Bernard Gustin, Chief Executive Officer, Brussels Airlines
11 September 2017
In 2008 Bernard Gustin was appointed co-CEO of Brussels Airlines. During his first year he concluded the partnership between Brussels Airlines and the Lufthansa Group and led the entry of the Belgian airline into the global airline partnership Star Alliance. Since June 1st 2012, Bernard Gustin is the sole CEO heading Brussels Airlines.
“Challenges exist to be overcome.”
What is the most memorable moment from your five years as CEO at Brussels Airlines?
That’s a difficult one, as there are many moments I will never forget, like when we opened our first US destination in 2012. The launch of New York represents a very important milestone in our history. But also the opening of Washington one year later and of Mumbai this year will definitely remain in my memories. Another period I will never be able to forget is the exemplary reaction of all Brussels Airlines staff during the Ebola crisis and in the aftermath of the Brussels attacks of March 22nd. These are for sure moments that have deeply marked me as a person and as CEO.
If you could only choose 3 words to describe the airline, which would you pick?
Extra smile – Human-sized – Africa
What has been the biggest change at the airline over the last year?
Well, I guess that you would expect me to say that this would be the 100% acquisition of our company by Lufthansa, but even if this certainly represents a key-milestone for our company, it’s actually also “only” a reinforcement of an already long-lasting and successful partnership. It allows us however to further build on our strengths and to work on our weaknesses, as we can now, as a 100% Lufthansa Group member, count on the strong Lufthansa-Tiger in our engine. That same Tiger actually allowed this year to decide on the renewal of our Airbus long-haul fleet, by buying seven Airbus A330 CEOs. Needless to say that this really is a huge change for our company. It’s not only that we go for a newer aircraft generation, but also because for the first time we don’t lease our aircraft but buy them.
What is your go-to anecdote from your time in aviation?
Never be satisfied with the status quo and challenge old traditions – and there are many in aviation.
I very often make reference to a quote of Winston Churchill that emphasizes on the fact that challenges exist to be overcome: “Everybody said it was impossible. One day, a man came. He was not aware and did it”. The aviation industry is from my point of view one of the most attractive industries, but it’s also industry that often lives too much “in the past” and that is far too airline-centric and not enough customer oriented. Just like the FMCG industry, aviation needs to be more consumer-minded and break with traditions.
What does the future hold for Brussels Airlines?
Well it very much depends on us. The future lies in our own hands. In the last three years we have proven that despite having what I call the Champions League of low-cost airlines at our home base at Brussels Airport, we were and still are able to increase our market-share and fuel our growth. That means that we are on the right path – even though we are for sure not there where we want and need to be, but we are working hard on our sustainable growth for the future.
Bernard will be speaking at Accelerate: Aviation 2017 this November, joining the