Dear Air Belgium: Please Take My Money

Earlier this week Air Belgium began selling tickets for their flights, which launch on April 30 between Brussels and Hong Kong. Air Belgium is a new airline operating 3x weekly flights between Brussels and Hong Kong using former Finnair A340-300s. Their long term goal is to add flights between Brussels and several points in mainland China.

I have my doubts regarding their business model, but I am super excited about flying a brand new airline, which is always an adventure. Today I was trying to book my ticket on Air Belgium to Hong Kong (one direction in business class, the other in economy).

I was hit with a couple of unpleasant surprises. First of all, in addition to the fare my ticket would have cost me an extra 115EUR. Air Belgium even charges for seat assignments in business class, with any single seat costing 75EUR, and any regular seat costing 25EUR. C’mon, what is this, British Airways?

On top of that there’s a 40EUR fee to pay a business class ticket by credit card (and you can bet I’m using a credit card for this purchase, because I feel like the travel insurance might come in handy here).

The biggest problem, though, is that no matter what credit card I enter, I get an error message saying “REJECT.” I’ve used five different Visas and Mastercards in different browsers, and get the same message every time.

That might explain why not a single seat is taken on the seatmap for either flight.

Pro tip: if you’re going to launch an airline and start selling tickets only weeks in advance, make sure you can take peoples’ money. Now please take mine first!

Has anyone had luck booking Air Belgium yet?!

Comments

  1. I’ve found this with some ticket purchases for flight originating in Scandinavia, with a message, “Please note that we only accept Scandinavian-registered credit cards”… Perhaps this is a similar situation? (Although clearly without the helpful message!). Good luck!

  2. maybe your banks are blocking the charges?

    Do they not have a phone number you can call?

    Personally if they wanted to charge me all of those ridiculous fees I’d be very tempted to tell them where to stick their new airline

  3. Belgium: right there is the issue.

    Probably the Flemish and French speakers in the company are right at this moment arguing about who is responsible for this (which underscores why Belgium has over 1000 unique beers … there is no other way to co-exist).

  4. Ahah!

    That’s kind of funny.

    I was waiting to read what is your plan for going to Charleroi.
    But you are stuck with the payment process! Oh dear!

    Air belgium has probably choosen to charge add-ons to be in line of flying from an airport for low-cost carriers!

    Starting an airline does not seem to be easy.

    I hope your payment will be processed.

  5. By the way: Fees on credit card payments are illegal by EU law as of last year.. just saying..

  6. I don’t like the way they black out the area around the cockpit windows, like Air Canada. Makes them look like robbers.

    Gimme ur money….ur money or ur life.

  7. Ask your Amex Platinum travel agent to book the ticket for you. Or ask any other supposedly premium travel agent or a concierge which is included with those expensive credit cards, touting they can book any travel arrangements for you. So use them! And write a review here, if those premium concierges are actually worth anything.

  8. Since the beginning of this year, i thought an EU directive was in place that banned all charges for using any debit or credit card. I presume Air Belgium are an EU company, and so I thought this would apply to them even tough you’re presumably purchasing from the States.

  9. Credit card fees are banned across the EU (in other words all types of cards must attract the same charge). So they are in breach of this law. Doesn’t fill you with confidence for the future viability of this airline…

  10. @echino. OH they worth it.

    Case: booked mistake AF F tix LAX-CDG, AF cxl tix, AMEX gets on AF’s case and gives $1K DL voucher to me. How about that?

  11. Oh boy, this is starting well. Starting with them not accepting your cash and those credit card fees with were banned in the EU….
    This is one airline i want to succede undetered by the dominance of the Lufhansa group in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (that i mostly fly anyway) so they better get their act straight.

    Oh Lucky, this will be an adventure. I’m sure RyanScare gladly took your cash though… 😉

  12. Regarding the credit card fees: is the ban for companies in the EU or is it based on their customers location (i.e. since Lucky is in the US they can charge him this fee)?

  13. 1200 eur return in J class with all fees seems a huge bargain to me. But even if it were approx 2000 euros it’s still a decent price for the seat on which is pictured. I just did a return flight DXB DFW through London with mixed BA/AA and was above 2100 GBP, non refundable and booked one and a half month in advance, and this was one and only deal available. All other fares were if not double at least 50% more expensive. Though as usual this could be the launch price. On a later stage I bet payment online will be easy and also more expensive.

    However mind you, I had a similar issue with AA paying online. What I did, I called their office in UK (as the fare was originated in UK) and paid through the phone. No issues. All went smooth. Why don’t you try do the same?

  14. I can’t even see their flights on Skyscanner or momondo. O dear.

    @Theresa
    I thought the same and was even tempted to do a dummy booking with my european address..
    The ban from 30th of January this year affects all payments done in the EU with few exceptions. The exceptions to charge the fee apply to ‘not widely used methods of Payment’ like Paypal and American Express. Yes Amex has a very low profile unlike Visa & Mastercard.

