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!