Lydia Peeters, Flemish minister for mobility, has come under fire for taking a trip by aeroplane from Brussels to Antwerp.
Peeters (Open VLD) made the trip as part of an event to mark the reopening of the Flemish airports of Ostend and Deurne near Antwerp, which both receive funding from the Flemish government.
The trip was organised for the press by ASL Airlines, formerly known as TNT Airways, a freight airline which operates mainly out of Liege. It also operates a small fleet of private jets for collective private flights to Ibiza.
Peeters’ flight came in for immediate criticism.
“This is a very unfortunate signal,” said Imade Annouri, a member of the Flemish parliament for Groen.
The environmental organisation Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL) issued a statement calling for the government’s Court of Auditors to look into the support given by the taxpayer for the regional airports, which are in private hands but survive only with public money.
Every year, BBL said, the airports receive €32 million in subsidies, far in excess of their own turnover, which amounts to no more than €17 million.
“Short-haul air travel is under attack everywhere because of its detrimental impact on the climate,” the group said. “Yet minister Lydia Peeters took the plane from Brussels to Antwerp yesterday, as ‘support’ for the entrepreneur [ASL owner Philippe Bodson] who wants to fly private jets to Ibiza. In doing so, the minister drew attention to the extra millions that are released for the regional airports via the Flemish emergency fund.”
Peeters offered a statement of her own.
“I accepted the offer to take part in a press trip because business flights are an essential pillar of the activities of our regional airports,” she said. “I wished in that way to draw the attention of the media to the reopening of these airports.”