Strange New(ish) Airline: Air Belgium Will Start Flying Between Brussels And Hong Kong

I really love new airlines, and do what I can to root for them. As an airline product geek, there’s something incredibly exciting about flying a new airline where you have no clue what to expect.

There’s a new airline that’s supposed to take to the skies next month. I can’t decide whether I’m more excited, or more confused by their business model.

Air Belgium will launch flights between Brussels and Hong Kong starting next month… or so they claim.

Air Belgium as such isn’t a new airline. According to the Wikipedia page about the company, Air Belgium was an airline from the 1980s until 2000, and then in 2016 it was brought back to life. The airline intends to operate a fleet of four Airbus A340-300 aircraft, all of which used to fly for Finnair (though Finnair is retiring them as they take delivery of the A350-900).

Air Belgium will use these planes to connect Brussels and “greater China.” The airline claims that they will receive their first plane in mid-February, and will begin flying between Brussels and Hong Kong by late March 2018, so the route will be launching as early as next month.

Air Belgium will be flying out of Brussels South Airport, which is otherwise primarily used by low cost carriers. The airport will be making some modifications to accommodate Air Belgium, including the introduction of a premium terminal:

The airport will be changing its infrastructure in such a way that it will be able to welcome Air Belgium and its fleet of four A340-300 airplanes, with gradual deliveries starting from mid-February 2018. The airport will be pulling out all the stops to welcome every passenger in optimal circumstances.

A Premium terminal will be created at the current Terminal Sud (Executive Aviation Terminal) to meet the needs of business and premium class travelers. Before check-in, they will be able to use the parking and be on the plane within twenty minutes, including the Border and Customs checks and boarding. The full service Business Lounge will offer extensive comfort options for passengers who wish to work or relax before their flight. Construction will start at the end of May and take a year to be completed. In the meantime, BSCA will be providing temporary solutions to guarantee the comfort of the travelers from the very first flight.

So, what can you expect in terms of Air Belgium’s onboard product? It looks like they’ll maintain somewhat similar cabins to what Finnair had on the planes before, at least in business and economy. Business class will feature fully flat beds, in a staggered configuration.

Air Belgium will have a premium economy cabin, in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Economy will be in a 2-4-2 configuration.

I’m not sure I really get the business model here. A new airline will be flying inefficient aircraft from Brussels to Asia, when economy fares in the market are typically in the $550-700 range (based on looking at fares right now). Furthermore, the airline has no partners (at least yet), so they’ll have limited feed.

Perhaps the coolest aspect of this is that a new airline is branding themselves as “Air Belgium” around the same time that the Brussels Airlines name may disappear.

Assuming this airline is more legitimate than Baltia, I’ll be doing everything in my power to fly them!

What do you make of Air Belgium? Am I the only one who finds their business plan a bit strange?

(Tip of the hat to YHBU)

Comments

  1. I can’t think of a single start-up that has succeeded recently apart from LCC/ULCC. Maybe the Belgians who want their country to have a proper national carrier (now that SN is going away) will fly it instead of Eurowings.

  2. Apparently they had an open day in HK in early Nov 2017 to recruit HK based crew (saw it from an Instagram ad last year), though no clue if it actually happened/ if they have hired someone.

  3. I am not sure if belgium folks want really to go to Charleroi instead of Brussels airport.

    Strange choice of departing airport.

  4. Interesting that they are launching the route around the time when Cathay will start service to BRU (25 Mar)

  5. @lucky, I offer a suggestion to you:

    While I and others surely appreciate your reviews of the most glamorous airlines and cabins (Emirates, Qatar, etc) and also the quirkiest and oddest (Air Astana, Air Belgium), I think you would do your audience a service to review some more bread and butter carriers/routes that people are actually likely to travel in.

    How about a review of WOW or Icelandair which many people debate whether to fly for cheap to Europe? Or AirAsia or Scoot? Or Allegiant? Or just good old JetBlue LGA-BOS and compare it against DL/AA/etc and give us advice on this flight that people take every single day?

    I know it’s not glamorous to fly these airlines, and it won’t satisfy your predilection to fly luxurious and/or quirky and/or personal-bucket list airlines, and maybe it won’t generate the 100 comments you seem to be looking for in each thread. And it’s actually work + discomfort to review some of those. But more people would find this information useful than the weird flight they might encounter once in their lives. I think it would be a better use of your efforts than to do everything in your power to seek out Air Belgium.

    Just a suggestion. Best wishes.

  6. I can see the airline survive only if it’s backed by Chinese tour operators (which I think it is). The number of Chinese tourists in Europe has been growing at incredible pace year after year and there is no end. It has a significant impact on businesses. Many businesses have to adjust, offering services tailored to Chinese. Other business owners don’t want to change the same way and opt to sell them to Chinese. There are hundreds of restaurants, stores and other tourist oriented businesses in Paris that have been sold to Chinese over the last couple of years.