    So the costs may have only appeared if Lucky booked with Amex but it doesn’t sound that that was the case.

  15. @Theresa law of place of service is applicable. So tickets from belgium are sold under belgium law.

    Regardless, lucky getting to crl is the most interesting part of this story hehe.

  16. This is not a good start..either your bank block and needs verification from you or as @nicola suggested try to book over the phone…i wis you all the luck that it works..

  17. To those asking about a phone, I can’t find a phone number for them. However, I did send them a message. I don’t think any travel agents can book flights on them yet since their flights aren’t in the GDS.

  18. I wish they contact you quickly and helped you book without problems.. perhaps they could even give you a free seat selection for all the trouble!?..
    Really weird no telephone numbers?!…does not shout trustable at this moment…

  19. Re: Credit card payments in EU. It will indeed be illegal across the EU, but because it is an EU directive and not a regulation some countries are still to implement the directive in their national law. Guess which country hasn’t yet implemented it? You got it. Belgium! Should be the case from June or July I believe. Also, it’s based on where the product is sold, not where the buyer is purchasing from. Glad to let out some of my EU geekiness 🙂

  20. I know Belgium is a non-nation, but I wonder if Belgians are going to be pleased that this dodgy company is using the Belgium brand in this reckless manner. I hazard to suggest that the EU flag will not be painted on the fuselage. I see tacky mainland Chinese footprints all over this operation.

  21. Likely took lessons from the hustling americans–everything, anything to get an extra buck, create a need, a requirement/overly complicate matters. Starve them financially.

  22. @lucky about a phone and GDS: isn’t this one of the situations where premium credit card travel agent / concierge is supposed to step in and take care of it? At least it’s advertised that way. If a flight is in GDS, you don’t need any extra help, you can book it yourself. However, if a situation is non-standard like this, then just call a platinum travel / concierge. Let them do the work! They should find the phone number for the airline, call and book on your behalf, sort out the payment, etc. Otherwise, what’s the point of those platinum travel agents and concierges?

  23. Who knows if they read their incoming emails but the address is info@airbelgium.com.

    Their address is Rue Emile Francqui 7, Mont-Saint- Guibert, Wallonia 1435, Belgium.

    The phone number +32 10 23 45 00 is their main office line according the company information they publish.

  24. Let’s see…
    They’re charging you huge fees for the privilege of choosing a seat (in business class).
    Another big fee (possibly an illegal one) for paying by credit card.
    Their online sales system is a complete failure.
    They have no phone number and can’t be reached.

    Why on earth would you be so foolish and irresponsible to support a business like this?
    Don’t you have an ounce of common sense?

  25. I wonder if the payment processing is happening in Hong Kong rather than Belgium. That would increase the likelihood that the transactions are getting blocked by one of the middlemen in the card processing chain. I’ve run into this with Indian travel agencies where the Indian card processor confirms their letting the transaction through, my bank is prepared to authorize it, and someone in between is blocking it.

    It could happen even if the charge is originating in Belgium, although it’s a little less likely.

  26. A stand alone boutique full service carrier flying a four engined fuel guzzler on a long haul route does not sound like a promising business model in itself. I don’t see them around very Long assuming that the launch does actually go ahead.

  27. earlier post from “Gregor” NOT quiet true! Credit cards based in EU ARE not to be allowed fees if used for purchase, but your credit card is based in US (system knows that by first 4 numbers of the card!) and therefore the fee is legal. Then to the fee for advance seat reservation on “Premium” seats, stupid LUFTHANSA group airline SWISS is doing the same thing in Business Class, so nothing special! ….. and who would want to fly old Gangster Airline SWISS and pay high fees for things that should be incl. in premium price segments?! Even Full Fare Business Fares DO have to pay for those “Premium” single seats on SWISS, avoid that airline by any way, at least i do with great ways since almost 14 years and former SWISSAIR sort of killed German LTU by “stealing” there owned planes of MD-11 and nothing came in return. Just shows how they work! Not short after that, SWISSAIR themself was OUT of Business
    I think if those flights are on GDS available, a travel agent might be able to help you with all your needs and then still, you’d get FULL points as the purchase would be still directly from the airline, but trough a travel agent. IF those flights are loaded in the GDS, i don’t see them listed there yet be warned Ben!!!!
    I think problem is, there webpage is banning non EU credit cards!! Happens often with Chinese Airlines on Creditcards issued in EU!
    Good Luck!

  28. Hah! Funny that an airline basen in a city (well, kind of) where all those European regulations are produced, including no-credit-card-fees regulation, doesn’t respect them!

