Air Antwerp to save Antwerp Airport
On Monday, Antwerp Airport introduced a new airline company, Air Antwerp. The new company offers direct flights to and from London three times a weekday. Meanwhile, Egis, the manager of the airport, is negotiating about some extra flights to other destinations.
Air Antwerp will be the smallest airline company in Belgium, supported by two well-known shareholders: the Irish CityJet (75%) and the Dutch KLM (25%). The company only has one airplane, for the time being. It will fly with the same 26-year-old dilapidated Fokker 50 as VLM did.
While VLM had to wait more than one year to receive its AOC license, Air Antwerp got it from the Federal Public Service Mobility in only three months.
“It was important for us to be in the air before the Brexit,” explains Air Antwerp CEO, Johan Maertens. “Now we can immediately start to fly without having to negotiate traffic rights with third countries.”
The CEO is realistic about the company’s expectations. He hopes to transport 50.000 passengers a year, which is the equivalent of a seat occupancy of 60%. But the ambitions are high.
Antwerp-London used to be the most popular connection of the airport in Deurne. The company mainly focused on Antwerp entrepreneurs of the diamond business, the port activities, and the pharmaceutical sector.
In 2018, Antwerp Airport transported 298.403 travelers, an increase of 35% compared to 2015. But the managing company, Egis, met with some setbacks too, like the announcement of the bankrupt VLM Airlines. The company had been in bad weather for some time and finally dropped almost all its connections from the airport in Deurne. And earlier this month, also airline company Flybe announced to stop its connections between Deurne and London because of the poor results. So, the new airline should boost the activities in Deurne.
“With the advent of Air Antwerp, we have a new connection between Antwerp and London City,” Marcel Buelens, CEO of Egis says. “After VLM going bankrupt, we lost 40% of our passengers. Today this loss is already reduced to 10%.” According to the manager, Antwerp Airport already is profitable.
And Buelens wants to expand the airport further. At this moment he is negotiating about business flights to five other destinations, like Geneva, Zürich, Hamburg, München, and Manchester. “We hope to conclude those talks by the end of this year.”
Some sources within the Jewish community say there are talks about a direct flight from Deurne to Tel Aviv, but according to airport commander Wim Verbist, this is only technically feasible with new airplanes, not with the actual aircraft of Deurne.
350 parking places
Antwerp Airport will have to create 350 new parking places to take care of the extra passengers the new flights will bring in. Parking 2 will be expanded, and some old and empty buildings will be broken down for it.