The first commercial flight will take off on Sunday from Charleroi airport bound for Hong Kong. The trip will mark the real start of the new Belgian airline, which already has operated a series of flights on behalf of third parties in recent months. For Brussels South Charleroi Airport (BSCA), it is the first ever long-haul flight operated from the airport. Long-haul routes are defined as longer than 4,000 km.
Already in early 2017, CEO Niky Terzakis unveiled his plans for the first time. The ambition was to start flying the summer of that year. But the procedure for obtaining a flight license (air carrier certificate) took longer than expected and the license was finally obtained last March.
Meanwhile, Terzakis announced that Air Belgium would be based in Charleroi and that the first flight would connect Charleroi with 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 (3 June).
This first trip is still considered a “technical flight”, to control all the procedures and refine the final details. The second start on Wednesday (6 June) will be the real “maiden flight”.
The launch of Air Belgium’s activities coincides with the advent of long-haul flights from the airport. Between 30 and 35 million euros will be invested to lengthen the airstrip to 3,200 meters by 2021. Until then, Air Belgium’s aircraft will not be able to fly at full load.
6 to 7 million euros have also been invested in a new terminal, a lounge and a commercial area.
During the month of June, Air Belgium will continue to operate flights for third parties. One aircraft will ensure flights all the month to Africa 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 flight per week 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 a second destination to China “in the coming months”.