Waltzing Matilda sees pick up in business

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Boston-based jet charter operator, Waltzing Matilda Aviation (WMA) has noted a pick up in business in the past week having experienced a quiet April and first half of May.

Based on levels of activity at its home base – Laurence G Hanscom Field Airport in Bedford, Massachusetts, WMA believes business is coming back faster than for some of the bigger national players who have been forced to furlough crews during the downturn. Having maintained full staffing levels in recent months WMA has used some of this downtime to invest in new systems and enhance its website.

Commenting on how WMA has been fielding up to 50 jet charter enquiries a day up from 5-10 just two weeks ago, CEO John Thomas, said: “With a massive imbalance in clients wanting to fly from Florida to the North East we are seeing unbelievably low pricing for one way southbound flights as low as $6,500. But we don’t expect this imbalance will last for more than a couple of weeks after which southbound pricing will rise to their more normal levels.”

Thomas added that with the FET (Federal Excise Tax) holiday until the end of December, as well as low fuel prices, now is one of the cheapest times to fly privately. “We have picked up a number of new corporate customers who have already made the decision not to allow their staff to fly commercially for the forseeable future and therefore see private aviation as the only viable option.”

Belfast City operates reduced schedule to Lon..

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In conjunction with Aer Lingus and to facilitate essential travel Belfast City Airport is facilitating a reduced flight schedule to London Heathrow.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, Belfast City has introduced measures throughout the terminal to protect everyone on site. These include perspex screens, additional hand sanitising units and markings to promote social distancing throughout the terminal. Passengers are also being asked to wear ‘face coverings’ when in the terminal and onto their flight.

Southampton and Guernsey airports team up to ..

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Southampton Airport and Guernsey Airport have joined forces along with Channel Island’s based airline Aurigny to ensure a special charter flight carrying medical samples to be tested at Southampton General Hospital was carried out efficiently and safely.

“We are extremely proud to have been providing lifeline flights to the Channel Islands throughout this difficult period,” said Neil Garwood, Managing Director of Southampton Airport. “It has never been more important to enable medical flights than during this pandemic response,” he added.

Southampton General hospital is one of the key medical facilities for the Channel Islands and as such is key in the islands’ response to the pandemic. The flight, which took place on Sunday 24 May, on a Dornier 228NG, was requested by authorities on Guernsey on the Saturday. “Our team pulled out all the stops working with Aurigny and Guernsey Airport to make sure this precious medical cargo reached Southampton in time,” added Garwood.

As a popular year-round air route for passengers arriving from the Channel Islands, Southampton Airport is a key access point to the south of England. Aurigny is currently operating daily services to Southampton from Guernsey for those with a requirement to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, which includes vital medical appointments.

Header image: the Aurigny Dornier 228NG after landing at Southampton Airport

Indian airlines resume domestic services

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Following a two-month lockdown domestic flights in India have started to resume service.  In a statement on twitter on Monday 25 May, India’s Federal Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said: “Today we restart domestic flights. India’s civil aviation is always at the forefront.”

Airlines are permitted to resume services on one-third of their approved summer 2020 schedules for domestic routes. Once domestic travel has eased, the issue of international travel can be addressed with the possibility of resuming international flights as early as June.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline is permitted to operate a maximum of 970 flights across 52 destinations. Vistara will be allowed to operate 448 flights across 25 destinations; Air India 340 flights across 37 destinations; and GoAir 178 flights across 19 destinations.

Guidelines have been issued that passengers, airports and airlines must follow including wearing face masks and arriving at the airport at least two hours prior to departure. Although airlines are not required to keep the middle seat vacant aircraft will need to be rigorously disinfected after every flight.

The decision to resume domestic services was not announced until Saturday with some states were reportedly unenthusiastic about opening up their airports in view of rising Covid-19 cases. Around 630 domestic flights on Monday 25 May were cancelled due to limited operations at major airports such as Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad.

According to some reports Kolkata and Bagdogra airports in cyclone-hit West Bengal were not operating any domestic flights between 25-27 May, bu twill handle a limited number of flights each daily from 28 May.

From 26 May Vijayawada and Vizag airports in Andhra Pradesh will handle just 20% of their pre-lockdown flights.

Flights have resumed despite the rate of coronavirus cases escalating in India with the death rate now exceeding 4,000.

UK Airports hit back against blanket UK quara..

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The UK’s decision to introduce a quarantine requirement for air, sea, and other arrivals from June, has been met with retaliation by those in the aviation industry.

British Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, told parliament that the controversial scheme would include all arrivals from abroad but added it could be modified to exclude countries where the Covid-19 infection rate was below the rate of one.

Shapps also mentioned that ‘air bridges’ could be introduced to enable people from countries that have achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country.

Responding to the announcement of the details for the 14-day quarantine period, Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA) said:

“We are disappointed that the Government has decided to go ahead with a simplistic blanket approach to quarantining all arrivals, without any consultation with industry. This threatens to have very serious economic and social consequences, not just in aviation but in all sectors relying on aviation connectivity, without resulting in notably better public health outcomes than a more targeted approach. This must be reviewed more frequently than every three weeks.”

Dee added that quarantine restrictions would result in a further drop in demand for flights with passengers unwilling to fly if they had to quarantine on arrival in the UK. This will in turn hamper the travel of those key workers who have now been exempted.

“As our neighbours and key trading partners move towards a science-led, risk-based approach, the UK should do so as soon as possible, or risk being left behind. Industry proposals such as air bridges would facilitate travel from low-risk countries and protect the public from high-risk arrivals. This would enable the restart of aviation and support the UK’s economic recovery. Crucially, this would also give us time to get a testing regime in place for arriving passengers like Greece, Iceland and other countries are doing, as the next step to returning to a new normal.”

She concluded that, “In the meantime, the Chancellor needs to provide further financial and business support to airports and travel operators to help the industry get through this prolonged period with limited to no revenue and ensure the sector is ready to restart in support of the economic recovery.”

easyJet to resume services from mid-June

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Having grounded its entire fleet in mid-March, low-cost carrier (LCC) easyJet has revealed that it will resume operations on 15 June, when many intra-EU barriers are due to be removed.

The LCC will operate a much-reduced network of primarily domestic flights with 10 of the 21 European airports it will be serving in the UK. These include: Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Inverness, the Isle of Man, Liverpool and Newcastle. Notable omissions from the initial schedule are Luton and Manchester, although both airports are due to return to the airline’s network from July. The airline will also restart services at seven French airports: Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Nice, Paris CGD and Toulouse. Barcelona, Geneva, Lisbon and Porto will also be served.

Passengers and crew will be required to masks on board aircraft and no food will be sold during flights, while enhanced cleaning of aircraft will be actioned. And at some airports there may be quick temperature checks being carried out.

EasyJet’s Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said: “I am really pleased that we will be returning to flying in the middle of June. These are small and carefully planned steps that we are taking to gradually resume operations. We will continue to closely monitor the situation across Europe so that when more restrictions are lifted the schedule will continue to build over time to match demand while also ensuring we are operating efficiently and on routes that our customers want to fly.”

Editor’s comment: A clean getaway

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As airports and passengers adjust to the new kind of normal, one thing is clear… An airport’s ability to demonstrate heightened hygiene standards and protocols will be crucial in restoring the confidence of travellers and staff, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you think about the sheer number of passengers typically travelling through airports each day it’s easy to see how the rapid spread of infectious diseases is possible. And while bathrooms and washrooms are obvious environments for bacteria and germs to thrive in, it’s the trays used during security screening that are a real cause for concern. According to a 2016 study conducted at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport by a team of experts at the University of Nottingham in the UK and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, “plastic security screening trays appeared to pose the highest potential risk, and handling these is almost inevitable for all embarking passengers.”

Earlier this week, Smiths Detection announced the launch of its new ultraviolet (UVC) light kits capable of destroying up to 99.9% of microorganisms present on baggage trays at the security checkpoint. The kits automatically disinfect trays as they are being transported from the reclaim area back to the divest station. And thanks to the specially designed casing and other safety measures, the UVC lights pose no exposure risk to staff or passengers. Richard Thompson, Smiths Detection’s Global Director Aviation, stated, “UVC lights are a practical, straightforward way that airports can help reduce the transmission of any bacteria or virus that might be on the surface of its trays now and in the long term.”

Meanwhile, to assist airports in adhering to social distancing recommendations Veovo has launched its “quick to deploy” Virtual Queuing and Passenger Density Management solutions to help with safer travel. Designed to monitor crowd density and maintain airport-wide safe distancing measures, Veovo’s solutions enable operators to improve the responsiveness of sanitation service providers, directing teams to where cleaning is most needed. “To safely manage crowding, operators need accurate timely data,” pointed out James Williamson, Veovo’s CEO. “By accommodating new social distancing needs in our solution, we enable safe and proactive planning to reduce crowds and to make sanitation and disinfection programmes more effective.”

