Brussels reopens airport following deadly terrorist attacks

Brussels authorities announced that just 12 days after last month’s deadly terror attacks the airport will reopen. Only three flights will be allowed to depart on Sunday, as the airport slowly returns to its regular operation following the March 22 bombings. The scheduled flights will depart for Portugal, Italy and Greece. Airport officials do not have any arrivals scheduled. The move comes after days of negotiations between airport and police officials on new security arrangements.

Currently, security only allows access to the airport by car and not by public transportation. Cargo flights resumed last week. Airport officials recommend arriving to the airport three hours before their departure because of the enhanced security measures. The reopening of the facility comes a day after police arrested 140 people for attending illegal demonstrations and gatherings in the city.

City officials had made an order prohibiting demonstrations in Brussels this weekend after a far-right group announced plans to hold an anti-Islam rally on Saturday in Molenbeek, a heavily immigrant neighborhood with links to a number of attackers in recent terror plots. In response, an anti-racism group called for a counter-demonstration in the same neighborhood. Police said arrests were also made at a gathering in Place de la Bourse in central Brussels, which has become home to an unofficial memorial commemorating the victims of the terror attacks. 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.” 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

About 800 workers conducted a test check-in event Tuesday to make sure the setup not only worked but also met code and fire safety regulations. Airport officials did not elaborate on the new security measures, but they said the changes were ordered by the government. Officials got the go-ahead to resume limited operations Friday, but they postponed it to Sunday after airport police went on strike calling for tighter security. Instead of reopening at 20% capacity, airport officials decided to start with the three flights.

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