In a bid to justify a request for government aid, Belgium's national carrier Brussels Airlines has sent a summary of its activities to authorities including the SFPI, the federal holding and investment company that centrally manages the government's shareholdings. The airline intends to use the aid to weather the operational disruption it is currently faced with, caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, the Belgian government refused a €290 million injection as that was seen to be feeding money almost straight into the Lufthansa Group, which Brussels Airlines is part of Lufthansa and is 100% owned by Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès last week replied to a letter from Lufthansa CEO, Carsten Spohr. In her reply, Wilmès demanded solid and specific commitments from Lufthansa on the future of Brussels Airlines within the group before any decision could be taken on whether to grant the aid requested, reported The Brussels Times. Spohr has promised Lufthansa has no intentions of abandoning airlines whatever the Belgian government's decision.
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the suspension of flights by Brussels Airlines until 31st May 2020. The original planned date for restart of operations was May 15th but the airline has decided to extend this date due to the ongoing travel restrictions imposed by many countries around the world.
According to Belgian newspaper L'echo, Brussels Airlines argues its necessity in five points. The first is that Brussels airlines has a direct impact on the Belgian economy with more than 50,000 jobs created and 40% market share at Brussels airport. Second, it is the heart of Star Alliance in Brussels, that makes transit connections for other airlines such as United, Air Canada and All Nippon Airways possible. Third is that the airline considers itself a vehicle of Belgian the economy to the world, with Brussels Airlines making direct routes to destinations both short and long haul routes available. Without these, the cost of such routes would see an increase in price and the requirement of a stop-over. Fourth, the airline deems itself a committed national carrier, particularly speaking of its position in the African market and a possible missed opportunity with continents expected growth. Lastly, from representing Belgian star chefs to serving 8 different Belgian beers on board, the airline considers itself an ambassador for Belgian culture.