Air Belgium, a Brussels-based airline, intends to expand its fleet with Boeing 747-8 freighters at the beginning of next year, i.e., 2022. The arrival of cargo aircraft comes in response to the growing cargo business of the airline.
The Belgian airline is actively recruiting Boeing B747-8F pilots, including captains and first officers, to diversify into the cargo sector in early 2022, although the exact number of B747-8F hasn’t been specified.
The job advertisement posted by the airline requires the prospective full-time captain to possess at least 5000 hours of experience in flying Boeing aircraft (Boeing 747-400, or Boeing 747-8). For the first officer, the airline demands someone who is type rated B747-400 or B747-8 and has completed at least 2000 hours total time. Both captain and first officers must hold a valid EASA license and medical, including COVID-19 vaccinations. The recruitment advertisement shows the expansion of Air Belgium activities by launching B747-8Fs in a proposed network.
Air Belgium will launch B747-8 freighters to grow its cargo offerings and allow for flexible and efficient loading of XL cargo shipments. The airline will continue its passenger flights and commence cargo operations with the Queen of the Skies.
Diversification into the cargo sector
Earlier this year, Air Belgium had expressed its desire to fly cargo aircraft to demonstrate the resilience and flexibility of the airline’s development potential. Unlike passenger operations based in Charleroi (CRL), the carrier announced to gravitate towards Liege airport (LGG) for cargo operations.
The unfavorable climate brought by the COVID-19 pandemic induced Air Belgium to dabble in air freight by operating cargo-only flights and reconfigure at least one of its A340s to carry shipments. Currently, Air Belgium operates A330 freighter charter flights for CMA CGM to make a strong position in the cargo transportation market and expand its capabilities further. In addition to leveraging commercial partnerships in logistics services, the airline is also involved in wet-lease deals with Qatar Airways.
The fleet of Air Belgium
Air Belgium operates 1 Airbus A330-900, 2 Airbus A340-300 passenger aircraft. Similarly, it possesses 4 Airbus A330-200F cargo aircraft operating for CMA CGM. It dabbled down on its commitment to cargo with the delivery of 4 A330 Freighters. These four aircraft are 5-year old ex-Qatar Airways cargo airplanes that offer complete freight services from Liege airport in parallel with passenger flights to and from the French West Indies from Charleroi.
This October, the airline welcomed its new Airbus A330 neo to fly to Mauritius from Brussels Airport. Air Belgium introduced the latest generation A330 neo aircraft to serve long-haul routes despite the severe crisis.
Boeing 747-8F will be the fourth aircraft type of Air Belgium alongside Airbus A330-900, A340-300, and A330-200F. Branching out to B747-8F reflects the agility of the airline and its capability to adapt to the market conditions in the face of travel restrictions as continued impacts of the pandemic remains apparent. Air Belgium will look for second-hand units as Boeing is now making final 6 B747-8s through 2022 for Atlas Air and UPS Airlines before closing the production line.
Air Belgium launched its commercial flight operations in 2018, exclusively operating passenger flights on the Charleroi-Asia route. The airline combines scheduled passenger operations along with ACMI and on-demand charter services.
About Boeing B747-8F
Boeing B747-8F is an all-cargo airplane with a nose door, long fuselage, and an increased wingspan, among other adjustments. Freighter of the 21st century, it can carry a payload of 139 tonnes, 16% more revenue cargo volume than its predecessor. It is powered by 4 General Electric GEnx-2B67 Turbofan engines and cruises at a maximum of 982 km/hour speed.
It has a better environmental performance with 17% more fuel-efficient than the aircraft it replaces. Boeing 747 jumbo jets are having relatively miserable years as they are rare sights on the skies where they belong now. After a sharp travel downturn, the magnificent ‘Queen of Skies’ became the favorite airliner to retire, hit by the wave of restructuring triggered by the virus outbreak.
About Air Belgium
Air Belgium is a Belgian airline specializing in quality intercontinental flights from Belgium with its main operational base at Brussels Charleroi Airport. It was founded on 27 May 2016, with its first commercial flight in 2018. Offering competitive fares and representing its nation in all its ‘Belgian-ness,’ the airline aims for comfort, service, and well-being of leisure and business travelers without compromise. It retains full traffic rights to cater to Cuba, Curacao (Willemstad), Hong Kong, China, Mauritius (Plaine Magnien), and air transport operations in European Union or open skies territory.