[Trip Report] Air Belgium inaugural flight Charleroi – Hong Kong

9
3000

Unlike the journalists who attended the inauguration event and who got airside where the speeches would take place by a short circuit, I was a passenger and I took the regular passenger route: check-in (although I had only hand baggage and an electronic boarding pass which proved useless), ticket control, baggage and body scan, and finally passport control. What is striking in Charleroi is that all this is done in a very relaxed way: you can laugh and joke with the civil servants doing their tasks. Don’t try that in Brussels: you would be arrested! I had received a fast track voucher, as most Air Belgium passengers, but that lane was actually slower than the regular passengers.

Air Belgium check-in

After the inaugural ceremony in the presence of Belgian Federal and Regional Ministers and VIPs (reported earlier), it was time to board for the inaugural flight. After a last check of the tickets, all passengers (around 100) were invited in the Air Belgium lounge for a last drink with some food.

Soon enough, boarding started. The press and the photographers were still on the tarmac to record the event.

Air Belgium Flight KF851
From/to Brussels South Charleroi – Hong Kong (CRL-HKG)
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300 OO-ABB
STD 14:10, actual 14:09 from gate 25 (GMT+2)
STA 07:40+1, actual 07:50 (GMT+8)
Total time: scheduled 11 hr 30 minutes, actual 11 hr 41 min
Seat: 24A (window above the wing), changed from 22D during web check-in

Warm welcome on board. The steward assigned to my section was Chinese and spoke English and Mandarin. Immediately a stewardess came along with glasses of orange juice and water. Quite surprisingly, Air Belgium’s CEO Niky Terzakis boarded the economy section and was sitting two rows behind me.

The captain announced an on-time departure and a flight of eleven and a half hour.

Pushback on-time. As the taxiway does not go all the way to the threshold of runway 07, the plane had to make a U-turn on the runway itself, which slows operations a little bit (a Ryanair 738 was waiting to get on the runway as well and was held by a yellow airport safety car).

Take-off © Maarten Van Den Driessche
Air Belgium pillow

Take-off from runway 07. After reaching the cruising altitude of FL350, the cabin crew distributed earphones, pillows and blankets (all with the AB logo), and came along with hot towels. Afterwards, everyone also received a bag (named “Best Hairline Ever” with the AB logo) with amenities: earplugs, toothpaste and toothbrush, comb, eyeshades and socks.

Although I was sitting in the Economy section, a business menu was offered to all passengers. A delicious one, with a choice of dishes. I selected the first starter and the first main course, and ice cream as dessert. It must be highlighted that most products were proudly presented as Belgian, including the wines and the liqueurs. Being called Air Belgium is not without reason. Every dish was served without haste, giving time to appreciate the savours.

Main course
Icecream as dessert and coffee

After crossing the Urals, the aircraft climbed at FL370. The sun was setting under the horizon, and although it was only 19:00 Belgian time, most of the business and premium passengers extended their seat into the flat bed position and settled for a nap. Not so in Economy: people kept chatting, writing reports (like me), interviewing the Chairman and the CEO of Air Belgium, watching a film on the IFE, and so one.

It was during that night that the inaugural cake was presented to the CEO for him to cut.

Inaugural cake

Eventually, the lights were switched off and I also took a nap of one or two hours. I woke up when the sun was rising. Meanwhile, we were over China and the aircraft had climbed to FL391 (not 390. A special Chinese unit?), not without abrupt changes of direction (from 90° full East to 180° full South): are there areas to avoid over China? Niky Terzakis told me that many areas are under the control of the military and must absolutely be avoided.

Business breakfast

A gigantesque breakfast was then served, comprising two hot mini-omelettes, yoghurt, muesli, fruit, bread rolls, croissants, chocolate rolls, Galler chocolate, Destrooper biscuits, marmalade, cheese and meat.

Breakfast

When this was finished, we were at less than one hour from Hong Kong and the expected arrival time on the moving map had not changed since our departure: 07.46 LT.

The “fasten seat belt” and “switch off your electronic devices” signs were lit and the descent to Hong Kong airport started. After flying over the sea, the aircraft landed on runway 07L and docked next to an ANA “Air Japan” Boeing 767.

Landing on 07L along the Hong Kong Bay
Docking next to an ANA Boeing 767: see the sign “Air Japan”!
The Belgian Consul General in Hong Kong and Macau Michèle Deneffe welcomes the Chairman of Air Belgium Eric Bauche

After a smooth disembarkation and a swift immigration process, we were welcomed landside by the Consul General of Belgium in Hong Kong, Ms Michèle Deneffe.

Itinerary KF851
Itinerary KF851 after take-off from CRL, passing over my youth hometown Amay
Itinerary KF851 on arrival at HKG

This was the end of a very nice trip.

Hong Kong, 7 June 2018

Text and pictures © André Orban

 

9 COMMENTS

  1. Would be interesting to know more about the seat quality, and also if the plane was anywhere near full (from other reports it seems it was pretty empty). If AB can’t get enough passengers on their flights, I don’t know how they will be able to survive, expand and grow

  2. FL391 maybe because they use meters instead of feet in China and 39100 is just converted from the actual altitude in meters?

  3. Someone needs to explain me why/how “Air Belgium” with 50% of Asian sharesholders?

  4. Seat quality: currently still the former Finnair seats. Comfortable enough in Economy, gully flat bed in Premium and Business.

    Air Belgium with 50% Asian shareholders? But still 50% + 1 share ( a majority) in Belgian hands. And it’s the only airline in the world which is still really Belgian (except perhaps ASL Airlines).

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.