b.transatlantic to the b.apple !!
December 2011, After a bunch of rumors and speculations Brussels Airlines finally decided to operate its first Transatlantic route to New York JFK using its Airbus A330-300 fleet. The opinions where rather indifferent en skeptical towards the success of this route since the major competition on this route by carriers such as United (777 to Newark), Jet Airways (A330 to JFK and Newark), Delta (767 to JFK) and American Airlines (757 to JFK). not to speak about the proximity of Amsterdam and CDG! At the time Brussels Airlines had a hard product you would find in the back of a US Airways 767, however playing the game smart Brussels Airlines soon decided to make an overall refurb of their cabins. lie flats in their Business class (B.business) and Audio Video On Demand in Economy (b.economy).
Combining this fact my cousin announced that she would be getting married in December 2012. Another interesting fact is that in all my years of transatlantic travels I only had one sole flight on a Belgian carrier. Back in 1998 I flew on a Sabena A340 from Brussels to Atlanta. Just another reason that builded up to this itinerary. A few months later June 1st came and SN501 to New York JFK departed for the first time, I actually saw OO-SFW the next morning after completing her first transatlantic journey from a company A319 heading to Geneva: Brussels-Frankfurt! The Kuwait Way! (by MSS658 Dec 17 2012 in Trip Reports)
A few weeks later it was time to plan my next USA trip, not knowing yet where I would be professionally at the time of travel I had to keep some dates in mind. When looking for fares I decided to depart a day before the holiday weekend since fares were much lower than over the weekend. With the possibility of having exams beginning of January I decided to fly back on New Year's eve. When looking up fares All direct routings between Brussels and New York had similar pricings. So without thinking Brussels Airlines flights 501 and 502 were booked. Just too bad there is no advance seat selection in advance!
In the months to come I only heard great things about the new route, even more interesting is that this route had quite an influence on the other carriers flying to the Big Apple. American Airlines and Jet Airways dropped their JFK route while Delta upped the route to one of their refurbed 767's. United downgraded their equipment as well from a 3 class Boeing 777-200ER to a 2 class Boeing 767-400ER. The excitement just grew more and more everyday...
After being stuck on the ground for about 4 months I was more than eager to fly once again. Thursday, December 20 at midnight online check in opened for the flight and I selected seat 36K at the window behind the wing. A few hours sleep, some packing and another school evening later the alarm rang at 5.15. By 6.15 I was picked up and little over an hour later I was at Brussels Airport. Thankfully traffic wasn't that bad at all in Brussels.
Leaving Brussels airport
Generally Brussels Airlines haves a dedicated check in zone in rows 3 and 4, decorated with the signature b.logo. However for one or another reason the long haul flights leave at different desks throughout the airport area. Each flight has it's own check in desks as well. Brussels Airlines 501 to New York JFK would be checking in via row 5.
The desks for our flight where clearly marked with a board posting the American flag and a sign posting "SN 501 New York JFK". 1 line for Business class, another for Star Alliance Gold and 3 lines for Economy. After a short line and a very quick security screening (only showing my American passport was enough for them I was at the check in desk and my carry on was weighed and my boarding pass was printed. Next stop was in the arrivals zone to exchange some USD's. In the arrivals hall there was a local radio event going on as well (for the Belgian readers, it was Meneer Konijn's arrival in Brussels after a trip around the world).
Christmas is near
At 8.15 I started my long trek towards the gate. For the ones that are familiar with Brussels Airport know that Concourse A is the one used for shengen and B for non-shengen. However due to the majority of the long haul flights in the morning causing congestions Brussels Airlines decided to move its long haul network to the last gates of the A-concourse and dividing it by a passport control. So up it is for the usual morning gymnastics to the rather calm security check point. Promo of Brussels Airlines new Business class, as seen in many places around Brussels. No J for me unafortunaly
At around 8.30 I was inside the A concourse. OO-SSG to be seen here.
airBaltic Dash 8-400 operating flight 602 to Riga. YL-BAX has the honors.
Company A319 (OO-SSV) operating flight SN2713 to Geneva.
Adria CRJ-200 operating flight JP 377 to Ljubljana, I must say that the CRJ2 is not my favorite aircraft at all.
There was quite some interesting stuff to see as well at concourse B as all the Jet Airways flights and the North American carriers had arrived. A few times in the week Jet Airways uses it's Boeing 777-300ER on the Mumbai to Brussels run (the continuation to Newark however is operated by an A330). On the blocks was VT-JEL.
I'm always impressed by the A concourse in Brussels I must say.