  29. Why would you risk your life flying an organization that clearly has no clue what they’re doing? Reckless

  30. As mentioned, compared to Swiss seating prices this is a steal… Windowless single “Privacy Seat” in LX Biz long haul? €173.85.

  31. How confident are you that this flight will actually launch?

    An airline using a wildly unsustainable business plan (to the point that I question how they seriously could have attracted enough investment to launch) with a non-functioning payment system, and no obvious phone number on their website?

    And the flight is showing up totally empty on their system??

    Why give your credit card number to these people?

  32. I bet you all the Senior management are looking at their stats and MI scratching their heads right now.
    Soo much traffic to their site, and everyone seems to drop off at the payment page and we haven’t had a single booking yet… Hmm what could be wrong?

  33. Ben..be careful!..if it is not meant to be..as they have still problems..so let them fix it first..I am hearing the warnings of the others here and they are well intentioned..it is no use to pursue it, if it brings you harm and trouble..

  34. As I write this, there have been 45 comments…and not a single one notes the fact that Lucky will be flying ECONOMY (“one direction in business class, the other in economy”).

    The things the man does for us.

    Safe travels, Lucky!

  35. Which are the 5 visa or Mastercard. How come not an amex? Why don’t you use a Card that you push?

  36. @Adil: He’s doing this for a cheaper fare, and will throw away the return. Don’t expect Lucky to fly long haul economy for the sake of a review. That’s why they have Daniel here.

  37. @Gorgor/Jimmy: The EU regulation which prohibits charging credit card fees only applies to EU issued credit cards.

    With my Switzerland issued credit cards all major airlines (LH, KL, OS, etc.), car rentals etc. charge fees, including when the ticket/service is purchased in the EU. So I guess it’s the same with Lucky’s US issued credit cards … In fact I would be very disappointed if Lucky wouldn’t get charged but I am 🙂

  38. I will be disappointed if Ben could not try this airline because they are not able to provide a decent reservation procedure..charging fees, no amex, extra fees…jeez…for a new airline…it is already getting on my nerves…pls. no more drama a la TAAG..

  39. @ Steven…probably true, at least partially .
    Without wanting to start a typical Belgian row…it is clear that this is again an incredibly naive inititiative by amateurs.
    Some blabla that this will boost the crippled Walloon ( i.e. French speaking part) economy, again funded by Flemish tax money.
    So sad to see…

  40. @lucky: Run!

    First Charleroi is, as the current occupant of 1600 Penn Ave would say, a sh**hole of an airport. Secondly, it seems to me as if Air Belgium is still very much “under construction”

  41. @Steve:

    Their Chief Digital Officer (so…CTO or CDIO equivalent) clearly isn’t up to par based on the issues Ben’s encountering with repeated, unsuccessful attempts to book a flight.

  42. Its a 3d secure issue to avoid liability shift . Make sure your issuer does not block enforced 3dsecure (many merchants in EU enforce it ) .On enrolled cards and that you talk to second line support when you call bank to unblock since first line don’t know that they do since its against the card rules. Or use a singel message debit card.

  43. Ben..are we seeing any light in the end of the tunnel here !..could you pls. elaborate the momentarily situation?…thanks!!

  44. Lucky flying economy. Back of the bus with peasants like me. This I look forward to reading.

  45. ..seriously Ben sitting in Economy class..voluntarily..are most of you here are off your meds!…He would rather fly TAAG in F on full revenue and be GH be straight again…and…Not going to happen!! Stop winding him up! LOL! As if he knows how to spell Ryan Air!!

  46. To Echino’s point, try using the Amex Plat travel agent. I had a similar experience earlier this year. I wanted to buy a flight from Buenos Aires to Rio on Gol. Had it all sussed out on the Gol Web site, joined their club, chose our seats, only to get bounced on the credit cards. None of my cards would take, not Amex, Mastercard, nor Visa. Nobody answers the GOL USA help desk number so I rang up the Amex Plat travel desk and they booked my tickets at the same prices as the Gol Web site. Had ticket numbers next day.

    Those look like great prices for business class from the EU to Hong Kong. Go ahead and pay the fees, even if the food sucks (I just took a business class flight from Buenos Aires to Miami last week and the food sucked) it is worth it for the big lie flat seat.

  47. I tried to book Condor on-line and my card(s) were refused. I eventually was able to use my least rewarding card which was unfortunate.

    The problem – Condor first runs a charge of $1 to make sure that the card is active. Then tries to run the full balance less a dollar. The intelligent software of Canadian Credit Cards views the $1 as a test to see if a stolen credit card is still valid thus will refuse the second charge.

    STUPID STUPID STUPID

    Perhaps this is what Belgium Airlines is also doing – copying or using the protocol or payment procedure used by Condor (part of Thomas Cook).

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