ACI World Customer Experience Global Summit 2021: Evolution of industry leading ASQ programme

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Airports Council International (ACI) World in partnership with Amadeus has celebrated the winners of this year’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards during this year’s Customer Experience Global Summit, which is taking place online and in-person in Montreal, Canada.

In addition to having a dramatic impact on global passenger traffic the global pandemic has also affected the expectations customers have for the airport experience. In response ACI has ensured its ASQ programme has evolved with these changing times along with airports that have adapted to better serve its customers.

A new award added this year is for the ‘Best Hygiene Measures by Region’ – based on hygiene related questions added to the survey questionnaire. This provides airports with a reliable method of gauging customer response to new health measures and recognises airports’ success in responding to the intense focus on hygiene.

“Amid the most challenging year in the history of our indsutry, ACI’s ASQ awards recognise airport members that have been prioritised listening and responding to the voice of the customer – this has never been more important,” said ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

“I celebrate and congratulate all our winners and those recognised today as they set an example for the entire industry as we rebuild crucial global connectivity and lead the global economic recovery. ACI continues to adapt the ASQ programme to ensure the benchmarking and findings remain the industry standard and reflective and relevant for the changing landscape of air travel. I am very happy that we have also continued our successful partnership with global travel technology company Amadeus to deliver the awards.”

Amadeus, the global travel technology company, has partnered with ACI World to deliver the ASQ Awards and further support airports to improve the passengers’ travel experience.

“Across the world, airports are adapting teh passenger experience to provide a safer and more streamlined airport journey,” commented Elena Avila, EVP Airport IT and Airline Operations, Amadeus. “New technologies like biometrics and contactless self-service will be key to help our industry rebuild air travel so that it’s better for passengers and airport players alike.”

ACI World Customer Experience Global Summit 2021: Airports report on lessons learned during pandemic

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The demand for air travel is there but disparity between regulations and travel requirements in different regions is hampering a faster recovery. That was one of the key messages during a panel discussion on the customer experience during airport recovery, which took place on Wednesday 8 September as part of ACI World’s Customer Experience Global Summit.

The first day of the hybrid event, which has seen delegates and speakers attending in-person in Montreal, Canada as well as online has seen lively and insightful discussions on the importance of customer experience as airports prepare for a long and sustainable recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reach Airports’ new CEO, Andrew O’Brian, who previously oversaw operations at Quito Airport in Ecuador explained that in Latin America and the Caribbean “initially recovery has been driven by the diaspora wanting to reconnect with family and friends.” He also highlighted that in North America much of the outbound travel has been driven by customers seeking out destinations that are easy to travel to in terms of the new measures and testing requirements following the pandemic. He also highlighted the need as we enter this recovery period to ensure that all customers and their needs are being considered. “My mother is in her 80s and would love to get on a plane and see her kids and her grandchildren, but all the additional technology and travel requirements are a confusing prospect for someone who’s not necessarily a seasoned traveller,” he said.

Meanwhile Rafael Alberto Smith, Director of Terminal Operations/ Maintenance & Loading at Punta Cana Airport in the Dominican Republic said that unsurprisingly most of the passengers travelling through his airport are leisure travellers. With Punta Cana airport operated by Corporacion Aeroportuaria del Este (a private corporation run by Puntacana Resort and Club) the airport has been able to diversify by transferring some of its staff across the group’s accommodation facilities while air traffic has been reduced. The airport is also forecasting significant growth in inbound tourism for the winter months as travellers increasingly seek out winter sun destinations following the pandemic. Smith also commended the “excellent job” the Dominican Government has done with its vaccination programme in terms of facilitating the region’s recovery process.

Looking ahead, Jost Lammers, CEO and Chairman of the management board at Munich Airport, said that while different territories are recovering at different speeds there are certain elements of health and safety measures he believes will stay. “We need to reduce these measures as much as possible, but it will be one of the layers of air travel going forward,” he said.

Philippe Rainville, President and CEO of Aeroports de Montreal agreed saying that certain testing facilities installed at Montreal Airport for departing passengers will remain in place. “Country by country there will be some level of testing required as new pockets of disease arise.”

