Brussels Airlines soon to launch Congolese subsidiary

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Brussels Airlines' Congolese subsidiary, Korongo Airlines, plans to begin operations with three aircraft on domestic routes "in the next months".

The carrier will be based in Lubumbashi in the south eastern Haut-Katanga province, close to the border with Zambia.

Korongo will operate two BAE Systems Avro RJs and one Boeing 737-300, which are being leased on an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) basis from Brussels Airlines.

The project, which was originally launched in late 2009, is described by a Brussels Airlines spokesman as "taxiing to the runway and going through its takeoff checks". He adds that Korongo "is not at the gate anymore but not yet on the runway".

The operational launch is expected "in the next months", says the spokesman. The main cause for the hold-up is that the required ground infrastructure is still being worked on.

Airports have had to improve their facilities to ensure, for example, permanent electricity supply, adequate navigational aids, emergency and maintenance services.

Once these conditions can be guaranteed, the airline will initially fly between Lubumbashi and the capital Kinshasa, as well as other domestic routes.

The network is later to be extended to regional destinations. The two-letter IATA airline code will be ZC.

While the company will be listed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the aircraft will be registered in Belgium and operated under the same rules and regulations as its parent. This should avoid restrictions arising from the European Union's airline blacklist, under which all Congolese carriers are banned from operating to destinations in the EU.

Flight crew, technical and management staff will be seconded from Brussels Airlines to its new subsidiary. However, the company has trained some local staff for cabin crew positions.

A hangar is nearing completion at Lubumbashi to provide line maintenance and "light checks", according to the spokesman.

Korongo is a joint venture with the Belgian mining and construction company George Forrest, which has operations in Lubumbashi.