    Normally Chinese tourists are the least demanding and they almost always travel in organised groups. So Charleroi airport would be perfect choice. It’s cheap. It’s relatively modern. It’s within 3 hours by bus from Brussels, Brugge, Luxembourg, Paris and Amsterdam. For them it’s so much more convenient to arrive at Charleroi and board the bus in front of the baggage claim then to do the same at CDG.

  7. The problem with this kind of airline is, if the plane is down for maintenance, you might be stuck somewhere for days. Irrops is really a big reason I prefer to fly long haul on airlines with big fleets and solid operations. Short haul doesn’t matter so much, if all fails you can still take the train or rent a car.

  8. Lucky et al.
    I am ashamed.
    This is a Bad Belgian joke…
    Tax money being wasted.
    I just landed in AUH, FC (upgraded from BC, so don’t have any compassion) with EY, and the product has become so worse over time. Etihad is heavily funded by oil. But is running out of gas .Belgium has a track record of deficits.
    Wanna bet : if it takes off, 2 years max.

  9. Air Belgium and Air Canada should stop painting their planes like bank robbers. Bank robbers were black masks to cover their eyes. Write to Air Canada and tell them to stop being crooks.

  10. The A340 isn’t exactly “fuel inefficient”. It would be more accurate to say that it isn’t as efficient as a 777. I wish them all the success in fighting the Lufthansa monopoly, but you would think they would first try to build a shorthaul network.

  11. I was really surprised when i read this a few days ago. That’s a very short time to start operations but it’s what we’ve seen from Chinese carriers. Is this airline backed by chinese investors? The Airline’s operation from Charleroi reminds me of when Frankfurt Hahn was being sold to a chinese investor who had promised passenger flights to Hahn.

    With SN being branded EW, i want to hope this turns out well.

  12. @Chris Tinsley, speak for yourself. I think most of Lucky’s readers are not here for low cost carrier reviews.

    They can go to one of TPG’s thousands of bloggers for that.

  13. In those pics the premium economy and normal economy seat are exactly the same. Thus all premium economy gets is a wider aisle…

  14. Wow. I mean good luck but come on, flying fuel-inefficient aircraft on longhaul from Charleroi?

    I honestly cannot imagine who they would be targeting. Hard to compete on price on economy in this market, and no real business traveller is going to drive all the way out to Charleroi to catch a flight to Hong Kong when you could do a quick stop in ZRH/FRA/CDG/LHR with a multitude of flight schedules and options.

  15. Although I love flying these aircraft they get terrible gas mileage. Airlines can’t seem to purge them from their fleet’s quick enough, You know you’re in trouble when they can’t even sell/lease them to cargo companies at a deep discount. I think even an elderly 744 is a better option. Airbus, couldn’t lop off two engines and recreate the A330 to stay relevant quick enough. It’s like buying a Land Rover.

  16. I’m HKG based and reading Denis’ comments about Chinese tour groups made me cringe. If loud, disorderly, new to travel, Chinese tourist groups are their target market, that’s a big NO for anyone who actually enjoys flying. Even up the front in business, you can hear them shouting at each other in economy.

  17. They are going to be profitable with 340-300s??? ROFLMAO. Those airplanes (new eyeliner or not) are impossible to make money with. FYI AY retired them in February 2017 – notice how they turned profitable after that. Also WHAT business model are they running???? Ain’t LCC with those airplanes and configuration and group tours = CHEEEEP! Anyone want to start a pool on how long they will last. THe final kiss of death : colour scheme reminds me of old Air Zim.

  18. And the runway at Brussels South isn’t long enough for an A340-300 to take off at maximum load. So they will have load restrictions and the number of passengers on board will be limited to 250 !

  19. Actually, I think the establishment of this carrier is quite a strange thing, as first I found out the Charleroi airport is about 70km away from the city centre, while the current BRU is just about 15.7km, second this airline is currently operating to Great China region, which is with sooooooo many competitors (incl transferring services like EK EY QR etc.). Therefore I cannot see how they can survive through.

  20. Woodrow,

    I think Chris’s point is that most folks here don’t pay to fly in First but use miles and points when they can. So reviews of experiences that most here could never afford are more like a form of “airline soft porn” then of practical use.

  21. skedguy

    A number of airline successful use A340’s. Sure they use a little more fuel but then they also carry more pax and payload.

  22. Knew the CEO back in the day I worked for TNT, to be honest he was full of himself and could talk the talk , seeing that most Chinese want to go to the big cities I do not see them going to the Charleroi, I see this as an ego project going nowhere.

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