Brussels, Apr 3: Brussels Airport reopens today with three “symbolic” flights and strict additional security checks for passengers, marking a new era for air travel in Belgium after attacks by Islamic State suicide bombers. The key travel hub has been closed since two men blew themselves up in the departure hall on March 22 in coordinated blasts that also struck a metro station in the Belgian capital, killing a total of 32 people. The attacks at the heart of Europe shocked the country and many hope the airport’s reopening, albeit in a limited capacity and using a tent-like temporary check-in facility, will help turn the page on this month’s traumatic events.(Also Read: Belgian authorities ban anti-Islamist rally in Brussels, expect clashes)
Brussels Airport chief executive Arnaud Feist yesterday said the partial resumption of services would start with three “symbolic passenger flights” to Faro, Athens and Turin. “These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack,” Feist said. Tough new checks will be in place after police threatened to go on strike if security wasn’t improved, and travellers have been asked to come in three hours before departure time. One of the biggest changes will be that only passengers with tickets and ID documents will be allowed into the makeshift departure hall, and their bags will be checked before entering. Once inside, passengers will also undergo the usual security checks.
The airport will initially only be accessible by car. Vehicles will be screened and subject to spot checks, while extra police and soldiers will be on patrol throughout the airport zone. The first flight will leave for Faro at 1140 GMT, and the number taking off will increase in the coming days. Still, the airport will be only be able to work at 20 percent capacity using the temporary facilities, handling 800 to 1,000 passengers an hour. Feist said the reconstruction of the departure hall will take months. The damage was severe, with images from the scene showing the building’s glass-fronted facade in shatters, collapsed ceilings and destroyed check-in desks.