Brussels Airport will reopen for the first time in 12 days, when suicide bombings killed 16 at the check-in area and 16 more at a city metro station.
The city remains on edge after the deadly terror attacks that injured hundreds the morning of March 22, 2016, but Brussels Airport CEO Arnaud Feist said the airport’s relaunch Sunday offers a sign of hope.
Yet it could take weeks, even months, for the airport to regain any sense of normalcy. Passengers will see several new security provisions, and only some airlines will have service in Brussels at first.
1. The airport will start with three flights within Europe before expanding service.
The airport is expected to resume operations with three “symbolic” flights run by Brussels Airlines to Faro, Portugal; Turin, Italy and Athens, according to a news release from the airport.
“These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack,” Feist said in a statement. “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.”
If all goes according to plan, the airport will resume operations for 800 departing passengers per hour —the most the airport can operate under its temporary construction. By next week, other airlines can schedule flights to and from the airport as well.
Before the attacks, the airport usually handled about 600 flights a day, the Associated Press reported.
2. Passengers should get to Brussels Airport at least three hours early.
With all the new security checks in place, passengers will want to arrive at least three hours before departure, airport officials said. Police have stops along the road to the airport terminal, at the check-in entrance and in the departure hall, among other areas.
Passengers can only get to the airport by car or taxi, so officials recommend planning accordingly and having travel documents ready.
The head of Brussels Airport said a limited number of passenger flights are planned to resume on Sunday, a little less than two weeks after two suicide bombers detonated explosives in the departure hall, killing and injuring dozens. (April 2) AP
3. The airport set up a mock check-in, added safety provisions before reopening.
About 800 workers conducted a test check-in event Tuesday to make sure the setup not only worked but also met code and fire safety regulations. Airport officials did not elaborate on the new security measures, but they said the changes were ordered by the government.
Officials got the go-ahead to resume limited operations Friday, but they postponed it to Sunday after airport police went on strike calling for tighter security. Instead of reopening at 20% capacity, airport officials decided to start with the three flights. They also agreed to include checking cars and passengers on the access road to the airport terminal, as well as document and security checks at the makeshift departure hall, according to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.
4. Some airlines are holding off on flights to Brussels.
While Brussels Airport is on track to resume at least partial service, some airlines aren’t following suit just yet. Japan’s ANA said it will continue to suspect flights to and from Brussels Airport until at least April 10, Reuters reported. The suspension affected 39 flights and up to 4,500 passengers.
Delta Air Lines suspended flights between Atlanta and Brussels until March 2017,citing uncertainty about the Brussels Airport’s reopening and lower demand. Dela officials added, however, that service between New York JFK and Brussels will continue, and passengers affected by the Atlanta suspension can make arrangements through Delta’s partners Air France and KLM.
Airport officials are coordinating with airlines to see which ones will return the soonest.
5. Brussels could fully reopen by July.
The airport staff started demolition on the damaged departure hall, but the full restoration and reopening could take months. Officials said they hope to reconstruct the departure hall in two stages, completing the project and restoring full operations by early July, according to the airport’s news release.
Airport officials did not elaborate on the type of repairs needed, except to say the first stage will focus on restoring several check-in desks and making sure they function properly. The second stage will involve tests and other measures to ensure the hall is ready to reopen. Officials have not released a timeline for this process.