Brussels Airlines, Economy Class – AVRO RJ100: Stockholm Bromma to Brussels

This is a previously unpublished report from 2012.

Introduction

SN Brussels Airlines is, to the best of my knowledge, one of only very few international airlines that operate to Stockholm Bromma Airport and not to Arlanda. Until the 1960s Bromma was Stockholm’s only airport. When the facility was first established, it was still on the outskirts of the city. However, by the time Arlanda opened, the city was starting to infringe on the airport. And perhaps that explains why Arlanda was built so far out of town: to ensure the same thing wouldn’t happen again so quickly.

Getting to the Airport

To get from Gashaga Bryggen, where I’m staying, to Bromma airport by public transport, you first need to take the Lidingöbanan from Gashaga to Ropsten, and then from there you connect to the T13 metro line that will take you to the central station.

The Flygbussarna, or airport bus, leaves from the Central Station. Apparently, not that many people know that there are two airports in Stockholm. Which probably explains why the bus driver, with a resigned tone of voice and a heavy sigh, tells every single passenger as they board that this bus is going to Bromma airport, not Arlanda, and the bus will not stop anywhere on the way. Okay?

Eventually, the bus fills up and we depart. We probably haven’t even moved 200 metres when the bus driver makes yet another announcement asking all passengers if they’re sure they’re on the right bus and want to go to Bromma, not Arlanda. And of course some Spanish woman pipes up from the back of the bus, runs frantically to the front and begs the driver to drop her off because she really, really needs to go to Arlanda, not Bromma…

Check-in

Bromma airport is really very small. It’s a two story building that looks like it hasn’t changed much since the 60s or 70s. It’s actually interesting to see how much airport design has changed over they years.

The Lounge

The only available lounge is the Yellow Room operated by Malmö Aviation. But apparently, SN Brussels were too cheap to contract this lounge for their Senators. But it’s no big deal, I rather like this dinky little airport.

Boarding

Boarding is also very old school. There are no airbridges (woohoo..!), which means that passengers walk across the apron to their aircraft. There are covered walkways though, although I’m not sure how efficient these might be during a snow storm in the cold Swedish winter.

The Cabin

The Avro RJ100 is a strange size in that the cabin diameter actually permits for a six abreast configuration in Economy Class, which is what British Airways Citiflyer and Cityjet have gone for. And it ain’t pretty, because the seat pitch is also quite tight. Fortunately though, SN Brussels has gone with the five abreast configuration, which means that while the circulation to your legs is just as likely to stop on these birds too, at least you can flap your arms around with greater ease and comfort as you gradually start to panic as the loss of sensation to your legs sets in.

The AVRO RJ100, which was originally conceived as the BAe 146-300, was designed as a STOL (short take off or landing) passenger transport that could operate from smaller airports with limited infrastructure. To ensure that passengers could board and deboard easily, the aircraft carries its own set of steps for the forward L1 door. However, this meant that the wing of the aircraft would have to be placed above the fuselage in order maintain enough clearance for the engines but still be low enough above the ground to be able to use integrated stairs.

As a passenger and a geek, I’ve always enjoyed the RJ100’s unique design. First of all, because it gives you excellent ground visibility from pretty much any seat on board, and secondly, because it’s interesting to watch the movement of the flaps during the climb out and landing phase.

The Meal

Service on SN Brussels Airlines is strictly buy on board in Economy Class. There is a menu and pricelist in every seatpocket.

I decide to with a balanced and healthy combination of Coke Zero and a muffin for EUR4.-, which is reasonable I think.

Arrival

And then, very soon we start our descent into Brussels, which means I’m now glued to the window to make sure I don’t miss the flaps being deployed. Although of course, there’s no chance of anyone on the plane missing that given the noise the RJ100 makes when the flaps are moved either up or down. It’s rather hard to describe. I suppose it sounds a bit like a racing car zooming past your ears at close quarters. As the flaps are deployed the sound is descending, so as though the ‘car’ were slowing down. I asked our aerodynamicist in the office once if he had any idea what caused the sound. But I shall not give you his answer to avoid offending anyone…

Transfer in Brussels

Eventually, we land in Brussels on time. I now have two hours to make my connection to Basel.