O’Brian urged the airport community to “stay positive,” as he said that at some point the World Health Organization (WHO) will declare the pandemic over. “When the pandemic first started, we had to adapt, be resilient and get creative. We’ve learned tremendous lessons along the way, but I hope all the protocols go and we can put this whole scenario behind us in a year or so.” One of the biggest lessons learned according to O’Brian is that health and space will be at the forefront of airport and terminal design going forward. “Airports have to consider where they will invest and how they will manage that. Everything is about the journey and keeping people safe and healthy.”

Johanne Gallant, President and CEO of Fredericton Airport, also expressed her hope that “everything will go back to normal as soon as possible.” However, she also believes that some elements will continue to be rolled out, such as the digital health pass. She also noted that while passengers will want to see regular cleaning and disinfectant measures some measures, such as physical distancing especially in smaller airports where space is at a premium are simply not practical. “Why are we continuing with social distancing in the terminal and at the gate when as soon as a passenger is on board the aircraft that doesn’t seem to apply?” she asked.

Rainville meanwhile stressed that with communication being key its now more important than ever for airports to be able to connect with their passengers as soon as their ticket is purchased. “We need a direct relationship with our passengers as soon as their flight is booked, so that we can answer their questions around travel and ensure that seamless journey. The technology is there to allow us to do this, it’s now about getting the airlines to work with us and provide us with access to passengers.”

Picking up on the point of communication being key, O’Brian underlined that “the 3 Cs – communication, collaboration and coordination – have never been so acute and important to the airport community.”

Reflecting on the lessons learned throughout the pandemic Gallant concluded: “We’re stronger and more resilient than we ever thought. It’s in the hard times that you see the true characters in your team. We’ve stuck together, we’re here to stay and grow and although we hope it won’t happen we’re far better prepared now should another pandemic come about.”

It was a sentiment that was echoed by her fellow panellists with Lammers adding that one of the key lessons he’s learned has been “to push harder and earlier”.

Smith wrapped up on a jovial note admitting that “other than lowering my handicap during lockdown, as a sector we have come out stronger and we have all realised we are capable of doing things we weren’t expected to do or thought capable of doing.”

Look out for the September issue of Regional Gateway magazine in which we feature an exclusive interview with Reach Airports CEO, Andrew O’Brian. 

Inmarsat offers connectivity solution to unlock rapidly growing UAV industry

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As a world leader in global mobile satellite communications, Inmarsat is launching its advanced new Velaris connectivity solution, which is uniquely positioned to serve as a catalyst for the safe and rapid growth of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) industry.

Powered by Inmarsat’s ELERA global satellite network, Velaris will provide secure communications for commercial UAVs to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and seamlessly integrate with aircraft in commercial airspace. It allows operators to send their UAVs on long distance flights and access various applications, such as real-time monitoring, to ensure safe integration with other air traffic. Velaris also allows a single pilot to remotely operate multiple UAVS at scale, making operations more commercially viable.

With the commercial UAV market projected to increase from $2.32 billion in 2021 to $11.29 billion in 2028, the sector will have a far-reaching impact on business and society. UAVs offer multiple benefits in terms of cargo delivery, urban transport and surveillance to emergency services and disaster relief, including the supply of critical items such as medicine, test kits and food for remote communities. As well as unlocking unprecedented new digital automation capabilities within the UAV industry, Velaris will also reduce the overall cost of operations. It will also support the transport of people and goods in an environmentally friendly manner.

“Commercial UAVs have the potential to revolutionise a vast array of different industries throughout the world,” said Anthony Spouncer, Inmarsat’s Senior Director of UAVs and UTM. “However, to truly unlock their potential on a commercial scale, it is imperative that autonomous vehicles and unmanned aviation are safely and securely integrated into managed commercial airspace. That’s exactly what Velaris, as Inmarsat’s first global UAV connectivity solution, will deliver.”

Explaining that Velaris will continue to develop and evolve alongside the UAV industry and Inmarsat’s brand new ORCHESTRA communications network of the future, Spouncer added: “We work with our global partner ecosystem to develop UAV terminals that deliver smaller, more cost effective multi datalink solutions.” These he said, “are optimised for a wide range of use cases so that our customers can always have the highest possible standard of connectivity.” He also noted that the launch of Velaris, so soon after the launch of the company’s ORCHESTRA and ELERA “truly emphasises Inmarsat’s long-term commitment to the commercial UAV market.”

