Delta Air Lines announced Saturday that it was suspending one of its two routes to Brussels following the March 22 terrorist attacks in the Belgian capital. The announcement from Delta came after Belgian officials said Zaventem airport would partially reopen Sunday after being closed for two weeks following the attacks, which killed 22 people and wounded scores more.
Delta said its route from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Brussels would remain unchanged and would fully resume "once the airport provides clearance for international operations." But the airline's route between Atlanta and Brussels would be suspended until March 2017 "due to the continued uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of Brussels airport and weakening demand," the airline said.
The airline added that "Delta remains committed to the Belgium market."
Zaventem airport grounded flights since explosions from the March 22 attacks destroyed the departures area. Three passenger flights will be scheduled for Sunday, said airport CEO Arnaud Feist at a news conference with security officials Saturday. The three flights are scheduled to depart for Faro, Portugal; Turin, Italy; and Athens, Greece.
"The temporary arrangements won’t be able to offer the level of comfort travelers are used to at Brussels Airport," Feist said. "Our main challenge is to rapidly return to normal capacity. We hope to have maximum capacity available at the start of the summer holidays, at the beginning of July."
Officials announced this week that the airport was technically ready to return to use and accept "800 departing passengers per hour, or 2.5 million departing passengers a year," or about 20 percent of its normal capacity.
The scheduled reopening Sunday comes after a number of delays as security precautions were put in place and as police negotiated with management over safety issues. "For us, security is paramount, but we have to find solutions at the negotiating table with police unions," Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters said last week.
The reopening will surely be a big moment for Belgium. Prime Minister Charles Michel said in an interview this week that it was "important for our economy and our image," according to the Wall Street Journal.