Antwerp welcomes new links with Birmingham, Munich and Maribor

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The Belgian-based carrier, VLM Airlines, will start a new daily service from Antwerp (Belgium) to Birmingham (UK) from 12 February 2018. The airline will also fly from the same date to two other new routes; Antwerp–Munich (Germany) and Munich–Maribor (Slovenia).

The new services will be operated on a Fokker 50 with fares starting at €59 (all taxes included).

Commenting on the new service to Birmingham, William Pearson, aviation director at Birmingham Airport said: “It is fantastic news that Birmingham will be reconnected with the Belgian city of Antwerp. This medieval city has something for everyone, steeped in history but also named as the country’s capital of cool. It is also known as the world’s leading diamond city. We are delighted that VLM will be operating this service.”

The new routes are in addition to VLM’s existing Antwerp–London City Airport route and flights between Antwerp and Zurich, which will commence on 22 January.

Commenting on how the new routes will cater for both business and leisure travellers, Karl Rickard, CEO of VLM Airlines enthused that as well as being the diamond capital of the world, one of Europe’s largest seaports and the second largest petrochemical centre in the world, Antwerp is a “thriving city, that is also known for its bold and diverse arts, fashion and culinary scene. A short ride takes you to other popular Belgian cities including Bruges, Ghent and Brussels as well as to Dutch cities such as Rotterdam and Eindhoven.”

Billund delivers best-ever results in airport’s history

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Welcoming 3.4 million passengers through its doors in 2017, Billund Airport bid farewell to the last 12 months on an all-time high in terms of both passenger traffic and cargo.

Last year marked the best-ever results in the history of West Denmark’s busiest gateway and its eighth consecutive year of passenger traffic growth.

Citing the airport’s international routes as driving growth over the last few years, Kjeld Zacho Jørgensen, CEO, Billund Airport, said: “Our core catchment embraces seven major West Danish cities and the overall progression in the economy in our area has been evident over the last 12 months. Our strong customer base is taking advantage of our expanding route network and cementing Billund’s position as West Denmark’s international airport.”

Five additional routes are already lined up for 2018. Wizz Air will kick-start the summer season providing the airport’s first direct connection to Romania’s second-largest city – Iasi. The Hungarian low-fare carrier will also launch a highly in demand link to Vienna, following a steady year-on-year increase in indirect traffic to the Austrian capital.

Billund will also welcome a new partner in the summer – the Norwegian regional carrier, Widerøe. Joining the airport’s existing links to Bergen and Oslo Gardermoen, the new flights will see the Danish gateway’s links to Norway increase to 40 flights each week in summer 2018.

Meanwhile, both the low-fare Irish carrier, Ryanair, and the Icelandic carrier, Primera Air, will add new weekly connections to Athens, the Greek capital city in May.

“We are looking forward to another year of developing our connectivity with the world”, states Jørgensen. “Over the next three years we will be investing in our infrastructure to support our strategy in providing a sustainable airport and, with thanks to our partners confirming new routes, as well as frequency increases on existing successful services, we can continue our journey and get great results together.”

London Stansted celebrates record-breaking performance

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London Stansted ended 2017 on a high having announced that Emirates will open a direct service from the Essex-based hub to Dubai in June 2018.

The airport also marked 2017 as its busiest year to date with 25.9 million passengers travelling through the airport, marking an increase of 1.57 million passengers (6.5%) over the previous 12 months.

The airport’s record-breaking achievement was credited to the addition of 11 new routes across the year, bringing the total number of destinations served from Stansted up to 190 across 38 countries. Apart from Munich, the airport also serves more scheduled connections to Europe than any other airport in the world.

“The last year has been a very busy and exciting time at London Stansted with passenger numbers and the range of destinations directly available from the airport both reaching all-time highs.

“The positive passenger growth was driven by increased choice from many of our airline partners, particularly Ryanair who experienced another strong year, and the very successful opening of’s first base in the south of England back in March,” said Stansted Airport CEO, Ken O’Toole.

Explaining that the new direct service to Dubai in June 2018 would also provide onward access to a wide range of destinations around the world including Shanghai, Sydney and Hong Kong, O’Toole added that Emirates’ “excellent addition to our route network comes on top of the very exciting news that Primera Air will also launch direct flights to New York, Boston and Toronto from April and May this year.”

