Air Belgium’s Very Generous Rebooking Offer

This all went more quickly than I was expecting.

Yesterday I wrote about how Air Belgium 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 is because they didn’t get permission to overfly Russian airspace, and also because they just didn’t sell enough seats to make it worthwhile.

In the email they sent me, they offered three different options:

  • A seat on a flight of another airline, so I can reach Hong Kong as planned
  • Travel on an Air Belgium flight in the future, “with financial compensation”
  • A full refund

As I wrote about earlier, I tried to reach out to them since I wasn’t sure about the timeline with which they’d contact me, and my flight is soon.

Sure enough, they called me just a couple of hours ago. For what it’s worth, I didn’t get the sense that they called me because of my blog post, but it seems they just got to me at that point in the list of people they had to call. I say that because of the way they guy spoke to me, which suggested he wasn’t sure if I was aware of the cancelation, etc.

Of the three options, I knew I wasn’t just going to take a full refund. So I was trying to decide between taking a future flight on Air Belgium (I absolutely still want to fly them in the future), or having them rebook me on another airline. It came down to what kind of “financial compensation” they were offering with the option of being rebooked on a future Air Belgium flight, and also what alternative flights they were offering on other airlines for travel at the original time.

So, what was I offered?

Being rebooked on a future Air Belgium flight

Over the phone the guy explained I could be rebooked on an Air Belgium flight in the future. I mentioned that the email referenced “financial compensation,” and asked what that would be. He didn’t seem totally certain, but suggested that for my return flight (which was booked in economy) I could be upgraded to premium economy or business class “if there are seats available.”

That’s a nice offer, though what impressed me more was the option to be rebooked on another airline.

Being rebooked on another airline

I was wondering what Air Belgium would offer to rebook me on. Presumably they don’t have any sort of interline agreement, so they’d be paying the retail price (or close to it) for any ticket. Not only did they offer to rebook me in Cathay Pacific business class to Hong Kong, but as a gesture of goodwill they also offered to rebook me in business class on Cathay Pacific on the return, even though I was only booked in economy. That flight required a connection, since Cathay Pacific didn’t offer a nonstop flight on that day. Wow.

Here’s the email I was sent after my call:

Thank you for your time over the phone and apologize again for the inconvenience. As explained, we unfortunately had to cancell our first flighs due to the circumstances we explained in Yesterday’s email, but we’re committed to find a solution for each of our passengers: a booking on another airline so that you can reach your destination, a full reimbursment or a different departure date (knowing we’ll be operating as of 3 June).

As promised, please find the current alternative flights (available as we speak) we found to make sure you can reach your destination the same day as the ones you’d booked with our airline:

1 CX 338 I XXMAY 7 BRU HKG DK1 1310 0635 XXMAY E 0 359 BL

2 CX 289 D XXMAY 1*HKG FRA DK1 0035 0645 XXMAY E 0 77W BD

3 CX6705 D XXMAY 1*FRA BRU DK1 0825 0920 XXMAY E 0 CR9 B

As you booked in business class for the first flight, we’ll offer the same condition on the other airline, but for both flights as a commercial gesture.

If you prefer to change the date of your return to Brussels (for example in order to avoid a stop in Frankfurt, which we can’t avoid on 14 May as there is no other direct flight), we’re also happy to find other flights for you.

Please do let us know what are the options you would like to choose. And in the meantime we remain at your disposal, should you have any other question.

That’s a really expensive way for them to fix this problem, and frankly one that I’m surprised to see them offer, given that they’re a startup.

What should I do?

I’m curious to hear what you guys think I should do. On one hand, the Cathay Pacific A350 direct from Brussels to Hong Kong could be an interesting review, and I’d even earn valuable miles for that flight.

At the same time, I could just have them rebook me on another Air Belgium flight in the future, and then make my own way from Europe to Hong Kong. I could review anything that you guys would find interesting (off the top of my head I’m thinking Vietnam Airlines business class through London and Ho Chi Minh City, Garuda Indonesia business class through London and Jakarta, etc.).

I’m curious to hear what you guys think!

Comments

  1. Why not both? Take the free flight on CX and then rebook a second ticket on them when they open bookings again.

    Insanely generous of them. I hope they stay in business.

  2. Yup. Going out of business.

    At least they are not US3 who only guarantee you will get there. Not in what shape.

  3. Well, Cathay Pacific doesn’t allow economy and business class to be booked as a multi class booking which is why they’re offering you business class both ways. I imagine that there wasn’t much price difference between business class both ways and business class one way and premium economy on the way back. As I’m sure you know, one way tickets are also very expensive so a single booking is probably preferred.

