Review: NEW Brussels Airlines A330 Business Class

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, Brussels

I had flown Brussels Airlines’ A330 business class once before several years ago, but the airline recently introduced a new business class cabin, and I was excited to check it out. The airline is still in the process of rolling out this product, but it seems to pretty consistently be available on the New York route.

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 A330 Review

I had a fairly short connection in Brussels, as I ended up arriving in the terminal from my London flight at around 9:25AM, with my flight to New York scheduled to board at 9:35AM, and scheduled to depart at 10:35AM.

Fortunately I didn’t have to clear security or immigration, and I was dropped off just a short walk from gate B34, where my flight would be departing from. At the gate I had to answer some basic security questions, and that was it.

I was surprised when I saw an A330-300 at the gate in the Eurowings livery, given that Eurowings is a completely different airline. As I wrote about in a separate post, Brussels Airlines’ current branding situation is a bit of a mess.

Brussels Airlines A330 (in Eurowings livery)

Much to my surprise, boarding did in fact start at 9:35AM, with business class passengers being invited to board first. The walk to the door of the plane was incredibly long, which I always like since it means I can get a head start by walking really fast, and can get good cabin pictures.

Brussels Airlines 501
Brussels (BRU) – New York (JFK)
Friday, November 15
Depart: 10:35AM
Arrive: 1:20PM
Duration: 8hr45min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 5A (Business Class)

At the second set of doors I was greeted by the friendly cabin manager, and pointed left into business class. I was happy to see that the plane did in fact feature Brussels Airlines’ new cabins, since I was a bit worried based on the plane’s exterior.

I just took a quick look into the premium economy cabin, which is a new product for Brussels Airlines. This was right behind the second set of doors, and consisted of 21 seats — that included three rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. The cabin looked reasonably comfortable (I walked back there later in the flight and saw that just three seats were taken… ouch!).

Brussels Airlines premium economy cabin

The entire space between doors one and two was the business class cabin, which consisted of 30 seats. I really loved the way the cabin looked — it felt fresh, I loved the patterns on the bulkhead, and I loved the finishes. There was something fun and whimsical about the cabin, as it had personality without being obnoxious.


New Brussels Airlines business class cabin


New Brussels Airlines A330 business class cabin

New Brussels Airlines business class branding

Brussels Airlines’ new business class consists of staggered seats, which is kind of surprising when you consider that their old business class also consisted of staggered seats. So they essentially traded their older-style staggered seats for newer-style staggered seats.

Rows alternated between being in a 1-2-1 configuration and being in a 2-2-1 configuration. In the center section you had seven rows of two seats, with each row being staggered slightly so that the footwell for the seats in one row was between or to the side of the seats in front.


Brussels Airlines new business class seats A330

One nice update to this staggered configuration is that there’s a bit of privacy for these seats, both thanks to partitions by the aisles, and also thanks to the vertical tray table holders between seats.


New Brussels Airlines business class seats A330

On the right side of the cabin you had just one seat by the window in each row. In even numbered rows seats were closer to the windows, which would be my preference, since they’re more private and have better views. In odd numbered rows the seats are closer to the aisle, so while they’re still good, they’re not as good.


New Brussels Airlines business class seats A330

The left side of the cabin had yet another configuration. In even numbered rows you had sets of two seats. This means there are a total of just three seats in the cabin — 2A, 4A, and 6A — that don’t have direct aisle access (so 90% of seats do have direct aisle access).

Brussels Airlines business class seats


Brussels Airlines business class seats


Brussels Airlines business class seats

The best seats in the cabin are the “throne” seats, which are in odd numbered rows — specifically seats 1A, 3A, and 5A. Note that these seats are blocked for non-elite members until a few days out, but at the three day mark I was able to call and assign myself seat 5A (all three of them were empty).

These seats have the most personal space, and are also the most private.