Princess Juliana Airport’s terminal reconstruction underway

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Ballast Nedam International Projects B.V. has officially signed an agreement as the general contractor for of Princess Juliana Airport’s terminal reconstruction project. Construction is due to start by the end of September.

The airport terminal suffered massive devastation during Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the official signing ceremony, which was held at the airport’s check-in hall on 24 August marks one of the most anticipated reconstruction projects in the construction firm’s history.

The Airport Terminal Reconstruction Project is jointly funded by the European Investment bank (EIB) and the Sint Maarten Trust Fund. The Sint Maarten Trust Fund is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB).

Commenting on the contract signing, Brian Mingo, CEO of the Princess Juliana International Airport said: “This is a major milestone for the country, PJIAE NV and our staff. I would also like to compliment the project team with this accomplishment, despite the hurdles such as COVID-19, which complicated the works tremendously, they never lost focus and made the impossible, quite possible.”

He added his thanks to “all stakeholders not forgetting our shareholder, the Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Board (PJIAH) and the Government of Sint Maarten for their patience and consistent support over the last year. I am proud to announce that we finally can start rebuilding the ‘Airport of the Future’.”

The phased-planned construction portion of the project will take place over a two-year period, following the mobilisation of the contractor in August 2021. Ultimately, the renovation development will further modernise the 15-year-old terminal building.

The reconstruction project is due to be complete by Q2, 2023, although sections of the terminal building will come online from as early as December 2022.

London City welcomes cleaner, quieter newcomer as it pursues ambitions for sustainable growth

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Thursday 2 September saw Helvetic Airways make its first commercial flight with an Embraer E190-E2 into London City Airport. As well as catering for leisure passengers and those visiting family and friends, the aircraft, which had flown from Zurich to London in 1 hour and 20 minutes, has re-established an essential link for the global financial community.

Operated by Helvetic Airways on behalf of its partner company Swiss International Air Lines, the flight carrying 110 passengers was welcomed by a water salute from London City Airport’s fire service. The Embraer E190-E2 is described as being particularly suitable for operations at the legendary Thames-side airport, which has a runway length of only 1,508 m and descent angles of up to 5.5 degrees.

“Thanks to a reduction of almost 20% in fuel consumption and a noise footprint at take-off that is 63% smaller than our previous -generation aircraft, the E190-E2 delivers not only significant reductions in emissions but also a much quieter experience for local residents,” said Cesar Perreira, Embraer’s VP Sales and Marketing EMEA.

London City Airports’ COO, Alison FitzGerald, also commented on the arrival of the newcomer saying: “Welcoming Swiss and Helvetic back, and with the newest LCY-capable aircraft, Embraer E190-E2, is a significant milestone for London City. It demonstrates how we are collaborating with manufacturers and airlines to introduce more low-emission, low-noise aircraft to our airport, as well as re-establishing a vital business connection which we believe will go from strength to strength as the UK Government begins to further reduce barriers to travel. Our ambition is to be one of the most sustainable airports of our size in Europe, and it is my expectation that we will be welcoming more of these aircraft with more airlines as the industry recovers from COVID-19.”

Embraer aircraft already account for nearly 90% of all movements at London City Airport. As well as offering cleaner, quieter flights the E190-E2 almost doubles the available range from the airport to more than 4,000 km, bringing destinations such as Istanbul, Casablanca and Moscow within reach for the first time.

“With this world premiere, we are particularly proud to be able to offer a product of the highest level in terms of comfort, quiet and sustainability,” concluded Tobias Pogorevc, CEO of Helvetic Airways. “We are convinced that the Embraer E2 is perfectly suited to the requirements of business customers flying between the financial centres of London and Zurich.”
Helvetic Airways has a fleet of 12 Embraer E2 aircraft and is currently the largest Embraer E-Jet operator in the world.

