First plane takes off from Brussels Airport

First plane belonging to Brussels Airlines takes off from Brussels Airport to Portuguese city of Faro following 12 day closure after DAESH suicide bombings

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

People take pictures of the first flight after the reopening of Brussels Airport, from Zaventem towards Faro, on April 3, 2016.

Updated Apr 3, 2016

A Brussels Airlines flight became the first plane on Sunday to take off from Brussels Airport to Portuguese city of Faro 12 days after its departure hall was wrecked when DAESH terrorists carried out suicide bombings

An emotional ceremony was organised at the airport and officials marked the departure with a minute of silence.

Passengers of the first three flights joined the airport's symbolic reopening on Sunday, they were asked to arrive at the airport three hours early. 

There will be far fewer flights than normal at the start of the reopening and tighter security measures will be in place, but the airport operator said the aim was to return to full capacity by summer.

The country's main airport has not handled passenger flights since two suspected DAESH terrorists carried out suicide attacks. Those bombs and a separate one on a metro train in the city killed 35 people, including the three bombers.

"Never will we forget this black day," the airport's chief executive Arnaud Feist told a news conference. "A restart of the operations even only partially as quick as this is a sign of hope.

Feist said the airport had planned three flights for the first day, to Faro, Athens and Turin, all operated by Brussels Airlines. The number of flights should increase over time.

A picture taken on April 3, 2016 at Brussels airport in Zaventem, shows a departure board on the airport's reopening day, nearly two weeks after the attacks by DAESH suicide bombers. (AFP)

The airport is one of the largest in Europe, handling 23.5 million passengers and 489,000 tonnes of freight annually. It links the Belgian capital, headquarters of the European Union and NATO, with 226 destinations worldwide through 77 different airlines.

With its temporary check-in zone, it will only be able to handle some 800 departing passengers per hour, around 20 percent of previous capacity.

The airport says it aims to return to maximum capacity before the start of the summer holidays, at the end of June or early July, with some check-in desks restored in the departure hall, followed by a full reopening of that space.

Initially, the airport will only be accessible by car.

Special cameras will be set up to read plate numbers, there will be random checks of vehicles and the drop-off zone will not be accessible.

Passengers and their baggage will be checked on arrival and there will be increased patrols of armed police and military.

Brussels Airlines, Belgium's largest carrier and 45 percent owned by Lufthansa, has estimated the closure of its Brussels hub is costing it 5 million euros ($5.7 million) per day.

TRTWorld and agencies