Brussels Airlines business class “throne” seat


Brussels Airlines business class “throne” seat


Brussels Airlines business class “throne” seat

This seat has two massive armrests with a lot of counter space, so you can store a lot of stuff at your seat. On the left side you have a huge counter, along with an exposed storage rack.


Brussels Airlines business class throne seat console


Brussels Airlines business class throne seat console

To the bottom left of the seat are a few more storage compartments.

Brussels Airlines business class seat storage

On the right side of the seat is a reading light, a 110v outlet, a USB outlet, a headphone jack, a hook for headphones, and a water bottle holder.


Brussels Airlines business class throne seat console


Brussels Airlines business class seat storage

There’s yet another storage compartment there, as well as an area where the tray table pops out from.


Brussels Airlines business class seat storage

The tray table can be folded over in half.


Brussels Airlines business class tray table

Also to the left of the seat was the entertainment controller, as well as the seat controls.


Brussels Airlines business class entertainment & seat controls

The entertainment monitor is mounted to the seat in front, and has yet another storage compartment underneath it.


Brussels Airlines business class entertainment monitor & storage

Generally speaking the major downside to these “throne” seats is that the footwell is quite small, and when you recline into the bed position it can be really difficult to turn and get comfortable. This seat was no exception.


Brussels Airlines business class footwell A330

Two other minor notes:

  • There are no individual air nozzles at these seats
  • The seat was really hard, which kind of surprised me

Ultimately as far as A330 business class seats go I’d say this was a solid product, though these staggered seats aren’t exactly cutting edge anymore.

When it comes to amenities, there was a pair of headphones waiting at my seat, which were alright quality.


Brussels Airlines business class headphones

There was also an amenity kit, with a dental kit, a pen, earplugs, socks, eyeshades, lip balm, and moisturizer.


Brussels Airlines business class amenity kit

Within a couple of minutes of settling in, one of the friendly flight attendants stopped by my seat to ask if I wanted anything to drink, with the choice of water, orange juice, champagne, or a kir royale. I ordered a glass of champagne.

Brussels Airlines business class pre-departure champagne

I ended up being offered three refills directly from the bottle during boarding, which is almost unheard of in business class (don’t worry, I turned down two of those refills).

The cabin was peaceful during the boarding process, given that everyone boarded through the second door. Initially business class was supposed to be about half full, but I think some non-revs were loaded on last minute, and the plane ended up going out with about 25 of the 30 business class seats filled.

At 10:20AM it was announced that boarding was complete, and 10 minutes after that the door was closed. At this point the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 8hr5min. He also informed us that ATC gave us a slightly delayed departure, so we’d be pushing back in about 10 minutes.

At this point the safety video was screened, which sure was sassy. For example, “we know you’re really fun when drunk, but thank you, we already have entertainment systems onboard.”

We ended up pushing back at 10:50AM, and started our taxi a few minutes after that. Hi, Royal Air Maroc!

Royal Air Maroc plane in Brussels

We had about a 15 minute taxi to runway 7R, and we were cleared for takeoff by 11:10AM.

Waiting for takeoff Brussels

We had a smooth climb out, but the seatbelt sign stayed on for a while.

View after takeoff from Brussels

During the climb out I looked at Brussels Airlines’ entertainment selection.

Brussels Airlines entertainment system A330

The entertainment selection wasn’t amazing. There were only about 45 movies and 27 TV shows.


Brussels Airlines entertainment system A330

Brussels Airlines entertainment system A330

There was one exception to the “meh” selection — I stumbled upon “African Cinema,” and decided to watch one of those movies. Talk about a departure from Hollywood!


Brussels Airlines entertainment system A330

I ended up watching “The Other Wife,” a Nigerian movie, and it was… not exactly what I was expecting? Based on the picture I was expecting a comedy, but it was rather serious.


