RAVE Between The European Capital and United States

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330 Long-Haul Aircraft | Courtesy Brussels Airlines

Belgian Aviation Returns to the United States

Louisville, KY – March 5, 2013 (FlyersPulse.com) – Brussels Airlines soared into New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last June, bringing Belgian aviation back to the United States after an absence of 10 years. A sporty Airbus A330-300 outfit with the latest in technology and creature comfort operates the New York route.

The carrier is launching a new US route connecting the US Capital with the European Capital. The new flight will use a technology juiced Airbus A330-200 between Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) and Brussels (BRU) beginning June 18th.

The European carrier is a member of Star Alliance along with US based United Airlines and is part of Atlantic Plus Plus, a trans-Atlantic JV between Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, and United Airlines.

Brussels Airlines is the market leader between New York City (JFK) and Brussels (BRU) and competes directly with Delta Air Lines on the route. Additionally, Star Alliance partner United Airlines offers a nonstop from their hub at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

When it comes to the Washington market, United operates an earlier nonstop flight between their hub at Washington Dulles (IAD) and Brussels International (BRU) which compliments the new Brussels Airlines service.

FlyersPulse had the opportunity to interview Geert Sciot, Vice President Media Relations for Brussels Airlines, to obtain a better grasp of the airline and its niche routes, particularly Africa.

Sciot introduced Brussels as the European “west coast” Star Alliance hub from a geographical standpoint. As a result, Brussels International Airport (BRU) is the shortest travel time among the European Star Alliance Hubs from New York (JFK) as well as Washington Dulles (IAD), making Brussels an excellent gateway to Europe.

Given New York City is host to the United Nations, the New York City route generates diplomatic travel on top of business and leisure travelers. Looking further at the multicultural breakdown of New York City, the route is also popular with individuals connecting onward to one of the nineteen African destinations in the Brussels Airlines route network. As you’ll soon discover, Africa is an important niche for the carrier.


24/7 NYC Airport Transportation

Aside from Brussels being the European Capital, the city is headquarters to NATO. The new nonstop link to the US Capital, Washington, DC, is likewise expected to generate diplomatic traffic. If you take a closer look at the two regions, you’ll also find many pharmaceutical companies with operations in both the Washington Dulles corridor and Brussels. Since Washington Dulles (IAD) is a large hub for Star Alliance partner, United Airlines, connecting traffic will also play an important role as the flight connects two Star Alliance hubs.

Brussels Airlines operates out of New York-Kennedy Airport (JFK) in Terminal 1. Lufthansa oversees ground handling in the United States and the airline is a member of Lufthansa’s Miles and More Frequent Flyer Program.

Brussels Airlines NYC Ambassadors

Brussels Airlines New York City Ambassadors.

Brussels International Airport – “Human Sized”

For passengers making connections, “we offer a ‘human sized’ airport for passengers to connect,” said Sciot. The setup of the airport places the international departure area and the European Schengen departure area nearly next to each other without the security or immigration hassles of larger airports. Sciot pointed out, the furthest a passenger will have to walk from the lounge to an international gate is 1 and 1/2 minutes.

For passengers traveling into Brussels, the airport is only 15 km from the city center and a short drive to most EU institutions.

A rail station is also located underneath the airport, allowing for easy transportation across the region.

Modern Brussels Intl Airport

Modern, Brussels International Airport (BRU) featuring glass jetways.

Business Class Product

The carrier offers an award-winning business class after a re-fit of their A330 aircraft. New Vantage Suite seats designed by Thompson Aero Seating were installed in business class. The seat design is a winner with passengers as each seat faces forward, converts into a full 180 degree flat bed, and provides ample space.

Additionally, the Vantage design is a plus for Brussels Airlines economically as it’s space efficient, allowing the carrier to fit more seats into business class without compromising comfort. While we haven’t had the opportunity to experience the new Business Class seat, it would be interesting to see how it stacks up with the Business Class seat over at ANA which werecently reviewed.

Aside from the actual seat, the soft product, or the service, is what completes the business class product. On Brussels Airlines, you’ll be treated to Belgian culinary delights combined with prompt, professional service.


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Technology Savvy with Refit A330 Aircraft

The RAVE in-flight entertainment system, combined with new seating, is what really sets this aircraft apart from others. Have you ever been on a flight where the in-seat TV unit flakes out or freezes? Often flight attendants will re-boot the in-flight entertainment server – as one server may control in-flight entertainment for the entire aircraft, all seatback units have to reboot.

We’ve been on flights where the in-flight entertainment system breaks and is shut down an hour into a twelve hour flight. The lack of in-flight entertainment has the potential to make a long flight even longer, especially if you have a seatmate who talks too much or just outright bores you as he/she attempts conversation.

No More — Put on your headphones and tune into RAVE! Yes, RAVE, Brussels Airlines revolutionary in-flight entertainment system where all programming is stored on a solid state drive within the seatback unit itself. The new RAVE system produced by IMS provides each passenger with reliable audio and video on demand (AVOD).

