Tickets are now on sale for startup carrier Air Belgium’s inaugural flight between Brussels and Hong Kong, with the first flight set to take off on April 30 this year.
Speaking to Business Traveller last month, CEO Niky Terzakis said Air Belgium aims to offer a full-service flight option at fares about 25 to 30 per cent lower than what is currently available on the market for a non-stop service. The new route, which will fly into and out of the Belgian capital’s lesser-known Brussels South Charleroi Airport, is the first from the fledgling carrier.
So how do the prices compare?
At the time of writing, fares for a return Air Belgium flight from Hong Kong to Brussels at the end of April/early May are HK$4,498 (US$573) for an economy class ticket, HK$9,998 (US$1,274) for premium economy and HK$19,998 (US$2,548) for business.
Air Belgium is set to fly its Airbus A340 aircraft on the route. Economy class is laid out 2-4-2 with seats offering 31 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width, while premium economy is configured 2-3-2 with 36 inches of pitch and 20.1 inches of width. Seats in business class, meanwhile, recline to a fully flat 79-inch bed with a width of 21.5 inches, all laid out in alternating rows of 2-2-1 and 1-2-1.
Meanwhile, flights around the same period with Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific, whose own non-stop service to Brussels Airport took off on March 25, currently start from HK$6,970 (US$888) for economy class, HK$12,400 (US$1,580) for premium economy and HK$35,400 (US$4,510) for business.
These are notably different price points, with starting prices for Air Belgium’s economy class being 35 per cent cheaper, premium economy 19 per cent cheaper and business class 43 per cent cheaper than Cathay Pacific.
Cathay Pacific flies one of its newest aircraft, the A350-900, on its Brussels route. These aircraft are laid out 3-3-3 in economy with seats offering 32 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width, and 2-4-2 in premium economy with 40 inches of seat pitch and 18.5 inches of width. Business class similarly offers a fully flat bed that’s 75 inches long when fully reclined and 20.2 inches wide, with all seats laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration.
However, Air Belgium and Cathay Pacific are not the only carriers battling it out on routes between Brussels and Greater China, where the startup airline has its eyes set on expanding. Hainan Airlines, for instance, also launched a new non-stop route to Brussels just last month connecting the city with Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.
These flights, operated by the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, have just two classes – a 2-2-2 business class with fully flat seats and a 3-3-3 economy class – with fares in early May starting from RMB3,766 (US$598) for a return economy ticket and RMB19,716 (US$3,133) for a return business class seat. These fares are far closer to those offered by Air Belgium on its Hong Kong route.
Hainan Airlines also launched flights between Shanghai and Brussels in October last year and has flown between Beijing and Brussels since 2006.
Air Belgium currently hasn’t announced which destinations in China it is looking to add to its network, however Terzakis previously informed Business Traveller it would be “a spread between large cities and secondary cities”.