Just returned home after participating in the inaugural BRU-FIH (Kinshasa) flight of SN Brussels Airlines. It was an amazing experience with a real warm welcome back for the Airbus 330 in Kinshasa. After a flight of 6241 km and almost 7 hrs captain Vuylsteke and f/o Benno Beenders landed the Airbus 330-300 (Birdy operated) around 19 h local time at N Djili airport.
On board we were with 33 pax in C and 98 in Y. Most of the C PAX were VIP's (deputy prime minister Michel, the President and the new CEO and the management of SN Brussels, the management of Birdy, Congolese ambassador in Brussels, most important travel agents) and also a press delegation in Y class (tv, newspapers, wire agencies, foreign newspapers).
The welcoming in N'Djili was impressive: music, ballet, shouts of joy in the African way. Surprising was a litte fanfare orchestra that played a popular flemish song (K3's Van Africa tot in America). Their african interpretation was funny.
The Congolese authorities were very happy with the return of a Belgian airline. Also the Belgian expats and many Congolese travellers and businessmen are satisfied. After Sabena's collapse they had to travel via Air France, Cameroon Airlines or Ethipian (long, long travel hours).
The Airbus 330-300 is in the old Sabena configuration and still many Sabena 'elements' are present in the aircraft: glasses, curtains, seats with the logo, refreshing towels with the Sabena logo, plastic bags, ...). On the inflight entertainment system it was already SN Brussels Airlines logo and a special created africa logo (Giraffe). In the beginning of the flight some promofilms of investors (Fortis Bank, Walloon region, Brussels region, ...) are showed.
Pax in C Class had a choice of 3 hot meals, Y class had a meat or fish choice. Also snacks and breakfast ofcourse and icecreams.
Unfortunatelly the Airbus 330-300 is not equipped with individual tv screens for the y class pax (only with some general screens in the cabin and almost 10 audio channels) so the y class ius not really up to date but i must say that the service was correct, very friendly and better than duirng the Sabena years. In stead off an inflight magazine a specially print SN Brussels airlines newspaper was offered.
SN Brussels has hired 105 old Sabena employees to make this operation possible in Congo. As there is no infrastructure they have to organize the whole handling themselves (stairs, water, claining, fuel, push-back, ...). the check-in is done with laptop computers and the whole check-in facility moves after every flight to a secured location to avoid theft... Every flight almost 40 INADS try to board the flight with false pasports, visa, ... so lots of work for the check-in people coz many of the local authorities are very corrupt. You can't believe it when you see it. Every flight people who check-in become 'other people' at the boarding...
SN Brussels hopes to welcome 200.000 pax this year for the African routes. Friday they had already 45000 reservations: almost 50 pct are made in Africa, 25 pct in Belgium. The figures are encouraging and they will already operate in summertime extra feeder flights to and from Paris CDG ... For the moment they offer lots of incentives (extra lugage allowance, tickets in Y class for 800 euro, triple miles) for clients.
'Tintin in Congo' Pressclub 'Kuifje in Afrika'