Review: Brussels Airlines A320 Business Class

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, Brussels

My fourth transatlantic crossing of the week would be on Brussels Airlines, as I’d fly them from London to New York via Brussels. The motivation for this was to fly Brussels Airlines’ new A330-300 business class, which is consistently being offered on their route to New York JFK.

Redeeming Miles For Brussels Airlines Business Class

Brussels Airlines is pretty stingy with business class awards overall, though I’ve found that they have fairly good award availability from Brussels to New York (it’s not nearly as good in the other direction).

I managed to redeem miles for the following itinerary:

11/15 SN2104 London to Brussels departing 6:50AM arriving 8:55AM
11/15 SN501 Brussels to New York departing 10:35AM arriving 1:20PM

I booked this using Avianca LifeMiles, at the cost of 60,000 miles plus $313 in taxes and fees. There are no fuel surcharges, but the reason the taxes and fees were so high is because I was departing the UK, so had to pay the hefty UK Air Passenger Duty.

Brussels Airlines Business Class A320 Review

My boarding pass indicated that boarding would start at 6AM for my 6:50AM flight, so I headed to gate A20 a bit before then. It quickly became clear that they were nowhere close to starting boarding.

Brussels Airlines departure gate London Heathrow

Boarding ended up starting at 6:20AM, with those needing extra time being invited to board first, follows by business class passengers.


Brussels Airlines departure gate London Heathrow

Gate A20 must have the longest jet bridge in the world, though eventually I found myself at the door of the plane. I hadn’t seen the plane from the outside at the gate, though based on boarding it sure looked to me like the plane was in the Eurowings livery rather than the Brussels Airlines livery, based on the purple “E” (that whole thing is a branding mess).

Brussels Airlines or Eurowings?

Brussels Airlines 2104
London (LHR) – Brussels (BRU)
Friday, November 15
Depart: 6:50AM
Arrive: 8:55AM
Duration: 1hr5min
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 2A (Business Class)

At the door I was greeted by the friendly purser, and quickly found my seat. As is the norm in intra-Europe business class, the cabin is nothing to get excited about. I’m still not exactly sure if this plane had the standard Brussels Airlines or Eurowings interior, based on the fact that the plane was painted in Eurowings colors.

Brussels Airlines A320 business class

Business class consisted of economy seats with blocked middles. There weren’t even those little tray tables on the center seats, and there was no curtain between cabins. The first three rows of the cabin were business class, so there was just a small sign after row three indicating that it was the start of the next cabin.


Brussels Airlines A320 cabin

I had assigned myself seat 2A, and the aisle seat stayed open.


Brussels Airlines business class seat A320

The legroom in the cabin was normal for intra-Europe economy, and felt tight.


Brussels Airlines business class legroom A320


Brussels Airlines business class legroom A320

I would have selected a bulkhead seat (which is my preference intra-Europe, as it’s more spacious), but the first row was already taken when I booked.


Brussels Airlines business class bulkhead legroom A320

The tray table folded out from the seat in front, and the literature pocket was behind the tray table.

Brussels Airlines business class tray table

Each seat had a reading light and an individual air nozzle.


Brussels Airlines A320 over head consoles

Boarding finished right on time at 6:50AM. The main economy cabin was almost full, while in business class seven of the 12 seats were taken.

The moment the door closed, a couple of people tried to change seats to row three, not realizing this was business class. The purser saw this, and approached them:

“You need to return to your assigned seats please.”
“Why? These seats are empty.”
“This is business class, you can’t just upgrade.”
“Are you serious? The seats look the same.”
“This is business class and you need to go back to your seat.”
“How can you tell me that is business class when the seats are the same? Those people are getting screwed.”
“Sir, I’m not going to have this discussion with you. Return at once to your seat.”

I thought she handled the situation professionally, because the people upgrading were rude in their tone.

Just two minutes later the same people then tried to move to row four. As it turns out, row four is the “Flex & Fast” section, which also comes at a premium.

So they had the same chat with her again, and this time they became increasingly angry. Fortunately she was stern (without being threatening), and they returned to their seats.

Once that argument was complete, the purser announced our flight time of 40 minutes. As she made the announcement she stood in front of the cabin facing everyone, which I think is always a nice touch.

At 6:55AM the captain announced that we had to wait a couple of minutes for ATC clearance due to congestion. I feel like this happens just about every time I take a short haul flight to & from Heathrow. Fortunately the wait wasn’t long, and by 7AM we pushed back, at which point the safety video was screened.

We had a reasonably quick taxi, and by 7:15AM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 9R.

