Yet another European airline has filed for bankruptcy. Despite a relatively good summer season, VLM Airlines Brussels was unable to obtain enough operating cash from advanced winter ticket sales, nor secure financing for continued operations.
VLM Airlines Brussels employed 80 staff and was flying a single Airbus A321. Earlier this year, it was also operating two former Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium A320s, OO-TCX and OO-TCT. One was retired in May, and the other in October 2018.
Originally VLM Airlines (Vlaamse Luchttransport Maatschappij) started operations in 1993 at Antwerp Airport in Belgium’s Flemish region. After it suspended operations in June 2016, two new airlines wearing the name VLM were founded. The Dutch investment company SHS Aviation acquired two Airbus A320s from former Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium and restarted VLM’s operations in November 2017. SF Aviation Management B.V. then took over the two Airbus aircraft and founded VLM Airlines Brussels, based in the Belgian capital. On 31 August 2018, SHS’s Antwerp-based airline, now called VLM airlines Regional, suspended operations, leaving VLM Airlines Brussels as the third and last flying VLM brand until yesterday.
Both versions of VLM have been up and down, often ordering aircraft such as the SSJ-100 and trying to break into new routes like London City, but since their separation, an inevitable doom seems to have sat upon them both. Neither has ever been able to acquire any real level of critical mass to continue to function.
Overall it’s symptomatic of modern aviation in Europe. The age of the small independent airline is over.