LONDON – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, passenger numbers at Brussels Airport (BRU) have dropped by a staggering 87%, which is largely due to the growing number of destinations being discouraged by the government.

BRU handled around 312,556 passengers last month, which is only 13% of its total recorded in October 2019 when it handled close to 4.1 million passengers.

Commenting on the news was CEO of Brussels Airport Company Arnaud Feist, who labeled this as catastrophic. “The passenger figures for the last few months are obviously catastrophic.”

“The current situation is untenable for all players in the aviation sector. Rapid COVID tests are essential to enable the aviation sector to gradually emerge from the current crisis while safeguarding public health and safety. We are working hard on this. And a Europe-wide harmonization of the testing strategy is essential. The survival of our sector is at stake.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Breakdown of Numbers

The 312,556 figure breaks down to 160,351 passengers departing the airport and 152,205 arriving, with there being more departing passengers being due to the start of the half-term holidays in the country.

The total percentage of transfer passengers stands at 17%, which BRU credit Brussels Airlines’ (SN) extensive network in Africa.

It is also understood that 45 of the total 60 airlines that operate out of the airport were active at BRU, operating more than 1,000 flights per week to 110 destinations.

In all, flight movements at the airport dropped by 66.5% to 6,900 compared to 20,622 in the same period last year.

Photo: Wikiwand

Cargo Booming at BRU

Cargo flights at the airport have increased by 31% compared to October 2019, with volumes transported up by 17%, and in the statement said that it “continues to outperform global and European air freight growth”.

61,353 tonnes were handled by the airport, which is up by 12%, due to the unsurprising requirements for medical goods, food, and other goods due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The airport stated that it witnessed an increase in imports, with the focus on goods coming in from Asia. This has apparently seen steady growth.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Busy Few Months

BRU has had a busy few months as it tries to adapt to the ongoing effects of the pandemic. It has as of October tested over 7,000 passengers at the airport, with an aim to restore confidence in flying.

On top of this, back in September, the airport signed an agreement with the United States to open a pre-clearance facility in the airport, meaning that when air travel recovers properly, there will be a positive influx of visitors into the country from the US.

Cargo has obviously been very vital for the airport and is evidently seen, through the addition of more cargo services between BRU and Miami International Airport (MIA) with DHL (D0).

The airport was also given a substantial lifeline as the Belgian Government and Lufthansa (LH) agreed to rescue Brussels Airlines from potential administration, following the bailout of the German national carrier.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Looking Ahead

Whilst numbers may be low for the airport, there is a glimmer of hope for BRU, especially as a vaccine has been developed and is awaiting distribution.

Once the vaccine has been sent out across the world, then BRU seems ideally set up to receive a new plethora of passengers not just into the airport, but also into the Belgian tourism market.

It will be interesting to see whether any airlines will be potentially able to initiate new routes into the airport, particularly from U.S carriers alike. All we can do for now is wait and see what happens. But it looks very promising indeed.

Photo Credit: Aerial view of Brussels Airport. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons