I’m Booking Air Belgium Business Class!

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Yesterday I wrote about how Air Belgium would start selling tickets today for their flight between Brussels and Hong Kong, which they’ll be launching on April 30, 2018. The airline plans to take delivery of four A340-300s, all of which used to fly for Finnair. They’ll initially fly one A340 to Hong Kong, and as they take delivery of more planes they’ll start flying to mainland China.

Not only do I love flying airlines when they launch new routes, but I enjoy trying new airlines in general, because I love the feeling of having no clue what to expect when boarding a flight. Air Belgium said yesterday that their fares would start at 1,799EUR roundtrip in business class, which seems reasonable enough.

The catch is that I don’t want to spend the time and money to fly them roundtrip, since I’d be taking this flight more out of curiosity than anything else. So my hope was that they’d publish one-way fares that are roughly half the cost of a roundtrip, in which case I’d book them in a heartbeat.

This morning when tickets went on sale I couldn’t wait to price out a one-way, and see how much it would be. A one-way ticket from Brussels to Hong Kong priced out at 1,324EUR, which is ~75% of the roundtrip fare. I was hoping it would be lower, but ultimately that’s a price I’m willing to pay to try a new airline.

But there’s a way to do even better than that. Just book the outbound in business class and return in economy, and the fare prices out at 1,122EUR, which is only ~62% of the roundtrip business class fare. I’ll gladly pay that to fly Air Belgium business class!

Now I just need to finalize the rest of this trip. From Hong Kong I can fly to Beijing on Cathay Dragon in first class, which is one of the remaining first class products I still need to try. From there I’m considering flying Hainan’s new 787-9 business class back to North America, which is readily available using Alaska miles, at the cost of only 50,000 miles one-way in business class.

If you’re as curious as I am about Air Belgium, you can now book your ticket. Like I said yesterday, I have no clue what in the heck their business model is. They’re clearly going after tour groups, though I’m not sure how an airline can turn a profit going after those customers when flying a fairly inefficient aircraft, especially when you consider how much Chinese carriers have expanded, and they’re largely operating longhaul flights at a loss. This simply isn’t where the money in aviation is nowadays.

Here’s to hoping the Air Belgium experience is a bit more organized than when I flew La Compagnie shortly after they launched a few years ago.

  1. sounds good! maybe you could cross the atlantic with KLM’s 787 from SFO or JFK, or you could try one of the Iceland based low costs

  2. Ben,

    I know this might be a no-brainer for you, but the transfer trip from BRU to CRL is a real PITA…

    Be certain to plan it in advance, and to plan for the wonderful world that Belgian traffic on highways might be (+ CRL Airport will be disappointing).

    But in any case : so jealous of you for trying it ! Have fun !

  3. Hopefully you’ll be flying during their first days, as I don’t think the fun will last long for Air Belgium…

  4. Thanks for the warnings regarding CRL airport. Since I’ll be flying in from somewhere else, is there a benefit to actually flying into BRU, or should I just fly into CDG (if more convenient) and take the train? Any insight would be appreciated!

  5. Don’t have too high expectations od CRL airport and you will be fine. They even have a PriorityPass lounge 🙂

    Oh, i agree with random traveller. Have enough of time for a transfer between BRU and CRL. Private transfer (prebooked) between the airports costs from around 85 EUR upwards. Though, it would be ineteresting to have your review of a bus between gare du midi in Brussels and CRL. And even more interesting to have an economy seat review between HKG and CRL 🙂

  6. Fly LO direct either to KRK or to WAW in either direction (LO is also flying from TYO, ICN, SIN and PEK). They received a new aeroplane recently and have really stepped up their game when in comes to service since the last time you flew with them.

  7. Important to note that CRL is NOT the main airport in BRU (for those less seasoned folks out there)

    Worth the ~30 mile trip from the city center 🙂

  8. haha, if you think getting from Heathrow to Gatwick is a pain, wait till you try getting from Brussels to Charleroi. It’s really not flying from Brussels.

  9. I do not see any easy way by train from CDG or even Paris gare du nord train station.

    Be aware there are strikes at SNCF services on every week in april, impacting also eurostar services to London (4 trains cancelled today) and probably Thalys services to Belgium also.

