Nearly every country has it’s own flag carrier. For Belgium, this is true as well. In the past we had Sabena,
… the Belgian airline from 1923 until 2001. After the 9/11 catastrophe, things started building up and Sabena sadly went bankrupt. After its bankruptcy in 2001, the newly-formed SN Brussels Airlines took over part of SABENA's assets in February 2002, which then became Brussels Airlines. SN is a subsidiary of Lufthansa and part of the Star Alliance. It is also the largest airline based in Belgium (now would that be difficult?), operating to over 65 destinations in 20 European countries as well as long-haul flights to East, Central and West Africa.
Having flown Sabena once in it’s good old days I was curious to know how the ‘new’ Sabena’ would be performing. Brussels Airlines established itself on the market in Belgium, it is omnipresent in the street, making lots of publicity.
I have never flown on SN before (Virgin Express, yes…) so I tought the moment was there to change this. Searching their easily navigable website I found a more or less acceptable fare in their ‘b-light’ cabin (= the cheapest travel class) to GVA for a dayreturn (about € 114). GVA is operated up until 6x daily on working days and the competition with EZY on this route must be fierce. The question is: does it perform better than EZY, which I have flown to GVA before? I hope it does..
The day before I checked in online and chose my seats (window last row), the BP was sent to my mobile phone. No more paper waste!
After a half day at the office, it was time to head for the airport. I was closely monitoring the BRU airport website and in the morning already I expected a delay. The inbound flight coming from MAD was delayed for an hour. With then panning of schedules that would mean at least a half an hour delay. Not good…
I arrived at the airport, parked the car on the apron and went inside, direction terminal A and straight through security. No problems here although a ring on my finger most probably set the alarm. Has the beeper become more sensitive? Don’t know, but that’s the first time this happens to me. I was frisk searched and allowed to continue.
Boarding at gate A48 was normally due at 15h00 but a small delay of 15 min was announced. Now that’s not too bad. I was half an hour early so I made a walk up to gate A72 at the very end of the terminal to see if I can spot some interesting things.
About 15 mins after deboarding of the inbound passengers, we were allowed on board. My electronic BP was scanned and I was on my way to my first SN flight.
Seat: 24A, changed to 18C
Load: about 50% over all classes
Upon entering I was greeted by the female purser with a smile, in Dutch, French and English. Nice to be able to speak my own language for once on board an aircraft. The cabin looks nice and clean, new seats are installed it seems. 3 female F/A’s in total on duty on this flight. But oh horror when I came to my seat: no window! Now I have never had this before: no window on a A319 in the last row on the left side. Needless to say I was not happy… I asked the F/A if I could change seats if there was one available. ‘No problem’, she replied. ‘Just wait until the purser announces “boarding complete” and you can choose any free seat with the red mark on it’. ‘Thanks’ I replied and I patiently waited.
‘Boarding complete’ was announced but alas all window seats were taken. Well, bad luck this time so I tried to make the most out of it.
After a warm welcome from up front , we made our way to 7R for takeoff. Suddenly I noticed an older couple wanted to change seats at the last moment. The F/A asked me if I wanted to change for their aisle seat, more in the middle. ‘Sure’ I said and I took place in 18C. At least now I had some more view, but still no window. I asked the young lady in the window seat (she was reading a book) if she wanted to switch seats but she replied: ‘I like the window’ in broken English. ‘OK, no problem at all’, I replied. I rest my case… (sigh…).
After some minor turbulence on takeoff, the crew sprung into action and started the BOB service. I took a mango smoothie, yummy!
After an hour we were already descending for GVA’s rwy 23.
We arrived at gate 1 and I made my way outside since I had about 1,5h until boarding of the return flight. Let me take you on a discovery tour of GVA:
After some wandering around, I went through security and was airside again in minutes. A gate change for BRU was announced meantime: A1 iso A4. That’s fine by me.
Half an hour before STD of my flight back, the expected Avro RJ85 appeared on the apron. 20 mins later, boarding was called. Some passengers (also me) having scanning issues with electronic BP’s and cause delays in boarding: GVA please fix this! This time I was lucky: window last row indeed had a window, phewww….
Aircraft: BAE Systems Avro RJ85
Upon entering I was greeted by male purser Wim into the small clean cabin of the RJ85. In total there was 1 male and 1 female F/A on duty. What a small aircraft this RJ85 is, low ceiling as well and when looking out the window, you realize how low to the ground you are in comparison with other aircraft.
We made our way to rwy 23, the captain performing his welcome speech, annoucing some turbulence due to thunderstorms around and expecting a 1h flight time to BRU. We were second in line for takeoff and lifted gently off into the hazy Geneva skies.
Service started and the 2 F/A’s had their hands full in providing the catering for this full flight. I once again took a smoothie, albeit another flavour: strawberry this time.
For the remainder of the flight I was glued to the window -
Once we were over Belgium, more clouds came in, announcing not-too-good weather on the ground: rain…
Soon enough and after some twists and turns, we were on finals for BRU’s rwy 02.
After a short taxi, I was nearly back from where I started from: terminal A
Upon exiting I took one more cabin shot and asked permission to visit the flight deck: permission granted! After a short chat I bid the pilots farewell as they had to prepare the paperwork for their next assignment: TLS.
My afternoon GVA hop was at an end. My voyage with SN was a most enjoyable one. Except for the not-windowed window seat I cannot fault SN for anything. Flights were on time, planes were clean, service was good. Pricewise it will be difficult to beat EZY on this route but if you want an assigned seat than SN is your carrier of choice on this route. Even more it offers a 6x daily service whereas EZY only flies 2x daily in winter and only daily in summer. It’s up to you to choose but I’d prefer SN again.
So b-light in fact is a bit of a delight
Thanks for reading and feel free to post you comments, they are greatly appreciated!