Going boutique with Brussels
LAUNCH DATE: The roll-out of the first A330 featuring Brussels Airlines’ new ‘Boutique Hotel in the Air Experience’ began in April 2019 and will be completed fleet-wide by March 2020.
Brussels Airlines has added a unique Business class concept which includes a self-service bar featuring the best of Belgian design and gourmet cuisine. The Boutique Hotel Lounge Bar in the Sky, by Brussels Airlines, was created at limited cost through smart use of the space.
The concept team turned to the experience delivered by the finest boutique hotels as its inspiration for the new Business class. The goal was to address a key trend in Business travel: the growing demand for a more personal area dedicated to networking and sharing. The resulting walk-up ‘Belgian bar’ at the Door 2 boarding area, responds to this demand directly, as well as adding a ‘wow’ factor for all guests on boarding.
SAFRAN Cabin was selected for use after a thorough tendering process. The idea was to: offer an experience like that offered by the finest of boutique hotels; respond to demand for networking areas and sharing experiences; differentiate the Brussels Airlines C-class experience from the competition through unique design and function;and draw on the café culture that is Belgium’s trademark.
The self-service bar has been fully defined and customised by SAFRAN Cabin, with design direction from JPA Design. SAFRAN Cabin succeeded in creating a genuine lounge bar atmosphere, at the Door 2 area, where all guests board. This unexpected and attractive ‘lobby’ connects to the new Business cabin design and reflects the boutique hotel approach from the start.
The first ‘wow factor’ design elements come on boarding with two large LED-lighted wood panels welcoming the guests. The lighting atmosphere of the bar is enhanced with various mood lighting scenario and a unique Dôme light located on the pelmet ceiling. This features an Art Nouveau signature design, a distinctive and typically Belgian pattern, created especially for Brussels Airlines, and also seen on the ceiling of the award-winning Business Class lounge in Brussels, THE LOFT. The bar counter top uses the same birch-like wood style as is used for the lounge tables.
The self-service bar is structured around three distinct areas. It has an ambient area offering fresh fruits, wines from the airline’s award winning wine cellar and the premium gourmet signature product, the famous Belgian Neuhaus chocolates. There is a ‘From the fridge’ option allowing guests to enjoy a few glasses of white wine or some famous Belgian beers. And a choice of hot drinks, including a self-service Nespresso coffee machine, also available at the bar.
SAFRAN Cabin and JPA Design were briefed to redevelop the traditional galley at Door 2 and create a walk-up ‘Belgian bar’. The inspiration came from the Belgian bars of the home nation, which are great places for socialising and meeting new faces. The airline also wanted to create an obvious link with its award-winning lounge experience THE LOFT which passengers experience in Brussels. This was achieved by using the same light wood materials, mood lighting and Belgian identity signature with the Art Nouveau pattern which decorates the entire lounge ceiling.
The team was also keen to add surprise and ‘wow factors’ for the benefit of all guests when boarding, with limited CAPEX/OPEX impact, using the standard galley footprint space at the door, and without impacting on seat capacity. It needed a creative solution which would maintain the same level of storage capacity overall.
The bar is located at the rear of the Business cabin and presents a great opportunity for passengers to stretch their legs and enjoy some Belgian chocolate or have a cold or hot drink in between the meal service. It’s the ideal place to have private discussions too, ensuring the Business cabin itself remains quiet, which is much appreciated.
The crew communicates the opening times of the bar through tailored messages pushed to the screens of the Business guests, and as the bar is self-service the crew has more time to interact with guests.
The key goal of the concept was to create a unique bar experience embodying, in one location: the rich Belgian café culture, the unique Art Nouveau Belgian design trademark, and the traditional Belgian ‘joie de vivre’ naturally inspired by the country’s gourmet food and beverage highlights. The feature reflects something expected in a fine boutique hotel, especially in Belgium where this kind of café culture is so present.
The most innovative aspect of the ‘Belgian Café’ is that it has successfully created a unique product feature making the Business experience unique within the limited space and cost available and with no loading capacity loss.
A walk-up bar is a key differentiator in the competitive landscape, as there are only very few airlines featuring proper bars in Business. In addition, the Belgian café, with its wide range of premium products, creates many relevant connections between the onboard service, Belgian culture and the airline’s flagship lounge in Brussels. All fully-integrated in the onboard experience through the IFE screens.
The feedback from Business Class guests and crew has been extremely positive. The definition and implementation of the new bar has been driven by incredible teamwork between many enthusiastic teams: engineers from SAFRAN Cabin; staff from Brussels Airlines (engineering, product, crew and more); designers from JPA DESIGN. A 1/1 scale mock-up of the bar was even created by SAFRAN Cabin to allow the entire team to ensure all human interfaces would work well.
The bar allows passengers a more personal way to discover the famous beers of Belgium or great wines, and creates a more memorable flight experience. The seamless design experience, connects the onboard experience with the ground experience of the award-winning lounge, The Loft, and allows a tangible understanding of the airline’s Business cabin positioning as a ‘Boutique Hotel in the Air’.