TORONTO — Brussels Airlines is getting ready for its first flight into Asia with the launch of a new Mumbai route starting March 29.
Last night in Toronto the airline promoted the route to agents and consolidators at an event held in partnership with India Tourism. “Everyone is looking to North America to be a big contributor to the success of the route, knowing the very big Indian community we have here in Toronto as well as New York,” said Christophe Allard, Director North America, Brussels Airlines.
“It’s a mind blowing city,” said Anil Oraw, Director, India Tourism, Toronto. When asked what the main selling points for Mumbai are, Oraw noted that “it’s the commercial capital of India, plus there are World Heritage sites like the Ghandi Museum and also religious diversity.” Oraw also pointed out that Mumbai is a big city for festivals and the capital of Bollywood.
Wildlife enthusiasts will also love Mumbai for its animal sightings. For example, there’s a good chance of spotting endangered tigers in the area as their population is growing in the province of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located.
And accessible via a short 45-minute flight is the alluring destination of Goa, making it easy for travellers to create a multi-city getaway.
Brussels Airlines’ new Mumbai service flies fives times a week from Toronto (via Brussels), giving clients a chance to have their stopover extended in the Belgium capital.
The flight schedule is as follows:
• SN552 Toronto (18:00) – Brussels (07:20 +1): Tues, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
• SN601 Brussels (10:45) – Mumbai (23:00): Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun
• SN602 Mumbai (01:05) – Brussels (07:15): Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat
• SN551 Brussels (10:45) – Toronto (13:00): Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
For Canadians, Brussels Airlines’ expansion may be somewhat surprising. With an extensive network through the African continent and now the addition of an India route, it might confuse some as to why the airline has seemingly focused on expansion to exotic destinations rather than within Europe. The answer: Diamonds.
“The importance of the diamond industry is huge in Belgium, with about 50% of the overall trade of diamonds in the world taking place in Brussels and the ‘diamond capital’ of Antwerp,” said Allard. “It’s a big industry and suddenly routes to Africa start to make sense to target corporate travellers and not just the leisure market.”
India, added Allard, is the second biggest player in the diamond industry, so it makes sense that Brussels Airlines will add it to its network.
The VFR market and corporate travellers are easy targets for the airline to focus on. So what about the leisure market? “The potential is big,” said Allard. “We have an extensive expertise of Africa, which is very much driven by the consolidation in Canada.” He added that the airline knows the consolidators, “we know the consolidation channel very well and we have a very good relationship with them. We understand through our Lufthansa Group partners that the India market is sold through that sales channel as well.
“So whether it is Africa or India, we are dealing and interacting with the same partners that know Brussels Airlines very well and I’m convinced they will push Brussels Airlines to India as much as they already do to Africa.”
To help the foster the relationship, the airline is planning a trip with consolidators, tour operators and agents in early May. “We are organizing a fam trip for early May together with India Tourism, but also the Belgium Tourism office and especially with Visit Flanders. We truly believe the leisure market and corporate driven markets would be very interested in discovering Belgium, not only as a transit point, but also as a potential stopover,” he said.
“It’s quite a long journey [to Mumbai] and we want to promote a stop-over of two to three days in Belgium and experience Flanders and Brussels.”
It was an important day for the airline, he added. “Today is the 22nd of March and it’s been one year since the Brussels airport attack. It’s something we look back with a lot of sadness, but also a lot of hope.”
Traffic from North America has developed very well and the destination is very much back on track again, he added. “We realize how resilient the North American market is. Now it’s very much the time for us to prove to the trade that everything is great and amazing in Brussels and it is definitely worth taking a trip and going there.”