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Home News Brussels Airport ‘is back’ says CEO, but much work awaits

Brussels Airport ‘is back’ says CEO, but much work awaits

Published on 03/04/2016

"We're back." Those were the words spoken by Brussels Airport chief executive Arnaud Feist on Sunday as he watched the first plane take off since the departure hall was wrecked in deadly Islamic State attacks on March 22.

But while a temporary check-in facility has allowed for a partial resumption of services at the key European travel hub, Feist told AFP that it will take months to repair the building.

Here are some key quotes from the interview:

Q: Why did it take 12 days for the airport to reopen?

Feist: “There was a lot of damage to the check-in desks and the air conditioning system was blown apart. There is much that needs to be repaired. The two piers (leading to the departure gates) were untouched, but the check-in area absolutely needs to be rebuilt. Our teams have worked day and night to set up a temporary structure so passengers can check in under conditions that are comfortable, I would say minimal, but at least they can depart.”

“We are at the first stage of a process and it will be months before we can return to full capacity at the airport.”

Q: Has the airport’s closure for 12 days inflicted a significant economic impact?

Feist: “Indeed. Brussels airport is the country’s second-largest economic engine. We have 20,000 people working here and the airport generates 60,000 jobs in total across the country. So it was essential for the Belgian economy that we restart as soon as possible.”

“We haven’t yet been able to determine exactly when we will be back at full capacity but the summer holidays, which start late June, early July, are very important to many Belgians going on holiday, so we will do our best to increase capacity by as much as possible by then.”

Q: What is airport morale like right now?

Feist: “There were many deaths but also many injuries (in the March 22 blasts, which also struck a metro station and killed 32 overall). Everyone here was really shocked by what happened. As well as the victims themselves, many of our colleagues lived through very, very painful scenes. So it was important to give them this moment of hope and say ‘look, we have reopened and we are standing strong’.”

“We are getting back to work and restarting some activities but I wouldn’t say things are ‘normal’ because the word normal doesn’t mean what it did 12 days ago. For many it’s also a part of the grieving process to return to the place where the attacks happened.”