The coronavirus reduced the number of passengers to a minimum in the month of April. Only 17,000 passengers transited through Brussels Airport, a huge difference compared to the 2.3 million passengers in April 2019. There was, however, a sharp 52.1% increase of full cargo. Freight remains key to the supply of Belgium in these difficult times and allows the transport of essential goods, medicines, medical products and foodstuffs.
‘While passenger traffic is slow, air freight is running at full capacity at Brussels Airport, Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company, explains. ‘Due to the loss of capacity on passenger aircraft, the demand for full cargo is greater. Some passenger aircraft are only flying to carry cargo. Thanks to air freight, we are able to obtain and supply essential goods, medicines, medical products and food quickly. At the same time, air freight allows our companies and industry to continue to operate (e.g. the pharmaceutical industry and the export of pharmaceuticals)’.
Passenger traffic: a sharp fall and repatriations via Brussels Airport
In January, 17,042 passengers travelled through Brussels Airport, a decrease of 99.3% compared to January 2019. The number of departing passengers fell by 99.4%, whereas the number of arriving passengers decreased by 99.1%. In total, 10,370 passengers arrived at Brussels Airport, mainly compatriots who returned home in the difficult circumstances linked to the coronavirus crisis.
Over the entire month, 14 repatriation flights to our country were specially organised, operated by Brussels Airlines (9 flights) and Air Belgium (5 flights). The repatriated compatriots returned home from destinations such as Algiers, Alicante, Lubumbashi, Lima and Tenerife. In total, about 3,400 compatriots were repatriated on these flights. Thousands of Belgians also returned by regular flights.
In April, there were about 100 passenger flights per week, for a total of 452 flights for the entire month. These flights were operated by ten airlines: Aegean Airlines (Athens), Finnair (Helsinki), Alitalia (Rome), Bulgaria Air (Sofia), Ryanair (Dublin), KLM (Amsterdam), Lufthansa (Frankfurt), Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi), Hainan Airlines (Bejing) and Qatar Airways (Doha). This offer also guarantees connections to many other destinations around the world for repatriation and essential travel (diplomats, doctors, military, etc.).
The average passenger occupancy rate was very low in April, with an average of 38 passengers per flight.
These passengers are always welcomed at Brussels Airport in the safest possible conditions. The required markings for social distancing are indicated in the terminal, hydro-alcoholic gel dispensers are available, additional cleaning services have been organised, and passengers are informed of precautionary measures via screens and loudspeakers. As a reminder, wearing a mask is obligatory at Brussels Airport, and masks are distributed in the terminal. Every passenger arriving at Brussels Airport also receives an information sheet from the federal government, including instructions on how to comply with a 14-day home quarantine.
Cargo: the loss of cargo on passenger aircraft has been partly offset by full cargo
The freight volume at Brussels Airport decreased by 13.7% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. This decrease is the result of the disappearance of passenger flights on which cargo was also carried. As a result, freight on board passenger flights decreased by 91%.
However, full cargo shows a strong increase of 52.1% compared to April last year and therefore more than compensates for the loss of freight capacity on passenger aircraft. On the one hand, these additional flights are carried by full cargo aircraft (in particular via new companies such as Suparna and Amerijet), but also by passenger aircraft which are only used for freight transport (mainly in the hold, and very exceptionally in the cabin). These additional transactions are mainly carried out during the day.
Express services remained stable in April with a slight decline of 0.6%.
The total number of flight movements decreased by 88% in April 2020 compared to April 2019 to 2,360 (compared to 19,710 in April 2019). The number of passenger flights decreased by 97.4% due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.