While the Sukhoi Superjet seemed like an ideal replacement for Brussels Airlines’ aging fleet of British Aerospace Avro RJ100s, problems with availability of spare parts among others meant that the airline decided to stop using it sooner than it originally planned.
In fact, the last Brussels Airlines flight operated by the SSJ took place on January 7, 2019, less than two years after it was first introduced into the airline’s fleet through a wet-lease agreement with CityJet.
As such, I was glad to catch it less than a week before retirement on a short hop from Brussels to Basel – one of the routes that it operated consistently (together with Birmingham and Billund, and Bologna) in its last weeks of service.
Boarding the Brussels Airlines Sukhoi Superjet
I flew from Berlin to Brussels on a Brussels Airlines A320 and visited the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History before heading back to the airport around 1PM.
I left the lounge ten minutes before the scheduled boarding time of 2:55PM.
When I got to the departure gate, A46, I was happy to find a Sukhoi Superjet registered EI-FWF there (and not some replacement aircraft). I was also glad it was one of the aircraft wearing the Brussels Airlines livery rather than the CityJet livery.
Even a couple of minutes after the scheduled boarding time, there was still no staff at the gate, and so I started wondering whether the flight would be delayed. Or, even worse, whether the aircraft had some technical problem and we would be flying on a different type.
Luckily, the gate staff showed up around 3PM, and a couple of minutes later, boarding started.
Onboard, I was welcomed by one of the two flight attendants, and I headed down the aisle to my window seat, 7A.
The aircraft was equipped in a “2-3” configuration and featured comfortable leather seats with decent legroom. One thing that caught my attention was the flight attendant call button design which had a bit of a Russian flair to it.
Also, while the cabin crew uniforms, headrest covers, in-flight magazines, and shopping catalogues were Brussels Airlines-branded, the safety card was CityJet-branded.
Departing Brussels Bound for Basel
Boarding was completed at 3:15PM, and three minutes later, the captain welcomed us onboard over the PA and informed us that the flight time would be 40 to 45 minutes and that it was cloudy in Basel. He also wished us “a very pleasant flight.”
The aircraft doors were armed at 3:19PM after which the cabin crew performed a manual safety demonstration.
We were pushed back at 3:23PM – two minutes ahead of schedule – at which point the fairly loud engines were started as well. Then, we made our way to runway 25R from which we took off very steeply at 3:32PM after a twenty-second take-off run.
Seconds after take-off, we made a left turn and entered clouds. As we were climbing, I couldn’t help but notice that the rate of climb was quite slow while the engine noise was quite loud.
Cruising Towards Basel
Seatbelt signs were switched off at 3:36PM, just four minutes after take-off, at which point the service started.
Just like on my flight from Berlin to Brussels, there was no free drink or meal service, but there was a buy-on-board menu. Given that the flight was less than an hour long, I didn’t purchase anything.
Landing at EuroAirport
We started our descent towards Basel airport at 3:52PM. Around the same time, one of the flight attendants went around the cabin offering chocolates – something I found to be a nice touch and that wasn’t done on the flight I took earlier that day.
The seatbelt signs were switched back on at 4PM – less than twenty-five minutes after they were switched off – and just a few minutes later, the cabin crew was asked to prepare the cabin for landing.
The pilots extended the aircraft’s landing gear at 4:10PM, and two minutes later we landed on EuroAirport’s runway 15.
After exiting the runway, we followed a follow me car to parking spot 12A which we reached at 4:17PM – eight minutes ahead of schedule.
I waited for everyone to disembark (and so did one more aviation enthusiast onboard) so that I could take some cabin photos. I was also able to visit the cockpit briefly and chat with the captain a bit.
Among other things, he mentioned that it was his last flight on the type and he would be switching over to Bombardier CRJ.
Once I got off the aircraft, I walked over to the terminal while chatting with the aviation enthusiast who happened to be from the United States and was – just like me – happy to have been able to catch the SSJ just few days before its retirement.
In the terminal, we were both surprised to find ourselves standing at the end of a fairly long line at a passport control that we thought would not be there – after all we were flying within Schengen.
Brussels Airlines Sukhoi Superjet Summary
Given that Sukhoi doesn’t have an extensive network of spare parts suppliers like Airbus or Boeing, it is understandable that Brussels Airlines decided to get rid of the aircraft earlier than it originally intended.
However, as an aviation enthusiast, I am sad to see another aircraft type disappearing (hopefully temporarily until Adria Airways receives them) from the European (excluding Russian) skies.
Aside from the higher than usual noise, I found the aircraft to be comfortable and Brussels Airlines’ service to be adequate for a flight that short.