Air Belgium responds to recent articles in the press and on the Internet

Following a few articles published in the press and on the Internet in recent days concerning Air Belgium (L-Post, Luchtvaartnieuws, Flightlevel, L’Echo, etc.), Aviation24.be declined to comment immediately and asked the airline for its opinion. Air Belgium has provided us with the following clarifications and clarifications today.

1. Is Air Belgium dealing with an “Exodus” pilot? Absolutely not!

  • 34 pilots have decided to leave Air Belgium since the beginning of the year, including:
    • 21 hired by CMA CGM in agreement with Air Belgium, which includes a certain number of French or Belgian pilots residing in France
    • 5 German pilots joined German Airlines
    • 1 Italian pilot joined ITA Airways, in Italy
    • 7 pilots of different nationalities have joined foreign airlines such as Air France, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Cargolux and Air Malta
  • Concerning CMA CGM, at the highest and with 4 fully utilized aircraft, Air Belgium was operating with up to 82 pilots
  • Salaries for all pilots have increased by 10.3% since the start of the year

2. Contract CMA CGM – Nothing abnormal to report!

  • From the very beginning, the CMA CGM contract has been set at 3 years with an option to reduce to 18 months in case of investment by CMA CGM in a fully-fledged airline
  • CMA CGM AIR CARGO was initially created to operate the Boeing 777 freighter
  • CMA CGM has decided to base its future freight operations in Paris CDG. More interest from Air Belgium to operate outside Belgium
  • Air Belgium and CMA CGM are cooperating to transfer aircraft from Air Belgium to CMA CGM AIR CARGO and have reached an agreement to also assist and transfer resources to their AOC
  • The planes are transferred from Belgium to France according to the agreed schedule. The last Airbus A330 will be transferred in early February 2023
  • Meanwhile, Air Belgium is introducing this yearr (2022) alone five all-cargo aircraft based in Belgium:
    • 3 Boeing 747-8F (2 aircraft already in service)
    • 2 Airbus A330-200 Freighters
    • Additional freighters planned for the 2nd half of 2023

3. Adjustment of the capacities of the Air Belgium passenger flight program

  • The current and projected economic circumstances are such that Air Belgium remains very cautious for the flight schedule for next winter and next summer.
  • The price of fuel has gone up up 75.3% since January 1, 2022
  • On a fully priced flight, the the fuel tax has increased from 31 to 43%
  • The weakness of the EUR against the USD is also a major financial burden (revenues are mainly in EUR while most costs are incurred in USD)

Concerns:

  • The energy crisis and massive inflation in Belgium and in Air Belgium’s catchment area are severe and the airline anticipates a reduction in demand, particularly in “price-sensitive” markets, as do its competitors in Belgium
  • Caribbean destinations are precisely “price-sensitive” markets

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)

  • The price of fuel in PUJ is 53% higher than in Brussels (BRU)
  • Passenger taxes at PUJ are three times higher than at BRU (e.g. €110 at PUJ versus €33 at BRU)
  • PUJ obliges passengers in transit to disembark and re-embark passengers bound for Curaçao (CUR). Besides the inconvenience for these passengers, this adds a layer of costs and taxes. A year of discussions with the local authorities yielded no results.
  • Air France has announced the cancellation of all operations to PUJ from March 2023 (after 25 years of service). Other carriers have cut their flights in half.
  • Hence Air Belgium’s decision:
    • To suspend its flight program to PUJ during the low season of winter 2022-2023
    • No decision yet made for the summer 2023 season
    • PUJ could become a seasonal destination in Air Belgium’s flight schedule

Curacao (CUR)

  • The price of fuel in CUR is 20% higher than in BRU
  • Passenger taxes in CUR are double those of BRU (e.g. €75 in CUR versus €33 in BRU)
  • KLM announces a reduction to 1 flight/day for this winter
  • Hence Air Belgium’s decision:
    • To suspend its flight program to CUR during the low season of winter 2022-2023
    • No decision yet made for the summer 2023 season
    • CUR could become a seasonal destination in Air Belgium’s flight schedule

Martinique (FDF) & Guadeloupe (PTP)

  • Demand is high from November to mid-January and potentially in July and August
  • Demand is low from February to May and from September to mid-November
  • Very price-sensitive market leading to very low tariffs
  • Even at full capacity, the flight would lose money, given the current cost structure
  • There is also overcapacity between French carriers departing from Paris Orly, resulting in a dramatic drop in fares
  • Due to territorial continuity, French carriers do not operate under the same conditions as Belgian carriers
  • Hence Air Belgium’s decision:
    • to suspend operation outside peak winter periods, with the exception of chartered operations with major cruise lines
    • Although discussions are ongoing, it is very unlikely that Air Belgium will resume operations before the winter season 2023

4. Customer Service Issues

Customer service is currently experiencing an overload in managing and re-arranging customers. It is because of

  • Resources available – Air Belgium is doubling its capacity
  • The recent change in the reservation system since August and the associated start-up problems are slowing down the process

The above situation results in generally slow/late responses from customer service.

  • The service processes customers in chronological order of their flights
  • Customers are offered: a full refund – rebooking on the day that suits the traveler – rebooking with partner airlines on their original travel dates

Air Belgium is increasing its workforce and expanding its customer service resources to catch up with delays. The airline apologizes for the temporary inconvenience experienced by customers and is doing everything possible to improve the situation as soon as possible.

Air Belgium did not mention it in its clarification, but the flights from Brussels to Mauritius and to South Africa (Johannesburg and Cape Town), operated with the new Airbus A330-900neo, are not affected by the above problems. -above.

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