Air Belgium seeks to enter the US market

New low-cost long-haul carrier Air Belgium is planning to add flights to the US later this year.

The airline has filed an application for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit and Exemption with the US Department of Transportation, saying it wants to fly from Belgium to the US “as soon as governmental approvals have been obtained”.

A document lodged with the US government department added: “Air Belgium requests expedited approval of this application so that marketing and sale of the proposed services can begin without delay.”

It intends to start by operating Belgium-US charter flights before moving to scheduled passenger services. However, the document does not disclose which airports in the US it plans to serve.

Air Belgium, based at Brussels South Charleroi Airport, secured its air operator’s license in March and currently flies two Airbus A340s. It had a starting capital of €20m, divided among Belgian and European majority shareholders and Asian minority shareholders.

The carrier operated its maiden flight earlier this month after numerous delays pushed back its launch date.

It originally hoped to operate its first flight - from Brussels to Hong Kong - on 30 April 2018 but it failed to secure permission to fly over Russia in time. Booking issues with the Global Distribution System were also encountered.

Speaking ahead of the inaugural service, chief executive Niky Terzakis, previously of cargo airline TNT Airways, explained that the Hong Kong route would provide a springboard into the Chinese market.

Air Belgium said it hoped to add six destinations to mainland China later this year. However, it made no mention of trying to break into the North American market.

Capacity between Belgium and the US has decreased by 19 percent over the past five years, according to figures provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, although the number of available seats between the two countries nudged up by 0.5 percent from 2016 to 2017 to 1.15 million.

United Airlines had a 46.8 percent capacity share in 2017, followed by Brussels Airlines with 26.4 percent and Delta Air Lines with 21.8 percent.

Top five US cities from Belgium by O&D demand in 2017:

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.