In June this year another family situation had me searching for reasonable fares to go back. It was getting increasingly difficult to try and find a fare for travel in about a week out and then be back in a week’s time. So basically, two weeks in total from the time of booking to the expected return back to Canada. Turkish, Etihad, Emirates were all over the $2K mark. Fortunately, Etihad had a slightly lower fare at $1750 which would take me with Brussels Airlines or Aer Lingus to either Brussels or Dublin, and onwards to Abu Dhabi and then Karachi. There was a nonstop return from Abu Dhabi in that fare, so I lost no time to try and book it. However, when I hit submit, it did not go through and said fare unavailable. I then tried with the stops via Brussels and it worked. Sadly, the seats on Brussels Airlines could not be booked, and even attempting to use the booking reference number on their website failed. Yes, I know it would not work but I gave it a try.
This trip report will cover the flights on Brussels Airlines to and from Toronto to Brussels. There will be a separate report on Etihad which I last travelled with in 2013. As well this might be the first Brussels Airlines trip report to and from Toronto.
Toronto to Brussels
Airbus A330-300 (OO-SFV)
Flight Time: 6:39
On the day of the departure I called the local Brussels Airlines contact number and the lady on the other end had me panicking when she said “I am sorry Sir we do not have any reservation under your name”. It is only when she put my e-ticket number in did it pop up. “Please, can you see if any window seats are available?” to which she replied “Sir, you will have to check in at the airport desk for that. As this is a third party booking we are unable to check you in on the phone?”. I lost no time to get to the airport hoping to get the window seat.
Don’t ask me how many locks I buy and how many l lose. So here I was dragging my single pull along suitcase behind me and a light shoulder bag all the way down to arrivals where the shop was and then back up the elevator to the far end to the Brussels Airlines Check in counters. Even though the line had only a single person I found myself rushing to get to the front, with that passenger moving ahead to an agent. An agent who had just finished with a passenger signalled to me to come ahead.
Brussels Airlines Check in Desk at Pearson Airport
“I do hope you have a window seat for me?” I said, with my breaths heavy still rushing to get this important issue brought to her attention, simply then following up with a “Good Afternoon” in response to her initial “Good Afternoon, please may I see your passport”. “Let me check” she said, “though we are fully booked today”. “I am sorry Sir, but I do not have any window or aisle seats in Economy”. “I do however have a window seat in Economy Privilege which can be purchased for Euro 125”. “Economy what” I said to myself as she continued to process my check in as she scanned my passport and then asked for my Overseas National Card for the final destination. “I really wanted a window seat” I said not explaining to her how the wonderful sunny day outside would have been a perfect opportunity to view Toronto from above as we took off. She sensed my disappointment and frustration and she then handed me the boarding pass “I have given you seat 14G which is an aisle seat and you have no one at the side of you”. “14G” I mumble to myself, still debating whether to pay for the window seat, and then continuing “14G is that in the middle aisle” still not having an idea where I was on the plane. “This is an Economy Privilege seat, Sir” she said and I could sense she felt I was not being appreciative for being give a seat in this section of the plane which one would otherwise need to pay for. “Thank you” I said “I am glad at least you got me an aisle seat” I remarked with a smile on my face. As I walked away I was starting to wonder if I would regret not buying the window seat instead.
Line ups for Secuirty were an absolute mess and took at least 40 mins to get to the front. Fortunately in an attempt to get the window seat I had got there early
Airside at Pearson
Making my way to the gate past security down the travellator corridor
Soon I was at the gate and it was full with people already lining up in two separate lines, one to the left and right of the Economy line to the plane. The area was pretty tight with people brushing my shoulder to shoulder including a very smart LH crew who were going to board their LH 744 to the Frankfurt. They started to board the usual passengers needing assistance and with children followed by the rows from the back to the front. Being 14G I would be literally the last ones to board as it was somewhere in the front of the plane.
Views at the gate
Gorgeous Brussels Airlines OO-SFV taking us to Brussels today
Down the airbridge I was welcomed by two male FAs the one on the left more buoyant with his friendliness than the one on the right. In the little section on the left just between the aircraft door and the airbridge stood a plaited blonde FA, typical of the hairstyle adopted by many European carriers who just observed everything but did nothing in terms of welcoming. (I noticed the same thing on another Brussels Airlines YouTube video). “Good Evening, Sir. Welcome on Board” my cheery left sided FA said as he handed me back my boarding pass. “It is the first row on the plane, whichever side you go left or right” he joked as his hands pointed down the galley right in front of the aircraft doors. “I’ll find it” I said now confident I was indeed in the first row of Economy Privilege, which I would realise stretch from 14 to 18 and had a headrest cover with the words “Economy Privilege” and three separate dropdowns from the ceiling with the same “Economy Privilege” signs to separate this from the regular Economy. The seats felt a little different from the rest of Economy but maybe I was just imagining. The few passengers left started to make it through and I kept eyeing the window seat in 14K from my seat in 14G. What a shame if someone sat in it. There was a guy behind me whose foot could clearly be seen in right eye’s peripheral vision as he lay it out straight from 14H behind. The first row seats in Economy Privilege are 2-3-2 compared to 2-4-2 just a row behind. On my left I had a guy with his foot in a cast who had put it up on the arm rest of 14D, two seats away from me. There is no 15E.
