Published on April 2nd, 2017 | by Brussels In View

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Brussels Airport on the ‘runway’ to recovery

Zaventem in fine shape after last year’s terror attacks. A year ago in March it was the scene of a deadly suicide attack, but Brussels Airport has bounced back.

 The airport was hit by Islamic State terrorists on 22 March 2016, along with the city’s Maelbeek metro station, a twin attack that killed 33 people and injured dozens more.

The attacks on Brussels hit the airport particularly badly. It handled 21.8 million passengers in 2016, down 7 % on record year 2015. The decrease was completely due to the attacks which meant the airport was closed for 12 days before only gradually resuming its operations.

Prior to the attacks the country’s national airport, was recording growth figures in passenger transport. After the attacks, no passenger flights were possible for nearly two weeks and flights only gradually resumed from early April to reach 100% capacity again in June.
But the recovery has been impressive, with record passenger traffic and new initiatives launched, partly to help give Brussels – and its airport – a ‘new’ image.

The airport, for example, recorded 1.5 million passengers for the first month of 2017, breaking past January records, and witnessed an exceptional 21% increase in cargo volume compared to January 2016.

Airport bosses have now launched the ‘Join the BRU Crew’ project, aimed at collecting feedback from travellers on what they feel is going well – and what could be improved upon – at the airport.

An airport spokesman said: ”We are taking these findings to heart and have
already implemented a number of changes, including the new free drop-off location, new parking concepts, more extensive signage and new locations for passengers to check in.”

Another innovative initiative is ‘Forum 2040’, a dialogue platform where a variety of stakeholders involved in the airport’s ‘Strategic Vision 2040’ will discuss its future. This will start in the second quarter of this year.

The airport has also introduced a new concept which allows people to park free of charge for 30 minutes using the Pcard+, enabling them to pick up and drop off passengers at a leisurely pace.

General signage in and around the car parks has also been improved while
additional self-service check-in machines on the rail and bus station levels have been installed.

Not all is entirely rosy, however.

Ryanair, for instance, has said it will not launch any new routes from Zaventem until a solution can be found to what it calls “ridiculous fines” for aircraft noise.

The Irish budget airline – Belgium’s biggest carrier with a 28% market share – says several of its new summer destinations which were intended for Zaventem will fly from Charleroi instead.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “We can’t take any risk until a solution is found. We chose not to go ahead because of these ridiculous fines and this stupid law.”

According to the airline, take-offs between 06.00 and 07.00 have attracted noise fines of €6,000 per flight.

However, despite such set backs, the airport is generally back on track and evidence of renewed confidence in its international standing came when it was chosen to host the annual Congress and General Meeting of ACI World and ACI Europe, the professional associations of airports worldwide, next year.

The airport will, in 2018, welcome the international airport community for a three-day congress.

The airport spokesman said: “This is a great honour and it is the first time our country has been awarded it. It will give a boost to both tourism and congress life in Brussels.”


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