Brussels, April 3 (IANS) Brussels Airport reopened on Sunday with three “symbolic” flights and strict additional checks for passengers, marking a new high-security era for air travel in Belgium after attacks by Islamic State suicide bombers.
The key travel hub has been closed since two men blew themselves up in the departure hall on March 22 in coordinated blasts that also struck a metro station in the Belgian capital, killing a total of 32 people.
A Brussels Airlines plane bound for the Portuguese city of Faro became the first to take off from the reopened airport.
Tearful employees and government officials marked the departure with a minute’s silence and a round of applause, while on the tarmac fire engines and police vehicles formed a guard of honour.
“We’re back,” Brussels Airport chief executive Arnaud Feist said after watching the plane take to the skies.
Two further flights, to Athens in Greece and Turin in Italy, were also scheduled for departure in what Feist called a “symbolic” reopening of the airport.
The same three planes were to return to Brussels with passengers later in the day.
The restart of the airport was hailed as the beginning of a return to normal for a traumatised country, but the shadow of the attacks loomed large.
Belgium’s main airport had not handled passenger flights since two suspected Islamic State militants carried out suicide attacks on March 22. The blasts and a separate attack on a metro train in the capital killed 32 people, as well as the three bombers.