O’Toole also confirmed that work is now underway on phase one of the airport’s £500million airport transformation project.

“It’s imperative that we plan how we can keep pace with demand and invest in developing quality, good value facilities” he said, referencing that the multi-million-pound investment will add more check-in desks, extra seating and more car park spaces.

He also added that: “we will shortly submit a planning application to make best use of our existing runway capacity within current environmental limits to improve UK connectivity and support national and regional economic growth.”

Inset images: Top – Ken O’Toole, CEO London Stansted; Bottom – New check-in area, London Stansted.

Pegasus Airlines plane skids off runway at Trabzon Airport

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A Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800 narrowly avoided the Black Sea on Saturday 13 January, after it skidded off the runway at Trabzon Airport in Northern Turkey.

The passenger jet had flown from Ankara to Trabzon with 162 passengers, two pilots and four cabin crew on board when it overshot the runway and slid down a coastal cliff coming to a halt with its wheels caught in thick mud.

The cause of the incident is yet to be confirmed but all passengers and crew were safely evacuated from the aircraft by emergency services. The airport was temporarily closed for several hours on Saturday night while an investigation was launched by the Turkish Aviation Authority SHGM, but reopened on Sunday morning.

One of the passengers, Fatma Gordu, told reporters at the state-run news agency Andalou, that panic erupted as “we tilted to the side, the front was down while the plane’s rear was up. There was panic, people shouting, screaming.”

Having opened to air traffic in 1957, the airport was serviced with a new runway in 1985 making it accessible to all kinds of aircraft.

Pegasus Airlines said in a statement the aircraft “had a runway excursion incident during landing at Trabzon Airport”, while one of the pilots was quoted as telling prosecutors that the right engine ‘suddenly gained speed’ for unknown reasons as the plane was landing.  According to the flight path the aircraft had a speed of 110 knots 204 km/ h, 127mph) on the last third of the runway. Some reports have also suggested that the aircraft’s left jet engine was also ripped from its wing during the incident.

Cornwall plans continued passenger growth in 2018

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Having closed 2017 with a 23% increase from the previous year in passenger traffic, Cornwall Airport Newquay (CAN) has experienced its third consecutive year of double-digit growth and has become the UK’s fastest growing airport for a second consecutive year.

The gateway to the UK’s Southwest, CAN welcomed a total of 453,795 passengers in 2017, with the greatest number of passengers handled in July and August, when 121,000 passengers travelled through the airport. December was also a record-breaking month at the airport with 18% year-on-year growth primarily due to the Christmas flights to/ from Birmingham and a doubling of services to Manchester over the festive period.

CAN’s most popular destination with 964 flights throughout 2017 was London Gatwick, while the 1,511km link to Faro was the furthest point served.
Commenting on how he expects the growth in passenger traffic to continue throughout 2018, Al Titterington, CAN’s MD stated: “Our passenger growth remains far higher than the average with little indication of slowing down. It’s a credit to all those committed to ensuring we remain a popular destination with an efficient airport.”

With year-round flights to Gatwick, Manchester, Leeds Bradford, Dublin and the Isles of Scilly, CAN also operates seasonal routes in the summer with various carriers, including Flybe, Eurowings and Ryanair to Belfast, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Birmingham, London Stansted, Aberdeen, Doncaster, Sheffield, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cork, Düsseldorf, Alicante, Faro and Frankfurt Hahn.

Passengers travelling from Cornwall will see an enhancement to the airport’s connections with Germany this year, when Eurowings’ seasonal operation to Stuttgart is added to the carrier’s established service to Düsseldorf and Ryanair’s link to Frankfurt Hahn. Lufthansa’s low-fare carrier will commence its weekly service to the German city of Stuttgart in May using an A319 aircraft.

Following London Heathrow’s (LHR) recent announcement in the reduction of domestic charges, Titterington also revealed that one of the main focuses for the coming year will be to gain a highly-desired link to London Heathrow.

