Getting Brussels Back to Normal May Take Some Time

A week after the horrendous attacks Brussels Airport is still closed for international passenger traffic. For the cargo community too, the impact is extensive. Contingency plans have been set up, especially for belly cargo.

Bas van Goch, Chairman of the Air Cargo Managers’ Association Belgium (ACMAB)  -  private
Bas van Goch, Chairman of the Air Cargo Managers’ Association Belgium (ACMAB) - private

Understandably, the greatest efforts to get Brussels Airport operational again, have to be made on the passenger side. As about one third of the airport’s cargo volume comes from belly capacity, there is no doubt that the tragic events of last 22 March will have a severe impact on the freight figures as well. As the cargo side was not affected, full freighter operations were given the go-ahead as early as last Thursday. Most cargo airlines seem to have seized this opportunity to gradually reintroduce their Brussels operations.

Cargo suffered under terrorist attacks
The interests of the cargo operators at Brussels Airport are represented by the Air Cargo Managers’ Association Belgium (ACMAB). Its chairman, Bas van Goch, admits that the Belgian Cargo community is shaken by the attacks of last week in Belgium. “The direct effects for BRUCargo are extensive. Even a week after the attacks, the airport is still closed for passenger flights. We are confident that the Management of the airport is doing all it can to get the situation back to normal. The current situation is that all trucked freight and cargo on full-freighters, is operating normally, while cargo for passenger flights from BRU is mostly re-routed to other stations like AMS, LGG, CDG and FRA.”
Bas says that ACMAB has informed its members to strictly follow current security regulations and will, together with BAFI (the air cargo forwarders’ association, MS), start discussions to see where we still can improve. “We realize that it can take months before the airport is back to 100% capacity,” he concludes.

Wait and see
The on-going closure of the airport for passenger flights, has forced some operators into contingency planning. One of them is Adelantex, a perishables specialist that has set up collaboration agreements with Brussels Airlines Cargo and DHL Aviation. With BA, the company is involved in the ‘fresh-to-shelf’ product, based on northbound perishables originating in Africa.

“To some extent we are trying to truck incoming perishables on Brussels Airlines aircraft that have been diverted to Zurich and Frankfurt to our stores at Brussels Airport for consolidation and on-forwarding”, says the company’s Business Manager. “DHL is another story. Over the last weekend they have opted for Amsterdam and are as yet not fully operational at Brussels Airport. For the time being, all we can do is wait for the situation to get back to normal.”

DHL back on track
Asked by CargoForwarder Global about their operations the company stated: “Our flights, pick-ups and deliveries are back to normal. The back-log in Belgium has been resolved. Trucking to and from the airport is only slightly impacted, without causing major delays.”
At Schiphol Airport, security has been increased on the passenger side. This is the responsibility of the ‘Koninklijke Marechaussee’, a national police corps, which is part of the military. When contacted by CargoForwarder Global to check if security measures have also gone up on the cargo side, KM has declined to comment.

Brussels Airlines hit hardest
Home carrier Brussels Airlines has meanwhile diverted their intercontinental flights to Frankfurt and Zurich while most of their European services are operated out of Liege.
German paper Wirtschaftswoche quotes a company speaker saying that the closure of Brussels Zaventem, the carrier's home base, costs the airline €5 million each day.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels / Heiner Siegmund

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