Just before our passport control I could get a glimpse of my Airbus A330-300 being prepared for New York JFK. Since catering was in progress it was nearly impossible to see the registration.
While waiting I decided to grab me a bite to eat, however there were no breakfast items anymore available and this at an early hour of 9.00, a bit poor for Brussels Airport here. The only other place was way at the beginning so I quickly ran to the other side and returned while eating. When I came back at the passport control the line had grown quite a bit. Besides our flight there were a bunch of other flights leaving towards Africa in the 10.30-11.00. I cleared passport control by 9.30 and was soon in the T-concourse. Now I at least I could see which airframe would be taking me over the pond today. Assigned to flight SN501 today was OO-SFN, an almost 20 year old airframe and one of the first A330s that came of the production line. The aircraft had arrived earlier as SN 371 from Douala.
Traffic in the T-concourse consisted of the 7-strong Airbus A330 fleet heading towards Africa (well except my JFK flight). For the first time it really amazed me how strong the Africa network of SN is. Some destinations on the GIDS systems are ones one would not hear so direct about. Another one of the 4 flights operating on the Brussels-New York route
At 9.40 I decided to head towards my gate, after the usual security questions I was allowed in the gate area. However once inside the gate area there was no return possible. However the wait wasn't too long at all until boarding was called at 9.45. After 4 months of no flying I was thrilled to be on board of...
19. Brussels Airlines flight SN 0501 from Brussels to New York John F. Kennedy
Friday, December 21 2012
Brussels (BRU/EBBR) - New York JFK (JFK/KJFK)
Brussels Airlines 0501 (United Airlines 9929, Lufthansa 5620)
Airbus A330-301 "OO-SFN" "SN: 37" B.economy 36K
Delivered to Air Inter (F-GMBD) at 30 december 1993 and Transferred as OO-SFN to Sabena on 30 July 1997. Further transferred to SN Brussels Airlines, Birdy Airlines and finally to Brussels Airlines on 25 March 2007)
10.30-10.33 (Gate T61; Wheels up on runway 25R at 10.49)
13.05-13.01 (Gate 9; Terminal 1; wheels down on runway 31R at 12.47)
Announced flying time: 8hrs02mins
Cruising Altitude: FL 380
Load factor: 97% in Y
174th registered flight
19th flight in 2012
6th flight on Brussels Airlines
7th flight on the Airbus A330 series
4th flight on the Airbus A330-300
1st flight on OO-SFN
Reccomended song for this long-haul journey: Jeff Jorber- You got Something
Videos related to SN 0501 from Brussels To New York JFK.
Takeoff in Brussels
Landing in New York JFK:
Nice to board an A330 through the glass jet way after boarding tons of A319s, Avros,...
9.55 Brussels time or 3.55 in New York I found myself at the boarding door of OO-SFN.
At the door I was greeted by the two pursers, before the boarding door there was another F/A doing a headcount. I tried pulling the joke that I would find my seat by turning left. Well, it did not work. However I did get a laugh and a respond in the meaning of "You can always try". A good beginning so far. I soon found my way towards seat 36K, first impressions of the new cabin where very good. After installing myself I made a quick stop in the back galley to give my classic gift trick. The flight Attendant that received the box was a bit reserved but thanked me friendly. Todays crew would consist of mostly female's in the upper 30s and 40s. Once seated I noticed the IFE was playing already.
Welcome, Enjoy your Inflight entertainment...
Our neighbor. OO-SFZ being prepared for flight SN463 to Kigali, At this point the only aircraft that has not been refurbed yet.
What Impressed me really was the legroom, this would be what some others offer in their Premium Economy cabins. Hands up for SN here!!
Jet Airways 229 leaving for Delhi, maybe soon to be no sight anymore in Brussels
By now my seatmate had arrived. A father of a family of 4 took the seat next to me, was hoping for an empty seat but being in high season and the success of the route I wasn't expecting the opposite. Soon our captain came on announcing our flight to be around 8 hours and we would be on our way soon. 10.33 Belgian time, 4.33 Eastern US Time; just a few minutes behind schedule OO-SFN started her pushback towards the runway. In the meanwhile the safety video started to play. Not long after I could hear my seatmate talking on his cellphone. The flight attendant noticed it as well and made a short remark that he had to stop. More commotion to come as there was soon a young couple at the 3L/3R doors discussing something with the flight Attendants. Apparently one of the 2 was unwell and was offered a row for herself in the back. Good move in both situations by the crew. Bye Bye Brussels, see you next year.
SFN's sisters being prepared for their African missions.
