Flight Review: Brussels Airlines Business Class JFK-BRU

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Back in August 2016, I booked round-trip Business Class flights from JFK to Brussels on Brussels Airlines using ~37,000 Etihad miles (transferred 1:1 from Citi ThankYou points). That was an incredible value. Now it’s 44,000 Etihad miles each way, which is still a cheap price for Business Class to Europe. But not nearly as awesome, obvi.

I took the flights in May 2017 – a full 9 months after booking. It’s the farthest in advance I’ve ever booked a trip. So I was looking forward to it for a long time.

Brussels Airlines Business Class

Our bird to Brussels

As the date neared, I firmed up my intra-European itinerary. And booked positioning flights to and from New York.

Here’s a look at what Business Class on Brussels Airlines looks like.

Brussels Airlines Business Class seat

I booked a single “throne” seat – 3K – there and back.

a seat in a plane

My throne across the Atlantic both ways – Seat 3K

Upon entering the cabin after “turning left” into the aircraft (god I love that feeling), I was struck by how fresh and modern the setup looked.

a row of seats in an airplane

A very nice cabin indeed

There are 30 seats in biz, in a staggered 1-2-1/2-1-2 setup, like so:

a diagram of a bus seat

Airbus A330 seat map and my seat

I really liked the vibe!

As soon as I got to my seat, I was greeted by a flight attendant and offered a PDB.

a glass of liquid on a table

Lil bubbly to kick off the flight

There was a pillow and blanket already in the seat. And the flight attendant brought me an amenity kit and Bose headphones to wear.

a small black bag with a small black bag next to a small black bag

Amenity kit contents

The amenity kit had:

  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Lip balm
  • Body lotion
  • Earplugs
  • Writing pen
  • Eyeshade and socks
  • Tissues

The kit itself was a basic black bag, nothing fancy. Kinda disposable.

As I settled, I immediately noticed the cubby where my feet would go when the seat was in the lie-flat position. It looked a bit narrow, and I wondered how my feet and legs were going to fit on the overnight flight.

a person's legs in a seat

Notice how it tapers in there

So that was in the back of my mind.

a close up of a device

TV remote

a screen with text on it

Seat controls

I familiarized myself with the various controls, how the lights worked, and browsed the IFE. The screens were a nice size.

a row of seats with monitors on the side

More of the cabin and IFE screens

There wasn’t a lot of storage in the seat except for a little spot to place your shoes, which I loved. Everything else, I stowed in the seat back pocket or in the overhead bin.

Overall, I liked my seat. But in the overnight hours, I found the sleep setup (pillows, blankets, foot cubby) to be lacking. I’d have liked a sturdier pillow – I had to fold mine over because it was so thin. And the blankets were a bit worn.

The foot cubby thing wasn’t the end of the world, but I couldn’t “lie flat” – instead, I had to sleep on my side with my legs slightly bent. I’m 6’1″, so it’s probably fine for anyone who’s shorter. And it wasn’t a huge issue – but I knew from the get-go that little foot cubby thing would be an annoyance.

The food

So I had the same plane to and from Brussels. But different food. Here’s what I ate on both flights.

I was a bad travel blogger and didn’t take pics of the menus. And I don’t remember what the dishes were called. Don’t kill me. But here’s how it looked so you can get a sense of presentation.

a plate of food on a tray

Salmon starter, cheese, fruit crumble, and wine

a plate of food on a table

Chicken with artichoke and broccoli

a tray of food and drinks on a tray

Breakfast on the way home: pastries, fruit, yogurt, juice, and coffee

a plate of food on a table

Amuse bouche and nuts (and wine)

a plate of food on a tray

I wanna say this was sushi with mixed veggies as a side (it was good!)

a plate of food on a table

Chicken curry

a bowl of food on a table

Yummy dessert with rhubarb and strawberries

a plate with food on it

Mid-flight snack: a wrap with bean salad and fruit

a box of chocolates

Departure gift of Belgian chocolates… awwwww!

The food was “pretty good.” It didn’t blow me away, in terms of taste or presentation, really. However, the flight attendants were on the ball about serving meals as soon as we got to cruising. And were proactive about offering to wake us up for breakfast or let us sleep.

The wines were lovely. I tried a couple on each flight and found them all to be good. I tried to lay off the hard liquor during this trip, but did allow myself to try the red wines. They had a good selection of wines with different bodies and flavors, so I appreciated that.

Overall, not the best but certainly not the worst I’ve ever had on a plane: got the job done and the service was extremely efficient.