Views from 14G
Waiting to pounce on the window Seat
“Boarding Completed. All Ground Personnel please leave the aircraft” came the instructions on the Intercom. I sprang out of my seat like a tiger out of the tall grass, and popped my head into the galley where the FA who was a little more serious was moving around and said “Excuse me, please can I move to the window seat?”. “Yes Sir, please feel free to move” I guess he recognised me as one of the few Economy Privilege passengers. Just as I had moved up to ask, the passenger in 15H gave a victorious low but quite audible “Yes” as he moved without any asking to 15H. Looks like we were all waiting to move to our seats of choice once boarding was completed. I settled into 14K and was absolutely excited that I would not be missing the take off view at all.
Window Seat secured
Brussels Airlines – Economy Privilege headrest cover
Views from 14K
During the boarding process announcements were being made for passengers to try out the new Economy Privilege for the price of Euro 125. The features announced were Champagne with the meal and a better seat compared to Economy. No sooner had I jumped to claim the window a passenger from Economy who was quite tall and was hoping to sit on those seats without paying came to the front to speak to the crew and was promptly told that if he wanted to sit there he would have to pay. “But what if the seat remains empty, no one is sitting there so can I not sit there now” he said. “Yes the seat will remain empty” replied my no so friendly now FA from the door “If you would like to sit there sit, you will have to pay”. The passenger returned to his seat, while I noticed other passengers in Economy Privilege also played musical chairs as they moved around to the seat of their choice. Looks like the others too like me were upgrades from regular Economy or else they would have been sitting in the seat of their choice from the start.
We pushed back and soon were making our way to the active runway 6L. There was a malfunction in the safety video being demonstrated, so a manual demonstration was conducted instead. Also prior to this an amenity kit was also handed out which was very basic but a nice pouch. We held short of it for a while which gave me sometime to zoom on a few spotters by the fence from where one can see the jets come down taxiway D I believe and then line up on 6L. A few mins there and then we lined up and were racing down the runway to climb into the beautiful evening sky. For the price of forever capturing on video the sight that was unfolding outside but viewed through a viewfinder at the back of the camera, sometimes we totally miss out on just enjoying the moment of it all without having any camera equipment to distract us. I had just gotten a new compact pocket camera for my Dec trip and this one proved so much more practical then the heavier Canon Rebel t4i. Zooming in and out is not good for the video and can be distracting but so nifty with this small point and shoot. A good few mins of nonstop video till we passed the magnificent downtown view of Toronto and it was time to settle back into the seat and take it all in. The legroom in front was outstanding which was a bit too tight in the middle seats of the 2-3-2 configuration. I pulled out the entertainment screen from under the seat and unfolded the dinner tray from the armrest and I was good to go for the rest of the flight.
Pushed back from the gate
A view I will never forget for a long time
C’est la vie!
The flight progressed East towards the US East coast rather than upwards towards Montreal and out to Atlantic Canada. By the time we were close to Utica, NY dinner service commenced.
My very own personal Entertainment screen
Legroom that was incredible
The flight progressing over the US
Over the US
I was the first to be served from the front and a Korean looking FA smiled and asked me what I would like to eat from the two options of Chicken and Potatoes or Vegetarian Pasta with tomato sauce. “Chicken and Potatoes, please” I said, and it was promptly put on my tray. “Enjoy your meal” he said, still smiling and anticipating anything else I may need by pausing momentarily and then moving on as I tucked into my shirt pocket to pull out my camera. “Would you like something to drink” now followed a very handsome young FA who would be better off in some fashion magazine. “Some Orange juice please”. “Here you go” he said and then asked “Would you like some Champagne as well”. “Yes please” I said again now starting to press the record button on my camera looking down’. “Your Champagne” he said as he momentarily went into the galley filled the glass and then I caught it being put on my tray as the camera recorded.
The meal tray just delivered
The meal tray with the Champagne
The yummy appetisier
Chicken and Potatoes
The meal was vary basic, the Chicken and Potatoes which was delicious alongwith some Spinach which would have better off had it not to be included. The appetiser was so good, I would have gladly had seconds and the dessert made me look at it in disbelief. It tasted good, however it reminded me of those pack of six or eight you get at the grocery store that mum’s throw into the lunch pack for their little ones heading to school. “Now don’t leave your dessert, dear” rang the voice of mom’s as they reminded their little ones to finish everything and which had me ensuring I had mine as well. A strip of Cracker Barrell Cheese and a bun completed the tray. The Champagne went down well and it added to my already heightened state of bliss. The legroom ahead, the screen at the front of me, the fact no one sat at the side of me and above all a silent cabin just finished the picture to a great flight ahead. However the trays took a while to be cleared, but I used trays from the seat at the side of me to stack my stuff. Thanks to a Japanese FA on Etihad who was travelling as a passenger who showed me how to neatly stack everything back on the tray once done, my trays go back in the same order they came in and not a big mess that needs to be sorted out prior to being put back into the carts.