As most of the time in Brussels we taxied towards runway 25R
Hmmm... I did not knew that our flight to New York would take us over Antartica today...
This is a map I do like, almost ready for takeoff!
Not too much of a wait here in Brussels. 10.49 in BRU or 4.49 in JFK the front office made the wise decision to push the throttles forward and to get OO-SFN in the air underway to the U, S of A.
Standard departure procedures, over the ring to the right.
Still a pretty long way to go to New York, but I did not mind at all as I felt that this was going to be a great flight.
Too bad there was nothing too much to see of the Belgian country side.
If you find this everywhere, you know you are flying Brussels Airlines
Soon my home town appeared on the map.
Bye the time we reached our cruising altitude we where over the North sea!
No land in sight anymore.
Soon another Flight Attendant came by asking if the box of chocolates where mine. When I responded I was made an offer which I could not say no to. Great to start your transatlantic journey this way.
11.50 in Belgium, 5.50 in Eastern United states or 1 hour since our departure. The first service round started, some nuts with a free glass of red wine. Even better start!
In the meanwhile we were above the UK. Not too much to see down there neither..
In the meanwhile I started a promo film of Belgium on the IFE screen. Actually this one is the motorway I took to the airport earlier.
12.35 in Brussels, 6.35 in New York or just about an hour and 45 minutes since we are airborne the main meal was served. Choices where between chicken or pasta. I decided to opt for the Coriander chicken which was one of the better in flight meals. The quantity and quality where superb. So good that I actually forgot to make a picture of it. However thanks to a great report of fellow member thegivenone you can see the meal after all. He had the same meal on his flight from Brussels to Nairobi
The New SN Experience: JFK-NBO-JFK With Pics (by thegivenone May 20 2013 in Trip Reports)
The coulds cleared but all I could see was ocean by now.
Indicating our journey over the Atlantic had started..
Or a better view
13.05 in BRU, 7.05 in JFK or 2hrs 15 minutes since our departure another service round had started with the typical Belgian frisco.
And some hot tea to drink.
Not long after a duty free run began. Once that was completed the silence and the rest in the cabin returned. It was now about 13.45 in Brussels and 7.45 in New York. 3 hours since our takeoff and about 5 hours to go now. A first handy feature was the IFE console that was integrated in the seat and not in the armrest as some of the older systems have.
An ideal moment to give you a bit of a tour of the Inflight Entertainment system.
While still cruising high above the Atlantic
The Map, one of the only views inflight. However when getting lower to the ground the zoom changes (see departure, arrival or my return report to come).
Choice of 50 movies and sitcoms on demand!
Or 50 audio tracks as well, did not realize that we had so many Belgian artists. Another nice touch of Brussels Airlines to put our small county on the map.
Or 10 board games.
The IFE system is controlled by a touch screen and is very easy to navigate with, one of the better systems I had seen already. While my neighbor went to use the restroom I quickly snapped a picture of the headrest that provided with some extra comfort.
9.45 in the Big Apple, 15.45 in the European capital or just about 5 hours after leaving the ground in Brussels. I finished some random movie and decided to take a peek outside of the window and was delighted to see that our Airbus A330 had already reached NewFoundland. One of my favorite sites when flying over the Atlantic.
After quite a few hours in the air it was more than time for a little stretch. I took this opportunity as well to make a cabin picture of the back of the bus.
Soon the purser noticed me taking a pic of the cabin and offered to take a picture of me in the cabin which I gladly accepted. After this I was thanked for the chocolates and started to talk with several crew members about SN and the industry. I must say I was very impressed about how our crew (and this would not be my first Brussels Airlines crew where I had encountered this) knew the industry very well. Which led to quite a lengthy conversation. I really did learn a lot, especially about their African network and different types of passengers they encounter on these routes. Before realizing the preparations for the second service began and I returned to my seat. 11.45 New York time, 17.45 Brussels time 7hours after being airborne the second service began. As on most carriers a hot sandwich was served, it tasted quite good to be honest.
Another map view:
As New York was getting closer and closer I made my final stretch and a lavatory visit. Even when you are in the smallest cabin of the aircraft, you still will be reminded which airline you are flying. Before returning to my seat I thanked the crew once again for the amazing flight.
12:20 at JFK, 18.20 back home in Brussels or 7 hours and a half since we where airborne the engines of OO-SFN where idled and soon we started heading towards the ground. Pretty cloudy above the US of A as well.
The majority of our crossing this morning.
As stated earlier how lower our altitude how more the map zoomed in.
The clouds started to break up over long island!
