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SN501: BRU-JFK Inaugurationflight SN In Y  
User currently offlinebralo20 From Belgium, joined May 2008, 623 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 9552 times:

Flightreport inaugurationflight Brussels Airlines SN501 BRU-JFK

Departure: BRU
Arrival: JFK
Flightnumber: SN501
Plane: Airbus A330-300, OO-SFW
Seat: 32H/32K exit/economy
STD: 10h20
ATD: 10h47 +/-
Runway: 25R
Loadfactor: 90% (estimated guess)
Cruise altitude: 11.636 meter / 38.165ft – 12.220m/ 40.100ft (landfall Canada)
Cruise speed: 864km - 885km/h

1) Check-in

Check-in wasn’t opened yet when we arrived at the counters, SN staff needed to figure out how the computer systems worked to check the ESTA and passport validly. After a small amount of time (give or take about 20 minutes) check-in was opened, our lugage was weighed and tags were applied. Carry on items were also labelled and a “real” boarding pass was handed upon request. Gate T61 was assigned to our aircraft but when we tried to pass the automatic gate at pier A (T is a closed section of A where SN’s AFI and now also TATL ops depart and arrive) denied access and send us to the B-pier. After a quick visit to SN’s counters they guided us and other passengers through the gate. Apparently there was a computer glitch that held us from entering the A-pier.

At gate T61 (just after customs) we were welcomed by SN’s friendly staff and everybody was invited to get a drink and a mini donut. CEO Bernard Gustin and the US ambassador to Belgium Howard Guttman gave an inauguration speech to celebrate the historic moment of Belgian’s national airline “Brussels Airlines” now to re-unite Brussels again with New York. Brussels-New York was the flagship route of the late Sabena, Belgian’s national carrier before they filed for bankruptcy back in 2001. Sabena, the second oldest airline in the world was one the first Europe based airlines to connect the European mainland with the United States. The first route was to JFK’s predecessor Idlewild Airport which later became JFK. Now after more then 10 years of absence a “SN” flight will land once again on JFK. Brussels Airlines carries a lot of his predecessor, it not only holds the same IATA code “SN” but it operates planes that once where used by the late Sabena while loads of people working at Brussels Airlines are former “Sabeniens” like they are called. Brussels Airlines also carries on the tradition to care about their passengers. The service is held upon high standards and passengers are feld welcome right from the moment they arrive at the airport. Every single SN agent wetter it was a desk agent, a gate agent, a flight attendant , purser or pilot welcomed us with a friendly smile while making time to have a small chit chat.

2) Embarking, take-off, inflight

The embarking of SN501 was quite smooth and the staff welcomed us with a big smile while giving us directions to our seats. Some of SN’s A333’s have already received the interior upgrade. This upgrade involves a complete new interior throughout the plane, award winning business seats with a 180° full flat bed, a 15” AVOD IFE system with connect ability for personal devices like iphones or ipads. The seats are nearly identical to these of sister company Swiss International Airlines but with some nice upgrades (bigger screen, etc…). In economy class you’ll notice the new seats that are a bit slimmer to the old seats and thus give more legroom for the passenger. The economy passenger can now rely on a 33” seat pitch witch is more then other airlines offer in economy. A new AVOD IFE system, with hours of entertainment with 10” screens has also been installed. The IFE system features an USB port which will load your personal devices like an iPhone or iPad. Unfortunately, compared to business class where one can actually look at their content on the IFE system, the port is only used to charge devices. Never less compared to the old offering (monitors throughout the cabin and no personal IFE) it’s a big step up from what it has been. Actually with the new seats, the AVOD IFE system and the very nice service from the cabin members you can actually say that SN is offering one of the best products on the Atlantic routes. As a frequent United Airlines flyer myself occasionally travelling with British Airways I can say that SN’s product in economy is the best around. Personally I don’t like flight cuisine as I shall name it, most of the time, even when flying business class, it’s edible but that’s all one can say about it. The offering is 90% of the time “chicken or pasta” and taste like “sh*t”. However, as I’m writing a report about the inauguration flight of Brussels Airlines flight 501 to New York JFK, I find it my duty :mrgreen: to have a taste of the food on offer. SN’s offering from BRU to JFK was an African Coriander Chicken or a Fish Ragout. The rare occasions I ate fish on a plane I found it quite reasonable however my luck runs mostly out on the chicken that is often dry and even chewy. So there we go, we take the chicken, pray to God and hope for the best yet prepare for the worst. As the dish was delivered it offered a decent sized (yet cold) bread, a nice fresh salad with chicken and parmesan cheese, a piece of Camembert cheese, a small cake and the main dish, the chicken dish. It all looked quite decent (remember, travelling in cattle class), and after tasting the salad I was quite surprised about the quality offered. It was certainly up to standards but don’t rush it I thought to myself, the main dish can be quite different. The chicken dish is a normal economy sized dish however I was quite surprised that there were quite some pieces of chicken in the dish together with a good amount of rice. After taking a bite of the rice and the chicken (which was in a sort of curry sauce) I was again surprised about the quality offered. The chicken tasted delicious, it was soft, moist and had a good taste to it. The rice was still moist too and tasted also delicious.. Never thought I would say this but damn, this was a decent quality meal. SN made quite an impression with it. 2h out of New York a genuine Belgian “Frisco” (icecream) was offered. An hour before landing a "wrap" or something was offered as a snack before arrival. SInce I don't like such wraps I've no idea if it's edible but I guess it wont be to bad.