While the solid state drive contains all of the programming, the unit is still connected to an on-board network for in-flight information including the magical moving flight map and PA announcements.

If a seatback unit has a problem, the unit can be replaced in a matter of minutes according to Sciot. If you think about it, the RAVE in-flight entertainment system is almost like having an iPad built into each seat, but better!

The 2012 APEX Expo presented Brussels Airlines with the “Avion Award” for their long-haul cabin featuring the RAVE in-flight entertainment system. APEX is the Airline Passenger Experience Association.

The RAVE in-flight entertainment system was developed by Brea, California, based IMS Company.

RAVE IFE and Business Class Seat

The RAVE in-flight entertainment system in Business Class seating

African Network

“We like to call Africa our second home,” said Sciot. Between the cultural diversity of New York City, Trade, and the United Nations, there is a natural flow of passengers between the continent of Africa and New York City. As passengers must make connections to reach most African markets, the “human sized” hub in Brussels is a welcome change to many passengers.

Destinations in West Africa served include Abidjan, Ivory Coast (ABJ); Monrovia, Liberia (ROB); Banjul, Gambia (BJL); Conakry, Guinea (CKY); Cotonou, Benin (COO); Dakar, Senegal (DKR); Douala, Cameroon (DLA) ; Yaoundé, Cameroon (NSI); Freetown, Sierra Leone (FNA); Kinshasa, Democratic Republic Congo (FIH); Lomé, Togo (LFW); Luanda, Angola (LAD); Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (OUA).

Other destinations include, Nairobi, Kenya (NBO); Kigali, Rwanda (KGL); Bujumbura, Burundi (BJM); Entebbe, Uganda (EBB) and in North Africa, Agadir, Morocco (AGA) and Marrakech, Morocco (RAK).

African Operational Advantage

As we’ve learned from contacts at other carriers, operating to cities within Africa isn’t easy. There are often operational challenges, which can be significant.

Highly impressed with RAVE, our interview with Sciot turned more interesting as we moved onto the topic of Africa. Speaking of operational challenges, Sciot said, “Brussels Airlines was able to take on the operational experience from SABENA.” Here at FlyersPulse, we view this as a key benefit to Brussels Airlines and their customers, plus it’s important to consider history as many of these nations are former Belgian colonies. Combined with SABENA, the airline has over 80 years of knowledge when it comes to operations in Africa.

The African continent is a challenging environment for international airlines between local customs & procedures, politics, airports, air traffic control, air traffic overflight and other factors including weather. Brussels Airlines has expertise to operate safely and comfortably with full knowledge and experience when it comes to these challenges.

We should note Atlanta based Delta Air Lines has been aggressively pursuing non-stop flights between the United States and the African continent. They’ve discovered it isn’t easy and have been working through operational challenges where Brussels Airlines has a distinct advantage because of SABENA.

Additionally, from a passenger experience standpoint, Sciot was informative about unique solutions the carrier has implemented in some cities. For example, Brussels Airlines city check-in services are available at some African destinations. Logistically and from an operations standpoint, this is an important service which works well for both passengers and the airline. Once passengers are checked-in offsite, they only need to arrive at the airport an hour prior to departure. This eliminates a lot of the “airport hassle” allowing for a safe, comfortable travel experience in Africa.

City check-in is offered in Conakry (CKY), Freetown (FNA), Kigali (KGL), Kinshasa (FIH) and Monrovia (ROB).

Conclusions

Brussels Airlines definitely has a leg up on the competition when it comes to the African markets, an important niche for the carrier. The airline is also technology savvy with online and mobile check-in, as well as it’s RAVE in-flight entertainment.

The RAVE in-flight entertainment system with it’s touch-screen technology was first certified by the United States FAA for Brussels Airlines. The system has additional benefits in that passengers can connect their laptop screens to the system, even in economy class.

The airline has yet to provide in-flight WiFi service, but in during the interview with Sciot, he stated the airline wants to make sure they select the right technology.

In our discussion of airline expansion, Sciot said, “our plan is to add one long haul destination per year” and the carrier is now looking at the US market for further expansion. This year it’s Washington Dulles beginning June 18th!



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3 Responses

Cant wait to fly with @FlyingBrussels!!!

03.06.13

What other airlines use this RAVE in-flight entertainment? This sounds like a sweet solution!

Has anyone been able to redeem an award with United Miles or US Airways Miles for Brussels Airlines Business Class on the new Washington Dulles to Brussels flight?

I’m finding frequent flyer seats on the United but coming up dry for Brussels Air. I did find availability on the JFK flight but can’t build a connection thru JFK airport unless I fly into Newark or LaGuardia and switch airports.

How bad would a LaGuardia to JFK connection be? Bus or Taxi? Kudos for advice!

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