With vaccination programs underway in many countries and demand for travel slowly starting to pick up for summer Brussels Airlines prepares its operations for a gradual build up of its flight offer.
At an airline, such a buildup does not happen overnight and it takes several months to prepare. We not only need to get our planes ready to hit the skies again, but we also need to get our cabin and cockpit crew and our Ground Operations colleagues back up to speed and fully trained after a period of inactivity.
Training our pilots, crew and ground staff
In aviation, nothing is left to chance and safety is at all times the highest priority. Therefore, our Training department worked out a very thorough and intensive training program to make sure we fully prepare our pilots to take off again. The first group started their training at the beginning of April. For each pilot, the program takes approximately one month to complete and includes 14 hours of theoretical training, including self-study and classroom trainings to review all flight and aircraft procedures, 12 hours of simulator and 10 to 20 flights with an instructor, depending on the experience of the pilot. Last but not least, every pilot performs a line check before they are released to fly on their own again. In total 150 pilots need to go through this complete training and we expect to finish the training program by summer. Our 400 other pilots have continuously been trained during the past months.
As for our cabin crew, as of 1 May, 130 cabin colleagues who have been in full temporary unemployment will gradually be retrained for flying duties with seven to ten days of refresher courses, depending on the type of flights they operate (short haul or long haul), and several familiarization flights to have all safety procedures and Corona-related hygiene measures fresh in mind when they welcome our passengers on board again.
Also on the ground, we prepare our airport colleagues for their duties. They get refresher courses and work in pairs with colleagues on their first day back on the job so they are ready to welcome our guests again.
Getting our aircraft ready
Today, 21 of our 38 aircraft are operational. In order to increase our flight offer, we of course also need to get more and more aircraft back in the air to prepare for summer.
As aircraft are made to fly, not to stand on the ground, we have kept busy meticulously maintaining our birds while they were inactive, in order to keep them in great shape once we could reactivate them. To reactivate an aircraft after such a long period (some have been parked since March 2020), our Maintenance teams go through thorough procedures, checking every nook and cranny of the fuselage and moving parts, checking every valve and tube, and test-running all electronic systems. They test the engines, replace life vests and other safety equipment if they are expired, and getting the cabin ready with a thorough cleaning. Finally, they run a test flight to give the aircraft a final GO for operations. The entire de-storage process takes approximately 200 man hours per aircraft.
Welcoming more passengers means that it is important to emphasize that we continue to apply the same Corona measures as before. These include a mandatory face mask during the entire flight (as of arrival at the airport) for every passenger as of six years old, row by row boarding and de-boarding to avoid queues in the aircraft, extra disinfection of the aircraft and of course proper hand hygiene. All our aircraft are equipped with HEPA filters that continuously supply clean air on board. See the complete overview or our measures here.
As usual, we ask passengers who feel unwell not to travel, to protect the health of other passengers and our crew. As many countries still have specific restrictions, we ask our passengers to check the requirements before they travel. And of course we continue to offer our rebookable tickets, so our customers have maximum flexibility to change their travel plans and they can book their flights with peace of mind.