During its 24th Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was held virtually on Friday 16 October, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organiser (CANSO) launched a new advocacy priority to help the industry navigate the current aviation crisis. The commitment is to provide the policy and framework guidance to ensure the air traffic management (ATM) industry emerges from the current pandemic stronger and more resilient then before.
“It has been a challenging year for us all and it is encouraging to see such a commitment to CANSO and the industry,” said Simon Hocquard, Director General of CANSO. “Our members have come together and agreed to focus on measures that will help the industry navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside our overall objective of transforming ATM. This is an important step as we redefine our future and the approach we need to take.”
CANSO’s AGM also saw the announcement of the new Executive Committee Chair, Captain Gilbert Macharia Kibe, who currently serves as Director General of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
Meanwhile on 19 October the Chair Teams of the CANSO European Safety Directors Group (CESAF) and the EUROCONTROL Safety Team signed a cooperation agreement which will comprise various types of activities, including: exchange of safety-related information; sharing expertise and best practice; cross-participation in working groups; and coordinating engagement with regulatory and legislative authorities, vendors and media.
The airport e-commerce platform, Grab, has teamed up with 3Sixty Duty Free to launch its first retail parternship at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Airport in the US.
The new partnership allows passengers to pre-order from a large range of retail products via the Grab platform and then collect their purchase either in store or at their gate.
“We’re excited about bringing this touch-free retail experience to DFW,” said Ken Buchanan, Executive VP of Customer Experience & Revenue Management at DFW Airport. “It enables our customers to explore the very best of the airport’s retail offerings while also maintaining social distancing. And the convenience of ordering retail from your own mobile phone speaks to DFW Airport’s commitment to elevating the customer experience.”
The collaboration will utilise Grab’s omnichannel expertise and will benefit both domestic and international travellers, with collection or free delivery and the potential for home delivery in the future. Jeff Livney, CEO at Grab underlined his enthusiasm for the initiative which marks the company’s first venture into airport retail. “As travellers return to the sky, it’s vital we provide shoppers with options they feel comfortable with. Some passengers will still prefer to browse a physical store, but there are many who will want the ease of mobile ordering, and the safety and hygiene of a touch-free experience. It’s important we tap into this demand for the benefit of the customer, as well as making it easier for retailers to reach a primarily domestic traveller for the forseeable future,” he said.
With temperature screening at airports creating bottle necks for passengers and increasing pressure on resources Nokia has unveiled a new solution designed to advance the fight against COVID-19.
The Nokia Automated Analytics Solution (NAAS) for Access Control leverages thermal detection, video-based analytics and machine learning to streamline and fully automate the process of detecting COVID-19 symptoms and monitoring mask compliance. It’s ideal for use in environments with potentially thousands of people passing through at any given time – ie airports.
Nokia’s goal is to create a zero-touch, automated management system that will enable large organisations to make intelligent decisions to protect their people and facilities in a post-pandemic world.
Amit Shah, Head of Analytics and IoT for Nokia said: “Whether in factories, ports, offices, airports, schools, or outdoor screening centres, mission-critical networks and digital automation solutions play a leading role in ensuring supply resilience, business continuity, and workers’ safety in real-time. NAAS brings centralised data, analytics and an automation management system, allowing large organisations to make intelligent decisions to protect their people and facilities during and in a post-pandemic world, while respecting individual privacy.”
With data privacy a cause for concern among passengers, Nokia’s solution respects individual privacy as the video stream blurs faces.
London Luton Airport (LLA) has revealed that passengers were down by 66% in September compared with the same period last year. Just 575,000 passengers travelled through the London hub.
In line with the Airport’s Council International (ACI) Airport Health Accreditation programme, various measures have been undertaken at the airport to ensure that it remains both a safe and secure environment for both staff and passengers. This has included enhanced cleaning and the installation of protective screens, as well as the introduction of hand sanitiser stations and the need to wear face coverings throughout the airport. Luton was the first UK airport to receive certification from ACI under its Health Accreditation programme.
“I am immensely proud of all the staff at LLA for continuing to deliver a high level of customer care and service even during these challenging times,” said Alberto Martin, CEO of LLA.
Martin added that following some recovery in passenger numbers during the summer months that has unfortunately been short-lived with numbers beginning to drop off again. “I welcome the formation of the government’s new travel taskforce, but urge them to work closely with industry to quickly and safely remove the need for self-isolation with testing.”
