By Karine Kalantarian
A regular flight service between Los Angeles and Yerevan launched four months ago has been irrevocably cancelled due to the bankruptcy of its main Belgian operator.
Belgium’s Delsey Airlines, formerly called VG Airlines, was declared bankrupt by a commercial court in Antwerp on Wednesday, only five months after its maiden flight. According to the Associated Press news agency, the court appointed four caretakers to oversee what will happen with the assets of the company.
Officials in Delsey’s Yerevan office were on Thursday unaware of the news. As recently as this week they held out hope for an imminent resumption of the service that was jointly operated by the Belgians and the state-run Armenian Airlines.
Delsey’s Airbus A330 airliner made brief stopovers in Brussels on their from Los Angeles to Yerevan and vice versa, serving as the fastest and most convenient means of travel between the two cities with the largest Armenian populations in the world.
Armenian civil aviation officials say the flights were highly profitable, with a load factor approaching 100 percent in the summer months. They say the flights were also beneficial for Armenian Airlines and other local aviation services that earned a total of $400,000 in revenues in the last four months.
The reasons for Delsey’s bankruptcy are not clear. The private carrier, which flew only to Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Yerevan, was set up on the ashes of Belgium's national airline Sabena that went bust last year.
One of its three passenger jets last landed in Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport on October 29 and flew back empty, leaving more than 120 ticket holders stranded in the Armenian capital. Delsey officials in Yerevan have since scrambled to put them on other planes bound for Western Europe and the United States.
The launch of the flight service on June 30, threw a lifeline to Armenian Airlines which has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Earlier this year, the state-run carrier lost its sole leased aircraft meeting the European Union’s noise and safety regulations and was subsequently banned from entering the European airspace.
Its previous flights to Paris and Frankfurt have been taken over by Armenian International Airlines (AIA), a recently created private carrier. AIA leased a European-made A320 plane in September and plans to resume Yerevan-Amsterdam flights next month.