In early December 2021, we announced that Air Belgium would launch Boeing 747-8 freighter operations in 2022. This development is taking place right now with the heavy involvement of the Hongyuan Group of China: the first pictures of the aircraft (see above) have appeared with the Hongyuan Group titles on the fuselage and the Air Belgium colours on the tail.
Hongyuan Group, headquartered at the airport economic area of Beijing Capital International Airport, would take over the 7.7% Air Belgium shares owned by Hong Kong-based Aviation Investment Holding and bring fresh capital into the company to reach up to 49% of the shares. The other 51% would remain in the hands of current Belgian shareholders (SRIW, Sogepa, SFPI, 3T Management – the company of CEO Niky Terzakis – and Sabena Aerospace) and the airline would thus retain its European status.
Hongyuan Group is a Chinese cross–border trade integrated service provider and in 2020 it has chosen Brussels Airport as the strategic location for its new European Headquarters, where it built an 8,000 m² warehouse. In October 2021, Hongyuan and Brussels Airport have signed a Memorandum of Understanding as strategic partners to further develop Brussels Airport as Hongyuan’s main gateway for general cargo and to develop e–commerce flows between China and Europe on the one hand and between Europe, the Americas and Africa on the other hand. Hongyuan already operates flights from China to Brussels, as well as to Liège where it has a 14,000 m² warehouse.
Two ex-Saudia B747-8F aircraft (HZ-AI3 and HZ-AI4) leased from Aircraft Finance Germany (AFG) under provisional registrations M-ABOV and M-ABOW are now integrated into the Air Belgium fleet to fly for Hongyuan Group. The first one already got Belgian registration OO-ABI. These two Boeing 747-8Fs will add in Air Belgium’s cargo fleet to the 4 Airbus A330-200Fs that the airline flies for CMA CGM Air Cargo.