WASHINGTON — This past Tuesday, Brussels Airlines began service between Brussels, Belgium, and Washington, District of Columbia, the capital of the United States.
What began as a rainy afternoon in Washington eventually turned into a beautiful evening for an inaugural; a pale blue sky providing a perfect backdrop for OO-SFY, the Airbus A330-200 operating flight SN515 from Brussels, as it touched down at Washington-Dulles International Airport.
A warm welcome
I arrived at Dulles at around 5:30 pm, and made my way upstairs to the new Brussels Airlines ticketing counter. While there was still about an hour to go before checkin opened, the counter was already buzzing with activity.
Tuesday’s flight was not only Brussels Airlines’ inaugural foray onto the Washington – Brussels route, but also their first operation at the airport. Some jitters would have been absolutely understandable, but the counter staff was a picture of calm. The area had been perfectly set up, complete with two balloon towers and numerous posters noting the inaugural flight.
As checkin time drew closer, passengers began to trickle into the queue, and the staff eagerly welcomed them forward.
With the first passengers checked in successfully, the desk staff were in high spirits.
As the clock ticked nearer to arrival, the press and VIPs were escorted through security and to a corner of Dulles where we were to board our mobile lounge and be driven out to the runway.
While waiting for the “moon buggy” to arrive, Dulles staff coordinator Dennis Hazell and Brussels Airlines station manager Dries Cuyckens both introduced themselves and gave us a rundown of the evening’s events.
Up close and personal
The operations team at Washington-Dulles really makes events like these special. We would be driven out to the active runway by the mobile lounge, and we would be allowed to set up on an adjoining taxiway to await the arrival of SN515.
While there, we had some great encounters with arriving aircraft.
The camaraderie shared among colleagues was fantastic to see. While we were waiting, the Brussels Airlines team was all too happy to take photos together.
As the next aircraft drew closer, airport operations announced that it was SN515. At around 7:15 pm, the beautiful A330 touched down after eight hours in the air.
As OO-SFY rolled out, we quickly boarded the mobile lounge and sped over to gate B45, where the aircraft was taxiing in.
The fire trucks then revved up and initiated the water cannon salute.
After pulling up on stand, the captain and first officer deployed the flags of both the United States and Belgium.
After we had the photos we needed, we were escorted back upstairs into Lufthansa’s Senator Lounge, where we were given access to the full buffet, and invited to hang around until 8:45 pm, when a brief press conference would be held ahead of the departure of SN516 back to Brussels.
At 8:45 pm sharp, the promised press conference began. Belgian Ambassador to the United States Jan Matthysen, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority COO Margaret McKeough, Brussels Airlines Vice President of North America John Lindekens, and two representatives of the Brussels Airlines cabin crew were on hand.
There was a prideful sentiment in the air. Sabena, the predecessor of Brussels Airlines, last touched down in Washington twelve years ago, and Matthysen was very vocal about his excitement about a Belgian carrier coming back to Washington. McKeough and Lindekens echoed the ambassador’s statements.
After brief speeches, Ambassador Matthysen carried out the ribbon cutting, followed by a second go by McKeough and the captain of SN516.
After the ribbon cutting, cake was served in the Senator Lounge.
All in all, a fantastic day for Brussels Airlines, the Lufthansa Group, Washington-Dulles International Airport, and the people of Washington.
Operating five times weekly, SN515/SN516 complements Star Alliance partner’s United’s existing daily flight between Washington and Brussels. Operated by Airbus A330-200/300 aircraft, this flight offers flat-bed seats in business class and IFE/AVOD throughout.
Passengers traveling to Washington can utilize United’s extensive network to connect onwards to points throughout the United States, and travelers going eastbound can capitalize on Brussels Airlines’ strong European connectivity.
Due to the relatively short turnaround and the status as an inaugural flight, there wasn’t adequate time for an aircraft tour. However, ample photos of Brussels Airlines’ business and economy classes can be found online.