During the flight the flight attendants came by frequently and were very attentive, they would offer drinks on regular times and with a small touch on the call button the were at your seat in less then a second. Being a big guy as I am I do tend to have a problem with regular economy seats when they are of the kind that are a bit small. I never have a problem on a Boeing 777 nor on a 767 and even not on a 757 but the A333 from SN does seem to feature quite small exit seats (yes, I choose exit seats because I’m also more then 2m tall). Seeing that it was a tight fit a flight attendant immediately offered other seats were the seat separation can be removed. I friendly declined this offer since I rather sit in a small chair, which is bearable then to sit into a cramped seat with no legroom. I find this very attentive of the FA’s and I thanked them for the kindness.

Seeing the FA’s busy on the flight and being friendly to all the passengers it reminded my to the old days of Sabena, right before Sabena became an acronym for “Such A Bad experience Never Again”. It reminded me to the old days of flying, the days when the customer was important, the days when an airline offered a decent product and where the customer was the king even when he flew in economy class (these days mostly called “cattle class”). Even in economy class every single beverage was free, wetter one would take a simple water or would take a gin-tonic of a scotch. I’ve enjoyed a very nice gin with some tonic that was offered with a small bag of pretzels and a napkin. While the beverages are offered in cups only (I didn’t ask for the can since they came by more then often to ask if one was thirsty) there were plenty of refill services available. When walking towards the galley to ask something they were just starting their meal. Since I didn’t want to disturb them I excused myself and tried to walk away but instead they insisted that they would help me. I rarely saw such a service, this gets more then 2 thumbs up from me. This level of standard would remain constant throughout the whole flight.

The flight itself was literally uneventful and was one of the smoothest flights I ever had in the past.

While SN’s A330’s are nearly the oldest birds flying they are very good maintained and fully up to standards. I only have a minor issue with the upgrade of the plane. While the planes received a complete overhaul of the interior with a brand spanking new interior it seems that they did actually forgot things and used them for the old configuration. While the interior of the lavatories were brand-new they did actually forget to overhaul the exterior and some parts of the “clothing” (think it’s a very thing layer of painted triplex wood) showing some wear. This could and should have been dealt with during the upgrade. I don’t understand how they could have missed that. However it has to be said that the plane was further in an immaculate condition.