The service and experience

I liked my flights quite a lot. I watched “Lion” on the way over and cried at my seat when the film ended. The headphones were a bit tight and gave me a slight headache – and I have a small head lol. But nothing major.

The flight attendants there and back reminded me of intra-European Lufthansa service: to the point, no fluff, but very kind. They took their time explaining the menu and seat controls, so I never felt rushed or like they were out of reach. So it was a good level of service – not overbearing at all.

I was able to sleep for a few hours on the way over and back. I wore comfy pants and stowed my shoes in the little compartment. The cabin was only half full on both flights, so it was pretty peaceful. A really nice ambiance. If I’d paid retail price though, I think I’d expect a little more, from both hard and soft product.

Is it worth it now?

Look, 44,000 miles each way to Europe in Business Class isn’t bad. It’s not the steal it once was, but it’s still worth a looky-loo.

a screenshot of a phone

The 3 North American Brussels Airlines routes for 44K each way

The only downside is you can only get this price from:

  • New York (JFK)
  • Toronto
  • Washington, DC (IAD)
If you’re not in those cities, you’re on the hook for getting yourself there, which does add cost in either cash or miles. However, if you can find an open seat (searchable on United.com), I thought it was a breeze to book a seat with Etihad miles.

Considering some of you might be ready to burn Citi ThankYou points because of the upcoming changes to Prestige and AT&T Access More cards this month, remember you can also still book AA flights at pre-deval prices. Good luck finding an award seat, though!

Bottom line

Compared to Austrian, Lufthansa, and SWISS, I’d put Brussels somewhere in the middle: not the best and not the worst, but definitely belongs in the club. Considering the flights cost me next to nothing, I really can’t complain. But if I had it my way, I’d like a more spacious and/or longer seat, better pillows and blankets, and maybe a little “something more” with the food.

All that said, though: I’m glad I did it and I’d do it again. Still a great deal if you can get yourself to New York, Toronto, or Washington, DC. And it’s so easy to get from many places within Europe, either by train or plane, once you get to Brussels.

If you’ve experienced Brussels Airlines Business Class, how does your experience compare? Would you use your Citi ThankYou points for these flights? 

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. I have had the “pleasure” of flying Brussels many times from both JFK and YYZ and have to say that your experiences are not the norm. I have flown Biz on many airlines including SWISS, LH, United, Air Canada, Singapore and ANA and have to say that the service, food, and overall product was excellent. The cabin crew are VERY friendly and professional – better than United and a little friendlier than Lufthansa. The service was out of this world. The only airline that offers Kir Royale as a PBD in addition to the bubbly, oj, and water. What other airline gives you a full box of Belgian truffles as a thank you /departure gift?? Also, something I wish more airlines would do: Upon arrival at the gate, cabin crew held back all economy passengers until all the business class passengers had departed – a nice touch.

    You review the food service but don’t display ANY of the menus?
    The throne seats do have a tight footwell, try 1AK for less tight feel.
    The biz class seats are the same exact seats that are on SWISS & Austrian.

    One change that has occurred is that now Lufthansa owns Brussels outright and Brussels is now part of Eurowings Group (part of LH). But the airline will be operated independently.
    Perhaps you should take the flight again…?

    • Hi, Ric! Excellent insights!

      I feel bad about not taking pics of the food menus – no idea how that escaped me. 🙁

      Very happy to hear that Brussels Airlines ranks so highly in your personal list. I didn’t know that about being part of the Eurowings Group. I’d definitely love to return to Belgium one day, so it might just work out that I fly the airline again.

      Thanks for the tip about 1A and 1K – hopefully next time I’ll have a buddy in tow!

    • Thanks, Evan! 🙂

      When I saw this I was like whaaaat? because I only own one pair of sweatpants. These pants are a jean/cotton blend with a proper zipper and belt loops and all that good stuff. But I can see how they look like sweatpants from that image.

      This flight was overnight, so directly following dinner, the lights were out until morning. I def didn’t want to wear jeans or business pants and sleep in them for 6 or 7 hours, so went for something a lil more comfy. 🙂

      Thanks again for reading!

  2. I took that flight in 2017 – when I had a throne seat – with tiny foot cubby and it was terrible. My feet were claustrophobic and I hardly slept. I’m taking it tomorrow – and have seat 1K in both directions, so I hope that will be better. I find Boeing planes have much more comfortable flatbed seats than Airbus. Airbus’ are too hard. I don’t remember the food on my last trip – but I do remember the lovely chocolate.

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