Brussels Airlines Scrambles to Resume Normal Operations


LONDON—Bernard Gustin was in the office early March 22 for a regularly scheduled Brussels Airlines management meeting when two bombs exploded at Brussels Airport, devastating his airline’s hub.

Two hundred of the airline’s 230 daily flights had yet to leave when the airport was closed indefinitely. Mr. Gustin and other Brussels Airlines executives scrambled to transition from what promised to be a typical day in the office to extreme-crisis management. They set about rerouting domestic and short-haul flight through nearby Belgian airports and dispatched long-range jets to the carrier’s far-flung African destinations to help reroute stranded passengers.

Only on Sunday, with Brussels Zaventem Airport reopening to commercial flights after 12 days, did a sense of normalcy start to return. The airline resumed three of its regularly scheduled flights from its home base.

The blasts at the airport killed at least 16, and a second deadly attack the same morning at a subway station in the center of the Belgian capital killed another 16. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the carnage, triggering the latest Europe-wide terrorism dragnets in the wake of two deadly attacks in Paris last year.

For Mr. Gustin’s Brussels Airlines—a successor airline to Belgian’s once-proud national carrier—the attack represented the latest in a string of recent challenges. Four of the airline’s check-in staff were seriously hurt in the second explosion at the airport. The carrier said it lost between €4 million and €5 million ($4.6 million and $5.7 million) a day during the height of the disruptions.

Mr. Gustin said Sunday’s flights were “a major milestone” and a testament to the efforts of his airline’s staff and the airport to recover from the tragedy.

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