70 per cent of flights at Antwerp Airport are domestic
In 2022, around 72 per cent of all flight movements registered at Antwerp Airport were domestic flights. That's according to figures requested by Flemish green party Groen in parliament. The airport points to the many pilot training courses in Antwerp as an explanation.
Antwerp Airport is usually the point of both departure and arrival for domestic flights. Sometimes the flights are to or from another Belgian airport. Groen reports a total of 30,000 domestic flights in Antwerp in 2022.
"It is completely irrational for the Flemish government to pump millions of euros of taxpayers' money into a loss-making, redundant airport for air traffic within its borders," the party said.
Ban on domestic flights
Like federal Mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo), the Flemish greens are calling for a ban on domestic flights. "The Flemish government is wasting our tax money," they said. "Antwerp is not only running at a loss. It is also a hub for domestic flights, not transport flights. It is ridiculous to fly from Antwerp to Brussels or around Antwerp just for fun".
Antwerp Airport believes training flights are important. "Our pilot training courses are also in line with the vision of the Flemish government," a spokesperson said. "We provide the pilots of the future. There are half a dozen pilot schools in Antwerp, and we have the necessary equipment, such as navigation systems and simulators, to train them."
"The pilots in training simply have to learn how to land and take off"
Aviation economist Wouter Dewulf of UAntwerp points out that most flights carrying passengers are international flights. These include those operated by tour company TUI. "The pilots in training simply have to learn how to land and take off," says Dewulf. "The training flights are also made without passengers and not with the big, polluting jets, but with propellers that use less fuel."
Private jets have also been scrutinised at Antwerp Airport and other local airports. In 2022, Belgium experienced a record year with 10,618 private flights, 52 per cent more than in 2021. The most popular route was between Brussels and London, but there was also a lot of private traffic between Brussels and Antwerp.
The Flemish government's decision at the end of 2022 to keep the Flemish regional airports of Antwerp, Ostend-Bruges and Kortrijk-Wevelgem open until 2040 also caused controversy. The airports would not be profitable without millions of euros in aid from the Flemish government. "For the Flemish government, the climate crisis does not seem to exist," mobility expert Dirk Lauwers of UAntwerp said in Knack at the time.
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