Brussels Airport likely to reopen on Sunday as police demand tighter security measures
Brussels main airport is likely to reopen on Sunday following the March 22 bomb attacks, as officials agreed that all passengers would be screened on arrival, authorities said on Friday.
The airport has not handled passenger flights since two suspected DAESH members carried out the suicide attacks. Those bombs and a separate one on a metro train in the city killed 35 people and wounded many others.
The airport, whose departure hall was destroyed in the blasts, has built a temporary check-in zone, conducted tests and has declared itself ready to restart flights, with a provisional restart set for Friday evening.
However, airport security officials threatened to strike over what they described as lax security measures. The deadlock was only broken after talks between police union leaders and the government on Friday evening.
"We have reached agreement with the prime minister and the interior minister," Jan Adam, a leader of the ACV Politie union. "I envisage that the airport would reopen on Sunday."
Belgium police wanted passengers to be screened outside the new departure zone. But the airport authorities said this would mean passengers would be waiting too long and this would only shift the security threat from inside to the outside area.
Adam said all passengers would be checked on arrival.
"It's important to find the right balance between economic interests and security interests," Defence Minister Steven Vandeput told Belgian television.
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 per day.
Brussels association of hotel operators pointed to the closed airport as one of the main reasons for a more than 50 percent drop in overnight stays up to March 28.
"The outlook is bad but it depends on the complete reopening of the airport," a spokesman for the Brussels Hotel Association said.
When it does reopen it is set to offer service at only 20 percent capacity, with some 800 passengers departing per hour.
Brussels Airport is one of the largest airports in Europe, receiving 23.5 million passengers and 489,000 tonnes of freight annually. It connects the Belgian capital with 226 destinations worldwide through 77 different airlines.