At present, the airline flies to destinations across Europe, North America, and Africa

When it comes to European flag carriers, quite a number have well-established histories. KLM, Czech Airlines, and Finnair, are among the ten oldest airlines in the world – while the likes of Air France, British Airways, and Lufthansa have been in operation for decades. One airline stands out among the rest as being one of the youngest European flag carriers: 16-year-old Brussels Airlines.

Born of a merger

Until 2001, Belgium did, in fact, have a flag carrier that commenced operations around the same time as many other European flag carriers. Founded in May 1923, Sabena was the national airline of Belgium until it was forced to shut down due to bankruptcy.

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On November 7, 2001, Sabena’s operations were transferred to Delta Air Transport (a Belgian carrier, not to be confused with Delta Air Lines), which later became SN Brussels Airlines. In 2006, the airline announced that it would be merging with Virgin Express, an airline under the Virgin Group that mainly operated flights to Southern Europe.

Exactly five years after Sabena’s end, on November 7, 2006, the single airline formed through the merger was introduced to the world – the current iteration of Brussels Airlines. The name was maintained as an ode to the airline’s home base of Brussels Airport. In March of the following year, the flag carrier began flying

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Brussels Airlines Welcome

Fun fact: when the airline was unveiled, it was forced to change its logo (which featured 13 dots) to a 14-dot design due to pressure from superstitious passengers. Today, the logo consists of only nine dots.

Giving the people what they want

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Brussels Airlines Business Class

At a time when low-cost airlines were gaining popularity, Brussels Airlines was careful in its entry into the market. After consulting over 5,000 passengers, it was clear that the needs of passengers have changed significantly since the country last had a flag carrier. Neil Burrows, the then-CEO of Brussels Airlines said:

“Today, even business travelers are much more price-conscious. The attractiveness of the traditional, expensive Business Class is greatly diminished on short-haul flights. There is a growing number of passengers looking for the lowest fare. The success of low-cost airlines is tangible proof of this. Brussels Airlines listened to what all its passengers want…”

And so, Brussels Airlines kicked off its operations by offering low-cost options, which not many flag carriers were doing at the time. While Virgin Express had offered low-cost fares to around 20 destinations, Brussels Airlines launched itself into 50 destinations, all of which had low-cost options.

Joining the big players

Less than two years since Brussels Airlines’ entry into service, Lufthansa acquired a 45% stake, which subsequently led to the former joining Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance by passenger count. In January 2017, Lufthansa purchased the remainder of Brussels Airlines’ shares, absorbing the Belgian-based airline into the Lufthansa Group.

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In its 16 years of service, Brussels Airlines has expanded to destinations across Europe, North America, and Africa. It’s current fleet of 38 aircraft includes the Airbus A319, A320, and A330.

Source: Brussels Airlines

  • livery photo: Brussels Airlines

    Trade unions have stated that the 700 cancelations are not enough in order to alleviate the high workload currently being experienced by their members. Photo: Brussels Airlines

    Brussels Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Brussels Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Airline Group:
    Lufthansa Group

    Peter Gerber



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