Brussels Airlines joins Star Alliance; France, Italy top country markets; still no US routes

Image: Statue
“The Star Alliance network is proud to have some of the world’s most respected airlines as members.”

When the Belgian national carrier Sabena collapsed in 2001, its subsidiary Delta Air Transport under new ownership took over its assets and rebranded as SN Brussels Airlines. The airline later merged with its local competitor, Richard Branson’s low-cost carrier Virgin Express, and again rebranded in 2006 as Brussels Airlines. This year, Lufthansa bought 45% of the airline and will take over the remainder in 2011. As part of this new partnership, Brussels Airlines also joined Star Alliance this week.

The airline notably lacks any transatlantic services, but has a considerable African long haul network in addition to its European and Tel Aviv services. Brussels Airlines serves 14 African destinations (of which nine are non-stop) from its Brussels hub. This constitutes almost a quarter of the airline’s current destinations, but due to low frequencies less than 10% of its seat capacity out of Brussels.

Brussels Airlines’ entry into Star Alliance was celebrated with all things Belgian, such as berry-flavoured beers. During the joining ceremony, speeches were held by Brussels Airlines’ two (!) MDs; Michel Meyfroidt (left) and Bernard Gustin (right).
Chart: Seasonality
Source: AEA

Passenger numbers for this year’s first three quarters are down 11% on the corresponding period last year. The airline’s seasonality profile was relatively flat in 2008, with the peak month of July reporting 48% higher passenger numbers than the trough in December, when foreign EU bureaucrats can be presumed to have left the city for the holidays.

“This is for you, Wolfgang”. Well, Lufthansa’s Wolfgang Mayrhuber does after all in effect pay 45% of the celebration budget. Click to watch Michel Meyfroidt, Bernard Gustin and Star Alliance’s CEO Jaan Albrecht start a spectacular light show at Brussels’ beautiful Grand Place.

Only dominant in three of top 10 country markets

Brussels Airlines is by far the largest carrier at its Brussels hub with a 35% share of total scheduled seat capacity, followed by its partner Lufthansa at 6% and Jet Airways, which operates a scissor hub in Brussels for flights between India and North America, at 5%.

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 December 2009

In Brussels Airlines’ two largest country markets out of Brussels, Italy and France, the airline dominates with seat capacity shares of 67% and 79% respectively. The airline is also top of the Swedish market with a 70% share of capacity, while its holding of the remaining country markets on the top 10 are within the 30-45% range. In addition to competition from full service network carriers, Jetairfly and Vueling notably provide competition on Spanish routes, while easyJet offers competing flights to Geneva, Berlin, Milan and Nice.

Two routes dropped, four added in 2009; city airports focus

In the last year, Brussels Airlines has dropped two of its destinations; Helsinki and Munich. Munich is, however, served more than seven times daily by the airline’s partner Lufthansa, while the competitor Finnair serves the Helsinki-Brussels route with 25 weekly departures. From March 2010, Blue1 will add competition by starting eleven weekly Helsinki-Brussels services in a code share partnership with Brussels Airlines. During 2009, Brussels Airlines has also started four new routes from its Brussels hub: Vilnius (four times weekly), Palermo (twice weekly), Seville (three times weekly) and Milan Linate (12 weekly flights).

The long haul destinations are served with four A330s, while the short haul fleet comprises of 32 Avro RJs/BAe 146s, 11 737s and four A319s. While this is a very mixed bag, the large fleet of regional Avro RJ aircraft has enabled the airline to serve some of Europe’s more restricted airports. This, in combination with the large demand for point-to-point business travel to Brussels, has made the airline choose to serve city airports such as Florence, Milan Linate and Stockholm Bromma. Until the airport’s closure last year, Brussels Airlines was one of the last airlines to serve Berlin Tempelhof. Berlin Tegel is now served instead.


  1. Jon says:

    If SN Brussels Airlines are concentrating on city routes like this article suggests then there is one city missing from this airlines route network that should be a top priority for them; Glasgow.

    Its unthinkable that Glasgow, Britain’s second city, has zero flights to Brussels while places like Bristol, Edinburgh and Newcastle all have mutable daily flights.

    Get it sorted SN/BMI.

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