In addition to increasing measures to ensure the well-being and safety of passengers and crew, LLA is focused on delivering the best possible customer experience during this period. Earlier this year it became the first and only airport in the UK to be awarded with ACI’s Customer Experience Level 1 accreditation and new CAA data has shown that 89% of passengers rated their experience as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in 2019 compared with 82% in 2018.
It’s been a week that’s seen yet more fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic with British Airways’ boss Alex Cruz stepping down and Singapore’s Transport Minister stating that the country’s aviation sector can no longer wait around for a vaccine. However, there has at least been some good news for regional hubs serving general and business aviation…
In China, Nanchang Changbei International Airport has welcomed an agreement between Sino Jet – Asia’s largest and fastest growing business jet operator – and Jiangxi Airport VIP Service Company to build and manage the first FBO facility at the airport. The investment forms part of Sino Jet’s expansion into mainland China ahead of an expected 20% year-on-year increase in business jet use in Jiangxi Province over the next three years.
“Despite the strong demand for business aviation in Nanchang, growth is slowed by a lack of facilities when compared with other regional airports. Sino Jet’s investment stems from our confidence in the growth potential of Jiangxi Province as part of China’s growing business aviation ecosystem,” said a spokesperson for Sino Jet. The jet operator believes that with the appropriate investment, Nanchang can become a regional hub for business aviation in south-west China.
Despite current global economic challenges, China’s business aviation sector is the most likely global market to achieve growth in the next six years according to the ‘Review of China’s Aviation Industry Development and Market Outlook Forecast Report.’
It’s not just in China that regional airports have had cause for celebration either. In the US, Flying Cloud Airport in Minneapolis has welcomed the opening of Jet Linx’s newest private terminal – the 19th such facility for the aircraft management and Jet Card membership company.
Explaining that this latest opening represents another step in the company’s strategic growth and national expansion plan, Jet Linx President and CEO, Jamie Walker, said: “With the growing demand for personalised private aviation services, it is a pleasure to introduce our unique business model to the region.”
And back across the pond in the UK, London Oxford Airport has welcomed the expansion of Synergy Aviation’s services. The independently owned UK charter and aircraft management company has positioned a Cessna Citation CJ2 (G-JNRE) at the London hub, supported by a full-time, locally based crew. Synergy already has a Citation Bravo 550 based at Oxford and an additional G-JNRE that is looked after by JMI International, the Citation MRO specialist based at the airport.
“We are delighted with the services we receive from London Oxford Airport – in support of our busy charter operation and for regular maintenance inputs via JMI,” said Synergy Owner and Chairman, Glen Heavens.
With COVID-19 here for the foreseeable future, Heavens notes that with Synergy now operating from four London bases, it has seen a notable increase in enquiries for its services. “We have responded by adding additional flight crew and increased our AOC coverage to operate a wider number of aircraft, including heavier business jets.”
James Dillon-Godfray, Head of Business Development at London Oxford Airport, added: “Since the onset of the pandemic, the demand for private travel is unquestionably on the up with the assurances of bare minimal contact possible when utilising such jets.”
It’s certainly good to hear some positive news for a change!
Airlines have welcomed the European Commission’s decision on Wednesday 14 October to adopt an extension to the waiver of EU rules on the use of airport slots. A first waiver was introduced in March when aircraft were grounded following the initial Coronavirus outbreak. The waiver has now been extended to cover the entire winter season, until 27 March, 2021.
Under normal circumstances airlines must use 80% of the slots allocated to them or they risk losing them the following season. As a result of Wednesday’s decision airlines can now plan their flight schedules with more certainty without fear of losing slots due to the drastic reduction in flights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has had a tremendous impact on air travel and the aviation sector as a whole,” said EU Transport commissioner Adina Valean. “In extending the waiver, we are responding to traffic data, which show the number of flights in September was still 54% down on September 2019 and traffic is unfortunately unlikely to recover in the near future. This extension provides certainty for airlines, airports and passengers.”
The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) has welcomed the extension to the airport slot waiver saying it will bring much-needed certainty for the industry.
Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet is indefinitely suspending operations from Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown, while also reducing services to Halifax and St. John’s from the beginning of November. A return to service date is unknown.
More than 100 weekly flights, the equivalent of almost 80% seat capacity from the Atlantic region will be eliminated as a result of the announcement.
