VLM Airlines (Belgium) is to be dissolved and enter into liquidation. That was the decision made by SHS Aviation (Netherlands), the majority shareholder of SHS Antwerp Aviation (VLM), at an extraordinary general assembly on August 31, 2018. Relaunched in October 2017, the Antwerp-based unit of VLM Airlines had big plans for 2018, restructuring its operations to focus on charter and ACMI services. The news of liquidation comes just weeks after the airline discontinued the majority of its routes.

An official press release from SHS Antwerp Aviation (VLM) on August 31, 2018, points out that earlier in August, it was announced that VLM would discontinue routes to Aberdeen and Birmingham (UK), Cologne-Bonn, Rostock and Munich (Germany), and Maribor (Slovenia), instead shifting its focus  on business charter flights and the Antwerp (Belgium) -London City (UK) and Antwerp-Zurich (Switzerland) routes.

But the scheduled flights from Antwerp to London and Zurich are now cancelled, to the dismay of many travelers, particularly those in Britain. The flight route between Aberdeen and Antwerp was just introduced, in June 2018. The route reportedly did not prove to be viable and bookings have been cancelled. “We only recently started the route and it was the developmental stage,” a VLM spokesman was quoted as saying by Aberdeen-based The Press and Journal. “Unfortunately, we have taken the decision to end the route as of August 31”.

In a statement on VLM’s website the company confirmed it was going into liquidation, saying that it is ceasing all activities effective immediately and that no flights will be carried out from September 3, 2018. Meanwhile, SHS Antwerp Aviation said in its press release it has already appointed liquidators Youri Steverlynck and Birgitta Van Itterbeek (Monard Law) who will be responsible for negotiating the sale of the business with potential buyers. VLM employs 85 staff.

Dutch, Belgian or Slovenian Airline?

VLM Airlines was a scheduled, ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance) and charter carrier headquartered at Antwerp International Airport (ANR) in Belgium. The carrier started operations in 1993 with a scheduled service between Antwerp and London City Airport (LCY). The name "VLM" is an abbreviation of “Vlaamse Luchttransport Maatschappij” or "Flemish Air Transport Company".

VLM Airlines was relaunched by a Dutch aviation company SHS Antwerp Aviation, which, trading under the brand name ‘VLM‘, is a subsidiary of the Dutch investment company SHS Aviation, owned by a consortium of Dutch (60% share) and Chinese (40% share) investors.

VLM Airlines had already filed for bankruptcy once before, suspending all operations on June 22, 2016. But, according to CAPA - Centre for Aviation Airline Profiles, back in May 2017, SHS Antwerp Aviation acquired a controlling stake in the now defunct Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, following a partnership agreement between Thomas Cook Group and Brussels Airlines.

SHS Aviation utilized Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium's air operator certificate (AOC) and operating license to relaunch VLM Airlines. When Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium finally ceased operations on October 27, 2017, this allowed SHS Aviation to operate scheduled services through the new brand.

The re-launched VLM Airlines commenced scheduled operations on October 30, 2017, with the same good-old London City - Antwerp service. The flights were operated under a joint service schedule with its sister VLM Airlines Slovenia. The carrier is headquartered at Maribor Airport (MBX) in Slovenia and wholly owned by SHS Antwerp Aviation.

VLM Airlines, in fact, has a joint Belgian and Slovenian AOC. With its sister carrier VLM Airlines Slovenia, it operated a total of five Fokker 50 turboprops, ch-aviation reports. A separate entity with a separate AOC, VLM Airlines Brussels unit, based at Brussels International Airport (BRU) in Belgium, is unaffected by VLM Airlines’ Antwerp termination of operations.