Brussels Airport reopens with three flights, tighter security
BRUSSELS – Agence France-PresseBrussels Airport reopened April 3 with three “symbolic” flights and strict additional checks for passengers, marking a new high-security era for air travel in Belgium after attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) 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 35 people.
The attacks at the heart of Europe shocked the country and many hope the airport’s reopening, even on a limited scale, will help turn the page on the traumatic events.
Heavily armed police and soldiers manned the access roads to the airport, ushering the first passengers into the large white tents serving as a temporary check-in facility, AFP reporters saw.
There was also a strong security presence inside the tents, where travelers, who have been asked to arrive three hours before their flight, walked through metal detectors and had their bags screened.
The airport’s modest resumption of services began with what Brussels Airport chief executive Arnaud Feist called three “symbolic passenger flights” to the Portuguese city of Faro, Athens, and Turin in Italy.
“These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack,” Feist said on the eve of the restart.
The same planes were to fly back to Brussels with passengers later in the day.
Loukas Bassoukos, a 20-year-old IT student who arrived early for his flight to Athens later on April 3, said it felt “a bit weird” to be among the first to return to the airport.
“So many people died here,” he told AFP. “But I think we can overcome this. I think we slowly have to start trusting the security controls.”
Under the new system, only passengers with tickets and ID documents are allowed into the makeshift departure hall, and all bags will be checked before entering. Once inside, travelers will still have to go past the usual security barriers.