Air Belgium is Retiring Airbus A330neo Fleet Due to Engine Problems

Air Belgium A330neo

Belgian news outlets today reported that Air Belgium is set to retire its two A330neo aircraft, attributing the decision to persistent engine problems and unproductive negotiations with Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer.

The financially troubled Air Belgium has recently been in the news in Belgium following a local court’s decision to extend its Judicial Reorganisation Procedure (PRJ) by an additional four months, impacting the refund process for nearly 11,000 customers. Additionally, it’s been revealed that the airline is dealing with operational issues concerning both its Airbus A330neo aircraft and its workforce, as detailed in a report released recently by L-Post.

Issues with the Airbus A330neo

Photo by Eric Magnan Via Air Belgium

Air Belgium is apparently planning to retire its Airbus A330neo aircraft from service. The airline operates two such aircraft, identified as OO-ABF and OO-ABG.

OO-ABF has remained stationary at Brussels since an incident last summer. On August 21, 2023, while flying from Brussels to Johannesburg, the plane had to return to Brussels due to an in-flight hydraulic pump failure. After landing, metal fragments were discovered in the engine. Since then, this particular aircraft has reportedly been continuously plagued by engine issues, making it a recognizable fixture for aviation enthusiasts and travelers at Brussels Airport. The airline’s A330neo fleet uses Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines.

OO-ABG, another aircraft in Air Belgium’s fleet, is currently on lease to LOT Polish Airlines and has reportedly been operating without notable issues. According to L-Post, Air Belgium’s negotiations with Airbus have been unsuccessful, contributing to the decision to retire its fleet. Additionally, the engine complications affecting OO-ABF are still unresolved.

Air Belgium’s Financial difficulties

Photo by Eric Magnan Via Air Belgium

On October 3, Air Belgium halted all its regular passenger services. The airline has accumulated significant debts, incurring a loss of approximately €11 million (around $12 million) in 2021. Its operations included flights from Brussels Airport (BRU) to destinations like Johannesburg (JNB) and Cape Town (CPT) in South Africa, as well as Mauritius (MRU). At the time, the airline stated:

After numerous studies, Air Belgium’s [board] reached the conclusion that turning a profit on this front would require substantial investments in addition to those already made in recent years, which has not been possible.

Air Belgium

Consequently, the airline sought court restructuring, which was approved. The initial deadline for this restructuring phase was set for January 22, 2024. However, the airline has been unable to meet this deadline due to challenges in reaching agreements with all its shareholders. In early January, it requested an extension, which has now been granted.

The extension has adverse implications for former passengers of Air Belgium, who have been waiting for refunds for flights post-October 3, 2023. It is estimated that this affects around 11,000 individuals. A recent report by ch-aviation indicated that Air Belgium had secured close to 10 million in loans.

Sichuan Airlines’ Potential Involvement in Air Belgium’s Future Uncertain In September of the previous year, Belgian newspaper De Tijd reported that the parent company of Sichuan Airlines had made a formal investment offer to Air Belgium. The investment was particularly focused on Air Belgium’s landing rights in China. However, with the recent developments, it now appears uncertain whether Sichuan Airlines’ parent company will provide the anticipated assistance.

The investment proposition from Sichuan Airlines was already complex. Air Belgium is 49% owned by the Chinese logistics firm Hongyang, with the remaining stakes held by the Wallonian government and the federal government of Belgium. This ownership structure is crucial for Air Belgium to maintain its status and landing rights as a Belgian carrier.


Featured Image: K. Trojanowski

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