Air Belgium plans to expand its business model to include cargo operations and will add at least four freighters to its fleet, which since the airline’s launch in 2018 has only included passenger aircraft.
The airline expects to begin flying the first two cargo aircraft in March 2021, and could end the year with six, according to an announcement from Air Belgium.
While Air Belgium declined to comment, a source familiar with the airline’s plans told Cargo Facts that there is already a customer involved. Such an arrangement could include freighter operations on an ACMI or CMI basis. Air Belgium has previously provided ACMI services for European carriers such as Air France and British Airways.
Unlike Air Belgium’s passenger services, which are based in Charleroi (CRL), cargo operations will be based at Liege Airport (LGG).
LGG is a location familiar to CEO Niky Terzakis, who previously worked as managing director of TNT Express.
Air Belgium, which now has three A340-300s after removing one in December 2020, has already dabbled in air freight recently by operating cargo-only flights, such as recently between LGG and New York (JFK) and last year between LGG and China. The airline reconfigured at least one of its A340s for cargo by removing seats.
Air Belgium launched commercial services in 2018 with flights between CRL and Hong Kong (HKG), and started scheduled flights to Guadeloupe and Martinique in late 2019.
The airline’s gravitation away from Brussels and towards Liege follows a recent capital boost last month. Sogepa, an investment fund managed by the Wallonian government, whose territory includes Liege, injected 1.9 million euros into Air Belgium in exchange for a stake in the company, according to L’Echo.
Other shareholders, which include Sabena Aerospace, reportedly reinjected additional capital totalling one million euros in the company. Sogepa and Sabena were among the airline’s startup investors. Air Belgium launched in Feb. 2016 with 28 million euros in capital, according to a public business directory maintained by the Belgian government.
Fellow Belgian carrier Brussels Airlines has also been operating cargo-only flights between Brussels (BRU) and Africa with its A330-300s.