Europe’s regional airports are rising in popularity

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Regional airports across Europe are taking off in popularity, according to FowardKeys. The travel intelligence company predicts future travel patterns by analysing 17 million booking transactions a day.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) supports these findings, confirming that the direct economic contribution of European regional travel was up 3.8% in 2017. Impressive when you factor in that the overall GDP growth of the EU was only up 2.3%.

While major events, such as the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia account for some of the boost, other long-term factors credited with this growth include the growing popularity of air travel, increasing pressure on major airports and the success of low-fare airlines.

ForwardKeys’ report also highlights that in the face of ever-increasing demand intra-European international seat capacity is growing fast. In 2018, intra-European seat capacity is up 6.0% on last year. The growth has been strongest in Central/ Eastern Europe, where it’s up 12.7%. In Southern Europe, it is up 8.8%, in Western Europe, while in Western Europe it is up 5.4% and in Northern Europe it is up by 3.0%.

Eyes on the East

In addition to Russia, Georgia, the Ukraine, Poland and Latvia were the top growing countries this year, while in southern Europe, Turkey and Greece both bounced back.

In terms of intra-European capacity, regional airports across Europe showed significant growth. Airports such as Aarhus (in Denmark), Bordeaux (in France), Ufa (in Russia) and Antalya (in Turkey) are top performers within their respective sub-regions. And following the success of the World Cup, Russia has ambitious expansions plans for its regional airport network.

The report also references the increase in seat capacity to long-haul destinations from Europe, which is up by 9.1%. And, it’s the smaller European airports where capacity in this market has grown quickest.

“Low-cost travel is constantly increasing its market share and driving a lot of regional and trans-Atlantic expansion,” said Olivier Jager, ForwardKeys CEO and co-founder.

“The regional expansion trend seems irresistible and many European destinations are already facing the problems of ‘overtourism’, as seen in Barcelona and Dubrovnik. There needs to be combined efforts and vision from airports, airlines and destinations simultaneously to capitalise on the economic benefits and manage the growth in a sustainable way.”

Spanish searches

Interestingly, Jager also noted that ForwardKeys findings show that in Valencia, where the company is headquartered, residents’ flight searches reveal the most popular destinations being searched but not yet served from the Spanish city.

Top of the list are: Athens in Greece, Florence in Italy, Kiev in Ukraine and Stockholm in Sweden.

“We have observed thousands of searches for each of these destinations this year. That shows how much people want to depart from their local airport and they are constantly seeking new destinations. It’s both a challenge and business opportunity that needs to be met,” he concluded.

Luton Airport puts the festive spotlight on easyJet

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Billed as the ‘World’s Biggest Christmas Lights Show – on a plane’, London Luton Airport (LLA) wowed audiences earlier this week with the ‘switch on’ of its festive light show.

Hundreds of people gathered in the easyJet hangar to witness the spectacle as an A320 Airbus, which was festooned with 1.5 miles of multi-coloured LED lights, was unveiled. Over 850,000 choreographed light sequences and festive projections were synced to the sound of a contemporary remix of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The light show is part of ongoing celebrations to mark the airport’s 80th anniversary, with airport ground staff painstakingly tasked with covering easyJet’s 5,000 sq metre hangar in lights and decorations. The team had just 24 hours to create the festive transformation ahead of the grand reveal.

Referencing the airport’s £160m regeneration project, which is expected to increase capacity to 18 million passengers by 2020, as well as add £1 billion to the UK economy and an additional 10,000 jobs by 2030, Neil Thompson, operations director at LLA said:

As we reach the end of our redevelopment, we wanted to extend a huge thank you to staff and customers and give them a special Christmas gift.

Meanwhile, Tina Milton, director of cabin services, easyJet added; “Most people who work in a regular office get to partake in festive decorating, so we laid down the challenge to ground crew to create the most spectacular light show featuring a plane. We were delighted to work with London Luton Airport to help get the festive feeling started amongst our staff and the local community in Luton.”

Naples full-service FBO unveils new name

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Located within minutes of downtown Naples in Florida, the sole full-service FBO at Naples Airport – a dedicated general aviation airport – has unveiled a change in name. Formerly known as Naples Airport Authority, the FBO is now called Naples Aviation.