British Airways collaborates with bp to source SAF during the UK’s COP26 summit

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British Airways has launched its BA Better World sustainability programme, which it describes as it’s ‘most important journey yet.’ It is has also revealed a new collaboration with bp to source sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for all its flights between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh during the UK COP26 conference taking place at the end of October.

The airline was the first to report its carbon footprint in 1992 and last year it became the first major airline to voluntarily offset all emissions from its domestic flights. This latest announcement further reiterates British Airways’ commitment to put sustainability at the heart of its business. The airline’s sustainability programme will include reducing emissions and waste and positively contributing to the communities it serves, as well as creating a more resilient responsible business.

In line with its sustainability goals the airline is also collaborating with fuel giant bp to source SAF with respect to all its flights between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh during the UK’s COP26 climate change summit being held in Glasgow later this year.

In a UK first, British Airways has also announced that as of 7 September its customers can purchase SAF to reduce their carbon footprint via its not-for-profit organisation Pure Leapfrog. This is in addition to customers being able to offset their emissions.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with British Airways by supplying SAF with respect to all of its flights from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh for the COP26 event,” said Martin Thomsen, CEO of bp’s aviation division. “Our companies have a long-standing relationship and will continue to work together on SAF supply initiatives on an ongoing basis.”

He added that at bp, “we want to help decarbonise the aviation industry and we will continue to collaborate with industry stakeholders and governments to explore viable options to help scale up SAF more broadly.”

British Airways’ CEO and Chairman, Sean Doyle, explained that with BA Better World, the airline is on its most important journey yet – “to a better, more sustainable future and one which will ensure the long-term success of our business.” He also commented that the airline’s commitment for COP26 to source enough SAF for its flights between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh during the summit “is in addition to the mandatory carbon trading we already operate in the UK and our own further voluntary carbon offsetting of our UK domestic flights.”

It has partnered with Airbus to paint one of its most modern, fuel-efficient short-haul aircraft, an A320neo, in its new sustainability programme colours.

At a launch event for its BA Better World programme on 7 September the airline showcased some of the initiatives it has introduced to improve sustainability in the air and on the ground, including switching from diesel to renewably powered electric pushback vehicles and removing weight from its aircraft by introducing lighter seats and trollies, inflight magazines and paper flight manuals. It also outlined its efforts to remove single-use plastic and source more products from recycled materials.

London Southend welcomes return of canine companions back to the terminal

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London Southend Airport has once again welcomed the AirPaws team of dogs and their handlers to its terminal to help calm anxious passengers and staff.

The medical profession endorses findings that dogs can bring comfort to those vulnerable to mental health issues and anxiety. Therapy dogs can help even the most nervous of fliers regain their confidence. The dogs being used at London Southend are trained by Canine Concern to bring comfort and reduce anxiety – particularly around nervous people, or those experiencing stress. The AirPaws Crew and their accompanying handlers are a great addition to the airport customer service team.

“Following a temporary hold on visits from the airport AirPaws team of therapy dogs and their handlers due to COVID-19, we are pleased to confirm that they are returning to the terminal on selected dates,” said Glyn Jones, CEO of London Southend Airport.

“The team offer support to anxious passengers and were recently on hand during our terminal tours, which offered a trial run to individuals who wanted to experience the new safety measures or who suffer from mental health or anxiety,” he continued.

Tina Jullings, Essex Coordinator and Trustee for Canine Concern added: “It was great to be back in the terminal for the recent tours and we are pleased to support further dates and passenger flights in the coming months. Mental health is more important than ever and the AirPaws dogs enjoy visiting the airport to offer their calming services.”

Ross Aviation’s newest FBO at Witham Field Airport in Florida joins Paragon Aviation Group

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Paragon Aviation Group has added Ross Aviation at Stuart Jet Center at Witham Field Airport in Florida to its network of global FBOs.

The FBO offers more than 15 acres of well lit and secure ramp space in addition to more than 400,000 sq.ft. of hangar space.

“Ross Aviation at Stuart Jet Center is a perfect alternative to the more congested FBOs at PBI,” said Megan Barnes, President of Paragon Aviation Group. “We are honoured to continue our symbiotic relationship with Ross Aviation in providing passengers and crew members the best in safety, service, reliability, quality and value at each one of our FBOs around the globe.”

Meanwhile, