Belgian carrier VLM Airlines will suspend all but two of its scheduled routes, intending to concentrate instead on charter and ACMI work.

Some of the routes to be suspended were inaugurated only two months ago.

The Antwerp-based airline was resurrected with new investors and management in 2017, having collapsed into bankruptcy the previous year.

VLM’s owner is now Dutch investment company SHS Aviation, whose Belgian operation, SHS Antwerp Aviation has, in turn, a Slovenian subsidiary, VLM Airlines. Both SHS Antwerp Aviation and the Slovenian offshoot are developing airline activities under the common trading name of VLM Airlines.

In an Aug. 6 announcement, VLM said it would retain only its Antwerp-London City and Antwerp-Zurich scheduled services.

VLM said it would cease, “in the next few weeks” to operate to Aberdeen and Birmingham in the UK, Cologne-Bonn, Munich and Rostock in Germany, and Maribor in Slovenia. In addition, plans to launch services from Antwerp and Ostend-Bruges to Manchester in the UK in October have been put on hold.

The 3X-weekly services to Aberdeen and 5X-weekly services to Rostock and Cologne-Bonn began only in June.

A VLM spokesman told ATW the board had decided to concentrate its scheduled efforts on the two most profitable sectors, London City and Zurich.  Passenger numbers on several of the routes that were being dropped “were not developing as we had hoped.”  The suspension of the routes was described as “temporary,” but the spokesman said their reinstatement would depend on the market situation.

By contrast, he said, there was currently good demand in Europe for charter and ACMI services, particularly in the 50-seat segment; VLM operates five 50-seat Fokker F50s. A sixth F50 is being put up for sale as part of the restructuring of the company’s activities and will be taken out of the fleet in September.

In a statement, VLM’s recently installed CEO Johan Maertens said, “The current aviation industry is so dynamic that it is common for destinations and flight frequencies to be constantly evaluated and adapted according to the season, the performance of existing routes and new opportunities that arise on the market.”

VLM is engaged in a study to replace its Fokkers, although no decision a replacement type had yet been made, said the spokesman. “We are talking to two manufacturers. No details have been disclosed yet, but they will be turboprop aircraft.” The new aircraft are scheduled to be introduced in the second half of 2019.

In 2017, SHS Aviation took full ownership of Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, including the airline’s air operator’s certificate, operating license and 40 TCAB ground staff.

Alan Dron