the route lasted for a few weeks (and I was lucky enough to review it while it was around), because the business model was kinda whack. First Air Belgium delayed the Hong Kong route, then it operated the route temporarily, then it was suspended again, then it was announced that it would be returning, and then it was canceled again.

Air Belgium promised to move forward with other China routes, though that never happened.

After the failure with Asia flights, Air Belgium acted as a wet lease charter company. That worked great prior to this pandemic, when many airlines needed extra planes, and Air Belgium would operate flights on behalf of other airlines. The airline operated flights for British Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, and more.

Air Belgium business class

Then in December 2019 the airline launched flights between Charleroi and the Caribbean, specifically flying a triangle route to Fort de France and Pointe A Pitre. Understandably that route has been suspended due to the pandemic, and Air Belgium has focused on cargo flights in recent weeks.

Air Belgium will fly to Mauritius, switch airports

Air Belgium has now revealed its plans for the future:

  • The airline will resume its Caribbean triangle route as of July 15, 2020 (it has been suspended due to the pandemic)
  • Air Belgium’s next destination will be Mauritius, which it will serve as of mid-December 2020
  • Air Belgium plans to operate its Mauritius flight out of Brussels Airport rather than Charleroi Airport; it’s not yet known whether other flights will transfer airports as well
  • Air Belgium plans to fly to the Dutch Antilles and the United States as of 2021, though no exact timeline or airports have been shared beyond that

Air Belgium built a dedicated lounge at Charleroi Airport

Frankly this new business model makes more sense to me than Air Belgium’s initial business model. Somehow over the course of two years Air Belgium has gone from a Charleroi based airline focused on China, to an airline at least partly based in Brussels focused on popular island vacation destinations for Europeans.

While I imagine Air Belgium got significant concessions from Charleroi Airport, the concept of operating out of the airport never made sense to me (as I noted in a July 2018 blog post).

Charleroi Airport has a single runway, and it’s 8,366 feet long. That’s not terribly long for an A340-300 taking off on a long haul flight. Because of the runway length, Air Belgium had to limit the number of passengers and cargo capacity on flights, which is a non-starter for leisure routes that have questionable economics to begin with.

Air Belgium will fly to Mauritius

Air Belgium turned a profit in 2019

Rather impressively, in 2019 Air Belgium reported a €5.6 million pre-tax profit on €62.5 million of revenue. That’s pretty good when you consider that’s almost exclusively through wet leasing, since the airline didn’t have a business model for the year otherwise.

Bottom line

Air Belgium turned a profit in 2019 by focusing on wet lease arrangements. The airline will resume its Caribbean triangle route next month, will launch flights to Mauritius in December, and will fly to the US and Dutch Antilles starting in 2021 (though I remain skeptical of that). Furthermore, Air Belgium will at least transfer some operations to Brussels Airport.

I wonder how the airline will do financially when not operating flights on behalf of other airlines.

What do you make of Air Belgium’s latest business plan?

(Tip of the hat to @fotograaf)

  1. Boring Airline from a boring country which also happens to have the most boring capital in Europe. There really was a ranking for that. Look it up on Google.

  2. If that profit is correct, Air Belgium has a very high margin compared to most other airlines.

    @Real Alpha Male – I know you’re a troll, but for those who do not know I fully disagree. Brussels is a beautiful city with great restaurants and plenty to do. As for the rest of the country I have only been to parts of the Flemish side, but the beer, the food and the culture is great. Friendly people, too

  3. Brussels is nice when the EU parliament isn’t there. Otherwise, it’s too crowded and too expensive from all those expense accounts.

  4. I have not been to Belgium, but I have heard that Brussels is a bit bland for a European capital. Instead, I would visit Bruges a hidden gem of a city that is off the beaten path.

  5. Bruges is anything but a hidden gem. Full of tourists all over the year. Maybe a bit less so at the moment. As to the rest of the comments, Belgians are very happy with the constant underestimation of their country. Brussels doesn‘t miss American tourists. And well, you can‘t help those who seriously compare Belgian to British food.

  6. Belgium is a great country to visit. Brussels is fine, but the country’s charms are in its secondary cities and small towns. I’ve been lucky enough to do 2 beer themed cycling tours in the country. The beer is, of course, incredible, the food excellent, and the people very nice. Really enjoyed Liege, Mons and Dinant in Wallonia, and many of the cities in West Flanders such as Kortrijk and Ypres. The train system is extensive and efficient, and it’s such a great place to ride your bike.

  7. You called this back in the day Ben. However top marks to them for an ever changing model and actually turning a profit – more than can be said for some ( pre covid ) …..,

  8. Interesting that Air Belgium decided to start their new route to Mauritius at the beginning of rainy season. Hope this works out for them.

  9. Wilhelm is right and the troll (I’m pretty sure it’s singular) is wrong. I lived in Brussels for a semester doing research and I can vouch for the great food and even greater beer, plus chocolate, frites, waffles, and steaks. There is a lot of cool art nouveau architecture, lots of green space, loads of culture (it’s the capital of the EU so it’s an incredible melting pot, and many Belgians are quadrilingual), lots of history (Waterloo is now part of the Brussels suburbs), and good museums. Obviously it’s not a Paris, London, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, or Berlin (the competition is stiff in Europe!), but it’s a wonderful and affordable city I’d happily live in again.

  10. An interesting and fun story to follow on Air Belgium; their livery is gorgeous

  11. Reminds me a bit of a discount airline I flew to Brussels a couple times in the late 90s. I believe it was called Citybird, and one of my favorite things with them was (relatively) cheap “day-of” upgrades. By the way, I think Belgium is an amazing place to visit.

  12. Air Belgium will not leave Brussels South Charleroi for the simple reason that it has a 10-year contract with the airport. Furthermore, the single runway is being extended so as to accommodate long-haul aircraft.

  13. “Air Belgium plans to operate its Mauritius flight out of Brussels Airport rather than Charleroi Airport”

    Right there you’ve finally got a winning combination

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