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Air Belgium seeks financial help as China flights fail to take off

21:59 19/11/2018

Troubled airline Air Belgium has applied to the Walloon region for €4 million in emergency financing after its planned launch of regular flights from Belgium to China hit difficulties.

The airline began flights from Charleroi to Hong Kong on 3 June - but the service was suspended just four months later after a commercial dispute with its partner, the Chinese tour operator UTour, which was tasked with selling tickets on the route.

Air Belgium has since been looking for an alternative commercial partner in Asia. RTBF reports that several potential operators are interested, but a deal has yet to be finalised.

In the meantime, the airline's four leased Airbus A340 aircraft have mostly been sitting idle - although Air Belgium continues to operate a daily London-Dubai return trip on behalf of British Airways and has operated 14 flights for TUIFly over the summer.

According to L'Echo newspaper, the company has now applied to the Walloon region's public investment company Sogepa for a €4 million loan to keep the company afloat. The fund invests in "promising projects" in the Walloon region and Air Belgium's application will be considered by its board of directors on Friday.

RTBF reports that the extra funding would allow Air Belgium to rethink its business plan and buy more time to pursue negotiations with its Chinese partners. The airline declined to comment.

Air Belgium is also keen to see the runway at Charleroi airport extended - a project which could take three years to complete.

A runway extension would allow the airline to operate its planes at full capacity. The short runway currently requires the planes to take off with a reduced load, limiting the potential for cargo operations between Belgium and China, which can be highly profitable.

Written by The Bulletin