Brussels airport to reopen Sunday for limited number of flights
BRUSSELS — For the first time since deadly terrorist bombings rocked Brussels, the city’s main airport on Sunday will reopen to passengers — albeit to a very limited number of them.
Here’s what we know about this measured move toward normalcy, which will come 12 days after the March 22 bombings at the airport and the city’s subway system that killed 32 people and injured more than 300 others:
Only three flights are scheduled Sunday
The reopening of Brussels Airport will start with small steps: Only three Brussels Airlines flights — to Faro, Portugal; Turin, Italy; and Athens — will take off Sunday, airport CEO Arnaud Feist said Saturday.
“These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack,” Feist said.
No arrivals are planned Sunday. Departing and arriving passenger flights will be added in coming days, he said, but details about the pace were not released.
A flight schedule is in the works; the airport says the public should contact airlines or check the airport’s website for the latest.
Sunday’s departures may be the first commercial passenger flights since the attacks, but other planes have used the airport. Cargo flights resumed at the airport more than a week ago.
Damage has temporarily cut airport’s capacity
The airport’s reopening to passenger flights was always going to be gradual, in part because the bombings damaged a passenger check-in hall.
A temporary substitute check-in area has been arranged — one that can receive 800 departing passengers per hour.
But that’s only about 20 percent of normal capacity, the airport says.
Some flights won’t return anytime soon
Because of the limited capacity, some airlines won’t be able to resume all their flights at Brussels Airport.
“I am very well aware that not every airline can or wants to return to Brussels Airport,” Feist said. “I personally promise that Brussels Airport will do everything in its power to increase as quickly as possible the capacity of our airport.”
Delta is one airline that will cut a set of flights. Its Atlanta-Brussels route will be suspended until March 2017 “due to the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of Brussels airport and the weakening demand environment,” the airline said.
Delta will continue its service between Brussels and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, however.
Enhanced security means a longer wait
Saturday’s announcement comes after days of negotiations between airport and police officials on new security arrangements. For the first few days, the airport will be accessible only by automobile — not public transport buses or trains, Feist said.
There will be enhanced security measures at the entrance to the airport area and the new check-in space.
Because of the added security, passengers should arrive at least three hours before their scheduled departure, and people should have their identity papers “handy in the car and at the temporary check-in area,” the airport said.
Elsewhere in Belgium: arrest linked to French plot
Also Saturday, Belgian officials announced an arrest in one of the terror investigations connecting their nation and France.
The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced that investigators, who had been looking into last month’s arrest of a man allegedly plotting an attack in France, have detained and charged a 33-year-old man for being part of a terror group.
It’s not clear what exactly this man allegedly did, or even who he is. He’s identified only as a Belgian national with the initials Y.A. in the prosecutor’s news release.
His case is connected with that of Reda Kriket, a 32-year-old French citizen indicted on charges of criminal conspiracy in order to commit a terrorism act, possession of false documents, weapons possession and manufacturing of explosives.
French police arrested Kriket on March 24 in Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris, then raided an apartment not far away in Argenteuil. There, they found a large weapons cache and bomb-making materials, French Prosecutor Francois Molins has said.
Kriket was previously found guilty in absentia by a Belgian court and sentenced to 10 years in prison for being part of a jihadist network, according to Belgian court documents.
Authorities haven’t given any indication that Y.A. or Kriket had any direct involvement in the March 22 Brussels bombings.
Nor is any connection publicly known between these two men and the terror that struck Paris last November, which left 130 dead and hundreds more wounded.
Those attackers had close ties to Belgium, specifically in Brussels, where many of them had lived.AlertMe