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Air Belgium closure affects 11,000 passengers
Air Belgium, which announced earlier this month that it is stopping all passenger flights from 3 October, has said that 11,000 people will be affected.
The company was set up in 2016 with the ambitious aim to fly people to “idyllic destinations for affordable prices”.
However, from spring this year, following €45 million losses in 2022, it cut down its services, focusing on South Africa and Mauritius, before announcing it no longer had the investments needed to make any passenger trips profitable.
Some 20,000 passengers had already bought flights after 3 October - but this included pre-reservations, mainly from groups, for the 2024 season and where no ticket had been issued. Air Belgium said it would do everything possible to reimburse these passengers.
In a positive step for the company, this week Air Belgium was given permission by the Walloon Brabant business court to start a “judicial reorganisation procedure” by amicable agreement to address its financial difficulties.
This means it will be able to continue its cargo and ACMI (aircraft/crew/maintenance/insurance) activities for a four-month period ending 22 January 2024. The company is also negotiating agreements with creditors to reduce its debt in general.
The European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (ECTAA) has said that Air Belgium has failed to process refunds, leaving passengers in the lurch, particularly as the judicial reorganisation procedure can delay refunds for up to a year.
For the ECTAA, this is a "flagrant disregard for passengers’ rights in contradiction with the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/20024", which states passengers are entitled to a refund within seven days of the cancellation of a flight.
“Once again an airline company has stopped the refund process,” said the European group that represents around 80,000 travel agents and tour operators across Europe.
The ECTAA added that this situation is particularly concerning for consumers and the aviation sector, given that some 140 airlines have shut down since 2017, including 19 last year.
ECTAA president Frank Oostdam was especially worried about small and medium-sized tour operators. They will now need to obtain expensive alternative tickets, he said.
The ECTAA is now calling on the European Commission to “take rapid and decisive measures to protect the rights and interests of passengers and travel companies,” notably in revisions of travel directives and passenger rights legislation.
Their demands come as it was reported in La Libre Belgique that Brussels Charleroi Airport is accusing the company of not paying to park their fleet – costing the company between €30,000 and €40,000.
The airport also claims the troubled airline business had asked it to invest as much as €600,000 to set up a VIP lounge for its premium passengers.