- Brussels Airlines restarts inter-continental service on Monday
- First flight since March 22 attacks took off at 1:42 p.m.
Brussels Airport, struck by a terrorist attack almost two weeks ago, will see an acceleration of activity on Monday as its top carrier plans to reconnect the Belgian capital with New York City, the African continent and at least six major European cities.
After a slow start on Sunday with only three departing flights, Brussels Airlines NV has scheduled a late-morning flight to New York on April 4 and will resume services to Gambia, Senegal and Cameroon the same day, according to the flight schedule on its website. On Tuesday, the carrier plans 48 European departures from Brussels Airport and six inter-continental flights.
Tightened security and a makeshift check-in area set up after the March 22 bombing of the departures hall will restrict the airport’s outbound-flight capacity to about 800 passengers an hour, the equivalent of about six flights and less than 20 percent of the regular 5,000 an hour. Only eight of the 44 European flights scheduled by Brussels Airlines on Monday will take off from Brussels Airport, the majority still being redirected to regional airports in Liege and Antwerp.
“Even at reduced capacity, the re-opening is a sign of hope,” Brussels Airport Co. Chief Executive Officer Arnaud Feist told reporters in Zaventem on Saturday. “The flight offering and operational complexity will be gradually increased.”
The first flight since the attacks, a Brussels Airlines service to Faro, Portugal, took off at 1:42 p.m. local time from the Zaventem-based airport, according to news agency Belga. The only other flights on Sunday were a 3:55 p.m. flight to Athens and a 6:40 p.m. departure to Turin, Italy. All three aircraft will also return with passengers from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. local time.
For the flight to Faro, Brussels Airlines chose an Airbus A320 that had been renamed Magritte one day before the attacks. The plane was recently repainted to incorporate three works by the Belgian surrealist artist.
Feist said the airport plans to return to regular capacity by early July. The repairs to the departures hall will have to take into account more stringent security arrangements, with travelers and luggage undergoing checks before entering the building.
To be sure, the return to normal activity at Brussels Airport will face setbacks as the terror attacks could affect travel demand to the Belgian capital. Delta Air Lines Inc. said yesterday it will suspend flights between Brussels and its Atlanta hub until March 2017, citing weakening demand and continued uncertainty about the re-opening of the airport. Delta said it will maintain its service between New York-JFK and Brussels as soon as it gets airport approval to resume those flights.
Some of the most active carriers at Brussels Airport won’t immediately return to the airport after they redirected planes and crews to regional airports following the twin bombings that killed 32 people at the airport and a subway station in the city center.
Ryanair Holdings Plc, the airport’s second-biggest carrier, has shifted all Brussels flights to its Charleroi hub and said Thursday that it will keep all operations there until April 7 at least. TUI AG’s Jetairfly arm said flights will remain at Ostend in the north until April 10, and Thomas Cook Airlines will keep flying from Liege until April 11.