I settled in to look for a move to watch and found “Victoria and Abdul” which I found to be quite amusing. Halfway through the movie I found myself having to use the washrooms which were immaculate and the stylised “b” logo on the tail and winglets was also on the washroom mirror though in a bright blue and not the red as seen on the external sections of the aircraft.
Post dinner movie – Judie Dench is truly an amazing actress
Washroom visit – Love the logo on the washroom mirror
The best of both worlds
A coffee and tea run was conducted midway through the flight and an hour before landing a light refreshment was served of a small orange juice, mini-muffin and a blueberry Nutri Grain bar along with tea or coffee. For a flight duration of just 6 hours 39 mins there was a lot of offer. Compare that with an almost 5 hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver and all you get some pretzels and complimentary drink run of tea, coffee or canned drinks.It had become bright outside now as we touched the far south of the United Kingdom before we crossed over into Belgium.
Almost near the end of the journey
Light refreshment before landing
It had gone significantly bright outside
Descending over Antwerp - Had to use Google Maps to find out what that interesting shape was below
I had my Canon Rebel T4i in hand and even though a blanket was available I never really used it on the flight, which I would have now used to cover the Canon Rebel T4i. The same handsome FA who had served the meals and the coffee/tea runs approached me and said “Sir you will have to stow that for landing”. I was shocked I had never been asked to keep my camera away. “I would like to take videos of the landing” I said, though in the back of my mind I knew I had the pocket sized Canon camera in my pocket. “My supervisor is checking as well Sir” he said assuring me that if I got away with him the Supervisor, the more serious of the two at the door, but the one who allowed me to move to the window seat was somewhere behind checking on seats and other loose items like these which would need to be stowed. “Okay I said, as I packed it back in the camera bag” and handed it to him as he put it into the overhead bin”. Earlier before take off I was asked to put the camera bag into the overhead bin though in that case the camera was inside and the bag was just between my legs. Had I to have a seat in front of me then I guess there would have been no reason for them to ask me to put it in the overhead bin. My luxurious seat in terms of space and legroom came with a price.
While I was busy looking out the window taking in Brussels underneath I turned startled when I heard “Some Chocolates Sir” and before me stood an FA with a tray with just about twenty boxes of Neuhaus chocolates with the “brussels airlines” logo, a 15 years sign, and the slogan “Going the Extra Smile for you since 15 Years”. I smiled and took one almost thinking an FA had some to ask me to put the camera away. I am not joking when I say this but almost mins later we touched down on 25L. It would almost appear that the Supervisor had to ensure the Chocolates were handed out all this while on Finals to 25L. I once had some FAs still stocking items in the shelves on a Thai Airways flight while we were racing down the runway and almost at wheels up they plonked themselves into the seat. I guess delays like this happen even when at take off and landing.
Chocolates handed literally minutes before touchdown – I guess just to the few in Economy Privilege
Neighbours at the gate – including my ride to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways behind the Qatar Airways jet
All I can say is “WOW” brussels airlines truly blew my mind. I know I got the window seat, the extra legroom, no one at the side of me, the fold out Entertainment screen but all of this did add to the overall experience but just in general the crews were amazing. They truly smiled and were happy to have you there. Don’t know much about Belgium apart from Belgian chocolates renowned all over the world and that is what I think makes up the friendliness of the Belgian crew. I almost did not book this seat as I had no idea what to expect from Brussels Airlines. I have to say this flight was one of the best if not the best of all the flights I have been on, though the Etihad Airways Regional business class experience is still number one for me. This flight would come in as a close second. Thank you Brussels Airlines for a fabulous experience.
Brussels to Toronto
Airbus A330-300 (OO-SFO)
Flight Time: 7:55
Waiting to pass pre-security clearance checks. There is a dedicated area at the far end of the terminal from where all US and Canada flights depart. There were two flights leaving at 10:15 for Washington and New York whereas our flight was departing at 10:45. It was around 10:08 when this pic was taken and priority was given to passengers for New York and Washington to go first, considering their flight was leaving in 7 mins!! Not sure what time those flights left, but our flight was delayed from 10:45 to 12:45 to 13:15. Further once we got on the aircraft we did not leave the gate until around 14:45 I think considering we started to board around 12:50 andwere airborne around 15:03. What should have been a 7:30 flight to Toronto turned out to almost 12 hours with the delay.
OO-SFO at the gate
Finally on board after a two and half hour delay on the ground
Still on board some two hours later
Just departed Brussels
Over Antwerp. Previously Googled to see the interesting shape below
That gorgeous winglet again
Lunch is served – Yes again Chicken and Potatoes
Once we were served lunch I crashed out over Ireland and did not get up until 2 hours out of Toronto.
Pre-Arrival snack – It was so delicious!!
Arrived at Toronto
You can view the entire trip and the return here on YouTube. I googled their Boarding music I found a soundtrack. However I don't recall hearing this on the plane.