3) Inflight Entertainment, aka IFE

Well, like said before SN is in the process of reconfiguring their long-haul fleet (A333 & A332 and this means that an state of the art IFE system was installed. It’s actually a quite unique system since it’s the wireless system of RAVE with all the content installed on flash memory build into the system. It features hours of audio (unfortunately they need to add more famous singers and groups to it since it’s content wasn’t to familiar to me (and I’m a big music lover). The system was loaded with loads of recent movies and Hollywood hits, thanks to the system one could choose from a couple of languages to have it dubbed or with subtitles. A lot of useful information about Brussels Airlines, the airports, etc… was loaded and loads of games were also available. The only minor glitch with the system is the fact that it’s sometimes a little slow in response. This could be improved but overall it’s a wonderful system that will provide sufficient entertainment for young and old on this flight

4) Inauguration

I’ve been on inauguration flights before and I attended inauguration events in the past. Al these events marked one thing. They were a happy celebration of a new flight, a new part in an airline’s history. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about SN’s inauguration of the JFK flight. JFK is and has been an important part in SN’s (Sabena / Brussels Airlines) history and they made very decent promotion about it. So one could say they were (initially) proud about this route. However, it seemed that this had vanished today on the day of the inauguration. Yes, they held a limited event with speeches of the CEO and the US ambassador, yes there was orange juice, coffee and donuts and there it stopped. If one wouldn’t knew about it nobody would ever know that today was the big day at the airport. Few banners reminded passengers that there was something to happen but if you didn’t look for it nobody would notice. One exception was the big amount of Belgian press at the inauguration, multiple camera crews and photographers were present to capture this true historic moment. Some of them flew with us to JFK and took some images during the flight. If one would think twice about it I would imagine that SN had second thoughts about it but they couldn’t back out of it and let it all happen. It wasn’t a true celebration, it was a formality and one that screamed “we do this because we have to” and not “we do this because we want to and we are proud about it”. I’m not sure what happened before the inauguration, are the bookings that bad? Every source is telling me that the bookings exceed expectations, that they are happy how things are going and that they are confident that it will be a successful route. However, today nearly told another story. What the reason is we don’t know but I’m guessing we’ll probably know it in the upcoming months. SN should be proud about this route, they are re-instating a flagship route, they are re-instating one of the original transatlantic routes and from what I see on this flight they have absolutely every single reason to be proud. The plane is nice, the staff is friendly (and they operate beyond the call of duty), the food is great, the load on this first flight is great, even the fares are quite competitive. What does an airline want more? God damn, be proud, be happy and f*cking celebrate this!

5) JFK

Totally beyond the control of Brussels Airlines lies the worst part of the trip... John F. Kennedy Airport... It all looked promising when the fire department gave us a watersalute but then the real JFK experience began. When we arrived at immigrations hundreds (and probably over a thousand) people were standing in line to pass immigration. An hour passed and we literally moved 5 meter during that timespan after nearly 2 hours they became smart and opened every single counter for every immigration and from that moment we were quite fast through but it took us from time to landing to the moment I picked up my luggage 3 hours... Way to much and JFK should do something about this. Normally I use IAD as my point of entry and the JFK experience tends to move me back to IAD again, even though SN's experience was much better then my previous flights with UA.

6) To conclude

To conclude this long trip report I would like to congratulate Brussels Airlines with the new route and the splendid service they are offering. I truly hope they succeed and that they will operate more TATL routes in the future. If they maintain this level of standard and if they get more connections at JFK I’ll be more then happy to dump United Airlines as my carrier of choice to cross the pond. I’ve always been a proud United Airlines users and they still are a great airline but for me, and this is not because I’m Belgian, Brussels Airlines exceeds every expectation that I had. For once in a long time I’m actually proud to say that I’m a Belgian and that Brussels Airlines is our national carrier (hopefully for the next couple of decades however I have may choose I would love it if they would bring the “Sabena” name back. Because let’s be honest, Brussels Airlines is and always will be (an improved) Sabena for many many people across the globe.

11 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinebralo20 From Belgium, joined May 2008, 623 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 9519 times:



User currently offlinezrs70 From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 3164 posts, RR: 9
Reply 2, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 8332 times:

No bag of SWAG I take it?


14 year airliners.net vet! 2000-2013
User currently offlineadamspotter From Netherlands, joined Feb 2011, 1150 posts, RR: 3
Reply 3, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 8196 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hi there,
Nice to already see a Brussels Airlines BRU-JFK TR, thanks for sharing!
Great that you got one of the newly refitted A333s, sounds good and so does the service, good job Brussels Airlines!

cheers,
Brendan // adamspotter


User currently onlinedebonair From Germany, joined Jan 2004, 2416 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 8123 times:

Quoting bralo20 (Thread starter):
Flightreport inaugurationflight Brussels Airlines SN501 BRU-JFK



Is SN no longer code-sharing with JET AIRWAYS on the BRU-EWR sector (after introducing own NYC flights)? And how does this affect 9W's LF (load-factor)?!


