Brussels Airlines will not disappear…and long-haul low-costs are struggling

Contrary to what was planned, Brussels Airlines will not disappear to be integrated into Eurowings. This about-face by Lufthansa Group says a lot about the future of long-haul low-cost carriers, at least for those of the legacy airlines.

Something intrigued us during the presentation of the very nice new cabin of Brussels Airlines: Lufthansa Group had indeed announced for a long time that the Belgian airline would be integrated into its low-cost subsidiary Eurowings. Some planes had already started to be repainted in the new colors and transferred to the low cost airline. In this context, we wondered why we should invest in a new premium cabin and a fortiori in a business class one for a brand and a positioning destined to disappear.

Brussels Airlines will not join Eurowings

We thought we had an initial answer. The historical specialty of Brussels Airlines is Africa because of obvious historical ties. And for these same historical reasons, the rights to fly to these destinations are obviously not held by the airline but by the State. They would therefore not be part of the airline’s assets that could be transferred to another airline, but the property of a sovereign state which logically has no desire to see its preserve transferred to a foreign low-cost airline when it can be seen as an element of sovereignty, and a tool for its diplomacy and economy.

So we thought that if the medium-haul network was going to be transferred to Eurowings, it might well be more complicated for the long-haul network and that at least the African network would remain under the Belgian flag.

Lufthansa Group finally backed down completely, announcing that Brussels Airlines would remain independent and that Eurowings would abandon its long-haul ambitions to focus on medium-haul.

Another piece of good news for Brussels Airlines: the airline, which was considered a “sub-airline” with an uncertain destiny within the Lufthansa Group, will now be “aligned” with its sisters Lufhtansa, Swiss and Austrian. Considering the nice product that was presented to us the other day, I even expect a premiumization of the Belgian airline and it is well deserved.

Long-haul low-cost airlines are not on the rise

Behind this announcement is perhaps also a cold and lucid observation: long-haul low cost does not work. At least not for the historical airlines.

So here we have the aborted project of Lufthansa Group in the long-haul low-cost business. Before it, Air France had also put an end to the Joon experiment, but it can be said that this is not the right example, as the concept and positioning of Joon were so nebulous and unreadable.

Today, at IAG, LEVEL seems to be doing well but no decision has been made about its future.

It is said that one is born now lost, that one does not become low cot. This is true in most cases, but we notice that long-haul low-cost airlines are struggling to take off.

Primera Air and Wow no longer exist and if we talk less about Norwegian’s problems it does not mean that the airline is out of its difficulties, far from it, its situation being even aggravated by the problems encountered by the Boeing 737 MAX.

For the legacy airlines, however, the lesson seems clear: let them refocus on what they do well and stop violating their DNA and culture. As for the “native” low-cost carriers, it will take some time to find out if they still need to improve their model or if it is simply not (or no longer) viable.

Photo : A319 Brussels Airlines by kamilpetran via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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