And at some of the bigger airports around the world, robotic cleaners and Smart Screening Helmets, that enable airport staff to conduct contactless temperature readings, are increasingly being deployed. But for passengers who have forgotten to pack their own personal protective equipment (PPE), Las Vegas McCarran International Airport has come up with a simple, yet inspired solution – PPE vending machines. Passengers in need of hand sanitiser, gloves, or a face mask can now stock up on such items at one of the three machines located in Terminals 1 and 3.

Forget snacks on the go, the new normal for travel is going to be all about heightened hygiene awareness and face masks on the fly…

Have a safe weekend,

Chloë Greenbank, Regional Gateway Editor.

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SITA ramps up development of digital identity..

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SITA has stepped up its commitment to developing a permanent self-sovereign identity for air travel. The IT provider has become a premium donor of the Sovrin Foundation, the international non-profit organisation focused on the advancement of self-sovereign digital identity.

Self sovereign means a lifetime portable identity for any person, organisation or thing that allows the holder to present verifiable credentials in a privacy-protecting way. These credentials can represent things as diverse as a passport or an airline ticket.

Having successfully deployed its Smart Path technology at airports to streamline the departure process through the use of a single biometric token, using a passenger’s face as their passport SITA’s expanded role with the Sovrin Foundation is key to speeding up the development of a permanent digital identity for use during air travel and accepted by governments, airlines or airports globally.

“We expect in the coming years that the development of a universally accepted digital identity will replace the traditional passport,” said Gustavo Pina, Director of the SITA lab. “This will allow travel across borders with any airline or airport while ensuring that passengers remain in full control of their identity while providing actionable, trusted data only to appropriate parties such as border agencies.”

Benefits of implementing self-sovereign identity include reduced arrivals infrastructure, providing new opportunities to increase existing airport throughput by design and not expansion.

UK’s first waste-to-jet-fuel plant one ..

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With the desire to keep the focus on a green recovery in a post-Covid world sustainable fuels technology company Velocys has revealed that resolution to grant planning permission for the UK’s first commercial scale waste-to-jet fuel plant has now been given.

A collaboration between Shell and British Airways, the plant, Altalto Immingham, will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of everyday municipal household and commercial waste and turn it into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The fuel can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 70% compared to the traditional fossil fuel equivalent. Velocys will also improve air quality, with up to 90% reduction in particulate matter (soot) from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100% reduction in sulphur oxides.

“It’s fantastic news that the Planning Committee has approved our waste-to-jet-fuel project, which will be a first for the UK. Sustainable aviation fuels are essential for decarbonising this challenging sector and achieving net zero emissions by 2050,” said Henrik Wareborn, CEO at Velocys. “That’s why Velocys are calling on the government to co-ordinate policy between departments to help us fund a fleet of world leading sustainable aviation fuel facilities in the UK.”

The resolution was given by North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC)’s Planning Committee. A formal decision notice will be issued subject to the completion of standard legal agreements with NELC. All statutory consultees have indicated their acceptance of the plan.

Cllr Philip Jackson, Leader, North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “For such a high profile project to choose North East Lincolnshire just shows how competitive we are for the investment market, and with projects like this choosing our patch just shows how we can work with the private sector to make locating here an easy choice.”

Aviation Minister Kelly Tolhurst added: “Innovative technologies – like the development of sustainable aviation fuels – firms up the UK’s position as a leader in aviation, and shows the determination the industry has in continuing to operate, but in a more environmentally-friendly way.


Hackers steal easyJet customer data

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Just as airlines are looking to restart their services British low-cost carrier easyJet and its customers have been hit by another debacle. The LCC has announced that data of nearly nine million of its customers has been stolen by computer hackers. The airline said the attack was a “highly sophisticated” cyberattack on its systems but has not disclosed which email addresses and travel details have been stolen.

Of the nine million affected passengers, more than 2,208 have had their credit card details stolen, reports the Guardian. The airline has stated that it will be contacting customers directly within the next few days.

In a statement carried by the Guardian, easyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said,

“We would like to apologise to those customers who have been affected by this incident.

“Since we became aware of the incident, it has become clear that owing to Covid-19 there is heightened concern about personal data being used for online scams. As a result, and on the recommendation of the ICO, we are contacting those customers whose travel information was accessed and we are advising them to be extra vigilant, particularly if they receive unsolicited communications.”

easyJet has since stopped any unauthorised access and is working with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the National Cyber Security Centre.