Belgium's aviation landscape is entering a transition phase. Brussels Airlines is acquiring assets of rival carrier Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium (TCAB), following approval by the Belgian Competition Authority for a deal agreed in Mar-2017, and VLM Airlines is to return.
From the end of Oct-2017 Brussels Airlines will take on all of TCAB's 160 pilots and cabin crew, as well as all of its slots and routes, and will acquire two of TCAB's five A320s. It will then become the main supplier of airline seats to Thomas Cook Group's tour operators in Belgium.
Earlier in 2017 the Dutch holding firm SHS Aviation BV took a majority shareholding in TCAB, giving it ownership of TCAB assets not sold to Brussels Airlines or redeployed elsewhere in the Thomas Cook Group. It is expected to use TCAB's AOC to relaunch the previously bankrupt VLM Airlines in Belgium later this year (details of its business model are awaited).
Thomas Cook's Belgian tour operators will benefit from its new airline partner's bigger flight network, improved schedule and greater range of services and product features, fortifying it against its leisure rival TUI Group. Brussels Airlines will significantly increase the number of leisure destinations in its route network, giving it another boost in its clawing back of market share from LCCs.
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