Europe

Brussels attacks: Flights resume at Zaventem airport

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Media captionThe first plane's take-off was greeted by applause

Brussels airport has reopened for three flights amid tight security controls, 12 days after an attack by suicide bombers killed 16 people there.

Three Brussels Airlines flights departed for Faro in Portugal, Turin in northern Italy and Athens.

Passengers were screened on an approach road and again before check in.

Attacks on the airport and a Brussels metro station by so-called Islamic State on 22 March left 32 people dead.

Airport workers gathered at Zaventem to watch the first flight take off.

A passenger on the Athens flight, Loukas Bassoukos, told Agence France-Presse it was "a bit weird".

"So many people died here. But I think we can overcome this. I think we slowly have to start trusting the security controls," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Enhanced security and checks greeted the first travellers using Brussels airport after it reopened
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The three flights taking off on Sunday represent a tiny fraction of the airport's normal daily workload
Image copyright AP
Image caption The authorities say their priority is security, not comfort
Image copyright AFP
Image caption People watched as the first flight out of the reopened airport left for Faro
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The airport hopes to be back up to full capacity in time for the summer holidays

Airport chief executive Arnaud Feist said: "These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack."

Brussels Airlines has estimated the closure of its hub has been costing it €5m ($5.7m) a day.

The stringent new security checks were put in place after police threatened to go on strike if measures were not improved.

Passengers were asked to arrive three hours before their flight departure time. They were only able to get to the airport by car or taxi - the terminal is still closed to trains and buses.

Under the new security arrangements:

  • vehicles and passengers travelling to the temporary departures area will be screened on the access road. Special cameras will check number plates
  • an additional police check and ID and boarding pass check will take place at the entrance to the temporary departures area. Those not flying will not be allowed in
  • passengers will then proceed towards the departure gates, undergoing the usual access and security controls
Image caption Brussels airport posted details of the new arrangements on its website

Late on Friday, Belgian officials reached a deal with police unions on enhanced security at the airport.

Mr Feist said he hoped the airport would get back up to full capacity in time for the start of the summer holidays at the end of June.

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