Brussels Airlines restarts some flights using alternative airports

A service vehicle of Brussels Airport parked in front of an airplane of Brussels Airlines at Brussels Airport following twin blasts on March 22, 2016.
A service vehicle of Brussels Airport parked in front of an airplane of Brussels Airlines at Brussels Airport following twin blasts on March 22, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • Brussels Airlines restarted some commercial flights from Belgium, using the airports of Liege and Antwerp, while its main hub in the Belgian capital remains closed following Tuesday's attacks.

All hell broke loose at the Brussels Zaventem airport, which serves over 23 million passengers a year, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the departure area. The airport remains closed until further notice, forcing airlines to scramble to reroute over the busy Easter weekend.

"There is much damage and we do not have access to the building as the investigation is still under way," the airport posted on its Twitter account on yesterday.

Brussels Airlines, 45 per cent owned by Germany's Lufthansa, said it will not be able to operate a full schedule, given the smaller size of Liege and Antwerp. It ran just 15 short-haul aircraft and two long-haul planes yesterday, out of its fleet of 50, a spokesman said.

She added that the carrier is prioritising flights to popular holiday destinations in Spain, France and Italy over the Easter period. Brussels Airlines, which also serves many African destinations, sent five empty planes to Africa to transport passengers back and is rerouting two planes from Africa to Zurich.

Ryanair is making the most of Charleroi, about 48km from the Belgian capital and the site of the low- cost Irish carrier's first base in continental Europe. It is rerouting all its Brussels Zaventem flights through Charleroi until the end of next Tuesday. Smaller carriers like Vueling and Jetairfly, owned by TUI, are flying into Liege, Charleroi and Ostend. But capacity at Belgium's smaller airports is limited.

Lufthansa has cancelled all its flights to Brussels until next Tuesday and is putting passengers on buses for the 400km journey to and from its hub in Frankfurt.

Low-cost rival EasyJet is flying Brussels passengers to Lille in northern France, while British Airways cancelled its Brussels flights yesterday and is reviewing the situation for today.

With a combination of defiance, sadness and anger, people in Brussels tried to return to normality after the terrorist massacre.

The transport system in Brussels began to operate, with one of the two main subway lines reopening, and tram and bus services reinstated. Machine-gun wielding soldiers guarded subway entrances and searched commuters' bags and coats before they were allowed to travel, as a suspect in the bombings remained at large.

"You feel the tension in the air," said Ms Amelie Hubin, a 35-year- old beautician who was on her way to work. "The metro is closed and the people who are driving are stressed. It's worrying."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Brussels Airlines restarts some flights using alternative airports'. Print Edition | Subscribe