World News

Too early to say if Lufthansa’s Belgian carrier will get state aid

By Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium’s finance minister said it was too early to say if Brussels Airlines, a Lufthansa <LHAG.DE> subsidiary, will receive state aid, after its president Etienne Davignon indicated it would in Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique.

“It is still too early to speak on Brussels Airlines and on the possible role of the Belgian state,” Belgian Minister of Finance Alexandre De Croo said in a statement.

De Croo said an “in-depth analysis of the current cost structure” is underway and that the government is examining the aid released by parent company Lufthansa.

“The principle is now established that we will benefit from state aid,” Davignon told La Libre Belgique.

A Brussels Airlines spokeswoman declined to comment.

Lufthansa’s CEO Carsten Spohr said on April 8 the company would seek state aid in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria because of the extended period of the crisis, adding he was optimistic talks would lead to positive results.

Davignon said the aviation sector is recognised as strategic for the Belgian economy, justifying the aid. A nationalisation of the Belgian carrier would “make no sense,” he said.

Brussels Airlines said earlier in the week it suspended its flights until at least May 15 because of “low to no demand”, due to travel restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss. Editing by Jane Merriman, Kirsten Donovan)