( AFP ) - Belgium's second-largest airport, Charleroi, inaugurated a new terminal Saturday, which officials hope will eventually double the number of largely budget passengers flying through.
Located in the largest city in Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region about 45 kilometres (28 miles) south of Brussels, the newly modernised airport is expected to be partially privatised, Wallonia's transport minister said.
The state currently owns 76.4 percent of the airport's operator, Brussels South Charleroi Airport (BSCA), but 27.65 percent is due shortly to be sold to private investors, Andre Antoine said.
Belgium press reports suggest the buyers may be French or Chinese firms.
The refurbished airport gives Charleroi a chance to shine after being tarnished by financial scandals that forced its entire municipal council to resign in 2007.
" Charleroi is also about promising enterprises," said Flemish politician Yves Leterme, who will likely become Belgium's next prime minister this year.
Built to receive up to five million, mostly foreign passengers yearly -- compared to the 2.5 million who currently use the airport -- the new 125 million-euro (185-million dollar) wing will be open to the public January 29.
Irish budget airline Ryanair made Charleroi its main base in continental Europe in 2001 and is by far the airport's leading client, transporting 85 percent of its passengers -- mostly from the Netherlands and northern France.