Belgian newspaper L’Avenir has learned that Air Belgium, whose only current route connects Brussels South Charleroi to Hong Kong, intends to stop this scheduled connection at the end of September and to focus on ACMI flights, such as those it is operating now between London Heathrow and Abu Dhabi for British Airways.
After a long delay due to the late delivery of an AOC and the lack of authorisation to fly over Russia and Siberia, Air Belgium took off from its base in Charleroi to Hong Kong on 2 June with Airbus A340 aircraft. It hoped to fill its planes with Chinese tourists visiting Europe and with European businesspeople, but apparently, the route failed to attract a sufficient number of travellers, well below the yearly 500,000 passengers the airline hoped to carry. The planned frequency was initially four weekly flights, but after a slow start at two weekly flights and an increase to three, it was recently again reduced at two weekly flights.
The increased competition (Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Brussels, Hainan Airlines from Shenzhen to Brussels) and the recent typhoon in Hong Kong might also have played a role in the Air Belgium decision.
However, the main reason seems to be the lack of reliability of the Chinese tour operator UTour, which failed to bring the promised number of travellers. In the expectation of another tour operator, flights to China are suspended but might resume next summer season, in April 2019.
Air Belgium wanted to also launch flights to three cities in mainland China, respectively in September (Zhengzhou), October (Wuhan) and November (Taiyuan), but this plan might be temporarily shelved.
In the meantime, Air Belgium is currently using some of its four A340-300 aircraft by operating scheduled flights for Air France and British Airways, after Condor, TUI fly, Surinam Airways, and others.