Belgian regional scheduled operator VLM Airlines is to establish operations from the city of Liège, in the east of Belgium. The carrier will introduce new flights to Avignon and Nice in France and Bologna and Venice in Italy from May 1, 2015 as it diversifies slightly from its business focus.
The airline will offer 36 flights per week in out of Liège through the summer, all flown by 50-seat Fokker 50 turboprops. It will operate five flights per week (including Saturdays and Sundays) to Nice and Venice, and four return flights to Avignon and Bologna each week (also including Saturdays and Sundays). These will be the airline’s first services in the south of France and northern Italy.
“With these new scheduled flights, we are focusing on both leisure and business travellers. These new destinations not only appeal to tourists but are also important business centres in their respective regions,” said Arthur White, chief executive officer, VLM Airlines.
The south of France and northern Italy are popular locations for second homes and many Belgians, Germans and Dutch people, who live within an hour’s drive of Liège Airport, have a second home in Provence, the French Riviera or Tuscany.
VLM Airlines was reborn as a scheduled operator last year after a management buyout orchestrated its split from Irish operator CityJet following its sale by Air France to German company Intro Aviation.
Over 20 years since the carrier made its debut in the Antwerp – London City market in 1993 and established itself as one of the most respected European regional airlines, its return to independent ownership lead to the resumption of scheduled services earlier this year from its original market, Antwerp International Airport, where the carrier’s offices are based.
It initial steps in its return to scheduled operations began on January 26, 2015, when VLM launched an up to twice daily link between Antwerp and Geneva using a Fokker 50, a route Arthur White said is performing well. “Our Antwerp-Geneva route launched last month is already proving successful,” he said.
The airline’s network model until now has been focussed on business travel demand and it recently announced plans to add new flights to Hamburg in Germany from Antwerp and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The Rotterdam – Hamburg route will open on April 13, 2015 and the Antwerp – Hamburg service a week later on April 20, 2015. Both will be operated two weekday rotations using Fokker 50 equipment.
“The launch of these scheduled routes is a response to demand from the business community. Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg are all major business cities with international reputations, whose seaports each handle hundreds of millions of tonnes annually. These cities are also home to some of the world’s biggest companies and corporations including BASF, Bayer and Royal Dutch Shell,” said White.
The addition of the routes from Liège will expand the VLM network to nine destinations in six countries and will continue a recent growth in passenger operations at Liège Bierset Airport, which is better known as a major European freight hub.