Welcome to Brussels All Nippon Airways. Flight NH 231 touches down on Brussels Airport’s Runway 25L at 15:31 on 25 October as captured by anna.aero’s Assistant Editor, Jonathan Ford. The Star Alliance member will operate services from Tokyo Narita daily using its 787-8s. However, due to strong demand for the route, some services towards the end of this year have been upgraded to the 787-9. The airport is also expecting to welcome one of the carrier’s special themed Star Wars 787-9s in November and December.
During a conversation with Brussels Airport at this year’s World Routes in Durban, anna.aero’s Assistant Editor Jonathan Ford was warmly invited by Brussels Airports Head of Aviation Marketing, Léon Verhallen, to attend the inaugural flight ceremony of All Nippon Airways service from Tokyo Narita on 25 October. Of course the invitation was accepted by anna.aero, whose Assistant Editor had never been to Belgium before.
All Nippon Airways inaugural flight, NH 231, took off from Tokyo Narita at approximately 11:15 (around 03:15 Belgian time) and would take just over 12 hours to reach Brussels. The aircraft would then day-stop at Brussels until 20:50 when the aircraft would return to Tokyo, arriving back into Narita at 16:10 the following afternoon. Services on the 9,455-kilometre will operate daily, and be flown using the Star Alliance member’s 787-8s which is set up with 46 seats in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy, and 102 seats in Economy Class.
The route comes at a special time for the country pair which has not been served for 15 years. Next year will be the 150-year anniversary of bilateral agreements between Belgium and Japan. The new route was announced back in May when it was confirmed to Kris Peeters, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister, in a meeting at All Nippon Airways’ head offices in Tokyo when he and other Belgian officials were on a trade visit to Japan. All Nippon Airways last served Brussels 15 years ago with services to Tokyo, with the airline and airport both confirming that it was great to see the route back in service. Brussels becomes the carrier’s sixth route to Europe, and currently the only airport which sees the airline using its 787 fleet.
After completing its nearly 13 hour trip from Tokyo Narita, NH 231 is seen here travelling down Brussels Airport’s Runway 25L with reverse thrust very much on. After the aircraft had touched down in the Belgian capital, it was a race to the gate in order for anna.aero and the fellow journalists from various publications covering the launch to catch the fire truck water arch salute.
We made it! After completing a bus journey which had obviously been inspired by the Sandra Bullock blockbuster Speed, anna.aero made it to the gate in time to catch the water arch ceremony. All Nippon Airways becomes the fourth carrier to operate 787 services to Brussels, with Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways and Jetairfly being the other three airlines.
What a beautiful arch! anna.aero’s Assistant Editor has one simple rule of thumb when it comes to scoring entries for the Arch of Triumph competition, which causes much controversy for airports around the world. No matter the degree of the water arch, you will automatically get a high score if he’s there in person. So if you want your airport to get an excellent score when it comes to this prestigious award no matter how good or bad your fire department is at this skilled profession, invite Ford to your next route launch. With that being said though, this effort from Brussels is not too bad even with the invitation. Anyway, after the ceremonial baptism had been completed, All Nippon Airways’ 787 (registered JA 828a for those of you interested) made its way to stand 205L.
“Could you make the aircraft the centre of the picture for me please? That would be great.” Obviously Ford’s Brummie (Birmingham) accent was not very understandable to the Belgian journalist who he asked to take this picture. However, it is nice to see that his blue ensemble for the day matches the colours of All Nippon Airways’ corporate scheme. All is not lost though, as in the distance is one of Brussels Airlines’ RJ85s. The Belgian national carrier has a code-share agreement with All Nippon Airways on the service to Tokyo Narita helped by both carriers being members of Star Alliance.
Once the aircraft had arrived on stand, it was time for the journalists to join the rest of the airport management and airline officials at the official arrival ceremony that was taking place above departures.
At the start of the ceremony was a performance by a Japanese group who had flown all the way in from Japan to display their excellent Taiko drumming skills. Taiko means a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments, but outside of Japan it is used to refer to any of the various Japanese drums called Wadaiko (Japanese drums) and to the form of ensemble Taiko drumming more specifically called Kumi-daiko.
Applauding the drumming ceremony are: Jacqueline Galant, Belgium’s Federal Minister for Mobility; Kris Peeters, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister; Shinya Katanozaka, CEO and President of ANA Holding; and Miss ANA 2015.
