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What it’s like to fly Air Belgium business class when you’re expecting British Airways Club World

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If you are due to fly to Abu Dhabi in the near future, you may be in for a surprise.  Air Belgium has been standing in for British Airways due to its problematic Boeing 787-9 fleet.

Reader Gill recently took this service and dropped me a note with her thoughts.  The key fact is that, despite flying on what is basically a Finnair cast-off Airbus A340, it is better than Club World …..

  • The crew are employed by Air Belgium and the cabin is branded Air Belgium
  • Service is the standard Club World offering
  • White Company bedding and washbags are offered, as per Club World
  • The seats are good, comfortable and with a novel massage feature
  • The crew are “incredibly delightful” – “I got a welcome as a Gold member (can’t remember the last time that happened) and they also came and spoke to me to reassure me that my Gluten Free Meal was on board.  They also spoke to each passenger to wish us well and hope we enjoyed our flight before landing.”
  • Staff numbers seemed a lot higher than on a normal Abu Dhabi run, with six in Business Class

The downsides Gill noted were:

  • The in-flight entertainment is rubbish – a selection of about 10 films and nothing else (take your tablet and load it up)
  • The staff were incredibly nervous and slow with the service
  • For those that like to purchase duty free there is none on board

Gill concluded: “I would fly this service again and want to reassure people who may feel they are getting a budget airline.  It’s not BA or a brand new Dreamliner that’s the real downside, but the staff and their mode of operation really impressed me.  I do think that some BA staff could take a leaf out of the Air Belgium staff who were happy to help and really pleasant.  They made sure each and every passenger was well catered for.  The Air Belgium substitution is not an ideal situation, but its also not to be feared.”

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Comments (199)

  • Shoestring says:

    Just goes to show that the old BA (traditional) fleet cabin crew are well past their prime and many need to be forcibly retired.

    The ‘jolly’ guys not included – they might be pushing 60 but give some of the best friendly & attentive service on BA, I guess because they enjoy their job more than the others.

    • the_real_a says:

      I also agree that some “mature” staff are the worst service personnel i have ever experienced in any industry, appearing to hate their job and taking it out on the unfortunate passengers.

      • Genghis says:

        And some of the best. Great WW crew last week. In Sep, however, a young lady serving F, in a fake posh accent, “Would you care for some hydration?”. Bizarre.

  • Chris says:

    Any chance of a quick article with the IHG rewards club benefits at the principle hotels? Can’t see on ihg site what they are classed as

  • Michael says:

    I flew to AUH last week with Air Belgium and would agree the seat is better and the Inflight Entertainment is far worse! The crew and service however I found to be one of the worst I had ever experienced in business class. There was certainly no welcome or acknoledgement as Gold for me. The drinks service before takeoff and after was terrible and was a good hour after takeoff that they got round to bringing drinks and I was near the front so probably another 30 minutes for people further back.
    It seems like it all depends on the crew you get which is nothing new but as this crew has no real link to BA I felt they really did not care as they are not accountable.

  • callum says:

    Are you definitely allowed to bring a table on as hand luggage?

  • Mark Cannon says:

    Air Belgium are being used on some Dubai flights too. I have one coming up in about 4 weeks

    • Charlie says:

      And me to in two weeks, but the original plane was supposed to be a Boeing 777, nothing to do with the 787 engine issue!

      • Alan says:

        Unless, of course, they needed your 777 to use on a route that was supposed to be running the 787. This would then mean it has everything to do with the 787 engine issue

  • Simon Schus says:

    BA seem to be quite generous recently… including a BA AMEX membership rewards bonus for US cards (not UK).

    I may be connecting some unconnected dots… but in the year before the most recent Hilton changes, they were overly generous with their points changes (random bonuses, additional extremely regular and larger points earning opportunities that the quarterly offers available now)

    Could this be the calm before the storm?

    (The answer could be yes, no, maybe, shut up etc!)

  • Mike says:

    No offers for me on my cards. Again.

    • Susan says:

      +1 Am getting rather fed up with the lack of love

      • Dr Strangelove says:

        If you can be bought for 500 Avios I am wondering if you’d accept Clubcard points instead before that visit to a psycho-therapist.????

      • meta says:

        Same here. From August, I have had no offers on any of my Amex cards (Plat, BA, Spg) and neither does my partner on Gold or BA. I have 0 saved offers.

    • Shoestring says:

      This (500 Avios) is just on BA Amex cards – got it on 2/3.

      • Susan says:

        Lucky you, it’s still not on my BA Amex which only has one, useless for me, offer.

        • Stephen says:

          Are you using the app to look for offers or logging on to the website? I find lots of offers available on the website which don’t show on the app.

        • I’ve not got this offer either. I always have plenty, typically for retail outlets I’ve never even heard of, but never anything useful.

          Although £25 back for £100 on RayBan could be handy…

        • Mike says:

          App or Website, rarely any offers on my account.

    • Alan says:

      I have just 2 offers on my BA Blue card. The 500 avios for £5 spend and the AMEX spend £20 get £5 credit one. Unfortunately, the Amazon one didn’t appear to track properly.

      My wife has not had a single offer on her Gold card since she opened her account in May

  • Seat54 says:

    No points on the Marriott game again for me, not even the 50….