    By train from Paris (CDG or Gare du Nord) you have to get first to Bruxelles midi.
    Of course AF sells you the ticket to Brussels connecting on a TGV train service from CDG.
    Maybe a thalys service from gare du Nord to Liège/Luik maybe closer to Charleroi (some of your belgium readers may coment about that).

    Otherwise renting a car in CDG and driving to Charleroi maybe only 4 hours drive or something like that but then you are changing of country and paying more for leaving the car outside France.

    I do not know if Luxemburg is better…

  10. @ Cooper — EVA is a fun idea! If you know of any decent fares on Hong Kong Airlines I’m in, but I haven’t found anything even remotely reasonable.

  11. You can take a train from Brussels Airport to Charlerloi South Train station (might have to change trains in Brussels Midi train station). In Charlerloi South you need to take a short bus (operated by TEC, government public transport) to Charlerloi airport. The signage is quite clear at Charlerloi South train station since many people flying Ryanair take the train + bus combo.

    Will cost you around 15 euro and you will not be stressed about trafic.

  12. You can also fly into CRL from many European airports using Ryanair or from Istambul using Pegasus with their enhanced service for Biz passengers. Would be fun to read a review of those airlines!

  13. For Bruxelles Midi to Charleroi i would definitely take the train to Charleroi-Sud, and the airport shuttle bus. Train 50 min, bus is 15-20 min. Very cheap, runs every 30 min, no pre-booking needed. Train dosn’t get stuck in traffic.

    BRU – Bruxelles Midi is 30 min by train. CDG – Bruxelles Midi is 1h30. AMS – Bruxelles Midi 1h35.

  14. Looks like the lowest stress route from Paris would be a TGV/Thalys from CDG/Gare du Nord to Brussels-Midi, and then an IC train to Luttre. Those IC trains run every half hour. From Luttre it’s a 12 minute cab ride to CRL airport.

  15. Hong Kong Airlines has some reasonable business class fares shorthaul – they do offer ~US$2,800 fares roundtrip to LAX out of HK, though I don’t see anything good one-way. If you take a short roundtrip on Hong Kong Airlines to Shanghai, Taipei or Bangkok you might be able to snag a good fare and try both their A350 and A330 product.

    From Beijing you could grab a Lucky Air ticket for the novelty. Just an idea… 🙂

  16. From BRU to CRL it’s quite easy though not so quick. There are two services every 60min, one direct train from the Airport to Charleroi Sud station, the other necessitating a switch at Brussel Zuid/Midi, and then the bus which brings you from the station to the terminal. Total travel time is roughly 2hrs (1h30 train + 20 bus + wait). All other possibilities are costlier and more risky too… My 2 cents of course

  17. On the point of one way fares is there any logic as to when cheap (ie half of round trip fares) are available? Obviously they exist domestically and also on some international routes (eg Aus to Nz). Are there any tricks to making them appear? I am looking at chicago to auckland but only want the Flight there. In the past air Nz has offered flights for around half price.

  18. I would LOVE to read a review of a long haul economy class from you, so please consider taking that flight!

  19. I second the LOT recommendation. I’ve been hearing fairly good things about the airline lately.

  20. Lufthansa First Class to FRA and a private jet to Charleroi.
    Don’t LH offer this service now?
    It may not work for miles redemption and it may be at a cost.

  21. The best way to get to CRL is by taking another flight. The bus is really horrendous, and Ryanair is not as bad as you might think. In case the flight is not completely full, it is not really worse than most European airlines. They have plenty of connections to CRL, and you can either fly into, say, BAR, DUB, LIS, or MAD, and directly continue on Ryanair. Or spend some days somewhere around the Mediterranean before taking a flight from there to CRL. We‘d get at last a Ryanair Review on OMAAT!

  22. The best way, bar none, to get into CRL is to take a Ryanair flight from some other country.

    I wish I was kidding.

  23. May be ANA business class review HKG-TYO-USA? You have flown regional ones but not the long-haul one. The food ex-TYO should be quite good (but making sure to fly on a flight that provides dinner/lunch for the 1st meal service). You’ll also get Nishikawa’s “Air Cyclone”, a luxury mattress pad to sleep on. It’s the only so-called “5-Star Airline” that you haven’t reviewed in long-haul business class (well, apart from Garuda as well).

