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Air Belgium to operate British Airways Chicago flights until November

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We have run another article today discussing how squeezed British Airways is for long haul aircraft, and how the situation is unlikely to be fixed until 2027.

Here is one way that the airline is trying to give itself some added flexibility.

According to Twitter reports (from an excellent source but not confirmed by British Airways), Air Belgium will be operating one of the two daily Chicago flights.

Air Belgium A330neo

This will be a wet lease (Air Belgium will also provide the pilots and crew) and will run from 1st July until some point in November.

The flight to be switched will be BA294 / BA295 between Heathrow and Chicago.

Why Chicago?

Good question. It seems to be related to flight times.

Chicago is a nine hour flight and a long haul aircraft typically sits on the ground for two hours between sectors.

This allows British Airways to allocate this aircraft to a dedicated route, and all it will do is fly back and forth from Chicago for five months.

Flying to New York, Boston or the Middle East would leave the aircraft on the ground for too long in London, assuming it was used for the same flight every day. Any flight over ten hours in duration couldn’t be done with just one aircraft.

Here’s the good news ….

British Airways isn’t leasing a heap of junk. It is leasing a new Airbus A330neo.

Economy class seating on Air Belgium:

Economy will be a 2-4-2 configuration, a huge improvement (unless you are a family of three) on BA’s 3-3-3 on a Boeing 777.

Seats come with a 12 inch LCD HD screen, a USB port and a power outlet.

Air Belgium economy seating

Premium Economy on Air Belgium:

British Airways is leasing a three class aircraft so there are no issues with having to downgrade all Premium Economy passengers. That said, it is a smaller PE cabin than the one operated by BA.

It is a 21 seat cabin with 91cm of legroom.

Air Belgium premium economy

Business Class on Air Belgium:

This is where it gets tricky. Whilst the Air Belgium A330neo seat is certainly competitive, as you can see from the image below, it isn’t a private suite. This is the same Stelia Solstys seat that Iberia flies on its older A350s (not the new seat unveiled in December). You can read our review of that particular seat on Iberia here.

That said, it is a 1-2-1 layout. For couples, who can sit together more easily if they are seated in a centre pair, it may be an improvement. The same goes for families with young children, who have easier access to their kids in a more open cabin like this.

Air Belgium business class

There is no First Class on Air Belgium.

Can I swap to a British Airways flight?

It is important to state that this aircraft swap is not official. still shows the Chicago BA294/295 flights from 1st July to be operated by British Airways.

If it does go ahead, it is likely that British Airways will give you the option of swapping to the other daily flight. However, as this is an A380, you would be getting a worse Business Class seat than the Air Belgium one.

You may also be able to swap to an American Airlines direct flight to Chicago.

Standard British Airways food and drink is offered on wet lease aircraft so nothing will change.

Note that the A330neo is – environmentally and in terms of cabin noise – a superior aircraft to the British Airways Boeing 777 it is replacing.

Will some passengers be forced to swap / downgrade?


The Air Belgium A330neo has 30 Business Class, 21 Premium Economy and 235 Economy seats. Whilst there are multiple variants of the Boeing 777 at British Airways, they are all bigger than this.

Some people may need to be moved to other services, but with British Airways and American Airlines jointly offering six daily direct flights to Chicago this should not be an issue. There is an AA flight departing just 25 minutes after BA295 (10.35am vs 11am).

For total clarity ….. none of this is confirmed yet, it may not happen and you should wait to hear from British Airways before deciding what you may want to do.


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In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

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You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

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You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (44)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Renjith says:

    American Operates 4 services 787 -900 brand new aircrafts on this route. On time departure always . I will not waist any time. Will call ba and will move my flight to AA one to avoid last minute drama . C class seats on AA 787 9 is brilliant. Plus I can access 4 lounges at T3 Heathrow. American staff at Heathrow is much nicer than their BA T5 team. If you miss one flight American will rebook you immediately on the next available flights without any fuss .

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Bit curious as to why you didn’t just book AA to start with if all this is true?

  • Bernard says:

    When posters see Air Belgium as a big product upgrade it tells you how lacklustre AF that BA has become

  • PH says:

    Since the A350 came off the morning flight to Chicago, they’ve (often) been operating it with un-refurbished 777s, so Air Belgium business class is probably an upgrade on balance.

  • Rohan Alce says:

    If BA are short of aircraft how come BA are starting new routes such as Cincinnati. Makes no sense.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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