The entertainment system remained on however the majority of the passengers where enjoying the moving map and our flight progress.
I really like the wingtip.
Breaking the clouds.
Once we broke the clouds we had an excellent view of long island.
12.47 in New York, 18.47 in Brussels and just about 8 hours after takeoff Beeline 501 heavy made a smooth landing on runway 31L ending one of my best transatlantic crossings ever.
The only disadvantage of landing on this runway is that I could not enjoy the various traffic in New York. I did get to see the hanger of one of my least favorite airline.
Like seeing those American trucks again.
Soon the engines where shut down, and we waited to be towed into the gate. We were passed by a Delta airbus, I'm still having to get used to it but I do like the A319 in Delta colors.
13.01 in Eastern USA or 19.01 in Belgium the seat belt sign was turned off indicating we had arrived at our final parking position and the end of Brussels Airlines flight 501.
My seatmate and I said eachother goodbye and the cabin of OO-SFN started to empty. A last picture of the rear Economy cabin.
And a peek into B.business as well! I wouldn't mind at all if I had to sit here.
And last but least a granted view of the 2 best seats of the Airbus A330-300.
13.10 New York time, 19.10 Brussels time I thanked the crew for the excellent flight and bad them farewell. I also got a request from our purser to be sure to tell my return crew she said hi. Nice touch!
Arrival in New York John F. Kennedy International Airport
Too bad OO-SFN was parked at a windowless gate, however walking towards immigration I could sneek a few pics of some traffic parked at Terminal 1. Aeroflot 100 from Moscow (Airbus A330-300)
Koreanair 81 from Seoul Incheon (Airbus A380-800)
At the end of the hallway I noticed a large queue form. When reaching the end of the line I was asked if I was a resident or a visitor. When responding I was a resident I was able to skip the line until the immigration hall. I'm glad I did not have to wait, I would estimate the wait for the visitors to be at least an hour and a half. The resident line did not take long at all, after immigration it wasn't a long wait for my luggage neither. Soon enough at 13.40 (30 mins after disembarking) I was in the main terminal area of terminal 1. FIAS with a very international list of destinations.
I decided to opt for a shared ride to my hotel. I think this is the best way price-quality to get to town. You still have a bit of the comfort you would get from a taxi without paying the 52 USD to get there. The ride was there at 14.10. After picking up passengers from terminal 3 and 7 we were on our way into traffic. Once in Manhattan there was an arguement between a young couple and the bus driver because they mistakenly said the wrong street resulting in the driver being quite angry, upset and even a bit aggressive. After a wild ride I arrived at the Herald Square hotel at 16.00. Happy to be checked in I found this hotel to be one of the worst price/quality that I've encountered. Here is your room for 150 USD.
Bathroom, without proper warm water...
We won't talk about the almost non-existent wifi...Between my arrival in Brussels and my departure down to the Southeast I had a a bit less than 48 hours and except moaning about my hotel I did some other stuff as well.
Concorde tour at the intrepid museum.
G-BOAD, Wish I could have logged her in the air once
Found on just about every square in NY
While starting a pretty big walk from Ground zero to Times square, a common sight as well.
And Finally we reached the destination.
This concludes part I of the trip report series, the next report will bring us down to South Carolina.
There was a lot of controversy about Brussels Airlines' new JFK route. Why JFK while they would have a stronger network in Newark? How can a carrier succeed on a route with many competitors like Jet Airways? Maybe they could revamp their product....
Trying Brussels Airlines was a pleasure and well worth every eurocent spended in the ticket. Very comfortable seating, decent and extremely easy to navigate IFE system. The new interiors looked so great that one could not recognize that our Airbus A330 (OO-SFN) was almost celebrating it's 20th birthday. The soft product impressed me as well, high quality meals and great service. The African Coriander chicken tasted great. The crew was very friendly and proactive during all stages of flight. I was surprised about how much our crew in particular knew so much about the industry. Brussels Airlines' product is a half a mile ahead of any of the other US carriers on the route and in my personal opinion they are more or less on par with Jet Airways. The only improvement that needs to be done is their horrible website as it's really a pain to navigate with (no seat selection on long haul flights, unable to add FF number, hard to change a flight). Nevertheless I would not mind to choose Brussels Airlines again on another long haul flight and hope that their new Washington Dulles route is at least an equal succes!
Brussels Airlines 0501 from Brussels to New York JFK:
Departure: 70% (Almost no lines and very smooth procedure, too bad no breakfast items in stock at 9.00)
Aircraft cleanliness : 90% (Very fresh and clean appearance, hard to say the A/C is 20 years old.)
