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After Covid crisis, Brussels Airport is profitable again

15:36 27/05/2023

After a disastrous few years as a result of the pandemic and its related travel restrictions, Brussels Airport has recorded a profit again.

Brussels Airport Company, the operator of Zaventem airport, recorded a net gain of €16 million last year.

It was its first profit in three years, according to airport chief executive Arnaud Feist.

“The profit for 2022 is still limited, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel again,” said Feist.

The profit comes after two especially dismal years, during which the airport operator suffered a cumulative loss of some €240 million due to the impact of the Covid crisis.

The pandemic was still being felt at the airport in early 2022.

“The first part of the year was marked by masks and travel restrictions,” Feist said. “From July onwards, the situation recovered, returning to more normal arrangements.”

The airport eventually recorded 18.9 million passengers last year, double the number of 2021, but still more than a quarter below the 2019 record.

A total of 776,000 tonnes of freight passed through the airport, which combined with passenger travel enabled Brussels Airport to achieve a turnover of €549 million, almost three quarters more than in 2021. For the fourth consecutive year, no dividend will be paid to shareholders.

Meanwhile, Brussels Airport has announced that it plans to cut 1,500 night flights, or about 10% of the annual total.

The airport wants to address ongoing noise complaints from nearby residents and avoid getting close to the legal limit of night flights, which is 16,000 per year.

“A further restriction on night flights would very clearly impact our operations and jobs,” Feist explained.

Night operations at Brussels Airport – with parcel carrier DHL, for example – account for 14,000 direct and indirect jobs, he said.

The airport’s stricter actions will mainly affect flights that do not have a night lock (a granted take-off or landing right during night-time hours) but still take off or land at Brussels Airport during the night (from 23.00 to 6.00).

Feist said the proposal to cut them sendt “a strong signal to local residents that we are taking their complaints into account”.

Take-offs after 23.00 for airlines without a guaranteed night slot would be banned. Currently, for example, delayed aircraft can take off after 23.00 provided there is a valid reason. That would no longer be the case.

“A plane that takes off on the runway after 23.00 without a night lock will have to return to the gate and let passengers disembark,” Feist said, pointing out that this is also the case at Frankfurt airport.

Flights landing at Brussels Airport during the night without a night lock would also be fined.

“We have calculated that there would be 1,500 to 1,600 fewer night flights per year that way,” Feist said, stressing that those flights will not disappear, but that "airlines will have to make sure they leave before 23.00".

The airport operator recently transmitted its proposal to Belgium’s mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo).

The minister said in early April that he wants to put a solution to noise pollution around Zaventem airport on the table before the summer recess.

Written by Helen Lyons