  24. Bru to crl isn’t that bad. On the other hand, there is alot of options to crl.

    I don’t see any trip reports for Adria airways? You can fly into Ljubljana and back to crl on wizz. Just one of many examples to get to crl. Basicly any place in Europe has flights to it. You could tag in some weird place in Europe you have never been too.

  25. Hmm. I have just looked at making a booking for the first flight to HKG. What I thought was a bit naughty was that they are charging 75€ for a business seat selection and another 40€ to process a credit card booking (also in Premium; it is only 12€ in Eco)

  26. You can book sfo – Chicago – bru – Zagreb – zadar with United for 60k in bussinus, flying Croatia airways, of which I can’t see any trip report.

    Zadar to crl is available for free now On Ryanair.

    That would give you another bussinus product to review, and a Ryanair review on omatat…

    Tbh I think thats more fun then driving from Bru to crl 😛

  27. how about Sichuan Airlines:
    from Chengdu via Hangzhou to Los Angeles
    or from Chengdu via Jinan to Los Angeles

  28. I’m pretty sure Ben won’t be flying economy back. We all know what’s happening to that economy segment

  29. I’m very much into the idea of you flying Ryanair into CRL and reviewing their Flex/Flexi Plus product. I’m already excited about reading this as i was about the Spirit review.

    Try Air Europa from LAS/JFK to Spain and then with Ryanair to Charleroi. Lucky, this sounds like a fun adventure trip! Please do it! Atleast one short haul with Ryanair. pweeeese..

  30. Ben – fly somewhere you can fly Ryanair into CRL – just to stay aware of what’ve we use points to escape

  31. You could fly form Hong Kong or where ever you end up in Asia on Cathay Dragon and then fly Thai, Vietnam,Malaysian,Garuda etc business to Australia as you were originally going to until you got sick. Or you could try QF 9 to LHR.

    Also are you actually going to fly economy or just throw away ticketing

  32. Lucky, hope you will not be too disappointed with KA first class, which is CX long-haul J class seats, and similar to CX J class meal.

  33. I’m yet to see a justification for charging a premium for a o/w fare that makes any sense ( and virtually every airline does it). A lot of my business goes to those that do offer reasonable deals for one-way, so that I might construct more interesting routes than the tediously boring simple return. PITA. Air France is the worst in that regard.

  34. Fly to Madrid on Iberia business class (Avios booking) and then on Ryanair to CRL. I would absolutely LOVE to see a photo of you in 1A on a Ryanair 737, Ben! :laughing:

  35. Looking forward to the RyanAir review into CRL!
    As well as the Y Class return flight on HKG-CRL! I think many readers are interested in that!

  36. Ben..congrats! I am happy that your sense for travelling with new airlines has not gone away. I am really looking forward to that report. I know getting to CRL is a not an easy task..but I believe the others have been giving good advices already…Ben..just to keep the spirit of flying new airlines..I wish you could try HK airlines otherwise a HU in C for the convenient sake is good as well.
    Could you try PS from US via Kiew to BRU in the trip?? or as one here already noted LH F with a connection to CRL with one of their biz jets?

  37. I doubt Ben will be trying Eco flights but I am do curious if he would do it. I mean specifically the long haul segments..intra EU short haul flights with LCC for around 3h are still bearable with those cramped and tight seats and no service for free…Just remember how dreadful these EU biz classes with their Eco seating comfort..no wonder LCC have a huge fan base in EU, the EU biz product is almost Eco product with the exception of some free F&B in which the quality is often poor

  38. @Lucky, travel to CRL either by air or then from Brussels by train or bus.

    Travelling via Paris is no good, as others pointed out. And via Luxembourg, while there is no strike, there is no decent connection to CRL.

    If you plan to stay at an airport hotel, I’d recommend one of the more decent choices not belonging to a chain. The most “upmarket” chain hotel is an Ibis Budget 😉

  39. I’m so much looking forward towards your review or CRL airport, men, this will be fun !

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