User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1186 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 8069 times:

Wow 33" legroom. That's impressive.

I have eaten some great meals in Y so I disagree with your opinion that airline food sucks.

Unfortunately our US airline meals suck as they make no effort to offer overall edible meals in Y.


User currently offlineokapi From France, joined Jun 2006, 211 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 6612 times:

Very nice report. SN always stands amongst the most consistent airlines when it comes to long-haul service. Their product looks very good and the cabin is just so fresh. A really cool design indeed. I have some doubt about serving the African coriander chicken on such a route but, why not? Maybe a more belgian cuisine flavour would have been more appropriate.

Thanks for sharing!

Quoting debonair (Reply 4):
http://airlineroute.net/2012/06/03/9w-brujfk-sep12cxld/


User currently offlinestipica From Croatia, joined Feb 2011, 426 posts, RR: 8
Reply 7, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 6442 times:

Hi bralo 20 ! ...
nice reading man ... just one out of the box question ... why is JFK flagship route for Belgian carrier ? ... Congo, Rwanda and Burundi is more marketing attractive for SN than JFK ...speaking from my perspective ... thanks ... stipica  



Open your eyes and think
User currently offlinebralo20 From Belgium, joined May 2008, 623 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 5051 times:

Quoting stipica (Reply 7):
Hi bralo 20 ! ...
nice reading man ... just one out of the box question ... why is JFK flagship route for Belgian carrier ? ... Congo, Rwanda and Burundi is more marketing attractive for SN than JFK ...speaking from my perspective ... thanks ... stipica

Well, JFK (or IDL in the past) was always an important location for SN. SN was one of the first airlines on the European mainland to fly into NYC and always used their best aircraft for it. The moment they received the 747-129(M) back in '71 they were put on the JFK route. Their "flagship" (the 747) flew the flagship route.

Nowadays their AFI ops are the most important in SN's network, however it's not a secret that they always wanted to go back to the USA and that JFK was their first choice, not only for historic reasons but also for commercial reasons since lot's of SN customers on their AFI ops are starting in the NYC area and flew through SN's partners in the past.

Apparently SN's new JFK route was a gamble but a good once it seems. At this moment average loads are around 70% with a decent yield even though one can state that the BRU-NYC market is a bit saturated with flights from AA (JFK), DL (JFK), 9W (JFK & EWR (though they are dropping JFK but still waiting for official confirmation)), UA (EWR) and now SN (JFK). The smallest plane on the route is being flown by AA (Boeing 757-200) while the biggest is being flown by UA (Boeing 777-200 which holds also the most premium seats (8F/40C). Bookings are good for the next couple of months, SN has to wait until the winter to see if this was the right thing to do).

Sunday I'll fly back to BRU with SN and with a little bit of luck it might happen in the new business class   So another report is coming later.


User currently offlinebralo20 From Belgium, joined May 2008, 623 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 5051 times:

Brussels Airlines made a "behind the scenes" video available about the inauguration flight:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UryHN10qKdI

Not to long so maybe worth watching.


User currently offlinestipica From Croatia, joined Feb 2011, 426 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (2 years 2 months 2 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 4694 times:

Hi Bralo20 !
and thanks for your explanation ... clearly I recognize the importance of JFK and ultimate prestige of the Belgian carrier to fly across the Atlantic I did not know that there are plenty of connecting traffic but SN501/502 should be codes for FIH a lot more intelligent marketing in my book ... I think the SN is a marginal player on JFK route that is honored with such titles ...but I was certainly glad that they started to fly ...thanks for video link of famous cabin crew and good luck with the business class ....stipica  



Open your eyes and think
User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 15
Reply 11, posted (2 years 2 months 1 week 6 days ago) and read 4097 times:

Hi Bralo20

Thanks for giving a short review about the airlines inaugural.
Seems like SN is doing quite well compared to it's competitiors. Let's hope for the best  .


Greetings
Marc



Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
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