Monday, April 29, 2013

■ BELGIUM: Government awards Brussels Airlines 2 extra Kinshasa slots; Jetairfly to lodge complaint with EC.

JetairflyBelgian LCC, Jetairfly (TB) has lodged a complaint with the European Commission following a decision by the Belgian Secretary of State for Mobility, Melchior Wathelet, to award two additional frequencies between Brussels and the Congolese capital of Kinshasa to Brussels Airlines as outlined under a newly revised Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) signed between Congo and Belgium in February this year.

Brussels Airlines tail
Brussels Airlines
Under the new BASA, there was provision for Belgian airlines to serve Kinshasa 7x a week under Belgium's part of the agreement. Previously,  Brussels Airlines had operated a 7x weekly service albeit using its previous allocation of 5x weekly slots with an added 2x weekly frequencies leased from LAC Congo, the defunct Congolese national carrier. Who received the added 2x weekly allocated slots had not been agreed to after Jetairfly (TB), also asked for traffic rights to Kinshasa.

However, reports from Brussels now state that the Belgian State Secretary for Mobility, Melchior Wathelet, has granted the two additional weekly Kinshasa frequencies to Brussels Airlines, a move Jetairfly has rejected as having "enhanced [Brussels Airlines] monopoly" on the route. According to Gunther Hofman, CEO of Jetairfly, this decision is "yet more proof that there is only one airline for the Belgian government and it is Brussels Airlines. We will not allow things to happen that way and we will lodge a complaint with the European Commission. Brussels Airlines already has a monopoly on this route and it now has the help of the government."

As markets in Europe become tighter and tighter to compete in, so European carriers are increasingly turning their attention to the lucrative, though difficult to gain entry into, African and Asian markets as a means of bolstering their revenue streams.

For its part, under the new aviation agreement, Belgium is also committed to helping Congolese airlines extricate themselves from the EU Blacklist. It is believed Belgium will also have some sort of hand in helping the DRC set up a new national carrier to replace LAC - Lignes Aériennes Congolaises (4V), now in liquidation