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Getting back to normal: Brussels Airport to reopen tomorrow

The flights will be largely symbolic.

A forensics officer works in front of the damaged Zaventem Airport terminal in Brussels.
A forensics officer works in front of the damaged Zaventem Airport terminal in Brussels.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

A PARTIAL, SYMBOLIC airline service will begin tomorrow at Brussels Airport after a 12-day shutdown of passenger service caused by a deadly bombing attack.

Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport, said the Brussels Airlines flights to Athens, Turin in Italy and Faro in Portugal, the first of which he said should take off around 2pm, were chiefly symbolic.

Effective Monday, Belgium’s biggest airport should be back at around 20% of capacity and able to process 800 passengers an hour.

It has been closed since devastating suicide bombings in the airport’s main terminal and a Brussels subway train killed 32 people and wounded 270 on 22 March.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Feist called it “a sign of hope” and a demonstration of “shared will” that even partial passenger service could resume so soon following what he called “the darkest days in the history of aviation in Belgium.”.

Belgian Federal Police spokesman Michael Jonniaux said new security measures have been ordered at the airport, including spot checks of vehicles before they arrive, the closing of a drop-off parking area outside the terminal, and the screening of all people, their ID and travel documents and baggage before they are allowed to enter the facility.

The bombers had been able to enter the airport’s check-in area with suitcases packed with high explosives and nails, and the resulting blasts collapsed the ceiling, shattered windows and caused great damage.

Until the terminal can be fully repaired, Feist said departing passengers will first enter a temporary structure erected on the tarmac, then go to a specially built area for check-in.

There will be no access by rail or public transport to the airport for the foreseeable future, he said.

Brussels Airport, which usually handled about 600 flights a day, served about 1.5 million people in February. Feist said he hopes full service can be restored by the end of June or beginning of July in time for the summer holiday season.

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Associated Press

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