Brussels Airlines entertainment system A330

Unfortunately Brussels Airlines doesn’t have wifi. This seems like a major flaw for an airline that just introduced a new business class product. However, it’s my understanding that’s because there’s limited high speed connectivity over Africa, and most of their long haul routes are to Africa (of course that doesn’t help someone flying them exclusively between Europe and North America).

Anyway, about 20 minutes after takeoff warm towels and menus for the flight were distributed.

Brussels Airlines business class warm towel


Brussels Airlines business class menu

Shortly thereafter the meal service began. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows (I’m not a beer drinker, but that is a heck of a beer selection):

The meal service was really drawn out, though in this case I didn’t really mind since I didn’t have much else to do — I wasn’t tired and there was no wifi. About 40 minutes after takeoff I was served my first drink off a cart.

I had a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut and a still water to drink, and was offered a sable of cheese, herbs, spices, and sesame seeds, along with mixed nuts, to go along with it.

Brussels Airlines business class lunch — champagne & snacks

About 60 minutes after takeoff tablecloths were distributed, and about 1hr10min after takeoff the starter and salad were served. The meal was served on a tray directly from the cart.

There were two choices for the appetizer — red rice salad, smoked beef, peanut, and mint, with spicy kimuchi dressing, or lobster with smoked red beetroot, kinako mayonnaise, and dried cranberries. I selected the latter, which was excellent.

That was served with a side salad, as well as a selection from the breadbasket (I chose the pretzel bread).


Brussels Airlines business class lunch — appetizer & salad

The main course was served off the cart about 1hr45min after takeoff, and there were three choices. I selected the turbot with Asian leek, white carrot, and pilau rice, with young coconut and green curry sauce. The dish was better than it looked, and in particular the sauce really added some flavor (though I wish they’d serve it in a different container).


Brussels Airlines business class lunch — main course

About 2hr5min after takeoff a trolley was rolled down the aisle with cheese.


Brussels Airlines business class lunch — cheese course

Then about 15 minutes later dessert was served, which consisted of a hazelnut caramel and crispy biscuit. I also had a cup of coffee to go along with it.


Brussels Airlines business class lunch — dessert & coffee

All around I thought the meal was quite good. It was drawn out, though the quality was good and service very friendly. Both of the flight attendants working business class were all smiles and attentive, though perhaps service wasn’t the most personalized, which is largely due to their drawn out assembly line-style service.

By the time the meal was done there were just over 5hr30min remaining to New York.

Map enroute to New York

At this point I reclined my seat to try to get some rest. I wasn’t very tired, but figured I should try out the bed. To my surprise, I got about an hour of sleep, which is more than I was expecting to get.


Brussels Airlines business class bed

I like the privacy of these throne seats, though the footwells are indeed tight.

One real disappointment was the bedding. Brussels Airlines’ branding about the new business class talks about how this is “a boutique hotel in the sky.” Giving one thin pillow and one scratchy, thin blanket, isn’t exactly what I’d expect in a hotel. This is below average business class bedding, in my opinion, so this seems like a very obvious area for improvement.


Brussels Airlines business class pillow & blanket

Once awake I decided to check out the self-serve bar behind business class, which is a new addition for their refreshed A330s.


Brussels Airlines business class self-serve bar

Brussels Airlines business class self-serve bar

The bar had a box of chocolates, some fresh fruit, and drinks.

Brussels Airlines business class chocolates

The unique feature here is that there’s a self espresso machine, which to my knowledge is the first self serve coffee option in the sky. You can just select a pod, place it in the machine, put a cup underneath it, and you have yourself a coffee. That’s pretty cool.


Brussels Airlines business class self-serve espresso machine

I also checked out the lavatory, of which there was one in front of the cabin, and one behind. The bathrooms were pretty standard, and didn’t have many special amenities.

Brussels Airlines lavatory

At about the halfway point of the flight the crew passed through the cabin with coffee-flavored ice cream.


Brussels Airlines business class mid-flight ice cream

I spent a couple hours working, and soon enough we were already over Canada.


