VLM Airlines, the Flemish company based out of Antwerp airport at Deurne, has cancelled all flights and ceased to function, a company spokesperson said. The announcement came during an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting in London. VLM recently cut its schedule back to only offer flights to London City and Zurich; those routes are now also abandoned. The staff of 85 people will lose their jobs.
Management of parent company SHS Aviation announced the cancellation of the majority of flights in August, is what one flight economist described as the “chronicle of a death foretold”.
The loss of VLM leaves Antwerp airport with little to work with, but is not an “unavoidable disaster,” according to Marcel Buelens, CEO of the airport company. “We’re been looking into alternatives for some time,” he said. “We certainly want to hold on to the London connection, and talks are ongoing with Flybe.” The company has been running a regular service to London Southend since March.
But the VLM closure will revive a discussion over the airport’s future. On the one hand, s.pa and Groen see no need for an airport at Antwerp when there is an international airport barely 40km away at Zaventem. Supporters, however, like Philippe De Backer of Open VLD, are calling for the airport to be extended an turned into a business destination serving the port of Antwerp and the city’s diamond sector.