The Government has stated its support for a third runway at LHR and we have been a longstanding supporter of Heathrow expansion. The link would be transformational for Cornwall’s economy and we are working closely with Heathrow Airport Ltd and our airline partners to try and make this happen. Such services will make Cornwall accessible on a global level, be that inbound (international) tourism or the export of goods and services, the impact would be significant. It would also provide a catalyst for discussion with potential new airlines operating from the airport.

Bergen Airport implements BlipTrack to improve wait times

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Norway’s second busiest airport with over six million passengers annually, Bergen Airport has followed in the footsteps of its Avinor sister airports, Oslo and Stavanger, by implementing BlipTrack’s queue management technology.

Designed to eliminate wait-time guesswork, the queue management solution will enable staff at Bergen to accurately measure and predict how many people are standing in line and for how long. Subsequently they can then optimise resource utilisation and improve the passenger experience.

“We want to make travelling easier for our passengers. The implementation of BlipTrack will help to ensure that passengers experience a quick and easy passage through this stage of the journey, and significantly increase the opportunity for a positive experience throughout the airport,” said Øystein Skaar, Bergen Airport’s director.

The airport recently opened a new terminal capable of handling up to 10 million passengers a year. To complement the infrastructure improvements, access to both live and empirical data insights on passenger queue and dwell times will provide airport management with the ability to monitor queue line density at security checkpoints so that they can respond promptly and effectively to irregular operations and disruptions.

In addition to benefitting airport management teams, Bergen plans to share the wait time information with its passengers to help reduce stress levels by creating realistic expectations for queue times.

Commenting on the new partnership with Bergen Airport, Preben Andersen, sales manager at BLIP Systems said: “With the new installation at Bergen Airport, BlipTrack has proven to be an effective platform to provide visibility on resource effectiveness for greater processing efficiency and improved passenger experience”.

Clark Airport partners with SITA to enhance communications

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As passenger traffic continues to grow in Asia Pacific, Clark International Airport – a gateway to the Philippines that is managed and operated by the government-owned enterprise, Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) – has teamed up with SITA to install its AirportHub, which enables airlines to connect their applications and IT systems at an airport quickly and easily.

Cathay Dragon, the regional airline of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Group is already benefitting from the enhanced communications with Cathay Pacific’s general manager, IT infrastructure and operations, Kerry Peirse saying:

As an airline we need to be agile and be able to open new routes quickly and easily. When we connect our systems at an airport, like Clark International, that already has SITA AirportHub in place everything moves faster. Being able to connect to AirportHub removes the complexity of dealing with local telecom providers. It is streamlined and efficient, which means we can be up and running in a matter of weeks not months and the secure shared infrastructure offers consistent global service standards.

Located in Central Luzon, Clark Airport serves both North -Central Luzon and the northern Metro Manila area with the local catchment estimated to have a population of 23 million. In 2017, the airport’s passenger numbers rose 58% to its highest ever levels.

“SITA AirportHub allows us to provide the airlines, grounds handlers and our other tenants with secure and reliable bandwidth, including wireless connectivity to access off-airport applications. As more airlines choose to use Clark International they can be assured that they will have world-class, resilient and cost-effective communication services available to them,” said Alexander Cauguiran, acting president and CEO of Clark International Airport.

AirportHub is now available at more than 400 airports and provides 6,500 connections across the world, ranging from remote and regional destinations serving less than a million passengers to large international hubs.

“As passenger numbers continue to rise in Asia Pacific, airlines and airports are looking for services that maximise infrastructure. This is exactly what AirportHub enables. Clark International is the latest airport to join the growing number of airports that are working with SITA and the airlines to use shared infrastructure to deliver world-class services cost-effectively,” said Sumesh Patel, SITA President, Asia Pacific.

Adding that SITA’s investment in this shared infrastructure greatly minimises the likelihood of network isolation at the airport, Sumesh concluded: “The entire community can benefit from the reliable, secure, cost-effective, and scalable communications services which are enabled at the airports and which are the foundation upon which all the airport IT systems operate.”

Keflavik wraps up 2017 with 8.8 million passengers

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Having welcomed 8.8 million passengers by the end of 2017 – nearly two million more passengers than the year before – Keflavik Airport passenger numbers have grown by an immense 28%.

