Brussels Airlines Long-Haul Capacity Recovering Faster Than Short Haul

On Friday, June 18th, Brussels Airlines issued a statement on the progress of its recovery from the global health crisis. With travel restrictions easing due to fewer cases and aggressive vaccination efforts, the airline is seeing big jumps in bookings with each passing week. Interestingly, Brussels Airlines’ recovery is progressing faster for its long-haul network – which is typically a smaller part of its operations.
Brussels Airlines Long-Haul Capacity Recovering Faster Than Short Haul
Brussels Airlines’ long-haul operations utilize 12 Airbus A330-300s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

“We are still in a difficult period and the coming months will also be very challenging, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We see an eagerness to travel and it is clear that many people do not want to postpone their long-awaited trip abroad with another year.”  – Peter Gerber, Chief Commercial Officer at Brussels Airlines, via statement.

30-50% booking increases each week

“Brussels Airlines sees a strong increase in the number of incoming bookings,” the airline said in a statement. It credits this to the lifting of a travel ban for Belgians, which took place on April 19th.

The lifting of this ban, paired with easing restrictions in countries around the world, has given customers more confidence to place bookings. The carrier credits a number of factors for this rise in reservations:

  • Vaccination programs running at full speed
  • The implementation of the digital green certificate
  • The evolution of travel restrictions

Indeed, recovery has been picking up speed with each new week. The airline says that it has “recorded weekly increases of 30-50%, each time compared to the previous week,” with holiday destinations in the south of Europe performing particularly well at the moment.

Brussels Airlines also notes that it’s not just individual bookings that are increasing. Group bookings are also making a strong come back, with schools and youth movements, among others, planning trips abroad again.

Brussels Airlines Long-Haul Capacity Recovering Faster Than Short Haul
Brussels Airlines’ network restart plan. While much of its network has been reactivated, destinations in Poland and Switzerland appear to be a lower priority. Photo: Brussels Airlines

77% of 2019 long-haul network capacity

This summer, the carrier says that it expects to offer 70% of its pre-pandemic capacity. This breaks down to 60% for its short- and medium-distance network and 77% for its long-distance network. However, if you look at the carrier’s route map, you’ll see that its short-haul European destinations far outnumber its long-haul offerings.

The recovery of its long-distance network has seen a boost with the improving situation on the other side of the Atlantic, allowing flights to New York and Washington D.C. to restart last week after a “hibernation period” of almost 15 months.

Commenting on this transatlantic recovery, the Belgian carrier says that it’s “now hoping for rapid easing of the currently applicable travel restrictions between the two continents to make traveling easy and accessible to everyone again.”

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Meanwhile, the recovery of the airline’s African network is already well underway. Indeed, establishing a number of triangle routes means that the carrier can serve more destinations in Africa despite lower demand.

Brussels Airlines Long-Haul Capacity Recovering Faster Than Short Haul
The airline’s average fleet age is 16 years. Photo: Brussels Airlines

Brussels Airlines’ short-haul network

The airline’s top destinations this summer are located in the south of Europe. The most popular destinations are as follows:

  • Spain (Malaga, Alicante, Barcelona, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands),
  • Portugal (Faro, Lisbon, and Porto),
  • Greece (Athens, Kos, Rhodes, Heraklion, Corfu, and Zakynthos)
  • Italy (Florence, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia and the new destination Bari)
Brussels Airlines Long-Haul Capacity Recovering Faster Than Short Haul
Brussels Airlines’ short and medium-haul operations use the Airbus A319 and A320. Photo: Brussels Airlines

This makes sense with more open travel policies in these tourism-dependent countries combined with the onset of the summer leisure travel season.

The airline adds that Morocco (Tangier and Nador), Croatia (Dubrovnik and Split), and France (Nice, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, and Bordeaux) are also on the list of popular destinations.

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