Air Belgium successfully operates first long-haul flight departing from Charleroi
This morning, the first Air Belgium flight (KF851) landed in Hong Kong International Airport after 11 hours and 21 minutes flight time.
This first trip is still considered a “technical flight”, to control all the procedures and refine the final details.
The second flight will take off on Wednesday (6 June) and will be the real “maiden flight” and Aviation24.be will be on board to report.
The first commercial flight of Air Belgium took off this Sunday, shortly after 15:00, from the runway of Brussels South Charleroi Airport (BSCA) to Hong Kong. This trip, operated by Airbus A340-300 registered OO-ABB, marks the great start of the new Belgian airline, which had already operated in recent months a series of flights on behalf of third parties. For the BSCA, it is also a scoop: the first ever long-haul flight operated from Charleroi. The launch of Air Belgium follows a long-term work.
A technical flight before the maiden flight
Already in early 2017, CEO Niky Terzakis unveiled his plans in the press for the first time. The ambition was to fly for the summer of that year. But the procedure for obtaining an Air Operator Certificate(AOC) took longer than expected and the precious document was finally obtained last March. Meanwhile, Niky Terzakis announced that Air Belgium would be based in Charleroi and that the first route would connect the Walloon metropolis to Hong Kong. The inaugural flight was scheduled for April 30, but this project was also thwarted, for lack of an agreement to fly over Russia. The green light was finally obtained in mid-May, paving the way for Air Belgium’s first flight this Sunday, June 3rd.
This first trip is still considered a “technical flight”, to control all the procedures and fine-tune the details. The plane took off with only fifteen passengers on board while it can accommodate 257. The second departure from Charleroi, Wednesday, June 6, is considered as the real “maiden flight”. It will be accompanied by the usual ceremonies, both in Charleroi and Hong Kong. Aviation24.be will be onboard and at both ceremonies to report.
BSCA also has reasons to party. The launch of Air Belgium’s activities coincides with the advent of long-haul flights from the airport.
Investments in Charleroi
Between 30 and 35 million euros have been invested to lengthen the runway from 2600 to 3200 metres by 2021 – until then, Air Belgium’s aircraft will not be able to fly at full load – as well as 6 to 7 million euros for a new terminal, a lounge and a commercial area, among others. The two aircraft that currently make up Air Belgium’s fleet, two Airbus A340-300s, have not remained idle in the hangar in recent months. They allowed the Belgian airline to operate a series of flights for other companies, such as Surinam Airways, Air France, TUI and Condor. These flights represent more than 10,000 passengers carried.
During this month of June, Air Belgium will continue to operate flights for third parties. One aircraft will thus ensure flights all the month to Libreville (Gabon) on behalf of Air France. At first, the frequency of two flights per week between Charleroi and Hong Kong requires only one plane. A third weekly flight will be operated in July and even a fourth flight from October. Air Belgium hopes to add a third aircraft to its fleet this summer so that it can launch, “in the coming months“, a second destination to China. For now, the company employs a hundred people; it expects to triple that figure by the end of the year. Charleroi airport has created 50 new jobs