Map enroute to New York

About 70 minutes before landing the cabin lights were turned on, in preparation for the pre-landing snack.

Brussels Airlines mood lighting

There was no choice for the snack, but it consisted of a tasty beef and mango dish, a side of fruit, and a piece of bread. While it wasn’t the biggest snack, I thought it tasted quite good.

Brussels Airlines pre-landing snack

About 30 minutes before landing the captain made his pre-arrival announcement, and shortly thereafter we began our descent. About five minutes later the cabin manager came through the cabin to offer each passenger a box of chocolates and thank them for flying with Brussels Airlines.

Brussels Airlines chocolate gift

WOW — this was a legit box with over a dozen pieces of chocolate in it. It’s not often you get a parting gift like that in business class.

The seatbelt sign was turned on about 20 minutes before landing, and the views on descent were great. It was a nice day in New York (for once).

View approaching New York


View approaching New York


View approaching New York

We had the softest landing imaginable at JFK at 1:25PM, and from there had a 15 minute taxi to our arrival gate at Terminal 1. We parked next to an Air France 777-300ER — the flight that plane would be operating sure brought back some happy memories!

Air France 777 JFK

Brussels Airlines New Business Class Bottom Line

To be honest I’m still not sure how exactly I feel about Brussels Airlines’ new business class.

On the plus side, this is an improved product, the cabin is beautiful (I love the colors and design), the crew was friendly, the food itself was good, and the box of chocolates as a parting gift was a nice touch.

At the same time, I can’t help but feel like there are a lot of areas where the product could improve, some of which are easy fixes, and some of which are bigger investments. For example, there’s no wifi, the entertainment selection is limited, the meal service is really drawn out and not actually presented that nicely, and the bedding needs to be improved ASAP.

I had a lovely flight, but I think the best way to describe Brussels Airlines’ business class is unmemorable and middle of the pack, even with these improvements.

What do you make of Brussels Airlines’ new A330-300 business class?

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Comments
  1. Tried both Brussels Airlines and Air Belgium and can’t say I had a memorable experience. It was just ok. I find Belgium and most of my experiences there pretty boring in general.

  2. Better than I would have expected. Both the food and the friendly service and the box of chocolates.
    Condsidering they are a hybrid low cost /full fare not sure what airline we are ‘eurowings’ mix and match I think it is not bad.
    I think you’re a bit harsher than they warrant this time.

  3. I miss Sabena but that’s just me being nostalgic, I never actually flew them or anything but remember seeing their planes here and there

  4. Neuhaus is excellent chocolate too! I used to fly Jet Airways through BRU, connecting on SN to other parts of Europe for business awhile back. Although the SN portion was just their regional biz class flight and they would only give one or two pieces of the chocolate, I always felt the need to grab a box or two at the airport to bring home. For what looks like a rather average TA biz class experience, I like that they are at least showcasing some of their national brand between the chocolate and that beer menu! If only they served belgian waffles and fries as well, they would pretty much have Belgium covered…

  5. SAS has an onboard self-serve espresso make in Biz (both their ”new” cabins and their old ones, which were retired in 2015-2016).

    I have to say that those super cramped staggered seats are really dissapointing for a new biz product in 2019.

  6. It says Eurowings on the outside, yet it’s Brussels on the inside (and set up as a Brussels product)? Talk about a company not being sure how to utilize their equipment.

    Flew Brussels to Africa many years ago in economy. I remember being impressed that the meal was as good of a meal as I’d ever had in economy. Flew business class on the way back – but on BA (which was pretty ho-hum at the time).

  7. @Lucky, were you able to ascertain the nationalities of your flight crew? I’ve often wondered where most Brussels crew members are based and where they’re from, what with their parent company, their destinations, and the rather heterogeneous nature of languages spoken in Belgium.

