On 17 March, Brussels Airport will open the link between Pier B and the Connector building allowing non-Schengen passengers to go to their gate via Connector. From then on, all passengers will pass through the security screening in Connector, and non-Schengen passengers will then proceed to the new border control gates in Connector. This means that, in the night of 16 to 17 March, the Belgian border at Brussels Airport will literally be shifted.
Brussels Airport began the construction of Connector in 2013; this was the start of a four-year investment programme of € 75 million aimed at improving the quality of the infrastructure. The building was opened at the end of March last year for passengers departing from Pier A to a destination in Schengen. On 17 March this year, the link with Pier B will be opened for transfer passengers and local passengers departing for non-Schengen destinations. They will then take a different, quicker route to their boarding gate.
“Brussels Airport is investing heavily in the quality of its infrastructure to improve passenger experience and comfort. Connector is symbolic of all the improvements made at the airport in recent years. Since last year, passengers travelling from Pier A can benefit from the high-tech screening platform and the magnificent view of the tarmac. Now we can offer this same experience to the rest of our passengers. We shall continue our investments in the infrastructure during the years ahead to further meet the needs of our passengers”, says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport.
All security and border controls for non-Schengen passengers will in future take place at the start of their passage through the airport. They first go to the screening platform in Connector and then to passport control. Anybody with a Belgian identity card or a European passport can use the automated border control gates. The new itinerary makes everything easily comprehensible for passengers. The new set-up also allows passengers to go through security and border control faster, so they can look forward to the departure of their flight in a relaxed frame of mind.
Additional staff will be on duty in the days ahead to guide the passenger through these changes.
150 employees lay out the new itinerary in just 1 night
The operational changes involved with the opening of Connector to Pier B are enormous. The equipment of the old screening platform and of the border control booths in the departures hall have to be taken apart. The border control in the departure hall will be closed off. All equipment must be reinstalled and tested in the new environment. The signage in the departure hall must be adapted and all places must be thoroughly cleaned after the removal operation.
The walk-through duty-free area of Pier B will be located beyond the security screening which means that its status changes to that of ‘secure zone’. In order to be able to declare the zone secure, all shops, restaurants and other places in this zone undergo a security check. This check is undertaken by the security staff of Brussels Airport Company and the federal police.
All changes and checks must take place during the night when no passengers are in the airport. This operational tour de force demands a strict planning and meticulous execution by each employee.
The new route
From March 17, passengers departing from Pier B will, in common with passengers for Pier A, go to Connector. They will then pass through automated boarding pass control, security screening and passport control. Until now, these passengers would first go through passport control, walk through a zone with shops and restaurants and snack bars and only then go to the screening.
For transfer passengers who arrive at one pier and have a connecting flight departing from the other pier, there will now be a dedicated transfer platform in Connector for passport control, which means these passengers will no longer need to pass through security screening. That will considerably reduce the transfer time for these passengers, and also the risk of missing their connection.
15 new e-gates
The federal police have installed 15 new automated border control gates in Connector for passport control of departing and transfer passengers. Departing or transfer passengers older than 12 with a Belgian identity card or a European passport can make use of these so-called e-gates, all other passengers will be directed to a manual control booth. Thanks to the investment in this new technology, passengers will be able to pass more quickly through passport control.
The e-gates check the authenticity of the identity document and the identity of the passenger. They also carry out a face recognition. For Belgian travellers, it is important to verify before leaving whether they are registered with the police, because, for example, a change of address is not in order. The e-gates will signal this, and passengers will first have to be de-registered before they are allowed to leave. This could mean that such passengers run the risk of missing their flight.
The installation of the e-gates at Brussels Airport is a joint investment by the Federal Police and Brussels Airport Company, with the financial support of the Internal Security Fund – Borders of the European Union. The fund supports projects that contribute to ensuring a high level of security in the Union and at the same time make travelling more comfortably.
Upgrading of the duty-free shopping area in Pier B
The opening of the link between Connector and Pier B will also see the start of an upgrading of the duty-free shopping area in Pier B. A new walk through shop will be created at departure level, and also new shops and restaurants. The shops and the restaurants will be given a modern interior and offer passengers an updated range.
The renovation of the zone will take place step by step so that at all times passengers will be able to enjoy a sufficient and high-quality range of goods and services.
To make things easier for passengers, all shops will, in the future, be located on the same level. The Connector has a relaxation area and something similar will be created here, with comfortable chairs and seating areas where passengers can rest and relax. The customs offices will also be given a make-over.