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Happy 60th birthday, Brussels Airport
It's not just the Atomium and the Smurfs that are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Brussels Airport turned 60 last week with free cakes for passengers and staff.
The airport officially opened on 5 July 1958, built to accommodate the tourism generated by the Brussels World Fair. Currently Brussels Airport serves 238 destinations. Every day about 650 planes land or take off from the Zaventem tarmac.
In its first year, when the airport was only two small buildings and a Duty Free shop, it recorded 55,000 flights. "In the old days, there was nothing, it was just a sandwich and a souvenir of the Manneken Pis,” Bob, 80, told RTBF. "There was not much, it was in the countryside."
"In 1959, there were about a million passengers,” airport spokeswoman Nathalie Pierard said. "In 1993 there were 10 million passengers, in 1999 it was 20 million, and this year we are going to reach 25 million passengers, or even exceed that."
For many, the airport is a place where memories of travel, adventure and special holidays are cultivated. "When I started travelling with my parents to Africa, the airport was more open to the public and we could go to a terrace and wave at the people boarding," said Leon, 65. "It was fascinating, it was beautiful."
Throughout the years, the airport has undergone extensive change and expansion. A photo retrospective in the Connector part of the terminal shows off the airport’s history including the opening of the cargo area in 1979, the inauguration of Pier A in 2002 and the opening of Connector itself in 2015.
Today the airport welcomes 238,000 flights a year and has 30 bar/restaurants and plenty of shops. Federal transport minister François Bellot said: "In its 60 years of existence, Brussels Airport has become a major economic player in our country and accounts for tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs."
About a third of the airport's revenue comes from its restaurants and shops and the airport claims to sell the most chocolate in the world - about 800 tonnes a year, or 1.5kg per minute. "A customer recently bought 50 boxes of chocolate," Nisserine Bouti, a saleswoman, told RTBF. "That's about €1,500. We sell more than half a million chocolate bars a year."