Air Belgium launches Mauritius in December; eyes new markets (US, Dutch Antilles) in 2021

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Air Belgium A343 OO-ABB at Gate 24 in Hong Kong © André Orban

Starting mid-December, Air Belgium will launch a direct flight between Brussels Airport, Belgium and Mauritius, the airline announced during a press event on Monday. 

Air Belgium announced the launch of a new destination, Mauritius, in mid-December 2020, from Brussels Airport with 2 weekly flights.

From 15 July, the Belgian airline is expected to resume its scheduled flights from Brussels South Charleroi Airport to Guadeloupe and Martinique islands in the French Antilles. Passengers will have to take a Covid-19 test in the 72 hours before the flight to enter the French overseas territories.

Air Belgium is also eyeing flights to one destination in the Dutch Antilles and to several airports in the United States not yet operated from Belgium, flights that are scheduled to start in 2021. Winter 2021 should also see Air Belgium’s network extend to Africa, “but no city already served by Brussels Airlines”, said Air Belgium CEO Niky Terzakis.

After 2021, the Belgian long-haul airline plans to develop its own fleet and launch many other routes and China won’t be “forgotten” but it will take some time before the airline opens these routes.

Airline service to the French Antilles was a success with a “really encouraging” start since December 2019 until the temporary stop due to the current outbreak. Half of the bookings done during the lockdown are for this summer.

Air Belgium will operate separate flights twice a week to both Pointe-à-Pitre & Fort-de-France from 20 November.

Q1 2020 results (compared to 2019), and Q2, Q3 and Q4 2020 will be severely impacted due to COVID-19, Terzakis told.

No employee will be furloughed, as the airline had revenues of €10.5 million in April and May 2020 with cargo and repatriation flights (the airline is still operating a cargo charter service from Cambodia to Belgium). Furthermore, employment should increase with the plans for the future.

For 2019, the airline posted an adjusted EBIT of €5.6 million for total revenues of €62.5 million. “A remarkable reversal after the catastrophic financial year 2018,” added Terzakis.

Air Belgium has signed a commercial agreement with Air Caraïbes, allowing its passengers to fly to Saint Lucia and Saint Martin islands.

We are going to serve the market where it is located according to the customers, Terzakis said, as he was asked the reason why Brussels was the starting point of the new route and not Charleroi. “We are a Belgian national airline”, saying that the airline could be active from the different airports in Belgium if needed. “However, this in no way diminishes our desire to continue our development in Charleroi“.

The CEO would like to compete with the flights from Paris or Amsterdam, or indirect flights from Brussels (via Emirates’ Dubai hub), and offer a more direct way for travellers to go to La Réunion (a French island located close to Mauritius).

Eventually, the airline took the opportunity of the massive grounding to develop its own services, including on-board WiFi, to let passengers enjoy the in-flight entertainment system from their own devices. Furthermore, “itsme”, a mobile app for Belgian citizens to verify their identity online will be used “to simplify check-in and transactions”. Many other ways to pay will be made available in the future.

 

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