This took me by surprise this morning, as Air Belgium is launching their first flight from Brussels Charleroi to Hong Kong tomorrow (what a terrible business model – more on that later). For some background, Air Belgium is an airline that ran from 1980 until 2000, and plans to restart flights tomorrow. The issue is that they’re starting their flights from Brussels’ low-cost airport, which currently doesn’t operate any longhaul flights, and they don’t have a regional flight base at all, so there are no connection opportunities for Hong Kong-based passengers. As a result, their load factors have been terrible, despite the fact that they have a decent product.
Air Belgium Airbus A340 Business Class…and premium economy…?
Air Belgium is getting their A340 from Finnair, which featured staggered seats in business class, and a 2-4-2 configuration in economy class. Finnair’s A340 featured 45 staggered business class seats, including a mini-cabin with 13 seats. Air Belgium decided to retain Finnair’s business class seats (though will update the finishes of those seats), but they’ll be replacing the 13-seat mini-cabin with a 21-seat premium economy cabin. For more information on this particular type of staggered business class seat, I’ve flown a similar configuration on Swiss’ 777.
Lazy Air Belgium = happy premium economy passengers
I was doing a few dummy bookings to write up a post regarding my thoughts on Air Belgium (even though I have no plans to get to Belgium this year), and came across this seatmap for premium economy:
My guess is that due to the terrible load factors for Air Belgium’s flights, they haven’t bothered to replace the business class mini-cabin (the above screenshot was taken from tomorrow’s flight, meaning that absolutely no one has been booked into premium economy yet, or no one has selected seats). So if you’re booked into Air Belgium’s premium economy class over the next few days, you’ll be seated in Finnair’s old business class product.
A roundtrip between Hong Kong and Brussels in this product will set you back HK$9,998 (including taxes), though selecting a throne seat will set you back an extra HK$720 each way. Still, a throne seat for 22 hours for HK$11,438 is a steal, if you ask me. (For readers from Europe, that’s equivalent to €1,250, with a €1,090 base fare.)
If you’re headed to Brussels this summer, flying Air Belgium in premium economy is your best bet. Even if you had to get elsewhere in Europe I’d still consider flying Air Belgium, since you can just book a cheap low-cost airline flight out of Charleroi, and potentially still save some hard cash.
Hurry up, as the
airline deal won’t be here for long!