[Editorial] On the future of Brussels Airlines after the interview of its CEO

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Two days ago, I was quietly sipping a coffee in The Loft while waiting for my Brussels Airlines flight to a holiday resort away from Belgium’s first snow, when I discovered the interview of CEO Christina Foerster in La Libre Belgique. I couldn’t believe it.

Therefore, from my holiday location, I drafted some comments, based on my inner feelings after reading the interview, the discussions in the Aviation24.be forum and the comments on our Facebook page.

Let’s proceed in the right order:

The name change

This is an extremely sensitive topic, as Christina Foerster herself acknowledged in 2018. I would see no problem at all with the point-to-point tourist routes to sunny destinations in the South being taken over by the Eurowings. These routes have mainly been taken over from Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium and are not the DNA of Brussels Airlines. But the major European routes, whether to feed intercontinental flights or to connect business metropolises, should remain under a Belgian name, and why not under the “Brussels Airlines” name for lack of a better one.

Christina Foerster said in 2018: “Who in Madrid, Stockholm or New York knows Brussels Airlines?“. To which I will answer: “And who in those cities knows Eurowings? “. The name Sabena was well known all over the world, but it is illusory to want to resurrect it (or isn’t it?). So let’s be careful about changing anything.

Eurowings wants to become a European platform and the individual names have to disappear“, said Foerster in her interview. Okay, but then shall we also do away with the names SWISS and Austrian Airlines for their European flights? Everyone knows that the answer will be negative. So why change the name of only Brussels Airlines?

In addition, Switzerland and Austria are smaller, less populated countries than Belgium. Their national airlines have nevertheless been able to keep their name, which is a matter of national pride, after being taken over by Lufthansa. Why should Belgium be an exception?

Last point: flying in Europe and to Africa under two different names? This would be a logistic nightmare, a matter of confusion for passengers and a dilution of the identity.

Integration into Eurowings

I hear many people say that if Brussels Airlines becomes Eurowings, they will not be sympathetic to this low-cost company, which often means with a low-reputation company. I even heard calls for a boycott if that happens.

Is there any guarantee that these Eurowings flights will keep Brussels Airlines’ “Belgitude”? Eurowings is perceived as a German company, which could be a no-go for many passengers.

One small personal experience: I only had one flight on Eurowings (BRU-STR), it was excellent, but it was still operated under the name of Germanwings. In November 2018, I wanted to renew the experience with two connecting flights (MXP-STR-BRU). The MXP-STR flight was cancelled, allegedly for adverse weather conditions, although all other flights were landing at MXP. All that Eurowings offered me was a rebooking on the same flight the next day. They did not even offer the SN direct flight an hour and a half later. Did you say “integration”? I was finally able to find a cheaper flight on Ryanair the same day, two hours later. Eurowings rescued by Ryanair!

Given this low-cost connotation of Eurowings, many people will prefer the original (Ryanair or easyJet) to the copy, even improved.

This remains a personal opinion, but from the beginning, along with many others, I considered that integration into Eurowings was a major mistake and that Brussels Airlines should have received the same status as SWISS and Austrian Airlines, that of network airlines, because of the place of the Brussels hub and the importance of the African network requiring feeder flights (which is also the case for the North American flights). The ambition should have been to rebuild Sabena’s glorious network, not to participate in a low-cost construction.

The publication of Brussels Airlines figures

In 2018, Brussels Airlines for the first time in its history exceeded the mythical figure of 10 million passengers. Any other airline would have issued a dithyrambic press release to celebrate the event. Nothing here! Because “the figures of Brussels Airlines are now integrated with those of Eurowings“.

It’s sad! Austrian Airlines and SWISS continue to publish separate figures, although they are also included in those of Lufthansa’s network airlines. A little national pride would do us so much good! Please, Brussels Airlines, issue the monthly statistics of Brussels Airlines again.

A new Belgian icon

A positive note in Christina Foerster’s interview: she announced that a new « Belgian icon » livery would be unveiled in May. But isn’t that contradictory with the aim to integrate Brussels Airlines into Eurowings. Will the new livery be painted on a Eurowings aircraft? Go for the new livery, but put it with the Beeline logo, aimed to last at least five years.

Conclusions

I feel among our readers an immense reluctance vis-à-vis a name change, and also a disappointment that Brussels Airlines is treated by the Lufthansa Group as a pariah in comparison with SWISS and Austrian Airlines, as if Belgians were second class citizens.

If the intentions of the Lufthansa group remain unchanged, it will take a big communication effort to explain why these decisions are the best for the future of Brussels Airlines and in the interest of the Belgian aviation community and the whole Belgian population.

9 COMMENTS

  1. It’s obvious that LH is forcing the disappearance of Brussels Airlines in favor of its little monster Eurowings.
    Lufthansa is showing zero respect to the Belgian carrier, it even tends to do that from time to time with Austrian.
    Apparently all airlines in the group should behave like good dogs and follow instructions in order to get a treat.

    I wonder if things would be different under IAG. Who knows.
    AF/KL is out of the picture, sandwiched between CDG and AMS, Brussels would be just a simple feeder for those two airports.

  2. Yes, it would be a sad thing to see the brand name go and also the Belgitude. Eurowings/Germanwings must take off. Many people don’t budget believe that a traditionel carrier can also have a budget departement. Two different types of business. Lufthansa wants to prove them wrong.
    I think the way Brussels Airlines was sold to Lufthansa, holds the key. It was fighting to survive and provided low fare flights. But we Belgians always are ambiguous. We struggle but survive, we offer low fares but also cater better food and drinks. Brussels Airlines makes a very small profit or just not and we are happy. That the Germans will never understand. For example in 2017 Deutsche Bahn made a profit of 2,67 euro on every customer (145 milion). NMBS? Arriva?

  3. We just have to face the truth; the glorious times of sabena lays decades behind us, in the exploding world of modern aviation there is no space left for mini airlines from small countries. The goliaths rule the world and nothing can change this, sorry Belgium, a new world of aviation is coming and you do not belong there anymore…

  4. I beg to disagree. Big groups do allow for local specificities. Lufthansa didn’t absorb Swiss and Austrian. Why should Eurowings swallow Brussels Airlines? Brussels is the capital of Europe and its name should be an asset for the Lufthansa Group.

  5. Brussels has a strong history and leading stand on its longhaul to Africa especially. Lufthansa would be wisely consulted to keep that in mind and keep the brand alive.

  6. Brussels Airlines sold they soul to the devil and now people start to complain. You all know you can not get your soul back after you sold it. Brussels airlines should have thought about the possible consequences before they put their signature under the contract.

  7. What is happening at the macro level (eu level) is being mirrored at the micro level (SN),
    I have been critical of this move from the moment it was proposed.
    lufthansa wanted to keep germanwings & merge eurowings initally , unitl the 4u 9525 flight crashed & the brand/reputation of germanwings was finished. Hence they decided to keep eurowings instead of germanwings.
    Further more when lh took over SN they never made their intentions clear of integrating SN , secondly SN never got the capital infusion & promotion that lx ,os, ew, 4u or lh italia,
    Even Air Belgium aoc to operate from BRU was delayed & they eventually settled for CRL.
    Lh is making a stupid move by doing this , without the vision of where this will lead to.

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