The facility will continue to operate with the same dedicated team as before, offering a high-quality service, quick turnarounds, onsite access to US Customs, a workout facility and passenger as well as crew lounges. However, customers will also now benefit from the addition of contract fuel

Commenting on the change of name, Mike Hushek, Naples Aviation’s FBO manager, said: “We’re excited about the new name, along with all of the changes that come with it.” In reference to the new fuelling option he added: “We have launched a new website for easier customer use and are offering competitive rates on jet fuel with Avfuel Contract Fuel.”

As well as better-than-retail rates on jet fuel, operators will benefit from no-fee purchases, the ability to put all purchases (fuel and non-fuel related) on their accounts and access to purchasing in a network of more than 3,000 global locations.

Describing the southwest Florida-based facility as a “top-notch business”, Joel Hirst, Avfuel’s vice president of sales said: “Our operators are looking forward to taking advantage of the Avfuel Contract Fuel programme in another high-profile destination location… We’ve had a long, successful partnership with Naples Aviation and are happy to be part of the operation’s progression with rebranding and adding the programme.”

London Luton’s CEO takes over at Birmingham Airport

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Nick Barton, formerly London Luton Airport’s (LLA’s) CEO has been appointed as chief executive of Birmingham Airport. His new role will commence 7 January 2019.

Prior to his four years at Luton, Barton was part of the senior management team at London Stansted for eight years, latterly as the managing director, and has held executive positions at BAA.

During his time at LLA, the airport grew from 9.7 million to 16.5 million passengers a year. In recognition of this, the airport’s shareholders thanked him for his significant contribution and leadership over the last four years.

Meanwhile, commenting on his new role, Barton said: “I am thrilled to be joining Birmingham Airport to deliver the board’s vision and strategy for this critical piece of national and regionally significant transport infrastructure.” Referencing the airport’s ambitious draft Master Plan covering the next 15 years and its plans for a £500m programme to upgrade and expand the capacity of its terminal operations, aircraft stands and support facilities, Barton added that the airport is on “the threshold of a very exciting chapter in its development and I am delighted to have been given the responsibility to lead and shape the future of the airport.”

Highlighting the board’s enthusiasm for its new CEO, Tim Clarke, chairman of Birmingham Airport commented: “The Board is delighted to have secured such a proven and experienced individual to execute our ambitious vision for the development of the airport.

“His record in generating strong growth brings the quality of leadership needed to fully realise the potential of this vital asset for the West Midlands economy and the region as a whole.”

In light of the news that Nick Barton is relocating to Birmingham Airport, Alberto Martin, LLA’s current planning and investment director will take over as CEO of Luton with immediate effect.

Having played an integral role in Luton’s three-year, £160 million terminal transformation project and overseen the preparation and negotiation for Luton Borough Council’s £225m direct air-rail transit, Alberto is well positioned to lead the airport.

The airport’s newly-upgraded terminal – the biggest in its 80-year history – was completed on Thursday 13 December, with the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, officially opening the new facility.

Before joining LLA, Martin had 20 years’ experience in the airport sector, holding a variety of executive roles across Europe, including 10 years as managing director of Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura airports.

“Building on the strong demand from passengers and the success of our recent terminal transformation, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to lead the team in establishing LLA as the airport of choice for accessible, easy and enjoyable air travel,” Alberto said.


Munich Airport displays commitment to a greener future

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As part of its efforts to boost ecological efficiency, Munich Airport, in collaboration with Lufthansa, has unveiled its ‘Green Gate’ exhibition. Hosted in the airport’s satellite terminal, the exhibition showcases how the two companies are promoting sustainable air travel ideas.

The exhibition features a discovery zone with an appealing visual concept, centred around fascinating aspects of environmental and climate protection. Displays offer an overview of the steps already taken to improve the ecological balance as well as the future strategies. With its sustainable design and state-of-the-art climate buffer, the satellite terminal itself sets new standards for energy efficiency. It also highlights Lufthansa’s achievements in fuel efficiency, especially with its modern fleet.

There are information panels on new approach procedures, the environmentally friendly procedure for supplying aircraft with pre-conditioned air, aircraft de-icing and the recycling of de-icing fluids, air quality monitoring, and the commitment of both companies to biodiversity and noise/ sound protection. Visitors can also hop onto an LED stepper to generate electric power through their own efforts or use a CO2 calculator to measure their personal carbon footprint.

Speaking at the opening of the Green Gate exhibition, Dr. Michael Kerkloh, CEO and president of Munich Airport, said: “The airport and the airline complement one another and are working to capture synergy effects. This makes Munich Airport a leader in green aviation. Here you can see one of the world’s most advanced long-haul jetliners parked at one of the world’s best terminals. That not only creates greater comfort for passengers. It benefits the environment too.”

