Brussels airport departure hall partly reopens 40 days after attacks

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The departure hall at Brussels' Zaventem airport partly reopened Sunday, May 1, 40 days after suicide attacks claimed by the Islamic State group which killed 32 people, half of them at the air hub.

"We are back to the familiar scene of our passengers in the departure hall," said Arnaud Feist, head of Brussels Airport, which operates Zaventem, at an opening ceremony.

Twin explosions killed 16 people there on March 22 and devastated the departure hall, shattering the building's glass facade, collapsing ceilings, and destroying check-in desks.

On Sunday Belgian flags were displayed on each side of a stage put up for the ceremony, with the date of the attacks and written tributes to the victims.

The messages in several languages included "Love beats hate" and "Violence will never be the answer." On the floor in front lay bouquets of flowers, candles, photos of the victims, and messages addressed to them.

PAYING TRIBUTE. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel stands in front of a wall in memory of the bombing victims, May 1, 2016. Photo by Laurent Dubrule/EPA

PAYING TRIBUTE. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel stands in front of a wall in memory of the bombing victims, May 1, 2016.

Photo by Laurent Dubrule/EPA

Some 400 passengers for only 3 flights were able to check in Sunday afternoon in the departure hall, still relatively quiet compared to its usual bustle before the attacks.

Symbolically the flights chosen were from Belgian carriers Brussels Airlines and Jetairfly TUI Airlines Belgium, to 3 sun-soaked destinations: Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, and Lisbon.

"We are the first here, we didn't know that would be the case, we heard it on the television this morning," 61-year-old Belgian Jeanine Lauwen told AFP.

"It's a feeling of great sadness to be here," she said, looking at the floral tributes before checking in her suitcase for a flight to Malaga.

Zaventem airport was completely closed for 12 days after the March attacks and has progressively been restarting operations, though it is not expected to return to full capacity until June.

From Monday, passengers will check in for flights at 111 desks in the departure hall and 36 others in temporary buildings.

Travellers have been asked to arrive 3 hours before their flights to allow time for extra police security checks at the entrance to the departure hall. – Rappler.com