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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)

  • Gregor says:

    More O/T I’m afraid: does anyone have any Philippines Airlines experience? LHR – MNL return the week after next. The client has booked me into Premium Economy but I see there’s a “bid for upgrade option”… worth it? (I think I’d make bid for the overnight outbound but stick with PE dayflight return.) Any advice welcome, thank you.

    • Lukethetraveller says:

      I booked Philippines Airlines error business class flights LHR-MNL-HKG (flying in January, big thanks to Rob and flyertalk) and you should fly on brand new A350 aircraft – layout 1-2-1 – generally travel blogs are very positive about this this new PAL business class product. The only tiny downside is contracted business class lounge at LHR – Club aspire.

    • BJ says:

      PAL = Plane Always Late 😉

      Seriously, bid what you think the upgrade is worth to you and not a penny more, you get it then you’re happy, if not you didn’t pay more than you wanted. My most recent experiences were £380 AF PE-J CDG-BKK, £500 UA Y-J LHR-SFO (years ago), £500 Etihad Y-J EDI-AUH. Thai has fixed prices, about $800 Y-J LHR-BKK IIRC. Thu, I think you should be thinking £X00s unless PAL is different.

    • Chancer says:

      (premium) Economy to Manilla? Some client you have…..

  • Ols says:

    O/T – transferred some SPG points to BA 17th October and still not appearing on exec club although they left SPG within a day or so. Anyone experienced it taking this long?

  • Chris L says:

    OT does anyone have expertise claiming delay compensation from Flybe? I made a claim recently and this is the response I got:

    Dear Chris,

    Thank you for your ongoing patience as we investigated into your claim and I would like to apologise for the disruption caused to your journey.

    I can confirm that the disruption experienced was due to a lack of crew, when this occurs we always try to find alternative staff to board the aircraft. In the safety of all passengers we are unable to depart with the incorrect amount of crew incase of an emergency situation. On this occasion we were able to find another staff member which resulted in a 2 hour and 50 minute delay.
    The extra 10 minutes to make the flight fall into a 3 hour delay was due to a lack of ground staff who are employed by Birmingham airport and therefore not in Flybe’s control. When only taking into account the delay caused by a lack of crew, the total disruption came to a total of 2 hours and 50 minutes which does not qualify for compensation under the EU guidelines. Should we only take into consideration the delay caused by the ground staff the delay was only 10 minutes and also does not fall under EU guidelines.
    In view of the reason for the delay our Head Office/ Disruption Team have determined on this occasion, I am unable to offer compensation.

    In relation to any additional costs, I am happy to consider these further. To enable me to do so, please reply to this email with any relevant itemised receipts/invoices for our consideration, as these are required for accountancy purposes.

    Some guidelines regarding the nature of expenses that we consider for reimbursement can be found by following the link below and looking under the heading ‘Expense Explained’.

    Expenses Explained

    I hope this resolves the matter to satisfactory and should you wish to claim expenses, I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

    Sounds like an appalling cop-out to me. Does anyone reckon I have grounds for taking things further?

    • New Card says:

      IMO you absolutely have grounds for taking it further. My next step would be to write a response titled Letter Before Action informing them that neither Flybe’s staffing problems nor the airport taking 10 minutes to respond after Flybe resolved its staffing problems constitute extraordinary circumstances for EU261 purposes, and therefore the EU261 compensation is payable in full, and that if they do not pay this to you within 21 days you will take legal action to recover the debt with interest.

      If they haven’t paid up after 28 days (allowing an extra week for post etc), I would file a claim via Moneyclaim Online.

      • Shoestring says:

        Yep that would be MCOL for me but threaten them one more time, LBA is a good idea & what New Card said, all valid

        • Shoestring says:

          Don’t forget their answer deters 95% of people from taking further action. I won’t call the 95% numpties as I am far too polite.

          But are you a numpty?

          The 95% is actually a good thing, as it leaves them free to pay you proper compo.

  • rob says:

    OT – What are the rules on getting a free hotel in Qatar if your layover is over 15 hours on a business class fare? Is it done by fare class?

    I know they used to run this as a regular thing but the article on it said it finished at christmas.

    Thanks

    • marcw says:

      Layover between 5-96 h. Any Qatar fare is suitable. Only until 28th December 2018 (may be extended, but who knows)

    • Genghis says:

      So as long there’s not another flight (however expensive) to your destination of 8 hours or less

  • marcw says:

    The original delay was due to staff management. Everything else is just BS. It´s their job to run the operations smoothly; if they can´t (maybe because they don´t have enough backup staff), it´s their problem.
    Similar situation with easyJet atm, plane was stuck by a lighting, safety check started but then after 20 min flight was cancelled. Crew didn´t have enough hours to make the return journey.
    Now I´m dealing with them, thorugh ECDR, and there´s enough evidence for them to pay for it. Let´s see.

  • will says:

    OT: Ref SPG amex – anyone phoned in to cancel recently? Just wondering if they are still offering “1 extra starpoint per £” as a retention offer.

    • Adrian says:

      Cancelled both mine and my wife’s this week, no offer to extend the use, either time.

    • ankomonkey says:

      cancelled last week – no offer.

      • thehornets says:

        There wasn’t an offer when I tried to cancel 6 weeks ago, cancelled, until I specifically asked…. and then they said ‘oh yes, there’s an offer’

    • Graham Walsh says:

      No offer when I canceled mine. I did it online and they insisted they talk to me. Wasted 20 minutes of my life.

  • kovacsi76 says:

    Thanks for the Marriott game reminder this morning. “Only” got the usual 50 points for myself, but won 20000 points on my wife’s account!

  • AlexI says:

    O/T SPG Amex referral is 9000 points but do these multiply by 3 because of the Marriott merger when they get transferred from Amex to your actual SPG account? Or do they remain 9000 points? Thanks.