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Brussels attacks: Latest travel advice following deadly blasts at Zaventem airport and Metro station

Zaventem airport 'is closed until further notice', disrupting travel for an estimated 60,000 passengers

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 22 March 2016 10:49 GMT
Belgian police officers stand guard at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem,
Belgian police officers stand guard at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, (AFP)

The skeleton service that operated on 23 March on the Brussels Metro system shut down at 7pm that evening - an indication that restoring normal life to the Belgian capital will be a slow and difficult process.

Eurostar trains from London St Pancras are running a normal service, though passengers booked to travel up to 29 March are able to postpone their journeys without penalty.

The city’s main airport at Zaventem will remain closed to passenger flights on 24 March, disrupting travel for an estimated 60,000 passengers. In a newly-released statement, the airport said: “Because the forensic investigation is still under way, we currently have no access to the building. Until we can assess the damage, it remains unclear when we can resume operations.”

Brussels Airlines, the main carrier, said: “The airport is closed until further notice.“ The airline has vowed to “get back to normal operations as quickly as possible,” but added: “Due to difficult operational circumstances, delays and/or cancellations during the following days cannot be excluded.”

The airline is offering full refunds to any passenger booked to travel up to 28 March.

Ryanair switched all its flights that would normally serve Brussels Zaventem to the capital’s secondary airport, Charleroi. The airline is asking passengers to arrive three hours before their flights because of extra security checks.

British Airways has offered passengers booked to fly between Heathrow and Brussels up to 29 March the chance to switch destination or postpone their trip without penalty.

BMI Regional, which normally flies from East Midlands and Newcastle to Brussels, said: “We are still waiting for updates on flights from 25 March. Passengers booked for travel within the next 28 days can transfer to an alternative flight free of charge.”

Many passengers are still without their luggage, having abandoned it when the airport was evacuated after the attacks.

As the airlines wait for the airport to re-open, they are planning how services will resume. Jamie Bowden, a former terminal manager at Heathrow for British Airways, said: “It’s likely the local airline user group will have got together to agree where they can all contribute to paring back movements to allow the passenger throughput to build gradually.

“There’s no reason why things shouldn’t be running pretty well by the weekend - not 100 per cent of the schedule, but a sense of normal operations albeit with more overt security checks.”

However, evidence from a fire in a shopping area at Rome Fiumicino’s Terminal Three last May suggests that effects of the bombing in the departures hall may disrupt some flights for months. The Rome fire led to a large number of cancellations through the summer.

While Brussels handles fewer flights that the Italian airport, it is a more significant hub for connecting passengers - in particular serving as Europe’s key link to central Africa.

The Belgian Crisis Center, which is coordinating the response to the attacks, said: “The Belgian government has increased the threat level to 4 for the whole country as a safety measure.”

The Foreign Office is warning British travellers to “remain alert and vigilant, stay away from crowded places, and follow the instructions of the Belgian authorities.”

Meanwhile Canada’s government warned its citizens travelling in Belgium: “If you are in an area where a police raid is being conducted, remain indoors and close all windows and blinds.”

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