Getting ready for takeoff at Heathrow

Taking off from Heathrow


View after takeoff from Heathrow


View after takeoff from Heathrow

The seatbelt sign was turned off five minutes after takeoff, and moments later the service began. First everyone in business class was given a tray with breakfast. This included a selection of bread from the breadbasket, some fruit, a yogurt, and some almond thins.

Brussels Airlines business class breakfast

Then separately a cart was rolled down the aisle with drinks. I ordered a cup of coffee.


Brussels Airlines business class coffee

The breakfast was alright — certainly nothing special. I’d note that the utensils were all plastic. Also, the croissant was the flakiest croissant I’ve ever had in my life, which doesn’t seem ideal if being served on a plane. I tried to eat it as carefully as I could, and it still went everywhere. I’m pretty sure there will still be croissant flakes around the seat when this plane eventually gets scrapped.


Brussels Airlines croissant flakes for days

The crew continued into the rest of the cabin to provide service, but given that food & drinks are only available for purchase in the main cabin, they were back in no time. I also quickly checked out the lavatory at the front of the cabin, which was pretty basic.

Brussels Airlines A320 lavatory

At around 7:45AM London time the captain made his pre-landing announcement and turned on the seatbelt sign, informing us that we’d be landing in about 10 minutes. As it turned out, we circled for a while above the clouds.

Descending into Brussels


Descending into Brussels

Final approach to Brussels

We ended up touching down in Brussels at 9:05AM local time (there was a one hour time change).

Touchdown Brussels

From there we had a five minute taxi to our arrival stand, which was remote. We parked next to a “real” Brussels Airlines A319.

Brussels Airlines plane

I was happy to get an exterior picture of the plane, at least…

Eurowings A320 Brussels Airport


Eurowings A320 Brussels Airport

They waited for the bus to fill all the way up, and in the end I was in the terminal at around 9:25AM.

Brussels Airlines Business Class Bottom Line

Brussels Airlines’ short haul business class was very bare bones. The meal was on the simple side (with plastic utensils), there weren’t even tray tables on center seats, and there weren’t curtains between cabins.

On the plus side, the crew was friendly, and handled a disagreement pretty well.

For a 40 minute flight this was totally alright, but I wouldn’t want to fly with Brussels Airlines on a narrow body on a much longer flight.

If you’ve flown Brussels Airlines’ short haul business class, what was your experience like?

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Comments
  1. “How can you tell me that is business class when the seats are the same? Those people are getting screwed.”

    I mean, they may have been rude and in the wrong for self upgrading, but they do have a point lol

  2. @GuruJanitor Most European airlines market business class as an economy row with a blocked middle seat however, I must admit that seat pitch looks painfully tight.

  3. Seems like a ripoff at 60,000 miles and $313. Those EU “Business Class” accommodations are getting worse and worse and the price is just ridiculous.

  4. “I’m still not exactly sure if this plane had the standard Brussels Airlines or Eurowings interior”

    Well, the headrest covers do have the Brussels Airlines logo pattern on them…

  5. @Jeffery I just couple of days flew Aegean and there i business class (surprisingly) has couple of inches more leg room. As before hand looking at seatguru it said it was all the same economy seat but Aegean is one of the rare European airlines that do have extra legroom in business class.

  6. KLM seems to have eliminated the little “caddy” in the middle seat in intra-European flights also. I always found it handy so I could use my tray table for my laptop and keep my drink out of harms way in the middle. Not sure why they’re being eliminated. They can’t possibly weigh that much.

  7. “Business”-Class intra Europe is just disgusting! That’s far from Business-Class, certainly with Brussels Airlines. The only intensive of Carriers is to let the customers pay more, certainly the ones (like me) who can only book a few hours before flight.
    For me there is just NO Business-Class in Europe. At least there are some Carriers better than others but…

  8. @Lucky- couldn’t you have avoided the long haul UK APD by booking the LHR-BRU leg as a separate ticket? Probably would have saved a net $200.

  9. The space does look tight even for intra-Europe standard. I wonder whether the “real” Brussels metals will have a slightly better product.

  10. @Klavs I’ve heard nice things about Aegean but we live in a freaky world in terms of service. Comparing North America with Europe, the former has recliner style seats usually in a 2X2 configuration but service is almost non-existent unless the flight exceeds 2 hours. Meanwhile, even the shortest hops in Europe guarantee a meal or snack up front despite the 3X3 standard configuration. I heard it gives European Airlines flexibility in enlarging or reducing the Business Class cabin. I’m sure that any airline willing to take the plunge and introduce a true business class product would rise in popularity. Turkish has this but is located too far east to be strategic for Western European traffic.

  11. @Nelson

    In Europe these days when you fly Business Class, it’s for everything but the seat…and even then, the food isn’t always that great.

