Review: Air Belgium Lounge Charleroi Airport

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I landed at Heathrow at around 7PM, and the following day had a flight from Charleroi to Hong Kong at around 2PM. So I spent the night near Heathrow, and then took a 6:35AM British Airways flight from London to Brussels, which had me landing at 8:50AM. From there I had arranged a Blacklane to take me from Brussels Airport to Charleroi Airport, given that there aren’t really any other great ways to get between the airports.

To my surprise the drive only took about 40 minutes, and I arrived at the airport right around 10AM, with plenty of time to spare before my Air Belgium flight to Hong Kong.

Before I get too deep into this review, let me emphasize just how freaking excited I was at this point. I know I’m a complete weirdo, but I love trying new airlines, and being able to fly Air Belgium, where I had no clue what to expect, excited me to no end. I was probably as giddy at this point as I was the day that I flew the Etihad Residence.

This was my first time flying out of Charleroi Airport, which is otherwise primarily used by ultra low cost carriers. I followed the signage towards the departures area.


Charleroi Airport exterior

At first I assumed that the airport was under construction and that’s why the airport was fenced off and I had to walk through a tent to even get near the terminal area. But then it occurred to me that this was just a security precaution. The tent had security, though they only stopped and searched people at random.

I know there was an attack at Brussels Airport a few years back, but I was surprised by this, because even Brussels Airport doesn’t have this level of security before even getting into the terminal.


Charleroi Airport security screening

Once through the first basic security checkpoint I saw advertisements for Air Belgium. The airline apparently does exist after all!


Air Belgium advertisement at Charleroi Airport


Charleroi Airport exterior

Not only did they have an ad outside, but they had ads throughout the terminal. The terminal was quite crowded, and there really wasn’t much room to sit.


Charleroi Airport check-in hall


Charleroi Airport terminal


Charleroi Airport terminal

When I first arrived I quickly found the Air Belgium check-in counter, though there was no one there. A friend happened to be at the airport as well, so we met for a coffee.


Air Belgium check-in Charleroi Airport

I returned to the check-in counter at around 11AM, and to my surprise there was a small line forming. Given that I was expecting the flight to be mostly empty, this surprised me.


Air Belgium check-in Charleroi Airport

At 11:10AM the check-in counter opened, and I was presented my boarding pass within a few minutes. I had a short conversation with the agent, who revealed that there were only a couple of dozen people on the flight. OMG!

I was also escorted to the fast track lane. Air Belgium boarding passes aren’t coded for fast track access, but rather I was given a piece of paper that acted as a fast track voucher.


Charleroi Airport fast track voucher

Security was painless, and I was through within a couple of minutes. Then I found myself in the maze of airport duty free shopping.


Charleroi Airport shopping

The terminal itself was greatly lacking seating.


Charleroi Airport airside

While most of the gates were past security and to the right, my Air Belgium flight would be departing from gate 25, which was to the left.


Direction of Air Belgium gate Charleroi Airport

Since my flight was to a non-Schengen airport, I had to pass through immigration. However, the immigration checkpoint wasn’t actually open. So I sat there for about 20 minutes, and at around 11:40AM the immigration checkpoint opened.


Charleroi Airport immigration

Around this time I saw the Air Belgium A340 being towed to the gate. What a beautiful livery!


Air Belgium A340 being towed to gate

Once past immigration I was approached by an Air Belgium employee. I guess they have someone past immigration to direct people in the right way. When I presented him with my business class boarding pass he said he’d escort me to the Air Belgium lounge.

There were several gates past immigration, so first I walked down a long hallway with a couple of gates.


Air Belgium gate Charleroi Airport

At the end and to the left I saw signage for gates 23-25, along with an Air Belgium sign.


Direction of Air Belgium lounge Charleroi Airport

I then took stairs down a level.


Direction of Air Belgium lounge Charleroi Airport

This led to an even larger gate area, which was now on ground level.


