Report of the Brussels Airlines press conference of 15 July 2014
Bernard Gustin, CEO, and Lars Redeligx, Chief Commercial Officer of Brussels Airlines were introduced by Geert Sciot, Vice-President Communication.
B. Gustin made a history of the strategy after the arrival of Ryanair at Brussels. In December 2014, the LCCs offered 8.8 million seats at BRU, vs 7.5 million for Brussels Airlines. SN had to take a decision: shrink or expand. Of course, the second option was chosen in January 2014: 400,000 extra seats, 9 new destinations, 2 new A319s. And a new website! In addition, a new loyalty programme would be introduced by the end of the year for passengers travelling mainly to European destinations.
The strategy paid off, with positive feedback: more passengers (called "guests" in the SN vocabulary), and increased competitiveness: SN starts to be considered in the low fare segment by price-sensitive customers. The results are also positive: 10% more 'guests' in the January-June period (11.5% more in June alone), load factor increased by 2.8% despite the increased capacity, successful new leisure destinations and even increase of he number of pax on destinations in competition with LCCs. The trend continues: 14.5% more bookings for the months to come.
Does this mean that the quality goes down? No: SN does not want to compromise on service and price and will offer a good service for a low cost price. This is summarised in a mission statement: "To be the most personal airline, bringing people together and making travel a pleasure". What does it mean for the customer? An even more personal service, a greater choice in term of prices and products, a more diversified network (business and leisure).
This strategy is enhanced by a new motto:
Hence there will be (from 1 September) four classes of service, as explained by L. Redeligx:
, a new class of service to compete with the LCCs, with prices starting at €69 return, offering:
- 12 kg hand baggage + 1 carry-on
- Free seat selection 24 hr before departure
- buy-on-board with pre-ordered meal option
- Free e-newspapers
In brief, the low fares without the stress of the LCCs.
, an improved b.light starting at €109 return, offering:
- Advanced seat reservation
- Possibility to switch to n earlier flight on the same day
- 1 piece of checked baggage 23 kg + 12 kg hand baggage + 1 carry-on
- Renewed buy-on-board selection, complemented by a pre-ordered meal option
, an improved b.flex with:
- Full flexibility
- Priority check-in
- Fast lane
- Priority boarding
- Preferred seating
- Upgraded catering concept
, the luxurious business class, offering:
- A la carte gourmet meal (pre-order possible)
- New lounge ta Brussels Airport, opening in October
- Full flexibility
- Priority at check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery
- Premium seating with free middle seat
- Two pieces of 23 kg checked baggage + two pieces of hand baggage
The sales of the new products will start in Mid-August, after the travel agencies have been drilled. The new classes of service will be effective on 1 September.
On my question about how this new strategy fits into the Lufthansa low-cost WINGS project, B. Gustin replied that the new strategy had been discussed with Lufthansa and has their full approval. The experience gained by SN in the very competitive Brussels market will be useful to LH in its WINGS project. But there will not be a WINGS-type airline (Eurowings or Germanwings) in Brussels, because BRU is a hub with many connecting passengers, and not only a point-to-point airport: SN will remain thus at the helm.
On other topics, and particularly the long-haul market (not the subject of the conference), B. Gustin said that Washington did not require a second Star Alliance aircraft during the winter, but well during the next summer season. Thus, an aircraft can be made available for East Africa (Nairobi, Kigali, Bujumbura) where there is a real demand, especially with many customers connecting from North America.