Mayor Kasim Reed’s trip to Brussels this summer just got a whole lot easier.
When he heads to the European Union headquarters city to talk cities and climate change with the Michael Bloomberg-led Global Covenant of Mayors, he’ll now be able to take a nonstop flight on his hometown airline.
Mr. Reed said the return of the flight, postponed after terrorist attacks last year in Brussels, was a “joyous occasion,” especially in light of the “heartbreaking news” that caused its suspension a year ago.
“Sometimes I need to be happy, and tonight this is a joyous occasion,” he said during a reception at the Atlanta law offices of Burr & Forman LLP celebrating the re-launch of the flight. The event was attended by Delta executives as well as by Pieter de Crem, the Belgian secretary of state for foreign trade, who was visiting Atlanta the day after the attacks’ anniversary.
Delta customers were among the 32 people killed and more than 320 injured in coordinated attacks on the Belgian capital. Minutes after two explosions ripped through the departures hall at the airport, a bomb exploded on the Belgian metro system.
Mr. Reed, who condemned the attacks at the time, said the trans-Atlantic relationship would grow stronger as a result of adversity. Atlanta and Brussels have had sister-city ties since 1983. Georgia is home to numerous Belgian firms that have invested billions of dollars in the state’s economy.
The Delta flight and its predecessors, including the first-ever international route on Belgian airline Sabena out of Hartsfield-Jackson in 1978, have been integral to linking the two locales. Delta, which itself has served Brussels for 25 years and carried 5 million people between the cities, halted the Atlanta flight immediately after the attacks, resuming its nonstop flight from New York 17 days later. The airline had always vowed to bring the Atlanta flight back this March.
“I love (nonstop flights), especially when I am flying to Europe. I also like it because nonstop reflects our will to push the city forward,” Mr. Reed said, plugging the Atlanta airport’s ongoing $6 billion expansion.
Paul Jacobson, Delta’s chief financial officer, seconded Mr. Reed’s excitement while also taking a moment to remember those affected by the attacks a year ago. He praised airport leaders on both sides for making the return possible, while noting that it’s about more than just keeping a promise.
“Demand is holding strong for this flight, which has for a long time been a bright spot of our trans-Atlantic portfolio,” Mr. Jacobson said.
When the flight arrived in Brussels Monday, March 20, the local Delta team was waiting, headed up by Nat Pieper, senior vice president for Europe, Middle East, Africa.
“The Delta team here in Belgium has worked so hard to keep our operations running over the past year during the toughest of times,” Mr. Pieper said in a Delta news release.
A water cannon salute, a common gesture of celebration and hospitality in the airline world, preceded the return flight’s voyage back to Atlanta.
The Belgian Consulate General of Atlanta supported the reception and Mr. de Crem’s visit. The importance of the Delta flight’s return for Belgian ties with the Southeast was underscored during Global Atlanta’s January Consular Conversation with Consul General William De Baets.