  4. I vote for Vietnam Airlines! Another solid Skyteam airline to tick off your list. Good pho too one would imagine!

  5. It was prolly cheaper for them to book a round trip business class ticket but it was a good gesture.

  6. Since they offer such nice gesture, why not choose option A, save for June.
    You wanna try them anyway.

  7. I’m really looking forward to reading of review of these guys, so I vote to take a later flight, then piece together your own itinerary from Europe to Hong Kong. Vietnam Airlines is a solid idea, though the idea mentioned above of Biman Bangladesh would be fascinating to read about.

  8. @ Ben — Is this a trick question? The choice is pretty obvious — take the CX flights and credit to Alaska for the 325% or 350% redeemable miles.

  9. **Air Belgium is flying** – they wet leased their plane to Surinam Airlines. If you want to fly today, book Amsterdam-Paramaribo 🙂 they probably make more money doing this then flying a few pax to Hkg.

  10. i would say take the Cathay flight and rebook on air belgium once they’re actually operational in case something like this happens again.

  11. Very nice of them but I would still take the offer to be rebooked. CX seems like the best option.

  12. that is quite generous. Since you never planned to take the return I wonder if that enters the equation for you at all. With the other plans you’ve already made it seems to make sense to take the CX offer. If they ever start flying you can decide if it’s worth the potential hassle to try again

  13. @Lucky,
    Ask them to book you Cathay on the outbound and Air Belgium(perhaps at a later date) on the return, that way you would have both a Cathay A350 review as well as Air Belgium. Hitting 2 birds with one stone.

  14. You should defenitly go for option A. Cathay A350 Business is awesome! I was on it 2 weeks ago out of BRU…

  15. In the last 10 days or so the did 2 rehearsal flights around Europe for about 3hrs each. Both flights were sold out within hours of announcement. I really wanted to be there but couldn’t. There’s even a flight review online.

    Just around the time you booked the flight, Airline route on twitter noted posted a screenshot from Air Belgium regarding flights starting in 2019 and being only twice weekly…..

    Take Cathay and book them when they actually start operations. You can then use your return leg at a later point as you were planning on trying Hong Kong express to return to the US.

  16. Definitely take what they gave you, you can easily fly Air Belgium later. You’d be dumb not to take that good of a deal

  17. Take the CX offer and then book Air Belgium sometime shortly after they actually start flying. Rebooking with Air Belgium now just seems to be asking for the same thing to happen to you again the next time.

  18. Since there is no guarantee that Air Belgium will operate to Hong Kong in the future I would take the Cathay deal and not book Air Belgium again until you know they are actually operating that route.

  19. As you have already heard for others here..bag the CX return in C class..better to secure a great deal than nothing..what a fail start instead of earning, they have to splash out first..at the moment I would leave Air Belgium alone..not worth gambling with them..you can either try GA or VN both have interesting C products..

  20. Pity KLM out of AMS is not an option.

    A comparison of Garuda’s first & business class longhaul offerings would be interesting, though.

  21. Ben, off the top of my head MH A350 via London in first class would be interesting (how does their suite compare to DL’s A350s).

    Off-topic re Skyteam: Have you seen that KE’s B789s have first class – seats seem to be about the same Apex Suites they usually use for business.

  22. You may think the CX ticket is expensive, but it is much much cheaper for them than flying an empty A340 to Hong Kong and back.

  23. @imperator

    @Lucky already had flown GA First last Dec. 2016..I flew GA First last March 2017..there were no big differences to@Lucky’s report..have only seen the C product..they have the solysts seats like Iberia,TG,VN,OZ or HX..

    It is actually good idea to try the new MH First..

  24. Take the CX ticket, if they truly have problems with Russian over flying rights I can be years before they start flying scheduled flights.

  25. It’s been a few years since you last reviews CX F/J. I’d be interested in a review of their A350 in J, especially on a flight between Europe and HK.

    I’m not entirely confident they’d be up and running by June 3rd. And you can always book them again and plan reviews for other airlines around that.

  26. I’ve flown VN B789 business class on both LHR-HAN-LHR and
    LHR-SGN-LHR and VN was better than expected and I’ll fly
    with them again. So your review would be interesting. But also a
    GA LHR-CGK business review would be good. I’m taking GA
    LHR-CGK-LHR business in the summer having flown their First
    on that route last year. Looking forward to the comparison.

  27. I’d take the Cathay flight, review the new a350 and any other reviews planned. What are your plans to get back to the us from Hong Kong? Or is your plan now to fly Cathay both ways. Flying Cathay round trip on paid business and crediting to BA could be a interesting idea to give you flagship first on American even when. Traveling domestically.

  28. Let sleeping dogs and all that. You get the new A359 and that would be interesting as well as the lounge situation in BRU.

  29. @Lucky, the stars have aligned in your favour. You can always review Air Belgium when it becomes available (who knows when that would be). You should take the offer.

    And don’t forget, they also offered to change the date on your return.

  30. Suggestions for Lucky:

    If one were flying for a business trip, CX J.

    If one is flying for us (thanks Lucky!), CX J there but some other way back. You could either ask for a one way or throwaway ticket a Y on Air Belgium later.