Air Belgium departure gate Charleroi Airport

At the far end was gate 25, and another Air Belgium sign. There was a door to the left, and I was escorted out of there and onto a path, which led to another door. I have to say, this whole experience felt oddly exclusive, and almost like being led to a private terminal. Hah.


Direction of Air Belgium lounge Charleroi Airport

That door was the entrance to the Air Belgium lounge.


Entrance to Air Belgium lounge Charleroi Airport

Inside the entrance to the lounge was a reception desk, where the lounge attendant was sitting.


Air Belgium lounge reception Charleroi Airport

The lounge itself was quite nice, and there were two main areas. On the right side were rows of seats facing one another.


Air Belgium lounge seating Charleroi Airport


Air Belgium lounge seating Charleroi Airport

On the wall was a TV, along with a selection of magazines and newspapers.


Air Belgium lounge Charleroi Airport

On the other side of the wall was varied seating.


Air Belgium lounge Charleroi Airport

There were two tables with high-top seating.


Air Belgium lounge seating Charleroi Airport


Air Belgium lounge seating Charleroi Airport

Then there were a variety of swiveling seats.


Air Belgium lounge Charleroi Airport

In the back of this section was the buffet.


Air Belgium lounge buffet Charleroi Airport

The snack selection was pretty basic, and had pretzels, chips, nuts, olives, and some other small appetizers.


Air Belgium lounge snacks Charleroi Airport

There was also some candy and fresh fruit.


Air Belgium lounge snacks Charleroi Airport

Then there was a coffee machine, water, wine, and soft drinks.


Air Belgium lounge coffee machine Charleroi Airport


Air Belgium lounge drinks Charleroi Airport


Air Belgium lounge drinks Charleroi Airport

The bathrooms were back near the entrance, and the men’s room had one stall and one urinal. There were no showers in the lounge, though I guess there wasn’t really a need for showers, since I can’t imagine anyone taking this flight would be connecting.


Air Belgium lounge bathroom Charleroi Airport


Air Belgium lounge bathroom Charleroi Airport

One of the great features of the lounge is that it offers direct boarding, so you don’t even have to go back into the terminal.


Boarding directly through Air Belgium lounge

I grabbed a seat by the window and got some work done. The lounge doesn’t have a separate wifi network, but rather uses the airport network, which is fast and free.

What awesome views of the A340 that would be taking me to Hong Kong!


Air Belgium A340 Charleroi Airport

I had the lounge completely to myself for about an hour, and then eventually one other passenger showed up, who would be the only other passenger traveling in business class.

My boarding pass indicated that boarding would start at 1:10PM, a full hour before departure. Obviously that wasn’t necessary. In reality boarding started at 1:40PM. The lounge attendant actually encouraged us to board last, which generally makes sense, but I said I’d like to board as soon as possible (given that I wanted to take pictures), so I was the first to board.

It was so cool to board this beautiful A340 from stairs!


Boarding Air Belgium A340 Charleroi Airport


Air Belgium A340 Charleroi Airport


Air Belgium A340 Charleroi Airport

I couldn’t wait to see what the onboard experience would be like!

Air Belgium Lounge Charleroi bottom line

Air Belgium’s lounge at Charleroi Airport isn’t the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, though I was impressed nonetheless. For a startup airline, this well designed lounge represents a significant investment.

The lounge itself is nice, private, and you can even board your flight directly from the lounge. Best of all, this is actually only Air Belgium’s temporary lounge at the airport. The airport is allegedly building a new terminal at the executive terminal for Air Belgium business class passengers. We’ll see if/when that actually happens, but it’s quite impressive that the airline has plans beyond what they already offer.

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Comments

  1. Hey Lucky! The Telegraph published an article about British wetleasing the AB planes on the Cairo route and they had nothing nice to say about Air Belgium. From your earlier pictures the economy section look quite nice. Didn’t know if u perhaps saw the article this morning!

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