Brussels Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: London Heathrow to Brussels

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Date: 11 September 2016
Departure: 11:30
Arrival: 13:15
Flight time: 40 minutes
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Heathrow Express
Journey time: 17 minutes
Departs from: London Paddington Station
Arrives: Heathrow Central
Cost: GBP22 for a single, second class ticket

Heathrow Central Station serves Terminals 2 and 3. Once you alight, just follow the signs and then walk. And walk. And walk. And then walk some more. It is a fairly long schlep from the station to the check-in area, but there are plenty of lifts and trolleys available.

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Check-in

Location: Terminal 2, top floor
Facilities: Only check-in at the counter is available. Brussels Airlines does not have an app. I did receive an e-mail to check-in online but that failed because my API data was not in the PNR and there is no means online or at the check-in machine to enter the data.
Counters: B13 – B27

This is my first visit to Terminal 2 and I really must say, I like it very much. The construction is very similar to that of BA’s Terminal 5, although Terminal 2 seems smaller. But the facility feels very open and airy. It is also very quiet.

The check-in counters are divided into different zones. And there are two rows of counters behind each other. Brussels Airlines checks in at zone B, and the Business Class counters are located on the second row.

Premium passengers are entitled to use the Fast Track.

The Lufthansa Lounge

Location: A1, after security walk towards the atrium and then turn right.
Type of Lounge:
Lufthansa Business Class and Senator lounge.
Facilities:
There is a large and spacious working area with continental and British power plugs. There are also a few iMacs provided by the lounge. The lounge also has a variety of seating options. The small tables next to the armchairs also all have power plugs. Toilets and showers are available in the lounge.
Catering: A good selection of hot and cold dishes, including everything you could want for a decent English breakfast.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available in the lounge, no password required.

This is probably one of the nicer Lufthansa lounges out there. The view of runway 27L from the lounge is brilliant. But alas, photography is made impossible by the bars outside the window.

Boarding

Priority Boarding: There is a separate lane for passengers with priority and one of the gate agents checks passes before you are allowed to join the queue.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2. There are four passengers in Business Class on this flight.
Seat: Brussels Airlines has a seating capacity of 168 on the Airbus A 320. In Business Class you have the typically European set up, with the middle seat left empty for a bit more space. Other than that, it is the same uncomfortable slim seat that Lufthansa has and which is seriously lacking in the padding department. The flight from Heathrow to Brussels is only one hour, but from what I understand, Brussels Airlines flies these aircraft to places as far afield as Tel Aviv, which must be closer to four hours from Brussels.

Other than that, it would appear that the cabin divider is definitely on its way out on European short-haul with the Star Alliance – like SWISS’ CSeries, Brussels Airlines do not have a divider on their A 320 either.
Pitch: 30 inches.
Width: 17.5 inches.
Facilities: Reading lamp, air vent.
Audio and Video: Overhead screens.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

The Crew

The crew seem friendly enough, but they are not exactly going out of their way to take care of passengers. Admittedly, with an announced flight time of only 40 minutes there is only so much you can do to give the passenger a lasting and memorable impression.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Bottle of Spa still water.
Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Choice:
There are two different meal types, but the crew do not ask and you are randomly given either one or other of the trays.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Snack.

  1. A dish with mezze: rice filled vine leaves, hummus, couscous.
  2. A plate of dessert with a creamy vanilla tart and a chocolate mousse cake.

The meal service is really reduced to the absolute minimum. Seriously, what airline in Europe still serves a Business Class meal in plastic dishes and with throwaway plastic cutlery? Also, if you are going to serve hummus, it would be good to offer some bread with the meal. I do not like!

But the chocolate is good.

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Arrival

The tray is quickly removed and very shortly after, the plane dips its nose and we start our descent into Brussels. Outside the weather is not so hot, it is overcast and the expected temperature on the ground is 19 degrees Celsius. By the time we hit the ground, it has also started to rain.

We arrive at the B dock, which serves all the non-Schengen flights in Brussels. Unfortunately, it looks quite as though nobody is expecting us and we wait for ten minutes before eventually somebody decides it might be a good idea to attach an airbridge to the aircraft.