Seat Comfort: 80% (Great leg room, well padded. Just no decent shoulder room)
Crew: 90% (Friendly and very knowledgeable and proactive)
IFE: 90% (Good choice and very user-friendly)
Catering: 90% (Very good portion and quality.)
Arrival: 80% (Easy and fast)
Total score = 84%
How did today's flight compare
Brussels Airlines 0501 on 21/DEC/2012 = 84 %
L. Haul Economy on Brussels Airlines Average = 83% (1st place of 10 in the category)
Brussels Airport average = 69% (39th place of the 51 in the category)
New York JFK average = 63% (48th place of the 51 in the category)
Airbus A330-300 average = 76% (10th place of the 39 in the category)
As a bonus I would like to give a list of regs I spotted in Brussels and New York JFK
New York John F .Kennedy International airport
Total facts in this trip report
1 New registration (OO-SFN)
Total facts in the series (report 1 of 3)
1 New registration (OO-SFN)
Thanks for reading and viewing this trip report, I hope you enjoyed reading it. As usual, comments and feedback are always welcome
Stay tuned for my next trip report:
Failed Delta Douglas 9 trip!!
Past trip reports:
A 5 Star Meet In The Bavarian Heat! (by MSS658 May 2 2013 in Trip Reports)
Germanwings, A Near Miss And A Smart Upgrade! (by MSS658 Mar 29 2013 in Trip Reports)
Flying The 274 Narrowbody Jet To Mallorca! (by MSS658 Mar 17 2013 in Trip Reports)
The Easy Way To (Air) Berlin! (by MSS658 Feb 16 2013 in Trip Reports)
Brussels-Frankfurt! The Kuwait Way! (by MSS658 Dec 17 2012 in Trip Reports)
Avrojetting To And From Copenhagen! (by MSS658 Nov 26 2012 in Trip Reports)
Toronto, Niagara And A Delayed YYZ-CDG! (by MSS658 Oct 22 2012 in Trip Reports)
Toronto City Centre? But Not On Porter! (by MSS658 Sep 23 2012 in Trip Reports)
To Canada? On Air Canada If Course! (by MSS658 Aug 31 2012 in Trip Reports)
SAS, Stockholm And The A.net Meeting! (by MSS658 Jul 29 2012 in Trip Reports)
Spectacular Southeastern Sunset Takeoff With US! (by MSS658 Jun 17 2012 in Trip Reports)
US Airways A332s, A Step Forward In The Fleet? (by MSS658 Apr 26 2012 in Trip Reports)
Going Home, The Star Alliance Way! (by MSS658 Mar 21 2012 in Trip Reports)
Jetting The Blue Way To New York! (by MSS658 Feb 4 2012 in Trip Reports)
Chasing The Storm On US Airways! (by MSS658 Jan 24 2012 in Trip Reports)
A Trip On A Classic Silverjet And Some Trains! (by MSS658 Jan 4 2012 in Trip Reports)
Losing My Southwest Virginity! (by MSS658 Dec 18 2011 in Trip Reports)
Au-revoir Continental! (by MSS658 Dec 5 2011 in Trip Reports)
SATA, The Azores And The A310 Part II (by MSS658 Nov 13 2011 in Trip Reports)
SATA, The Azores And The A310! Part I (by MSS658 Oct 16 2011 in Trip Reports)
Sun, Snow, Rain And ... Lufthansa! (by MSS658 Sep 4 2011 in Trip Reports)
Propping Around The Upstate! (by MSS658 Aug 7 2011 in Trip Reports)
US Airways And Irregular Operations! (by MSS658 Jul 17 2011 in Trip Reports)
Lufthansa, There Is No Better Way To Fly! (by MSS658 Jul 5 2011 in Trip Reports)
A Short Hop On A Big Bird! (by MSS658 Feb 27 2011 in Trip Reports)
A West Side Flight On The East Side! (by MSS658 Jan 9 2011 in Trip Reports)
Wifi And Condensation On US Airways! (by MSS658 Dec 10 2010 in Trip Reports)
Air Canada, North America's Hidden Jewel? (by MSS658 Nov 6 2010 in Trip Reports)
A Ride With A Rare Blue Bird! (by MSS658 Oct 31 2010 in Trip Reports)
US Airways A333's.Are They Really That Bad? Part 2 (by MSS658 Oct 23 2010 in Trip Reports)
US Airways A330-300's. Are They Really That Bad? (by MSS658 Oct 16 2010 in Trip Reports)