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Airport handler Swissport files for bankruptcy in Belgium

13:11 08/06/2020

Airport baggage handler Swissport has announced it will file for bankruptcy in Belgium, with almost 1,500 jobs under threat.

The firm provides ground handling services - including check-in, baggage and cleaning - for 60% of the flights operating out of Brussels Airport in Zaventem.

Swissport said it had accumulated "significant losses" for many years - and this year's grounding of flights due to coronavirus was the final straw.

"Since mid-March, ground service activities for passengers have been close to zero, and will not return to normal until the end of 2022 at best," the company said. Swissport's freight operation in Belgium, which is a separate entity, will continue to operate at Zaventem and Liège airports.

Unions are angry, claiming the decision was made "without prior consultation". A spokesman for the ACV trade union said: "We knew the company was not doing well financially, but this decision was a sudden and unexpected blow. We were hoping to have a roadmap for further negotiations."

According to RTL, rival Aviapartner is prepared to take over Swissport's work at Zaventem until September or October, while a new public tender is organised. The firm says it can take on the extra workload because its flight schedule over the summer months is about 30% lower than usual.

A Brussels Airport spokeswoman said Aviapartner's offer to help in the short term would need to be checked for its legality. "Normally we are obliged to have two ground handling companies at the airport," she said.

Brussels Airlines is Swissport's biggest customer at Zaventem. It plans to resume flights from 15 June.

Written by The Bulletin