Finishing a little jaunt to the Greek islands, it was time to make my way to visit HiFly and Airbus in Toulouse.
Boarding was slow, with only one gate agent processing each customer. As this was a holidaymakers flight, there were many families with prams who struggled to walk down the stairs and onto the bus to meet the plane at a remote stand. As I had a Flex&Fly ticket, I was offered priority boarding and upon entering the ‘business class’ queue (which only I was a participant), the gate agent dropped everything to check me in (much to the disdain of the eyes in the other queue).
The flight was delayed around 50 minutes but as soon as we took off the cabin crew handed out small chocolates to each passenger in a way of saying sorry. As far as I know, it was not the airline’s fault, but the sorry chocolate was a very nice touch.
However, the cabin crew was definitely overzealous with their inflight messages, with a welcome aboard message from the head flight attendant, first officer and captain, two safety briefings, a shopping guide, and the above apology. On top of that, each message had to be repeated again in French. But they did mention multiple times to ‘leave baggage and personal items in case of an emergency’, highlighting this topical issue much like Japan Airways did with their new safety video.
Brussels Airlines operates a mixed fleet of Airbus aircraft, specifically 22 A319s, 17 A320s, three A330-200s, and seven A330-300s. The smaller aircraft operate its Europe network and its larger A330s operate intercontinental routes. Today’s flight, from Crete, Greece to Brussels, Belgium would be onboard an A320 and would take around three hours and thirty minutes. My following flight to Toulouse onboard an A319 variant would be shorter at one hour and forty minutes.
The aircraft is split into two sections, with three rows of ‘business’ and the rest in economy. However, as with most European carriers operating A320s, the entire aircraft is in an economy configuration with 3-3 across the single aisle. The seat was rather average, with a deep blue leather finish that didn’t really do the comfort any favors. I found the seat to lack lumbar support, making it a bit tricky to get comfortable. A foldable neck support would have gone a long way.
Overall, the pitch on the A320 was a bit crushing at 30 inches. I preferred the A319 later in my journey with 32 inches in the forward section.
Long-time readers will know that I detest flimsy tray tables and I’m pleased to report that Brussels Airlines spared no expense in building one of the most solid tray tables I’ve come across.
Food and Drink
The airline offers a selection of cold and hot food available for purchase. Interestingly, the hot food is actually made to order with an approx. cooking time listed on the menu.
As it turned out, as part of my Flex&Fly ticket I actually got a complimentary meal with a drink. I was served beef meatballs with tomato sauce, and what tasted like a pea purée. The food was served in a bamboo bowl which I thought was a nice environmental touch (like how HiFly now operates a plastic-free A340). Whilst the taste was not mind-blowing, it was clear that the quality of ingredients was very high and I was left feeling pretty good afterwards.
Plus, the little cake they served for dessert turned out to be a mini Apple Pie which was a delight. I was also offered a range of wines, beers, and tea/coffee, with yet another chocolate before landing.
The bottom line
Overall, Brussels Airlines turned out to be a welcome surprise. The food was great, the service was delivered with a laugh and the journey was smooth enough to nap away. The cabin did feel a bit cramped and there really didn’t feel like enough legroom in the forward section of the plane to justify paying more, but if this flight was offered at a price competitive with a low-cost-carrier, I’d choose it hands down every time.
If you are thinking of heading to the Greek Islands and want to see a review of another airline, you can see our review of Greek national carrier Aegean here.