KLM Riles Belgian Leader With Post-Terror Train-to-Plane Freebie

  • Not `fair play,' Michel says of free rides to Dutch airport
  • KLM says offer not new, airs ads due to Brussels capacity cuts

Belgium’s prime minister lashed out at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for offering free train tickets to Amsterdam to lure passengers away from the bomb-crippled Brussels airport.

A month after the Brussels terrorist attacks, Prime Minister Charles Michel said the freebies touted in Belgian radio commercials play on unjustified fears over security at Belgium’s main air gateway.

“I don’t see that as fair play, I don’t see it as appropriate,” Michel told Canvas television late Thursday. “I deplore this initiative.”

KLM, the Dutch unit of Air France-KLM Group, said it has offered the train-to-the-plane package for years and decided on this year’s publicity campaign because it has had to cancel three of its five daily flights from Brussels to Amsterdam.

Schiphol Airport

KLM’s hub at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is about two hours by train north of Brussels and Air France’s home in Paris an hour to the south, making both airports easy to get to from Belgium.

“Our Belgian customers should be able to fly,” said Gedi Schrijver, a KLM spokeswoman. “We have a really good product for Belgian customers to reach Schiphol by train.”

The death toll in the March 22 bombings at Brussels airport and a downtown subway station stands at 32. Belgium has caught the two known living accomplices of the three suicide bombers, while maintaining the terror threat level at three on a scale of four.

Brussels airport is now handling 450 flights a day, about two-thirds the normal level. Police are screening cars on the approach roads. Trains were due to start running to the airport, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from central Brussels, again on Friday.

Critical Report

Michel, who forced out his transport minister for suppressing a critical report about airport security, said an “unfair” impression has been created about flying in and out of Brussels.

Belgium will assign an additional 200 police officers to airport duty, and is considering installing vehicle scanners to monitor traffic heading to the terminal, he said.

Airport spokeswoman Florence Muls had no comment on a VTM report that one of the suicide bombers, Najim Laachraoui, worked for five years on a temporary contract for a company on the airport site.

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