By Carole Shifrin, Contributing Editor
Brussels Airlines began non-stop flights between Brussels and Washington, D.C. on June 18, with promising signs for the success of the new service.
Flights in both directions on the first day were full and advance bookings for the five-days-a-week service are very strong, some even sold out.
Brussels Airlines officials said half the passengers on the first inbound flight on June 18 from Brussels were connecting onward to San Francisco, Chicago, Kansas City, Indianapolis and other cities.
In addition, the belly of the Airbus A330-200 operating the first flight was carrying two tons of cargo to the U.S. from the carrier’s extensive network in Africa. Airline officials expect the new round-trip flight to carry a substantial amount of year-round cargo in both directions, as do its existing Brussels-Africa flights.
The first flight departing from Washington Dulles International Airport carried passengers who were going on to connect to other Brussels Airlines destinations such as Oslo and Copenhagen in Europe and Kinshasa, Abidjan and Douala in Africa.
A Star Alliance carrier, SN (the code it kept from its Sabena heritage) operated an A330-200 fitted with 250 economy seats and 24 business-class seats on its first flight to Washington D.C.
But the airline, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group, has the option to use a slightly larger A330-300 on the route when needed. Brussels Airlines’ A330-300s each have 258 economy-class and 30 business-class seats.
Both cabins feature brand-new interiors, new seating (including lie-flat beds in business class) and a new state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system.
In each direction, the flights between the U.S. and European capitals are timed to allow business travelers and tourists to spend the whole day in the departure city before leaving.
Brussels Airlines CEO Bernard Gustin noted the airline had expanded its long-haul services considerably in the last four years, doubling its long-haul fleet, adding four intercontinental destinations (including New York last year) and increasing frequencies on other routes.
“The launch of Washington is part of our strategy to operate the most important intercontinental destinations from Brussels Airport ourselves to offer passengers a comfortable and direct travel option,” he said.
Brussels Airlines’ Star Alliance partner United Airlines operates the Brussels-Washington Dulles service daily.
Carole Shifrin has been a Washington-based freelance writer for ten years. Her career includes 15 years at Aviation Week & Space Technology, where she served as Dallas Bureau Chief, London Bureau Chief and Senior Transport Editor, and 13 years as a staff writer at The Washington Post. Carole is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Lauren D. Lyman Award for distinguished, career-long achievement in aviation journalism.