    @Jeffery

    Asia does it the best. North American hard product, European soft product, even on short flights as well. A good mix of the two.

  12. “I’m still not exactly sure if this plane had the standard Brussels Airlines or Eurowings interior”

    Hot Mess trifecta: Air Berlin bulkhead print, Brussels seat cover, Eurowings livery… Confusing indeed!

  13. @Aaron Very True! You get the best of both worlds in Asia! Albeit, some fares are super high with carriers like ANA, Singapore or Cathay Pacific.

  14. Congratulations… You flew with a repainted Air Berlin aircraft (one-class config), so neither true Brussels Airlines nor Eurowings interior.

  15. It’s decades that many airlines are trading similar seats as Business and it is definitely a rip-off. It’s a joke. I respect more some airlines that have a full economy plane and reserves the front rows to frequent fliers but doesn’t call these Business.

  16. It’s good to keep things in perspective – this was a 40 minute flight of less than 200 miles. The seat is tiny and doesn’t have any amenities – but what do you really need for a flight this short? And for that matter, pretty much anywhere in Europe is 2 hours or less from BRU… and while not ideal, the seat isn’t all that bad.

    Consider what you get in European Business class – lounge access, fast track security, you always get a meal regardless of flight length, and yes it does make a difference to have an empty seat next to you. Flying in economy on many European flights is a pretty miserable experience and the empty seat, quieter cabin (on most airlines), and better service is very nice. In any event, it’s mostly pax connecting to long-haul flights.

    Compare this with US airlines which have a bigger seat, but often only have a snack basket (or nothing on a flight this length), and no lounge access. A different model that seems to work in the respective markets.

  17. …Fortunately she was stern (without being threatening), …

    …Something USA based FA’s don’t know how to do. They seem to do the opposite… threat… threat… threat…

  18. Yes intra European Business Class Seat is an eco seat. But. I if you have normal size you have no problem on this short distance flights. It’s nice to have a free seat beside AND

    You get a real business class lounge. In us you only get United club when you are paying for it not with a domestic first ticket. And I prefer to have a good breakfast in a Lufthansa Business Lounge and then eat nothing on the plan rather to got nothing on the ground in US and not really tasty stuff in the air.
    Asia is best. Nothing can compete with it.

  19. These are definitely airBerlin seats. They had some of the worst seats in terms of seat pitch, I always had my knees pushed to the front seat.

  20. For me Brussels Airlines is just terrible, in all classes – the worst value for money tickets. I’ve flown them a couple of times and was totally not impressed with the service onboard in all classes.
    These days they are my last option to fly with.
    Even their lounge at BRU on the Schengen side is bad mainly due to overcrowding and food quality has deteriorated (besides the beer on offer).

  21. That particular aircraft was painted in Eurowings livery before LH decided to maintain Brussels Airlines.

    I’ve flown quite a lot on Brussels Airlines short haul and always had a very professional and friendly crew. However on all my flights with SN (even early morning flights) I always received a hot towel, newspapers and a bottle of water during boarding as well as Neuhaus pralines and chocolates before landing.

  22. Intra Europe business class is not meant to be a product that people buy because it is good. It exists for two reasons only: People who fly on corporate contracts (for which the flights cost barely more than flex economy) and to feed long haul premium cabins. The product is fit for this purpose, there is no demand for a real business class product, given that 90% of the flights in Europe are 1 hour or less.

  23. Unless having a connecting flight in London or Brussels, there‘s no reason to spend one € for this awful Business Class. Business Premier of Eurostar train is far more comfortable, there are no luggage restrictions and travel time ist not longer, as there‘s no need to go to the Heathrow hell.

  24. Since these seats seem to be exactly the same from the first row to the last,I don’t understand what is the problem when people swap seats. Provided of course they choose a row that is completely free. It is not as if they get any of the benefits of a business class ticket.

  25. That’s an on-Air Berlin aircraft, with on-Air Berlin seat, hence non middle seat tray. Eurowings, SN and LH interior are a lot fresher than that one if it’s a delivery-fresh aircraft.

  26. That is an Air Berlin interior. Real Eurowings and Brussels Airlines have the same Recaro seats as the rest of the Lufthansa group.

  27. “How can you tell me that is business class when the seats are the same?”

    “If these seats are no different than the ones you were assigned to, then you shouldn’t have any problem returning to them.”

  28. Just a sidenote:
    It was indeed a Brussels cabin – the seats (and their pitch) are theirs, not EWs. That’s very often the case currently, LH Group airlines has aquired a lot of planes following the Air Berlin and Germania bankruptcy and therefore shuffled them around a bit.

    You couldn’t book the First row btw because it’s blocked for HON/Senators for quite some time – although that is getting more and more inconsistent currently.

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