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Just a scant few weeks after announcing its inaugural route between Brussels South Charleroi (CRL) and Hong Kong (HKG), new airline Air Belgium has had to backtrack. The inaugural flight to Hong Kong, which was supposed to take place on April 30, will now be pushed back to June 3 because Russia has not yet approved the route, which will pass through Russian airspace.

“At this date and despite all efforts of our teams and the Belgian authorities, we are still expecting to receive the overflight permit from the Russian authorities, knowing that overflying through the Russian airspace is unavoidable,” Niky Terzakis, CEO of Air Belgium, said. “Air Belgium did secure all other required permits well in advance. However, the Russian permit has not yet been granted. In addition to the uncertainty created by the above, the complicated and delayed GDS (Global Distribution Systems) implementation has also prevented Chinese tourists groups from being directed to our flights.”

Earlier this month, Terzakis estimated that 60-70% of the airline’s revenue would come from China, and that Air Belgium expects around 500,000 passengers starting out, so the lack of tourist group bookings no doubt also influenced the airline’s decision to postpone the inaugural flight.

Terzakis said that all affected passengers had already been informed by e-mail and would be individually called for an apology. Passengers would also receive the following alternatives: a seat on a flight of another airline, a deferred travel date with Air Belgium (including financial compensation) or full reimbursement. “Everything will be done to find a solution for each passenger,” he said.

“This was a hard call to make considering the market expectations, but we take the protection of our travellers’ interests to heart,” Terzakis said. “In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to obtain the overflight permit as fast as possible and to support tour operators in making the necessary arrangements in time.”

Featured image courtesy of Air Belgium.

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