Air Belgium: What Did I Get Myself Into?

Yesterday I wrote about how Air Belgium just pushed back their launch by over a month. The airline was supposed to begin flying between Charleroi and Hong Kong as of April 30, though they now pushed that back to June. This seems to be because they didn’t get permission to overfly Russian airspace (minor details), and also because they just didn’t sell enough seats to make it worthwhile.

My assumption all along has been that Air Belgium’s management does indeed intend to operate an airline, even if the business model is questionable. This is in contrast to some other 30 year old startup “airlines” that clearly don’t intend to ever fly.

What I really can’t wrap my head around is how amateur this airline is, especially given that it’s run by people with experience in the industry. Back when I first tried to book my ticket, their online form wasn’t even set up correctly to accept US credit cards.

Now they’ve informed me that my flight is canceled. The email they sent me yesterday said that their “team will call [me] as of tomorrow to explain these proposals and discuss which one [I] prefer.”

If I knew they’d call me today then I’d just wait, but “as of tomorrow” sounds to me like they might call me tomorrow… or the day after… or maybe after the weekend… or something. Today is Thursday, tomorrow is Friday, and then it’s the weekend, and I suspect this is a Monday through Friday operation.

So I wanted to reach out to the airline to discuss options, since I need to make plans, as I’m set to leave in a couple of days.

First I looked through the email they sent me, figuring there would be a phone number or something there. After all, I’ve just been informed that my flight in a matter of days has been canceled. Nope, there wasn’t one.

Then I went to Air Belgium’s website looking for a customer service phone number. They don’t have one of those either.

Then I tried to send a message through Air Belgium’s online “contact us” form. After submitting it, I received a message saying “unable to send email,” and to “contact the site administrator if problem persists.”

Fortunately they list an email address on their website — info@airbelgium.com. When I sent an email there, I got the following message, basically telling me to not expect a response:

Many thanks for your email and interest.
Due to the very high number and variety of messages being received on info@airbelgium.com, we’re unable to provide a timely process and response. We apologise for the inconvenience.
If your message is about employment opportunity and applications, please apply solely on the job posting through airbelgium.com.
If your message is about other types of inquiries, we will do our utmost to respond but bear in mind that this may take some time.
Thanks a lot for your understanding.

So an airline cancels their flights just a few days before they’re set to launch, and they don’t even give customers a way to contact them?

Well this should be a fun adventure! I feel like this is my La Compagnie experience from a few years ago all over again.

This all makes me wonder even more what kind of an alternative flight they’ll offer me. Cathay Pacific business class from Brussels to Hong Kong seems like the most appropriate alternative, though I’m starting to think that maybe they’ll rebook me on Pegasus Airlines to Istanbul, then Nile Air to Cairo, and then Lufthansa Cargo to Hong Kong? 😉

On another note, initially the airline was supposed to operate 4x weekly flight. Now they’ve pushed back the inaugural to June, though it looks like they’ll only offer 2x weekly flights for the month, as flights two days per week are listed as “sold out.”

Comments

  1. You are living some interesting live now. A good story like this or ten stories about showers in the sky in guild plated cabins. Which is more interesting?

  2. Lucky oh lucky… you knew going in that this airline is run by some amateurs , I mean look at their model, and you’re story about the credit card, so I wouldn’t say this is shocking to me.
    Like you said sorta like la compagenie, home you find a check in this time !

  3. Lucky, it sounds like you are going to end up using chargeback on your CC for this one. I doubt you’ll see the money any other way.

    Live and learn but it could be worse. Some poor suckers may even have bought their tickets with debit cards.

  4. Amateurs are those who book them after so many commenters warned you not to and then getting angry when exactly that happened what all commenters thought would happen: a mess.

  5. @ CS — I’m not angry at all. Of course I wish them success, but when stuff like this happens it also makes for a great story, which I appreciate as someone who writes about this stuff. I imagine someone with a set schedule who actually needed to get somewhere would be much angrier.

  6. “What I really can’t wrap my head around is how amateur this airline is”

    Welcome to Belgium. Have a nice day.

  7. Why not use the contact info I left in comments on your earlier post? These were for real people.

    Contact info…
    Oliver Corvilain
    32.10234560
    oliver.corvilain@airbelgium.com
    or…
    Jean-yves Corbisier
    32.42497777

    I’ll admit these guys sound like clowns, but you do have the information to get in touch with them.

  8. And the credit card issue wasn’t a red flag for you? I’m sorry but tying a blindfold around your head, walking off a cliff and then getting upset at the cliff is kinda crazy. You gambled and lost. I’d call the credit card company instead to see if they can reverse the transaction. I think you’re also kidding yourself about them booking you on another flight.

  9. Not getting Russian overflyingpermits a minor detail? I don’t think so! These permits are key to make this route profitable. Avoiding Russian airspace would mean a seriously longer flighttime, using lots of extra fuel especially on the Westbound sector. It’s an A340-300 after all…

  10. Lucky you could get from Kiev to London and just change it and go KBP – London or just go from BRU – London and then Fly QF9 new 787 LHR – PER then PER – SIN – HKG on SQ’s new 787-10 Dreamliner (as they fly the 787-10 to Perth) to meet up with your Hong Kong Airlines flights back to the US.

  11. “Ah, but life is like that! It does not permit you to arrange and order it as you will. It will not permit you to escape emotion, to live by the intellect and by reason! You cannot say, ‘I will feel so much and no more.’ Life… whatever else it is, is not reasonable.” – Hercule Poirot

  12. First of all thank you for trying it. I appreciate your good will and spirit for adventure..I would not wait very long for a response..and the best thing is to charge back if you feel they have crossed the line of your patience..

  13. So sorry for you! It is up to you..when you have not got the patience anymore than do get a chargeback for your money..no need to wait until you have become a martyr..such a huge disappointment this airline!

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