Brussels airport reopened for the first time since the horrific March 22 terror attacks. The first passenger flight departed safely for Faro in Portugal on Sunday afternoon, “a symbolic step toward normalcy in the Belgian capital.”
As reported by CNN, the Brussels Airline flight was the first passenger plane to leave the stricken Zaventem airport since the attack by terrorist suicide bombers 12 days ago. ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack, which left 16 people dead. The bombings happened near the check-in desks, and the airport departure hall was virtually destroyed.
A train at the Maalbeek subway station was also attacked by a suicide bomber on the same day, leaving another 16 dead. Altogether 270 people were wounded in the two bombings.
As Brussels airport reopened and slowly got back to its usual operations, the airport CEO Arnaud Feist said the airport will definitely return to business as usual despite the ongoing terrorist threats.
“These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack.”
Cargo flights resumed at the Brussels airport “more than a week ago,” but passenger flights had to wait until discussions between police and airport security were complete. Passengers will use a temporary departure lounge, and only cars will be allowed to approach the airport, no buses or trains.
Cars and passengers will be screened on the road outside the airport, as well as inside the temporary departure lounge. Passengers are advised to arrive at least three hours before their departure. Details of additional security checks have not been released, although metal detectors will be used.
As well as the flight to Portugal, two more “symbolic” flights will depart Sunday, reports Sky News. The other flights will be to Athens, Greece, and Turin, Italy.
With Brussels airport reopened the flight schedule will gradually return to normal, with flights to New York City and parts of Africa leaving Monday. However, many flights are still being diverted to nearby airports. Passengers are also switching to train travel with “high-speed trains to and from Brussels… [reportedly] full.”
According to Feist, Brussels airport will be fully reopened by “June or July.”
“I am extremely grateful to all airport staff, federal police and the federal government for their efforts and commitment… that we are able to make this start only 12 days after the devastating attacks is a sign of our collective strength at Brussels Airport.”
Although Brussels airport reopened, not all airlines are keen to resume service into the airport, reports USA Today. Delta airlines has suspended flights into Brussels from its main hub Atlanta until 2017. Delta is not totally pulling out of Brussels, as the service “between New York JFK and Brussels will continue… passengers affected by the Atlanta suspension can make arrangements through Delta’s partners Air France and KLM.” Japan’s biggest airline, ANA, “will continue to suspect (sic) flights to and from Brussels Airport until at least April 10.”
Although Brussels airport reopened with the aim to provide a full service expected no later than July, repairs to the check-in desks and departure hall will probably take much longer.
Airport officials had hoped to resume flights Friday, but the reopening was moved to Sunday after a strike by the airport police, who wanted “tighter security.”
Brussels airport reopened with only the three European flights instead of the 20 per cent capacity, which was originally planned. Foreign airlines will be able to schedule flights to and from Brussels airport next week. The airport can only cope with “800 departing passengers per hour” because of the temporary repairs and increased security measures. The airports usual capacity is “around 600 flights per day.”
[Photo by Benoit Doppagne/AP Images]