Flemish socialist party sp.a has called for the closure of Antwerp airport at Deurne after the airport’s main operator, VLM Airlines, announced on Monday it was cutting all scheduled flights other than those to two destinations: Zurich and London. Both are important business destinations: Zurich as a centre for the diamond trade from Antwerp, and London (for the time being) as a financial centre.
VLM has had a storied past: set up in 1993, it went bankrupt in 2016. However it came back to life just a year later, and made its first flight from Antwerp to London City airport. Later, as well as London and Zurich, it flew to Rostock in Germany via Cologne/Bonn, to Maribor in Slovenia via Munich, and to Manchester, Birmingham and Aberdeen in the UK.
According to spokesperson Yves Panneels, the scheduled routes have not produced the results expected, but the company has received a number of interesting charter offers, which scheduled flights have prevented it accepting because it has only five propeller-driven Fokker planes.
The aim is to transform the company into a charter airline, which will make little difference to the 100 or so staff currently employed, he said.
Now Antwerp socialists have seized upon the decision to press their claim that the airport is an unnecessary expense. “The use of the airport for tourist flights is a luxury for people from the Antwerp region, that can hardly be defended when there’s a national airport barely 40km away,” said local party chair Tom Meeuws. “The point is, we’re unable to get the airport at Deurne to turn a profit. The Flemish government is paying a private company a lot of money, some €120 million, just to keep the airport open.
The money would be better spent on improving mobility in the city for everyone, he said. Meanwhile, the party has plans to turn the airport into a park.