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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)

  • John says:

    Unfortunately no 500 Avios offer on my BA Amex 🙁

  • Rob MC says:

    Norwegian premium. Flying to Orlando in the next month, there is an option to bid to upgrade. Never flown Norwegian premium … Any thoughts on whether £180 is worth the upgrade.. my theory is that as I am flying solo I may get lucky and get/ask for three seats to myself (poor man’s business class)

    • Nick_C says:

      £180 sounds like a bargain. BA charge about that for an upgrade from Y to PE. I’ve never flown with Norwegian but their premium looks far better than PE. And bear in mind that £78 is due to the extra APD.

      • Tom says:

        I am a big fan of the Norwegian Premium product. Like a hybrid premium economy/biz product. Very comfortable indeed and so much better than BA or Virgin PE products.

    • Bonglim says:

      I would say it is worth it, but I am 6’5″ tall!
      My understanding is that Norwegian Premium is better than premium economy on Virgin/ BA. More like an old school business class (without a flat bed).

      • Rob MC says:

        I’m 6’1 so it would be worth it if I know the plane will either be full. Would be annoyed to pay the money and then forego 3 seats. I guess there isn’t an easy way to check the load prior to my flight.

    • Martin says:

      We upgraded on a Norwegian flight from LAX, £180 is well worth it, excellent product.

  • Whizz68 says:

    OT: When referring from Amex platinum card to a new BA premium card, Does the referrer receive 9000 Avios or 18000 Membership reward points?
    Thank you,

  • S**mo says:

    OT / Marriott/SPG moment…
    Anybody who is going to NFL Sunday received any information yet?

    I’ve emailed and had zero response….

    • AndyGWP says:

      No. Nothing. Likewise emailed last night. No response.

      Annoying as I’m from up north so we are making a long weekend of it and are heading off Friday morning

      • Tthp213 says:

        I’ve emailed a couple of times over the last 2 week’s and got this update today:

        The tickets for your NFL London game are being shipped today – but since we are shipping so late we’d like to know if you’d prefer an option to pick up the tickets at will call?

    • Scallder says:

      I emailed yesterday and was told they had received the tickets from the NFL but yet to ship and would provide the tracking number. I then proactively said that if be happy to pick them up from the box office/will call but didn’t get a response regarding that and nothing from them today.

      If I haven’t heard back by tomorrow lunchtime will email again and defintely don’t want them sent – if coming by courier there’s a high chance I’ll not be at home to receive them and then they get taken to a depot miles away…

      • S**mo says:

        That’s my worry too now!
        Haven’t been provided with a contact number for this event yet either….

  • Peter K says:

    Just thought of BA are going to be “ripping up” their exclusivity contracts for credit cards as Rob’s mentioned in the comments, thenmaybe this very generous BA Amex offer is to show them how valuable keeping with amex can be?

  • Graham Walsh says:

    OT Had to fly from LGW this evening to BCN. Used the Fast track, so from the car park to lounge must have be only 10-12 minutes. Really quick. Very impressed with the BA lounge, much nicer and quieter than LHR. Then used Cabify (as recommended here the other day, wouldn’t accept my Curve card, so used Lloyds Amex) and a nice Lexus drove me to the AC Marriott about 10 minutes away. The Cabify are actually waiting on the departures level outside Vueling on level 2 (general taxis are on level 0). Checked in to hotel via app, (Gold status via Amex Plat) and they checked my card etc and he said he upgraded me to a suite. It’s huge, shame I”m here for 1 night. But €18 for breakfast!!

  • Claire says:


    Question for Intercontinental Ambassadors .. my membership ends Dec 30th 2018, if I choose to renew today do I receive my welcome pack (specifically free night certificate) 4-6 weeks from today or 4-8 weeks from Dec 30th?

    Thanks for help 🙂

    • Genghis says:

      From when you renew. The BOGOF cert though may have an earlier expiry date depending when shipped (which seems to be just before a month end). As such, I generally leave as late as possible. But I guess you need the voucher now?

      • Lady London says:

        What a load of old cod. Can we please have an ‘enhanced compensation’ level of payout under EU261 where an airline has aggravated their offence by silly denials or non-prompt payment?

        If they’d sorted their crew member and had run the flight on time then doubtless BHX wouldn’t have had a lack of ground staff. It’s the airline whonis fully responsible. If the airline thinks some other party was partially responsible for the delay then they still are responsible. It’s the airline’s problem if they think they can recover a contribution from BHX.

        Please please persist on this one and let us know when you’ve got your money.

      • Claire says:

        Thanks 🙂 Yes I need it for January, so it suits me that they send it sooner, thanks again for replying 🙂

  • Claire says:

    I’ve just earned my Lloyds upgrade voucher for spending £7k. It has posted to my avios account in the last couple of days. I have a booking which I want to cancel. The booking was made during my last year but if it is refunded now would I loose the upgrade voucher as the refund would be this year and my spend would then be less than £7k?