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.
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.