Dutch national carrier KLM and Ireland-based regional airline CityJet are the two main shareholders behind a Belgian startup—Air Antwerp—being created to operate both scheduled services and provide capacity for others.

Air Antwerp has applied for an air operator’s certificate (AOC) from Belgian authorities. Its two directors are Johan Maertens, former CEO of defunct Belgian regional carrier VLM, who is CEO of the new airline; and Willem Hondius, former CEO of African LCC Jambojet Kenya and a longtime manager at KLM.

CityJet has taken up 75% of Air Antwerp’s shareholding, with KLM taking the remaining 25%. In a statement, Air Antwerp said that “CityJet has experience in both regional and wet lease services, which fits the objectives of Air Antwerp and was willing to work with KLM on the establishment of Air Antwerp.”

The airline plans to start operating with a single Fokker 50, the type formerly operated by VLM. The startup says it decided to use the type as it was well-known to its staff and would therefore allow for a smooth introduction and start of operations. A spokesman told ATW the Belgian regulating authorities were also particularly familiar with the type.

He added that, since the demise of VLM in August 2018, there had been something of a vacuum for passengers at Antwerp, whose catchment area comprises both north Belgium and areas of the southern Netherlands: “There’s a good market opportunity to start operations out of Antwerp,” he said. Local industries included the world’s second-largest petrochemical center and Europe’s second-largest container port.

At present, Antwerp Airport’s website shows only two operating airlines, charter airline TUI serving a cluster of European holiday destinations and UK regional Flybe flying to London Southend.  Before its collapse, Antwerp-based VLM had a small but dense network based on the city, and the Air Antwerp spokesman said many routes had lapsed since VLM’s departure from the scene.

Air Antwerp said it will fly point-to-point services, filling gaps left by mainline carriers, their hub feeder affiliates and high-speed rail services. It has not yet disclosed which initial routes it intends to serve.

Alan Dron alandron@adepteditorial.com