Air Belgium CEO denies the company will stop operating this year
Air Belgium airline is not looking for 10 million euros in a hurry. CEO Niky Terzakis pointed out on 10 November that the company "is just looking for an even higher amount" for a major investment and expansion project.
The Belgian TV station LN24 reported that the €19 million raised earlier in the year has already run out and the company will need an additional €10 million to stay afloat.
The CEO admitted that "a lot of money" is needed to reclassify the airline, both in terms of passengers and freight. "Yes, the financial situation is tight, even very tight, but we will get through it," Terzakis said. "There is no question that Air Belgium will have to stop activity this year," he pondered.
"For five years it has been said that the company is on the brink of bankruptcy every time we look for financing," Terzakis detailed. "It is annoying and exhausting. Of course we will continue our activities in 2023. Our shareholders are not going to give up," he reiterated.
The messages come after the company announced this Monday that it is cutting its supply significantly. Nearly all the flights to the Antilles will be cancelled. "That's a reaction to the market, which all companies do," Terzakis explains this Thursday. "We adapt our capacity to the market and demand."
Earlier in the week, the airline declared that it would axe all its flights to the Caribbean starting from the end of the year. Poor exchange rates against the dollar, high airport taxes, fuel prices, and the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Europe has weighed heavily on Air Belgium.
Air Belgium is the brainchild of Terzakis, Namur-born former CEO of TNT Airways SA, who spearheaded Air Belgium's logistics into Liège Airport. The aviation veteran also served as President of Logistics in Wallonia and an industry representative at the EU Aviation Platform.
Last March, Terzakis managed to raise extra capital for the airline from its major Chinese shareholder, logistics group Hongyuan, which already owns several logistics centres at Liège and Charleroi airport. The Chinese company controls 49% of Air Belgium and joined as a major investor in February.
The €19 million invested by the Chinese company was intended to support for the airline following the Covid-19 pandemic. This time, as the company flounders financially again, shareholders are less eager to help bail out the airline.
For its part, the Walloon government has already propped the company up with several million euros since its creation in 2016. Without the participation of Belgian shareholders in the recovery plan, the Belgian airline risks losing its licence, as flying under the Belgian flag requires a majority of Belgian shareholders.
The influence of its Chinese shareholder has become more apparent in recent months. Two new cargo planes commissioned by the airline will bear Hongyuan's names and colours, with only the Belgian crown on the wingtip.
Air Belgium was launched with plans to fly between Belgium and Hong Kong to transport Chinese tourists to Europe. This endeavour ultimately failed and was scrapped just five months later. Likewise, the route to the island of Bonaire was scrapped before it started.
Now operating primarily as a charter airline and finding some success transporting the Belgian Royal Family on their trips abroad, Air Belgium operates flights on behalf of tour and cruise operators, as well as some cargo routes.
Air Belgium founder Niky Terzakis | © BELGA PHOTO (ERIC LALMAND)