Air Belgium Tries a Hail Mary: Flying to Zhengzhou, China
Just when you thought they might finally be done, Air Belgium is back with a new business plan. The troubled start-up carrier announced over twitter that it has been issued an operating permit by the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority to commence flights to Zhengzhou, China, from its home airport of Brussels - Charleroi.
While Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, is home to almost 10 million people, this route would be the first non-stop service connecting Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport (CGO) with Europe, or any city outside of Asia except Melbourne, Australia, for that matter. If Air Belgium couldn't stir up enough demand to support flights to Hong Kong, it's hard to imagine that this route will fare any better.
Air Belgium's business plan always centered around serving China from Charleroi (CRL), but it's been beset by trouble from the very start. Just days before the launch of the inaugural Hong Kong route, the airline were forced to delay operations by over a month because it hadn't secured the proper airspace permits. A month ago, it cancelled all commercial flights through the end of March 2019, and just a week ago, the board voted to continue operations only as a third-party operator. The Air Belgium fleet is composed of four Airbus A340-300s, one of which is leased to British Airways to operate flights from London (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH), though it will switch to operating the Dubai (DXB) route from November 1st to the middle of December.
The operating permit from the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority is just the first of many steps necessary before Air Belgium can commence flights, and it hasn't yet begun selling tickets on the route. Even if it does, I'd be very cautious about making plans to travel on this unique and confusing route. Earlier this year we saw another start-up airline, Primera Air, go out of business and cease operations overnight, leaving paying customers stranded all around the world.
This story has been edited to correct a mistake: Zhengzhou airport has one flight outside of Asia — to Melbourne, Australia.
Featured Image by Jeroen Stroes Aviation Photography via Flickr