The inauguration of flights to Hong Kong, the first long haul destination in the history of Charleroi airport, marks the launch of the latest Belgian airline. This inaugural flight was originally scheduled for the end of April but was delayed pending authorisation from Russia to fly over its territory; this did not prevent the airline from operating a series of flights on behalf of third parties in the meantime.
In addition to creating 600 jobs, the arrival of the Belgian airline has also had repercussions on the development of airport infrastructures. The runway is due to be extended to 3,200 metres by 2021, so that it can accommodate the two long-haul A340 aircraft, with a third expected during June. According to Walloon Minister of Airports Jean-Luc Crucke, the permit for the work, which will probably be carried out at night, should be granted in September.
The opening of the long haul Charleroi-Hong Kong route represents an opportunity for Belgium to not only strengthen its role as a hub within Europe and its visibility in the global air space, but also to revive imports and exports with the Chinese city, which have been declining in recent years. Two flights a week are currently scheduled between the two airports, although this may increase to four flights a week in October. Air Belgium is hoping to transport 500,000 passengers in the coming year with the development of these new air routes.