Noting that the aviation industry has set impressive targets to reduce its carbon footprint, including carbon neutral growth from 2020 onwards and a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2005, Wilken Bormann, CEO of Lufthansa’s Munich hub underlined the environmental efficiency of the new Airbus A350-900, one of the world’s most innovative passenger aircraft and part of the German carriers fleet.

“It achieves better fuel economy than any other comparable aircraft and uses an average of just 2.9 litres of fuel per 100 passenger kilometres. In addition, the new ‘whisper jet’ significantly reduces the noise impact on residents in the surrounding area. The noise footprint of the A350 is 50% smaller than that of the A340,” he said.


Inset image: Dr. Michael Kerkloh, Munich Airport CEO (right) and Wilken Bormann, CEO, Lufthansa’s Munich hub (left) at the opening of the Green Gate exhibition.

Swedavia unveils chatbot to assist with passenger processing

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With an increased flow of passengers expected throughout the coming week and Christmas period, Swedavia has launched the AI-based chatbot, Swea, to assist passengers both before their journey and at the airport.

Accessed via Swedavia’s website, as well as Facebook Messenger, Swea covers all ten Swedavia airports around the clock. It can answer questions about flights, baggage arrival times, current waiting times at the security checkpoint and the range of goods and services available.

Answers are available in both Swedish and English and passengers can ask questions ranging from which gate their flight departs to where the nearest vegetarian restaurant is at the airport and what time their baggage is arriving and on what baggage belt. Passengers can also request flight updates to be sent to their mobile device directly.

“Our new chatbot is a key component of our digital transformation, which will make it easier for our passengers to ask questions, get guidance and have a smoother start to their journey,” said Karin Gylin, head of innovation at Swedavia.

Developed in partnership with, which specialises in developing digital solutions for airports, the Swea chatbot will gradually refine its answers the more interaction it receives.

UK’s first digital tower goes live

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Bedfordshire Airport has marked a milestone as the home of the UK’s first operational digital tower. Designed and delivered by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions (SDATS), the system is owned and operated by Cranfield University.

It consists of a sensor mast equipped with high definition cameras, which captures images of activity on and around the airfield. This data is then fed through to a manned operations room (which in this instance happens to also be at the airport), from where traffic in and out of the airfield can be managed.

Describing it as a “historic moment for air travel in the United Kingdom,” Johan Klintberg, CEO Saab Digital Air Services also underlined how the new tower “shows the future of the UK’s aviation sector lies in leading edge technology combined with operational expertise.”

Meanwhile Professor Sir Peter Gregson, vice-chancellor and CEO of Cranfield University said: “The digital air traffic control centre is a significant boost for Cranfield’s global research airport and the research capabilities of the University.”

Pioneered in Sweden in 2015, digital towers enable significantly higher operational efficiency than traditional manned air traffic control towers, as well as lower operating costs and advanced safety and decision support systems.

Offering a unique environment for transformational research into the aerospace sector, Cranfield University is working hard to address the challenges of digital aviation and rethink the airports, airlines, airspace management and aircraft of the future.

“Combined with our existing and future facilities, it will cement Cranfield’s place as the home of the leading aerospace and aviation research, at the heart of the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth arc,” continued Gregson.

In light of Cranfield Airport’s news, Irra Ariella, CEO and co-founder of VChain Technology revealed that “this is another brilliant example of innovation in an industry ripe for disruption. It has to be remembered that the aviation industry was not designed for commercial use, especially not on the scale it is today with operations at or above intended capacity.”

She added: “This announcement is especially encouraging because a function as critical as Air Traffic Control must stay at the forefront of technology.

VChain research suggests up to 50% of the manual repetitive process case human errors. It’s simply no longer fit for purpose. IATA is doing a lot to lead that charge with industry thought leadership such as One Identity as well as promoting innovative solutions through IATA Strategic Partnerships, that have proven to have both the expertise and the safety credentials to transition the industry on from manual to digital. This evolution taking place behind the scenes will reduce flight disruptions and enable the industry to meet increasing demand, operational punctuality as well as customer service.

Former Skyways FBO facility at Huron is rebranded as Fly Jet Center

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Huron Regional Airport’s (KHON’s) sole FBO, which was previously known as Skyways, has been renovated and rebranded as Fly Jet Center.

The FBO has recently come under new ownership, with Tanyika Sims, Fly Jet Center’s president and COO, describing the new name as “representative of the developments we’re making at KHON.”

