Brussels Airport won this year’s ACI EUROPE Best Airport Award in the ‘10-25 million passenger’ category in recognition of the passenger experience enhancements delivered by its new central Connector building. A special Leader of the Year Award was presented to Arnaud Feist, CEO Brussels Airport Company, for his leadership, courage, decisiveness and wisdom in managing the aftermath of the terrorist attack at Brussels Airport on 22 March. He spoke to Ross Falconer.
Brussels Airport responded quickly and efficiently to the terrorist attack on 22 March. “Thanks to a decentralised, rapid and efficient way of working, committed, agile and professional teams, the capacity to make the right decisions even under pressure, and the empowerment of the emerging ‘true leaders’, on 29 March we were operationally ready to restart in a temporary check-in infrastructure with a capacity of 8 million departing passengers per year, proven by a real-life test with 800 volunteers,” explains Arnaud Feist, CEO Brussels Airport Company. “On 2 April the authorities agreed on the restart, and the next day the first passenger flight departed again from Brussels Airport, only 12 days after the attacks, an emotional and rewarding moment for all of us.”
Indeed, Feist himself was one of the ‘true leaders’ to which he refers, and was recognised with the special Leader of the Year Award at this year’s ACI EUROPE Best Airport Awards. “I thank ACI EUROPE for this award,” he says. “It is very precious to me as it is awarded by my peers in the airport industry. I believe this award is a shared reward for all Brussels Airport teams who have worked day and night to first rescue the victims and help their families, and then to restart airport operations in a safe and secure manner in a matter of days. This award is also associated with all the victims of the attacks – they have a place in our hearts forever.”
“Future-proof and technologically-advanced terminal”
Brussels Airport continuously invests in its infrastructure and services. It won this year’s ACI EUROPE Best Airport Award in the ‘10-25 million passenger’ category, with a major factor being the opening of its new Connector building in 2015. This key investment includes Europe’s largest screening platform and the world’s first remote screening of cabin baggage on a large scale. “Connector was built primarily to improve the passenger experience, thanks to shorter walking distances, plenty of daylight on the way to the gates, and reduced queuing times,” Feist comments. “Besides Connector, we also further developed our network and invested in improving public transport and parking facilities. This award is very important to us as it recognises the efforts and energy we have invested since several years in the quality of our airport product, in services to our clients, the airlines and passengers, and in the further development of our European and intercontinental network.”
The airport recorded the second busiest July in its history, with 2.4 million passengers, in a clear sign that the market continues to recover after the attacks. Passenger traffic has been positively impacted by the strong performance of Brussels Airlines and the low-cost carriers. Meanwhile, the number of transfer passengers continues to grow – up 11% year-on-year in July, in particular thanks to the ongoing development of Brussels Airlines within the Star Alliance network. “This trend shows that international passengers are staying loyal to Brussels as a trusted transfer airport,” Feist notes.
As part of Brussels Airport’s continuous investments, it has begun a major runway renovation using energy-efficient materials and techniques. For example, the asphalt that has been removed will be crushed for reuse in the foundation, while energy-efficient LED lighting will be installed instead of halogen lamps, saving 597,600 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
Brussels Airport launched its “terminal of the future” project the day after the 22 March attacks. “This project was not planned for a few years, but we thought it was important right after the attacks to give a hope, a vision that we would soon be back and even stronger,” Feist explains. “Check-in procedures are evolving and we want to create a future-proof and technologically-advanced terminal for our passengers.”
Looking ahead, Brussels Airport is developing a strategic vision for what it will look like in 2040, examining the challenges it will face and how it can continue to play a key role as an economic powerhouse for the country.