Belgian regional VLM Airlines has filed a formal application asking for creditor protection for six months to avoid bankruptcy, a source close to the situation confirmed to ATW following media reports in the Belgium and the Netherlands. A hearing will be held May 25.

VLM could not be reached by ATW for comment.

Several media outlets have reported that VLM said in a press release that “the judicial reorganization [will give] the necessary breathing space to primarily repay historical debts to suppliers and to ensure the smooth running of daily operations.”

CEO Hamish Davidson was quoted in Belgium’s De Tijd as saying, “VLM Airlines NV is currently undergoing a major restructuring to secure the company's future and its employees.”

Today’s news came as a surprise, as the company said in a press released dated April 11, 2016, that data showed an “improving trend with a further improvement in load factors in the first week [of April] to 50%” (up from an October 2015 load factor of 37%, carrying 8,783 passengers). It forecast for April “a further record 14,000 passengers and a load factor close to 55%." At the same time, VLM had said yields “continue to improve across the system as passenger demand increases.”

Davidson was quoted as saying in the April 11 release: “These figures are encouraging and are reflective of our business plan expectations for the first part of 2016. We continue to review our network performance as we work to deliver greater efficiencies across the business as a whole. We are starting to lay the foundation for the establishment of a solid business model for VLM and I look forward to being able to make further announcements in relation to this over the coming months.”

In February 2016, VLM Airlines launched three German domestic routes from Friedrichshafen Airport in south Germany. The carrier has based three Fokker 50s in Friedrichshafen, operating to Berlin Tegel, Düsseldorf and Hamburg, with two rotations per weekday on each route. VLM took over these routes after Austrian regional carrier InterSky ceased operations in November 2015.

VLM operates 11 Fokker 50s and transported around 300,000 passengers in 2015.

VLM, which has 160 employees, was formed in 1993.