In addition to the new name, the FBO facility has undergone a refurbishment and features a pilot’s lounge, conference room, flight planning room with internet access, wireless internet, pilot supplies, a passenger lobby and heated hangar space.

Sims added: “We’re thrilled to be able to serve South Dakota’s aviation market – as well as those visiting for a quick tech stop – with the quality services they deserve, in a facility of which the Huron community can be proud.”

Alongside well-appointed facilities and services, which include ground handling, quick turnarounds, aircraft sales, pilot services and gourmet catering, Fly Jet Center is also unveiling its newly-expanded full-service aircraft maintenance department to benefit KHON’s tenants and guests. It also further serves the aviation community with charter services through its affiliated company, Jet 60.

Swissport to enhance ground operations with Honeywell

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Swiss aviation services company, Swissport, has signed a five-year agreement with Honeywell for the global deployment of GoDirect Ground Handling service.

Created in partnership with Pinnacle, the global telematics company, Honeywell’s solution enables users to connect ramp support services used for airport-based ground transportation vehicles.

Using a combination of connectivity and telematics, the connected ramp system allows ground-based vehicles at airports to transmit data that can be fed into Honeywell’s GoDirect Ground Handling software. This provides ground handlers the ability to collate the data, which is then analysed through an operator-friendly interface.

Prior to deploying the solution across its global network, Swissport, which provides ground services at 318 airports across 50 countries, was able to carry out a proof-of-concept demonstration to evaluate the benefits of GoDirect Ground Handling. It recognised an estimated 13% reduction in repair and maintenance costs, a greater understanding of driver behaviours and identification of the most commonly driven pathways at airports.

“Connected and software-driven technology is set to have a profound impact on the evolution of ground handling, and we’re working with Honeywell to move the industry forward with the creation of the connected ramp,” said David Burgess, vice-president Global Fleet, Swissport International.

He added that “with more accessible data, we can create a safer and more efficient ramp environment, drive better on-time performance and lower fuel and maintenance costs. Additionally, telematics will help us ‘right size’ our vast ground-support fleet through more efficient allocation and utilisation, thereby reducing congestion and saving on long-term capital expenditure.”

Kristin Slyker, Honeywell’s vice-president of Connected Aircraft, added: “Savings on fuel and maintenance costs are just some of the initial benefits that this technology can deliver to ground handlers.”

She concluded: “True integration of ground operations with airport and airline processes is now a real possibility, driving even greater opportunities for the creation of value for everyone that flies.”

Bendigo Airport to gain links with Sydney

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Located in Victoria, south-eastern Australia, Bendigo Airport is set to become a gateway to the rest of the world next year. In March 2019, Qantas will begin flying between Sydney and Bendigo.

Offering passengers the ability to connect with onward international journeys from Sydney, the flights will be operated on a Q300, 50-seat turboprop aircraft six days a week, increasing to a daily schedule during the peak summer season.

Owned and operated by the City of Greater Bendigo, the airport is CASA-registered and currently offers a range of commercial and light aircraft operations including emergency service, flight training, business aviation and charter operations.

Commenting on the new link with Sydney, Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke said the City of Greater Bendigo was delighted to partner with Qantas and the Victorian Government to deliver flights for residents and businesses.

She described the new service as realising a “long-held civic goal” and “a major milestone for our city and airport, [which] will deliver an incredible boost to our local economy.”

Redevelopment project

The airport, which is located about an hour and a half north of Melbourne, has recently undergone a major redevelopment project, which has delivered improved infrastructure and expanded capacity. Referencing these recent upgrades, Cr O’Rourke added: “Eighteen months on from unveiling our new 1,600 metre runway, we have achieved what we set out to do. This is fantastic news and makes Greater Bendigo and the wider region more accessible than ever before.

“To have infrastructure of this scale in a regional area is an incredible asset.”

She also pointed out that “to have a commercial airline operating on our doorstep is a major coup when it comes to enhancing the liveability of our city and region, removing the barrier of always needing to travel to Tullamarine [142 km by car] to fly to Sydney or other cities.”

The first two phases of the airport’s redevelopment project comprised of an increase in hangar development and airport amenities, as well as the new 1,600 metre x 30 metre runway for emergency service providers and aviation transport services. The final phase will see the construction of a contemporary business park to create opportunities for new and existing business expansion.

Funding for the redevelopment project has come from several different sources, including the City of Greater Bendigo, the Victorian State Government (Regional Aviation Fund) and the Australian Government.