Brussels Airport’s impact: 64,000 jobs and €5.4 billion added value

Brussels Airport accounts for 5.41 billion in added value and more than 64,000 jobs. According to a study on the economic impact commissioned by Zaventem Airport, the Universities UAntwerpen and UCLouvain presented these results on Monday.

Meanwhile, management and unions at Brussels Airlines also reached an agreement on Monday regarding better pay for cabin crew. If an agreement on reducing the workload emerges and pilots are brought on board, the announced strike could be averted.

Almost 26,000 direct jobs

The study on Brussels Airport’s economic impact is based on data from 2019, the last year before the coronavirus pandemic temporarily paralyzed air traffic. The National Bank (NBB) used to map airports’ economic impact annually, but its latest report is from 2017, based on 2015 figures.

The new study shows that Brussels Airport directly provides 25,796 jobs. This includes all airport-based activities, from airlines to hotels and stores on the site, 357 companies, with Brussels Airlines, DHL, and Tui as the largest employers.

In addition, the airport has an indirect job impact, such as companies that provide services at the airport but are not based there, including cab companies, companies that supply restaurants, and firms that renovate the runways. These account for another 19,152 jobs.

Finally, the study also scrutinized the effect of spending the salaries of direct and indirect employees linked to the airport on goods and services, such as food, clothing, and entertainment. These provide another 15,615 jobs.

‘Job and growth engine’

In this way, Brussels Airport generates more than 64,000 jobs and a total economic impact of 5,4 billion euros. In their report, the researchers use another approach to calculate the airport’s economic added value: the so-called catalytic effects.

These are the economic benefits that the airport attracts to the economy across different sectors. From that standpoint, Brussels Airport’s added value runs to 8.83 billion euros or 1.85% of the gross domestic product.

Brussels Airport CEO Arnaud Feist sees the results as proof that the airport is a “job and growth engine” and “an indispensable part of the Belgian economy”.

Environmental permit

The main issue is the Flemish government’s new environmental permit for the airport. In principle, Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) has until March 29th to decide.

On Friday, details emerged of an opinion by the regional environmental permit committee (GOVC), which proposes, among other things, capping the number of flight movements at Brussels Airport, which last year handled 22.2 million passengers and almost 701,000 tons of cargo – and tightening quiet weekend nights.

Moreover, the GOVC also proposed to include in the environmental permit that Brussels Airport Company pay 10 million euros each year to rail network operator Infrabel “as long as a Diabolo surcharge is charged.” That money would then be used to reduce the surcharge for train passengers, which could help convince more people to take the train to and from the airport.

According to a study by environmental umbrella BBL, over 100,000 people are severely disrupted in their sleep, and 50,000 are at greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) last year put a draft ministerial decree on the table containing a total ban on night flights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

‘No Lego game’

Feist did not want to comment on the opinion but pointed out how important cargo operations are at Brussels Airport and that they are closely intertwined with passenger flights. “A third of cargo goes on passenger flights,” he stressed. “It’s not a Lego game, but it is one whole.” Fiddling with bits and pieces risks unbalancing that synergy, he said.

The study shows that cargo activities account for 23% of Brussels Airport’s direct added value and 27% of direct jobs. Many cargo flights take place at night: about half of night flights to and from the airport are cargo flights.

Agreement with cabin crew Brussels Airlines

Management and unions at Brussels Airlines also reached an agreement Monday on better pay for cabin crew. During the coronavirus pandemic, flight attendants had to give up wages. Still, after taking a firm stand for some time, management has finally come up with a valid proposal.

According to the unions, the agreement includes a 4% increase in pay scales for all staff who handed in pay in 2020. Brussels Airlines, which made record profits last year, would also raise expense allowances and certain bonuses.

The agreement covers wages only. Workload reduction talks are still pending. No agreement has been reached yet for the pilots, who will strike for three days starting this weekend. There was already a multi-day strike of flight attendants at the end of February.


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