'Surreal' scenes at Brussels Airport ahead of Belgian lockdown

'Surreal' scenes at Brussels Airport ahead of Belgian lockdown
Credit: SameepMehta1987 /Twitter

Packed halls and lengthy queues were seen at Brussels Airport at the weekend due to a peak of activity caused by travellers rushing to get out of Belgium ahead of the new coronavirus lockdown.

The airport reported longer waiting times than usual amid an influx of last-minute departing travellers on Saturday and Sunday, the last weekend before country's return to lockdown.

"On Saturday we had nearly 8,000 departing travellers and on Sunday it was almost 6,000," Ihsane Chioua Lekhli, an airport spokesperson, said in a phone statement.

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By contrast, the airport registered 5,300 arrivals on Saturday and around 5,000 more on Sunday.

A passenger described the scenes at the airport as "surreal" in a statement to RTL news and said stress was palpable as travellers attempted to board their flights, with some ultimately missing their flights.

"It was really a departures weekend," Chioua Lekhli said, conceding that longer waiting times at security saw some passengers were left behind even if planes waited "as much as they could."

Some passengers took to social media to call out the airport as understaffed counters —manned in accordance with the expected traffic— led to crowded lines and little social distancing.

"How can we maintain social distance? Only 4 security channels open and all bunched together," one Twitter user wrote.

The figures at the weekend represent a surge in traffic for the airport compared to recent weeks but are still much lower than what could be expected without the current pandemic, she added.

"We definitely saw more passengers than in recent weeks, it is possible that the lockdown played some part in it," Chioua Lekhli said.

While she could not provide figures regarding the most demanded destinations at the weekend, she said that recent figures showed that a lot of passengers were flying to Greece or the Canary Islands, which still remain orange or green travel zones.

The press team for Brussels Airlines did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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