“It has become unviable to serve these markets and these decisions were regrettably inevitable as demand is being obliterated by the Atlantic bubble and third-party fee increases,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO.
He added that since the beginning of the pandemic the airline has worked keep essential air service to all its domestic airports. “But we are out of runway and have been forced to suspend service in the region without sector-specific support.”
Up until this announcement WestJet was the only Canadian airline to maintain 100% of its pre-COVID domestic network. Since 2003 the airline has been credited with successfully bringing competition and lower fares to the Atlantic region, and subsequently driving tourism and business investments. The airline had announced permanent layoffs to its workforce through its airport transformation and contact centre consolidation back in June. Further layoffs are expected at Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Charlottetown when services are suspended in November.
“We understand this is devastating news to the communities, our airport partners and the WestJetters who rely on our airline, but these suspensions were unavoidable without the prioritisation of rapid-testing or support for the introduction of a safe Canadian bubble,” added Sims. “We remain committed to the Atlantic region and it is our intent to resume operations as soon as it becomes economically viable to do so.”
Ontario International Airport (ONT) in southern California saw the number of air travellers rise to almost 200,000 in September, while commercial freight volume increased by more than 20%.
The increase in activity reflects a gradual recovery for the Californian hub. September’s passenger count was more than 195,000, a decrease of 58.4% compared to the same month last year. The number of domestic passengers exceeded 191,00, while international travellers totalled more than 3,500, decreases of 57% and 84.5% respectively. Indeed, since reaching its low point in air travel in April following the initial COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario’s passenger volumes have grown on a percentage basis every month between May and September.
“Cargo continues to be a point of strength and pride for us as Ontario enjoys the fastest rate of growth among airports in the continental US,” said Mark Thorpe, CEO of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA). He added that, “While passenger volumes remain significantly lower year-over-year, Ontario’s rate of recovery puts it third among US airports and first among airports in California.”
October has seen Delta Air Lines begin a twice-daily, nonstop service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, while Volaris is planning a new service to Mexico City beginning in November.
In terms of commercial freight volume in September, the airport experienced a 22.5% gain, marking the sixth month this year of better than 20% growth, with shipments totalling more than 73,000 tonnes. On a year-to-date basis, freight volume was nearly 645,000 tonnes, almost 20% more than the January to September period in 2019.
Following the adoption on Tuesday 13 October by European Affairs Ministers of a Council Recommendation on travel restrictions, airports and airlines across the aviation sector have branded it a failure and issued a stark warning of the potential consequences.
While the Council recommendation sets out guidance to member states on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement it fails to encourage a restart of travel through effective coordination and proportionate, predictable and non-discriminatory measures, according to aviation bodies Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Airlines for Europe (A4E) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Stakeholders across Europe’s aviation industry are pushing for a common pre-departure COVID-19 testing framework to replace quarantines for passengers travelling from high risk areas, in order to re-establish freedom of movement in Europe. However, the Council Recommendation does not propose to replace quarantines with testing, effectively meaning borders remain closed. It also fails to harmonise the rules applicable for cross-border and domestic travel and ignores the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s opinion that travel restrictions – and in particular quarantines – are of ‘questionable effectiveness’ when community transmission is on-going, which is currently the case across much of Europe.
ACI Europe says that expectations for an effective solution now rest with the European Commission, which has charged the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and ECDC with the development of an EU Testing Protocol for Travel.
With airports everywhere innovating to make sure their terminals are safe and touchpoints are kept to a minimum, Tucson Airport (TUS) in the US has come with an innovative solution. All five of the airport’s pre-security elevators now have toe-tap buttons.
Installation of the buttons (which are located both inside and outside the elevator) was carried out by KONE, the Tucson Airport Authority’s (TAA) elevator service provider at a cost of under $70,000.
TAA has invested more than a quarter of a million dollars in upgrades throughout its TUS Cares campaign to ensure a safe and healthy experience for passengers, employees and tenants. While some changes such as the mandate for face coverings and the introduction of plexiglass shields are more apparent, others such as an enhanced air filtration system are less obvious.
Bruce Goetz, TAA’s COO and VP of Operations, explained that, “Custodial crews do a great job of thoroughly cleaning and sanitising the entire terminal… the toe tap buttons provide the option to people concerned about touching too many surfaces.”
The buttons are intended to limit the potential spread of COVId-19, but the convenience they provide is likely to benefit travellers long after the pandmeic has passed.