15 February 2002. The TV news is dominated by the aftermath of 9/11, the newly introduced euro… and the birth of SN Brussels Airlines. That cold morning in February at 6h15, the very first flight takes off from Brussels Airport: SN2711 to Geneva, operated with an Avro jet (OO-DJS). SN Brussels Airlines is born, created by 40 shareholders united in SN Airholding.
On the payroll that day are almost 1,400 employees. Each and every one of them very motivated to make the new airline a lasting success. The network consists of 29 European destinations, served with 32 regional jets. Only a few months later, Africa is added to the network.
15 February 2017. Fifteen years later Brussels Airlines has grown to become an airline flying from Brussels Airport to 73 European destinations and 21 intercontinental destinations. Worldwide Brussels Airlines became known as the Africa specialist. The fleet expanded to 45 short / medium haul aircraft and 10 long-haul aircraft and direct employment rose to 3,500 jobs. Indirectly, the activities guarantee about 11,000 additional jobs. As a Star Alliance member, Brussels Airlines collaborates with dozens of other airlines from its hub at Brussels Airport.
In the course of those 15 years, 78.8 million passengers were welcomed onboard Brussels Airlines’ flights. 69 million of them travelled on European flights, 8.1 million flew to Africa and more than 1 million crossed the Atlantic. The long haul belly space carried 320,000 tons of airfreight.
In its investments, Brussels Airlines has always put the customer first. A lot has changed for the passenger since the birth of the airline. Fifteen years ago, everyone travelled with paper tickets in Business or Economy Class. Checking in for a flight was only possible at the check-in desk. Today everyone travels with electronic tickets and Passengers can choose from 4 different travel classes on European flights and 3 classes on long haul flights. More than 50% of their passengers now checks in online, via their smartphone or the self-check-in machines at the airport. The airline invested heavily in its airport lounges and did great efforts to make flying with Brussels Airlines much cheaper. The lowest economy return ticket price back in 2002 was €160. Today, a Brussels Airlines ticket is available as from €69.
Since market conditions and travel behavior have changed a lot over the years, Brussels Airlines was transformed from a traditional airliner with a Business and Economy Class product to a hybrid airline with travel products that appeal to both price sensitive customers and those seeking great service. The new commercial strategy was supported by a very clear Belgian positioning. The collaborations with Belgian chefs, chocolatiers and breweries to promote local Belgian products and the special Magritte, Tintin and Red Devils planes are just some examples of this “Made in Belgium” approach.
“To connect Belgium and Brussels Airport to the world, to guarantee employment and to develop a profitable business model. Those were the objectives the founders gave us”, says Brussels Airlines CEO Bernard Gustin, who worked on the initial business plan for Brussels Airlines as a consultant at that time. “These remain our objectives still today. Year after year we have grown the company in a sustainable manner and we have created additional jobs. I would therefore like to sincerely thank our ever growing number of customers for choosing Brussels Airlines. Also a heartfelt thanks goes out to all our motivated staff and partners that write the Brussels Airlines story with us day after day.
In 2009, Lufthansa became a shareholder. On the eve of the 15th anniversary the Lufthansa Group decided to take over 100% of the shares in Brussels Airlines. “Brussels Airlines has now reached the age of a young adult who moves with the times and is bursting with ideas but who has already made clear choices for the future," says Bernard Gustin. "For this future we work together with the Lufthansa Group, in order to further expand our African network and to connect the European capital even better. In that context I’m proud that we will soon further spread our wings and add new destinations, because after growth in Africa and North America, we now expand to the East with the opening of Mumbai in India."
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary Brussels Airlines made a sequel to its renowned video "It's a Boy". The actors were again all Brussels Airlines employees ánd the original Mr. Smith, who also appeared in the first edition. 90 Brussels Airlines extras played in the running scenes to put the slogan "We Go the Extra Smile" forward. (See video below)