Brussels Airport Sprouts Major Security Annoyance

Are you a well-seasoned traveler? Do you give yourself plenty of time to get to your gate after you clear security so you won’t miss your flight? If so, Brussels Airport has a message for you: we will defeat you by springing surprise passport checks on you just before you reach your gate. Also, they don’t serve waffles after 10am.

Up until last Friday, I had never flown through Brussels before. I assumed it would be a standard vaguely French, vaguely German experience. A little extra efficiency here, a little ooh la la there. All things considered, I figured I would make my plane in plenty of time, even switching from their A to B terminals.

Everything was going according to plan. I cleared Immigration fairly quickly and headed to the lounge, thinking my dealings with bureaucracy for the day were over. I was wrong.

After walking to the gate with more than enough time for boarding to begin, I found an unexpected line. Probably just for another gate, I assumed. As I got closer, I discovered it was a passport checkpoint. Huh? Wasn’t my passport checked at Immigration (it was). Why in the world would I have to have my passport inspected again?

Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with this. In Brussels, though, they’ve created one of the stupidest systems I’ve ever encountered. There’s no signage directing passengers or letting them know what’s going on. Instead, there’s a line. A long line. A line to accommodate four huge international flights leaving at roughly the same time. Since there’s no sign, people keep attempting to walk around the line. If their flight is leaving relatively soon, somebody lets them jump the line. This keeps happening. Over and over again. Those that wait in the line move at a snail’s pace. It is one of the most inefficient lines I have ever witnessed.

What makes no sense to me is that the passport checking wasn’t for all international flights. I saw flights to Mumbai and Africa with no extra passport check. In fact, the only nations affected appeared to be the US, Canada, and the UK. A little imperialistic revenge, perhaps? If everyone had to do it, I might understand the added measures but this is so limited that I question the value of the entire process.

Luckily, I got through in time to catch my flight. Other people weren’t as lucky. There’s a lot of anger in that line. There’s a lot of anger when you get past that line. If Brussels Airport is trying to make people think that the Belgians don’t know how to handle security, they’re doing a fantastic job.

I’m all for security if it keeps us safer. In this case, it just seemed like a completely unnecessary inconvenience run by people who chose to set up a system that flat out makes traveling harder. Aviation officials of Belgium, I beseech you: figure out a better way.

Have you flown through Brussels and experienced this? What did you think about the whole process?


  1. Uh oh. I’m going through this weekend. Anyone with suggestions how best to get through when going to US? I’m on DL

  2. I believe the UK was the first to start doing this. If you boarded the high speed train from Brussels to London, you would first go through Belgian emigration in order to leave the Schengen zone, and then right after that, you would have to show your passport again at the UK immigration booth manned by British officers before boarding the train. Upon arriving in London, you would have already been cleared and wouldn’t have to go through any more checks.
    The reason for this is it allows the UK officials to turn anyone back before they reach British soil, and as long as you are not on British soil, you can’t claim asylum in the UK.

    The US has adopted a similar strategy by moving their immigration posts to the country of departure; their main reason being to prevent terrorists from entering the States. You will start to see this in more and more airports if are headed to the US.

    Australia on the other hand uses electronic visas and its the airline that will refuse you if your passport isn’t connected to a valid visa.

    • ..but it’s not uncommon when flying into Australia, that you’ll be subjected to an extra passport and security check at the gate, and you will still have to pass through immi once you arrive.

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