Brussels Airlines eyes Airbus A350 & A321neo for fleet expansion

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Brussels Airlines is evaluating options for fleet expansion, with a focus on the Airbus A321neo for short-haul routes and the Airbus A350 for long-haul operations, while ruling out the Airbus A330neo due to environmental restrictions at Brussels Airport.

Short-haul fleet: Airbus A321neo

In an interview with aeroTELEGRAPH, CEO Dorothea Von Boxberg has revealed that Brussels Airlines is considering the Airbus A321neo to enhance its short-haul operations. This aircraft is seen as ideal for popular feeder and tourist routes such as flights from London to Brussels, and to destinations like Nice and Malaga. The A321neo is preferred over the A321XLR due to the latter’s limited cargo capacity, which is crucial for the airline’s operations, particularly for routes to Africa where passengers typically carry significant luggage.

Long-haul fleet: Airbus A350 vs. Boeing 787

For its long-haul fleet renewal, Brussels Airlines is leaning towards the Airbus A350 over the Boeing 787. The A350 is favoured because it aligns better with the stringent noise restrictions imposed by the new environmental permit at Brussels Airport. These restrictions, which limit night landings to quieter aircraft, render the Airbus A330neo unviable due to its higher noise levels during landing.

 

Environmental restrictions

Recent environmental regulations at Brussels Airport significantly limit night landings between 01:00 and 05:00 from Saturday to Monday, starting in 2026, with extended hours in subsequent years. These restrictions necessitate quieter aircraft, making the A330neo impractical for Brussels Airlines’ operations.

Expansion plans

Brussels Airlines continues to expand its network in Europe and Africa. The airline is set to relaunch its Nairobi route this summer, facilitated by the addition of a tenth Airbus A330. New (or resumed) intra-European routes, such as Krakow, are also part of its expansion strategy.

Thinner routes

Dorothea von Boxberg did not mention thinner routes, formerly operated by wet-leased planes from CityJet.These planes are no longer available this year, as Lufthansa itself utilises them. Therefore some destinations such as Bordeaux or Billund had to be abandoned, in sharp contrast with the intended expansion plans.

Lufthansa Group synergy

Within the Lufthansa Group, which includes Brussels Airlines, fleet allocations have been made with SWISS receiving the A350 for its future widebody fleet renewal, while Austrian Airlines will operate the 787. This group synergy supports Brussels Airlines’ preference for the A350, aligning with its all-Airbus fleet strategy.

In summary, Brussels Airlines is strategically planning its fleet expansion with a strong inclination towards the Airbus A350 for long-haul flights and the Airbus A321neo for short-haul routes, while adhering to environmental constraints at its home base in Brussels.

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