Check-in I took the airport express train (€5.50) from Brussels Central having been advised that it is generally quicker to get to the airport by train than by taxi. Departures is on level three, and I checked in for my 1645 departure at Zone 4-5, before heading to the passport check in Area B, past the duty-free shops, and up one level to where the lounges are located.
The lounge Compared with Bmi’s sparkling new lounge on the outbound leg from London Heathrow (click here to read the review), this is a pretty modest affair. There was very little in the way of drinks or snacks, and aside from a business centre at one end with a bank of PCs (wifi access is chargeable), shower facilities, and a few different areas for seating, there isn’t much else to say about this facility. It’s adequate for short trips, but having also seen the carrier’s other lounge for passengers travelling to African destinations, I can tell you it isn’t as modern and welcoming.
Boarding At 1620 the departure board said the flight was boarding, so I headed to Gate B30. However, at 1635 a member of staff advised there would be a 15-minute delay as they were waiting for a purser to arrive from another flight. When we did board, I was offered a drink and various newspapers including The Telegraph, before we took off at around 1700.
The seat The Avro RJ85 aircraft is configured 2-3, with three classes – B.business, B.flex Economy+ and B.light Economy. In this case, there were five rows of business class (with the middle seat of three kept three), three rows of B.flex Economy+, and the rest standard economy. At this point it is worth noting that from January, Brussels Airlines will not longer offer a London Gatwick to Brussels service. Instead, it will take over Bmi’s flights to London Heathrow with the same aircraft.
The flight Unlike the outbound flight, which was full, this plane had just three passengers in B.business and five in B.flex Economy+. It was around half full in B.light Economy. After take-off, I was offered a delicious hot meal of chicken breast pieces with watercress, cucumber and pulse salad in yoghurt and mint dressing, plus a mini smoked salmon croissant, a warm, fresh roll, and a zingy lime cheesecake. It was one of the best meals I have ever had on a short-haul flight, and far more impressive than the Bmi offering on the outbound leg from Heathrow.
Arrival We arrived around 15 minutes late at 1700 local time, and I had envisaged a further delay due to the current bus transfer from the North to South Terminals (from where the trains depart), while the monorail is being refurbished. But a bus was waiting and departed just after I arrived, and I was able to catch my 1725 train, just 25 minutes after having landed.
Verdict A mediocre lounge offering, but excellent in-flight catering and a far more comfortable aircraft than the Embraer 145 on the outbound service. Customers will not miss the Bmi offering on the London Heathrow-Brussels route when it is taken over by Brussels Airlines.