Brussels Airport Company will start sending some staff on temporary unemployment because of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis from Monday, the company announced on Thursday.
The move was due to the impact of the virus on activities at the airport in Zaventem, which the company runs. On Thursday, only one-third of the originally scheduled flights were expected.
In agreement with the airport unions, the company’s management announced the measure to workers on Thursday morning, Brussels Airport Company confirmed. It was unable to say how many of the 1,100 employees were involved. However, a large portion of the staff would be affected in the administrative (human resources, communication etc.) and operational services, said spokesperson Nathalie Pierard.
A department-by-department analysis was underway, according to Brussels Airport Company, which added that a minimum service would be provided.
The company’s decision, which it had been analysing for a few days now, was taken against the background of the significant drop in air traffic linked to the coronavirus crisis. Only 171 of the 533 originally scheduled flights were still expected at Brussels Airport on Thursday.
The number is certain to go down further in the coming days with the suspension, from Saturday, of flights by Brussels Airlines, the biggest carrier flying passengers to the airport. Ryanair is scheduled to follow suit next week.
“We’re expecting passenger numbers to be down by between 90% and 95% early next week,” Brussels Airport Company CEO Arnaud Feist said on LN24 information channel on Thursday. “This is unheard of.”
The temporary unemployment will last four weeks, starting on Monday. However, the airport will remain open, the spokesperson said, particularly for essential travel, repatriations, cargo flights – “which are going well,” at 50 to 60 per day, transporting essentials such as medicinal drugs and foodstuff, along with online purchases – and military operations.
One of the airport’s three runways, the 07R/25L – where most flights land – has been closed until 3 April because of the reduced traffic, according to a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen – containing key information on airports and airspace) published on the website of Skeyes, the Belgian air traffic control company.
The Brussels Times