Friday

24th May 2019

Belgian airport to resume flights

  • Brussels Airlines, which has been losing up to €5mn a day, warned that the first flights might be empty (Photo: Reuters)

Belgium’s national airport plans to resume its first flights on Thursday (31 March) since the 22 March attacks, but its CEO has warned that it will take “months” to get back to normal operations.

Arnaud Feist, the airport director, told Belgian media in a series of interviews published on Wednesday that it would reopen with a capacity of 800 to 1,000 passengers per hour instead of the usual 5,000 per hour.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Metro system running at just over half of capacity one week after the attacks (Photo: Eric Maurice)

He said preferential treatment would be given to flights inside the EU’s Schengen passport-free zone and to Africa, with Brussels Airlines, the national carrier, to take up most of the initial availability.

He noted that the airport had installed a temporary structure, using prefabricated units, to cover up the damage.

He said luggage would have to be transported from the departures hall by hand for the time being and that it was still unclear if the car parks, where up to 700 vehicles remain stranded after last week’s attacks, would reopen.

“Although the structure of the [departures] building is intact, it will all have to be rebuilt, from the air conditioning to the check-in desks,” he said.

“We must be sure that it is technically running well and that everything can proceed safely for both passengers and staff. Only if the government gives the green light, we start [operations].

"Afterwards, we go step by step, as parts of the damaged terminal can be returned to service, increasing our capacity. But that will be a process of months.”

He said Belgian firms had showed “huge solidarity”, with one offering to replace damaged windows for free and with another offering free food to airport staff.

Feist added that in the long term the airport wouldn’t suffer loss of business.

“I have not heard any airline that does not want to come here [any more],” he said.

Bernard Gustin, the head of Brussels Airlines, said in a separate interview with Belgian daily L’Echo that his company had lost €5 million a day since the airport closed.

He said the first flights might be empty but would have “symbolic” value and that he expected the planes to fill up quickly.

Belgian authorities said on Tuesday that 32 people had died in the attacks, when two suicide bombers detonated explosives at the airport and a third man blew himself up in a metro station in the city’s EU district.

It had earlier said the death toll was 35, but then revised its figures. It said 96 people were still in hospital, about a third of whom were being treated for burns injuries.

At least 16 out of the 32 deceased were Belgian nationals. The three suicide attackers are not being counted among the victims.

A third target may have been the Belgian PM’s office, on the Rue de la Loi near to the US embassy to the EU, Belgian police said, referring to data found in a computer which had been abandoned by one of the attackers.

The Brussels metro system is also running at below full capacity, with trains operating between 7AM and 7PM and stopping at 39 out of the system’s 69 stations only.

The performance of Belgium’s security services and EU security cooperation more broadly have come under scrutiny since the attacks.

In the latest twist, Belgian authorities on Tuesday released a terrorist suspect, named in Belgian media as Faycal Cheffou, for lack of evidence.

Dutch authorities also confirmed that the US law enforcement agency, the FBI, had warned them that Belgian authorities were seeking the arrest of Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Khalid El Bakraoui - two brothers who carried out suicide attacks in Brussels - less than one week prior to the blast.

Turkey had deported Ibrahim El Bakraoui to The Netherlands last July amid warnings that he might constitute a terrorist threat. But Dutch airport authorities let him go because he wasn’t on an official blacklist.

Koen Geens, Belgium’s justice minister, who last week offered his resignation, defended police and intelligence services in a Belgian parliament debate on Tuesday.

He said: “Stop repeating that we were guility of gross failures. It’s out of place given what we managed to deliver.”

He also urged Belgium’s regions to stop infighting after Yvan Mayeur, the left-wing and French-speaking mayor of Brussels, accused the interior minister, Jan Jambon, a Flemish nationalist, of not doing enough to stop Flemish skinheads from disrupting a memorial service in Brussels at the weekend.

“It is not the image of Brussels that has been tainted by Sunday’s events ... it is Flanders that has come to taint Brussels with its extremists,” Mayeur said.

Thugs disrupt Brussels memorial service

The arrival of several hundred Belgian hooligans at a memorial for victims of last week's attacks were met by locals who shouted slogans in support of immigrants.

Belgium is no failed state, says PM

In a press conference designed to restore his country's image two weeks after the attacks, Charles Michel said that security is efficient and that Brussels is a welcoming place.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

EU justice 'barometer' hindered by data gaps

Some member states continue to impede the European Commission's annual attempt to define the state of Europe's justice system, by not providing data on their national situations.

News in Brief

  1. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  2. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal
  3. UK sacked defence secretary backs Johnson for leader
  4. Dutch voter turnout so far slightly down on 2014
  5. Report: Hungary's Fidesz 'bought' Belgian official
  6. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  7. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  8. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Polling booths open in UK's limbo EU election
  2. Dutch PM puts EU exit on agenda with election gamble
  3. EU development aid used to put European police in Senegal
  4. EU should stop an insane US-Iran war
  5. EU faces moment of truth at midnight on Sunday
  6. Dutch MPs: EU sanctions should bear Magnitsky name
  7. Far-right hate speech flooded Facebook ahead of EU vote
  8. Key details on how Europeans will vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us