Air Belgium Grows Fleet, Expands Cargo, Passenger Services
Air Belgium will further expand its fleet over the course of 2022, with increasing emphasis on cargo.
The Charleroi-based operator has, as predicted by Aviation Week Intelligence Network in December 2021, acquired a pair of Boeing 747-8F freighters to add to its previous all-Airbus fleet of passenger and cargo aircraft.
The airline, headed by TNT Airways veteran Niky Terzakis, launched in summer 2018 and initially specialized in long-haul leisure services, notably to the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe using a small batch of Airbus A340-300s.
However, this meant that it was particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and opted to branch out into freight services to keep its head above water. The airline acquired four ex-Qatar Airways Cargo A330-200Fs, which have now been joined by the two 747-8Fs, which were formerly operated by Saudia.
The current fleet also includes one remaining A340-300 and two A330-900s, which are replacing the older four-engined type.
By the end of 2022, the fleet is expected to grow to 11 aircraft. This will consist of the two 747-8Fs and two A330-900s, two of the A330-200Fs, three -300Fs (planned to arrive in June, September and year-end) and two passenger versions of the A330ceo.
Since 2021, the ex-Qatar Airways freighters have been operating on behalf of French all-cargo start-up CMA CGM Air Cargo. That contract is scheduled to terminate by the end of 2022, leading to the changes in the A330 fleet.
The airline, which also undertakes ACMI and on-demand charter work, plans to turn its focus to passenger services once again as pandemic restrictions ease.
An additional Caribbean destination—Bonaire, a Dutch island possession off the coast of Venezuela—will be added. Meanwhile, there will also be flights from Brussels to Johannesburg and Cape Town, together with a service to Mauritius. There will also be flights from Charleroi to the French Caribbean islands.
In 2023, the airline plans to make use of the increased range of its A330-900s to start flights from Belgium to the U.S., but destinations have not yet been revealed.
Air Belgium’s largest single stakeholder is Chinese logistics company Hongyuan, which holds 49% of the shares. European Union (EU) regulations prevent a non-EU entity from having a majority shareholding in an EU company. The remaining 51% is split between several government entities from the Walloon region of southern Belgium, Air Belgium management and Sabena Aerospace.