  8. Nice beer selection for sure. This is the SWISS business seat with different finishes. Even the middle seats are plenty private for my tastes.

  9. I fly SN quite a bit to BJL and their product is just average but their flight crews are usually superb. They had a monopoly with Star Alliance in the market until Turkish and TAP just started flying to The Gambia

    Brussels is pricing themselves out of the market with JFK BJL in business from.$6700 to $12000. BJL to JFK on the other hand is $3700. Guess they think Americans are rich and will pay for the resfreshed product I switched all my flying to Turkish and Tap…until Brussels gets competive and also gets internet

  10. I think if they actually did go for “a boutique hotel in the sky”, they should have plush bedding, amazing home-made looking or restaurant quality meals, and they definitely need amazing service. In a boutique hotel, the effort put into the soft product measures how good it is.

  11. I just flied to Abidjan and back and they had herringbone seats. I think the a330 is leased from some Chinese airline.

    We were in the plane 8 hours from Brussels to Abidjan as the plane touches down in Burkina Faso before arrival and they served one 3 course meal! And Ice cream. Same menu as above. Honestly one meal in 8 hours is apalling.

  12. I flew SN not long ago to Brussels to Monrovia,over in Economy,returning Business.
    The Crew is usually very friendly ,food in economy was actually above average,but the return in Business was quite poor.Business Class was empty,maybe 6 of us,the crew rushed the service I guess to increase their rest time.No fresh items on the menue,guessing they cater it round trip.No salads,or fruits,or anything that can spoil with warm temp.
    All served on trays from a trolley with economy like food,just larger portions.
    A light continental break was just fine for that 7 hour flight.
    Def nothing to write home about.

  13. Wow, that’s a massive improvement over the last Brussels Airlines flight I did 10 years ago. BRU-BJM-NBO.

    The seats were more like regional J, the ‘champagne’ was served in plastic beakers from a weird cardboard cutout tray, and the menu was a single laminated card that looked like it had come from a school cafeteria.

  14. Hi Ben

    Just for info, in SAS we have had the “self-serve” espressomaker in our Business Class buffet for more than 15 years:-) We use Illy Espresso pods and have a built-in steamer to make cappuccinos. Hope to see you onboard an SAS flight soon.

  15. If you would have choosen the Throne Seat in row you wouldn’t have to deal with the small footrest.
    Flew same Business Class seats yesterday on Swiss (Seat 04A) and had a great flight experience – including six hours of sleep 😉

  16. Happy to hear that you are impressed with the Beer List, which for me as a Belgian is pretty standard. And apparently exclusively AB Inbev.
    There are so many way better beers from small breweries in Flanders and Wallonia !
    But indeed these beers always come shockingly expensive abroad.
    Best example is Stella which is a standar lager here but positioned as a premium elsewhere.
    @ Tortuga : almost all of crew is Belgian for sure, most of them from Flemish part ( 60 % of population) as it is more difficult to find people that speak English decently in the French part (let alone speaking Dutch).

  17. For the sake of clarity: I mean to say thst tge ‘standard beers’ , that are really bulk products, such as Stella, Leffe etc. are way overpriced abroad.

  18. @Lucky.
    Hard seats: These seem to have spread through the industry. If I recall correctly, they came into play with the slimline type of seating, first in Y, now in J.

    This might be a good topic for you to look into with your industry sources, and also with the other experts in the field.

    A scourge, I say! A scourge.

  19. Enjoyed this review especially when comparing to your recent review of Air Belgium from Sept 2018. Your reviews always so much fun to follow –

  20. Unfortunately, this will be the last time I will be writing a comment because I will stop reading reviews from this website. Your reviews are very biased towards certain airlines and are also inconsistent and somewhat “petty”, sometimes it gets so bad that it seems you are just trying to find fault with the smallest things to write a bad comment or review of airlines that you do not like even if the flight was great. It is sad to see such a great website that was once one of my favourite to become the bottom of my list.

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