Lars Redeligx, Chief Commercial Officer, Brussels Airlines, in conversation with Ross Falconer.
Brussels Airlines is implementing a new strategy built on innovation. Introduced last September, this new market focus responds to consumer demand for more choice and is designed to position it as a hybrid no-compromise airline – the aim being to ensure both competitive pricing and a high quality of service.
In conversation with Airport Business, Lars Redeligx, Chief Commercial Officer, Brussels Airlines, is candid about both the challenges and opportunities facing the carrier. He joined the company two-and-a-half years ago, having previously been with Lufthansa, and is driving a progressive strategy that is delivering results.
Brussels Airlines operates a fleet of 49 aircraft and 300 daily flights, connecting the capital of Europe to over 90 destinations in Europe, Africa and the US. It carried 6.7 million passengers in 2014 and Redeligx has a clear goal to pass the seven million mark in 2015. The results so far are positive. 4.6% passenger growth was achieved in January, followed by 10.7% growth in February. This positive trend is mainly the result of increased traffic on the European network.
“We’re building the new Brussels Airlines by changing the business model and positioning. The big success factors are low fares and a great service offer – customers like this,” Redeligx enthused.
Indeed, the airline’s response to consumer demand really centres on increased flexibility and choice. There are four travel products developed for those travelling within Europe: Check&Go, which is aimed at the price-sensitive consumer travelling without checked baggage; Light&Relax, which aims to offer value for money, while also allowing checked baggage and the ability to select a seat; Flex&Fast, which is aimed at business travellers and includes check-in priority and fast-track security; and Bizz&Class – a premium service, including lounge access, a fine dining experience onboard, increased baggage allowance, and a free middle seat.
Redeligx speaks passionately about this diversity of offer, explaining that it resulted from a year of research. “Our new positioning is unique, no other airline operating out of Brussels Airport offers as many options as Brussels Airlines. Our guests don’t need to compromise between price and quality, we offer them a competitive price and a quality service.”
Innovation and competition
Brussels Airlines is part of the Lufthansa Group and a member of Star Alliance. “We’re a very happy member of Lufthansa Group, working together with them on many areas, including network, sales and procurement,” Redeligx commented. “Ultimately all network decisions are made by us, though we work closely to coordinate with Lufthansa and look for synergies.”
Several new routes are being launched this summer, including Billund, Bordeaux, St Petersburg, Dubrovnik, Lourdes, Olbia and Calvi. There is, of course, strong competition from the low-cost carriers (LCCs) at Brussels Airport, and this has heightened with the intense competition between players like Ryanair and Vueling at BRU. “It’s fair to say that this has further increased competitiveness. It’s a wonderful time for passengers, and we see it in our yields,” Redeligx acknowledged. “But what we’re able to do is grow strongly on the passenger side and increase our load factors.”
There is a clearly defined focus on expanding the leisure offer for the Belgian market. This is, Redeligx explained, the key to continued growth, as 60% of demand in the Belgian market is for leisure travel. On the very day of our discussion, Brussels Airlines announced two new leisure routes to Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Interestingly, the carrier also recently announced an expansion of its strategic partnership with Thomas Cook. “This partnership is a perfect match, as it allows us to offer even more holiday destinations to the Belgian market on the one hand, and to innovate with new attractive travel products on the other hand, like our b.family product,” Redeligx explained.
The b.family product is a package, free of charge to families, that is designed to make travelling with children easier. Features include discounted fares and parking, and priority boarding. Launched only a few months ago it has received a “fantastic reaction from passengers”. “Innovation is at the heart of what we do and comes from two dimensions – we have to offer quality products, with a cost base that’s competitive with the LCCs,” Redeligx added.
Our conversation showed that Brussels Airlines is agile in responding both to the competitive pressures of the LCCs, and to traveller desires for an innovative and expanded offer.