Saturday, April 2, 2016

Brussels passenger flights resume April 3

Brussels Zanventem Airport (BRU), which was damaged by two terrorist bombs on March 22, will resume operations Sunday, April 3 with the departure of three symbolic passenger flights.

"These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack," Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company, said in a statement announcing the limited resumption of service. "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.”

Following Sunday's extremely limited service, the number of departing flights will be gradually increased over the next several days. Passenger flights will also return to BRU in a limited number.

Departing passengers will be use temporary facilities for check-in. Those facilities, which were constructed following the attack, leads to the screening platform in the Connector Building. From there, passengers will follow normal routing. Arriving passengers will follow the usual routing. Passengers will collect their luggage from the reclaim area and leave via the arrival hall which was only slightly damaged by the attacks and has since been repaired, airport officials said.

The airport is asking passengers to check in via their airlines' web sites if possible and print their reservation, ticket or boarding pass before coming to the airport. It also advises passengers to "travel light" and to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their scheduled departure time.

Although the temporary facilities were constructed quickly and the airport declared itself "operationally ready" to resume service March 31, concerns raised by Brussels police delayed the resumption of service.

Law enforcement officers were concerned with newly redesigned security measures at the airport and held a brief strike over those concerns that the security measures developed in the aftermath of the bombing were not stringent enough. Officers wanted metal detectors, body scanners and x-ray machines positioned so that passengers could be examined before entering the airport terminal.

Airport officials believed that would simply shift the location of the risk without reducing it in a meaningful way, but ultimately agreed to the police union’s demands for passengers to be checked before entering the terminal. According to BBC reports, the leader of the country’s largest police union says an agreement reached over the impasse provides for “systematic” checks of passengers and luggage entering the area.

The temporary measures put into place and tested earlier in the week will only be capable of handling approximately 20 percent of the airport’s usual passenger volume. Feist has said previously it will take months before the airport would be able to reopen fully.

Airport staff hailed as heroes

“I have heard dozens of stories from the fire services, from the operational teams, administrative staff and also from the airport police, about what they went through and saw”, Feist said. “With risk for their own lives, they fearlessly went inside to help others. I cannot call this anything but heroic, and I have the very deepest respect for these actions."

Feist added that courage, pride for Brussels Airport and persistence shown by workers in the days that followed the bombings makes him very hopeful for the future of our airport.

"[That] convinces me that we will emerge stronger than ever from this crisis,” he said.

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