Brussels Airport has seen a fall of 91 per cent in passenger numbers in March compared to March 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
A total of 186,924 passengers travelled via the airport following a ban on all non-essential travel that was imposed on Belgium in January and which is in place until 18 April.
The March passenger numbers are comparable to February, which was the lowest month since the first lockdown in April and May 2020.
A further 30 per cent of the passengers were in transit via networks formed by Brussels Airlines and partner airlines between North America, Europe and Africa.
The share of intercontinental passengers increased to 30 per cent, mainly passengers in transfer and undertaking essential travel.
Despite the fall in passenger numbers, Brussels Airport also reported an increase in cargo volume of 41 per cent compared to March 2020 following the cancellation of passenger flights and 27 per cent compared to March 2019.
The increase meant the airport accounted for 74,000 tonnes of cargo while full cargo traffic grew by 73 per cent with the growth shared by all airlines
The growth in express services of 65 per cent was due to the extra routes added by DHL Express in 2020 and the increase in demand for ecommerce shipments. Trucked freight was also up by 43 per cent.
The changing passenger and cargo volumes meant the total number of flight movements fell by 71 per cent in March 2021, compared to 5,177 movements compared with 18,126 in March 2019.
The number of passenger flights fell by 86 per cent and each flight carried an average of 89 passengers.
The number of cargo flights was up by 46 per cent compared to 2020, mainly due to the large number of flights operated using passenger aircraft that are used only for cargo.
Several airlines use this type of aircraft to offer additional cargo capacity and thus partially compensate for the loss of many traditional passenger flights.
Brussels Airport Company CEO Arnaud Feist said: “The last twelve months have been particularly difficult for the airline industry; the few periods of cautious recovery have always been short-lived, and now we are always faced with a ban on non-essential travel.
“The 19th of April will therefore be a crucial date for the sector, the long-awaited start of the gradual recovery that we hope can now be rolled out for the duration.
“It is therefore important that, from that moment on, travel to countries where the health situation is comparable to or better than in Belgium, is made possible, provided that Covid tests are carried out on departure and/or arrival.
“This will not immediately lead to mass travel, but it will be an important first step towards the recovery of a sector that has been hard hit by this crisis for over a year.
“Vaccination and the digital green certificate remain the only essential means to return to normal activity.”