The record-breaking year comes as a result of balanced growth across Origin and Destination (O&D), as well as connecting traffic, at the Icelandic hub explained Hlynur Sigurdsson, commercial director, Isavia. “It’s exhilarating to be part of the rapid growth we’re experiencing here at Kevlavik and it’s showing no sign of slowing down.”

Sigurdsson added: “To get a clear idea of how rapidly our airport is growing, just two years ago we welcomed 4.8 million passengers which means in 24 months we’ve nearly doubled our traffic. Forecasts are already suggesting we will not only hit the definitive 10 million passenger mark but significantly pass it this year.”

Copenhagen was the most frequently-served destination from Kevlavik in 2017 with around 1,750 flights to the Danish city throughout the year, while its closest destination Vagar in the Faroe Islands was served just 43 times.

Boosting its route network further in the coming months the airport is scheduled to launch a further 14 links in the first half of 2018. Five of the new routes are within Europe while additional routes (with the majority served by WOW Air) to Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St Louis, New York and Dallas will significantly increase Iceland’s links to North America, with Keflavik being connected to 28 destinations on the continent.

Springfield-Branson National Airport to upgrade facilities

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With passenger numbers expected to reach one million per annum in the near future, Springfield-Branson National Airport in Missouri, US has a number of significant improvements in the pipeline designed to improve customer service.

The developments, which are expected to cost in the region of US$750,000, are due to start mid-January and will include expanding and remodelling the restaurant in the gate area, adding charging stations and upgrading the free Wi-Fi.

Commenting on the improvements, Brian Weiler, Springfield Airport’s director said: “These improvements are driven by passenger growth. With several new routes and airlines going to larger jets, customers using the airport have grown 35% since 2011. We want our terminal amenities to keep up.”

He explained that currently customer seating at the airport’s restaurant is in short supply, with wait lines often spilling onto the concourse. To help with overcrowding the plan is to increase the size of the restaurant by more than 50%, which will enable a new, bigger kitchen to be fitted, making it possible to improve and expand the menu.

The Wi-Fi upgrade will speed up connection speeds considerably for passengers says Kent Boyd, the airport’s marketing director explaining that the “last Wi-Fi upgrade was five years ago and sometimes it struggles to keep up. It seems like every customer in the terminal has a wireless device, be it a phone, tablet or computer.”

While the airport currently only has eight dedicated charging stations in the gate areas, this will increase to 80 as part of the refurbishments and most of the new charging stations will be located at dedicated task tables, so that passengers can continue working in comfort.

“Making improvements like this are vital to the airport’s success,” says Weiler. “It’s part of an on-going process of making sure our airport offers the best possible customer service.”


Expansion plans underway at Florianopolis’ Hercilio Luz Airport

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Having been selected as the recipient of a 30-year concession to operate and expand Florianopolis-Hercilio Luz International Airport in Brazil in March 2017, the Zurich Airport Group (Flughafen Zurich AG) has now set the wheels in motion to expand and improve the infrastructure and services at the Santa Catarina-located hub.

Plans are underway to start the construction of a new and modern passenger terminal, which is scheduled to be completed by October 2019. Four times bigger than the current terminal, the new building will offer wide open spaces featuring cutting-edge technology and a variety of retail opportunities.

The airport is primarily served by regional and domestic, as well as low-far e carriers – including Aerolineas Argentinas, Avianca Brazil, Azul Brazilian Airlines, Gol Airlines, LATAM Airlines – and the new terminal will enable domestic and international areas to be kept separate, while the apron will have 10 passenger boarding bridges and six remote positions. In addition, the existing runway will be extended and much of the aviation equipment will be replaced with new and more modern equipment. The new build will also incorporate car parking that can cater for 2,530 vehicles.

In keeping with the surrounding landscape and local style, the new terminal has been designed to reflect the natural beauty of Santa Catarina island.

Passengers travelling through the airport before the new build is complete will benefit from upgrades to the existing terminal, which are due to start immediately and which will focus on efficiency and comfort. A fast and extensive Wi-Fi network, as well as refurbished and bigger restrooms are all expected to be up and running by May 2018, while new passenger processing technology means those travelling through the airport will benefit from shorter waiting times at security areas and a more seamless experience.