Expatica news

DHL gives Belgium’one last chance’

19 October 2004

BRUSSELS – Global courier firm DHL is to grant the Belgian authorities another “serious” chance before it decides whether to scale down significantly its operations in the country, the company said on Tuesday.

Senior DHL representatives told reporters that the company would give the Belgian government more time to decide whether it will approve the firm’s plans to turn Zaventem airport outside of Brussels into its major European hub.

But the company also made it clear that it was studying two alternative sites.

The debate over DHL’s Zaventem operations has dragged on for months due to political wrangling between the federal and regional authorities.

On the one hand are local residents who say any increase in DHL’s activities will make living near to Zaventem unbearably noisy.

They are pitted against politicians and workers representatives scared about job losses if DHL scales down its operations at the airport.

Key to unblocking the impasse is finding an acceptable noise level for night flights leaving and arriving at the airport.

Currently the courier firm uses MD 11 aircraft which, with a so-called ‘Quota Count’ of 11.1, are considered too loud by critics of the plan.

But DHL has argued that the MD 11 is the best model currently on the market when it comes to noise levels.

The number of night flights is also proving to be a major hurdle in the dispute.

The courier firm has said it would restrict operations to four flights each night for now, but this is expected to rise to sixteen after 2011.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was on Tuesday still desperately trying to find a compromise that would satisfy the country’s regional governments.

If the government fails to forge a deal and DHL leaves Zaventem, Belgium will be reduced to the status of a regional hub for the company’s operations.

The firm did not want to speculate on what impact this would have on jobs and said it was making every effort to save its Belgian operations.

But other analysts have said thousands of jobs would be threatened if DHL downsizes at Zaventem.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news