    I, personally, would like a MAA/Chennai – FRA J on a A340-300 Lufthansa City Line review. Another route that I’d personally like to read about is Scoot SIN to ATH or TXL (Berlin is starting in June). A distant 3rd choice is something on Sri Lankan or Malaysia or Air Asia.

  31. I would take Cathay and just purchase a ticket back with Air Belgium when you see they’ve launched the route and flights are going as planned. It’s safer.

  32. In all fairness ( not that those who just want to game the system care about FairPlay -now only if the travel industry could catch up on those and reward the frequent business travelers and not gamers) they should simply offer a refund as Per European law and call it a day. When customers treat businesses like a one-and- done and levy/ expect unsustainable returns, businesses fail and/ or get to the United/ BA mentality. Then again, many of the readers will want something for nothing and this is a great example of getting something for nothing. Perhaps doing the ethically right thing would have been a better blog post?

  33. Wait, you haven’t actually reviewed the Cathay A350 yet. Well, given the free opportunity, you should probably get on that. Also, whatever did happen to the Laos trip report.

  34. I would definitely get them to rebook you and both flights being business class in the future as the whole reason was that you wanted to fly air Belgium (its not like your a businessman who a had an important meeting in HKG) plus you have flown CX business several times including on their A350 and we would all love to see new reviews both on the airlines you book yourself from replacing the Air Belgium flights and then the Air Belgium flights later on
    I have a review suggestion though.

    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

  35. The offer of a return flights on CX business class is too good to not take up.

    As for trying out Air Belgium, it might be wise to book your tickets again once they actually start flying. 😉

  36. I honestly think you should go with CX and then for your return, just pick a date with the nonstop. The nonstop flight on CX 777-300ER from HKG to FRA is not that interesting. At least on A350s, you have wifi options.

    About Air Belgium, just book another ticket with them in the future, if they ever make it off the ground.

    Adrian

  37. 1. Take Cx flight from Bru to HKG.
    2. Complete your further itinerary as planned.
    3. Return flight from HKG to Bru, you can request change in dates until June so that you can review actual air Belgium flight.
    4. If point 3 works out, you may plan other option to fly to HKG to catch the flight to Bru.

    Ciao

  38. For the fun of it, why not try and get swapped to a multi stop itinerary via somewhere you havent been. Stop in somewher unusual like Tashkent or Azerbijan. Air Astana, Uzbekistan, Nepal airlines amongst others all fly to Hong Kong.
    See if you can get on as many different airlines or as many stops as you can. Years ago I flew Los Angeles – Honolulu – Apia (Samoa) – Tonga – Auckland- Sydney with Air NZ for fun instead of LAX – SYD nonstop. Crew thought i was mad!!!!
    Imagine the fun you could have with the air beguim agent coming up with the most unusual route!!!!
    You can always fly Air Belguim when they do start.

  39. So a CX J review is coming along?

    I would think however, even if Lucky were to take the CX rebooking offer, he would still hv to fork out more cash to review Air Belgium later. That would be twice out of pocket instead of once.

    I would rather push for confirmed upgrade for 2nd leg plus compensation (and this shld cost them less as well) and use this trip to review vietnam air.

  40. Vietnam Airlines would be a great read. I’ve been waiting for you to review them. I flew in the Vietnam 787 to London in Economy a few years back. Vietnam Airlines used to be an airline to avoid, old clapped out 777s (fun for the short-haul but not long haul).
    These days Vietnam Airlines is becoming one of the best in Asia. New 787s and A350s is miles better than what you get in most. What surprised me most was the fantastic food and service. My experience was way better in economy than Singapore Airlines and rivals Emirates.
    Would love to see your thoughts on their business class.

  41. Even if you take the CX option, methinks they won’t get you an actual ticket on them.

    You can try it, but if they can’t operate their own flights, I don’t think they can spring 5k or whatever to book you on someone else.

  42. So Lucky I assume it will be CX as the majority has been keen on pushing..as far as some readers here recommend Biman Bangladesh..I do not know if Lucky is ready or ever will do an adventurous thing again regarding the PIA flight experience or the disastrous TAAG flights, probably not in the near future..one has to build up confidence and appetite to it..

  43. Hey Lucky, Haven’t seen too many reviews of Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific airlines here or on many review sites.
    How about doing Qantas 10 London to Perth nonstop in economy, then some flights around Australia and New Zealand? Maybe flights on Virgin Australia, Rex, Jetgo,Jetstar, Alliance,in Australia.
    Then into South pacific on Air Nz, Air Nauru, Solomons, Air Vanuatu, Air Caledonie, Air Niugini or similar.

  44. @aniljak

    You are talking to the wrong person..flying economy style that is @James’s field of endeavour and as an Aussie himself..he should be reviewing those exotic carriers you are talking about!

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