The guests of honour for the event along with Galant, Peeters, Katanozaka and Miss ANA 2015 were Masafumu Ishii, Ambassador of Belgium to Japan (third from left), and Arnaud Feist, Brussels Airport CEO (standing behind Katanozaka).
In his speech, Arnaud Feist, CEO Brussels Airport, commented about the importance of Belgium being once again connected to Japan with this new non-stop service. “Currently, over 240 Japanese companies have operations in Belgium. Last year, 19,000 Belgians travelled to Japan and 114,000 Japanese nationals visited Belgium. Along with this and the creation of 100 new direct jobs at the airport as a result of this new service, it highlights the significance that this new air service by All Nippon Airways brings to the two nations.”
Shinya Katanozaka, CEO and President of ANA Holding, highlighted in his speech the importance of this link to Japan. “It is an honour for us to have Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters here with us today. We at All Nippon Airways expect this route to perform very well with strong demand and it gives me great privilege to offer our services to Belgian passengers who we most certainly welcome to Japan. Belgium is the heart of Europe, and so it is great for Brussels to be on All Nippon Airways’ network once again. While I have been in Brussels, I have very much enjoyed visiting the sites including the Manneken Pis.”
Masafumu Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium, highlighted in his speech that it made his life much easier to get home to visit family and also joked by saying: “Belgium’s government is happy to see this service back in place, and if the government is happy it makes my life so much easier.” Kris Peeters, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that within the past decade he had visited Japan on business five times and on his last visit back in May, he learnt the great news that All Nippon Airways was launching service to Brussels. “It has taken 14 years to get this new physical link back in place, and I am so grateful to be here to welcome the first flight today.” He also complemented Brussels Airport on its impressive growth strategy which has helped also to secure this new route.
After the speeches had taken place, it was then time for the cultural gift exchange which included the passing over of the world famous Tin-Tin memorabilia to All Nippon Airways and a model of the airline’s 787-8 aircraft to Brussels Airport which will operate the route daily.
After the gift exchange, the VIPs of the event were invited back to the stage to break the Kagami-biraki. For those of you that do not know, it is a Japanese traditional ceremony which literally translates to “Opening the Mirror”, symbolising the opening of the carrier’s new route to Tokyo.
Before the return flight commenced boarding, journalists were invited to take a tour of the aircraft. The 787s which will operate services to Brussels (All Nippon Airways currently has 34 787-8s in its fleet) compromise of 46 seats in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy, and 102 seats in Economy Class.
At the departure gate, the same band which had performed at the VIP delegate celebration on the aircraft’s arrival once again displayed their excellent drumming skills for the outbound passengers.
What a beauty. Of course no celebration for a route launch would be complete without a cake, and Brussels Airport has managed to produce a two-tiered cake flavoured with vanilla sponge and raspberry filling which tasted excellent. The culinary masterpiece was cut by Shinya Katanozaka, CEO and President of ANA Holding, and Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport, both of whom enjoyed a slice.
Also at the gate, the airline was promoting the route on social media by getting passengers to pose with certain All Nippon Airways graphics. Demonstrating their skills at posing for photos are Tania Ter Ossepiantz, Airline & Trade Marketing Manager, Brussels Airport and anna.aero’s Assistant Editor Jonathan Ford.
Before departure, a ribbon cutting ceremony took place at the gate, with a young girl who was on the inaugural flight also being invited up to take part.
Before departure, anna.aero got an exclusive view of Brussels Airport’s runway 25R-07L to carry out a runway inspection before the departure of NH 232, the return flight to Tokyo at 20:50. Those of you with good eye-sight may be able to spot the departing Alitalia flight to Rome Fiumicino climbing out of runway 25R.
Bon Voyage! The airport staff wave off flight NH 232 as it starts its pushback for the 12 hour flight back to Tokyo Narita. The aircraft pushed back at just after 21:00 only 10 minutes late. anna.aero would like to thank Brussels Airport for the invitation to welcome back All Nippon Airways to Brussels, especially Léon Verhallen, Head of Aviation Marketing, and Tania Ter Ossepiantz, Airline & Trade Marketing Manager, who were great hosts for anna.aero’s Assistant Editor, Jonathan Ford.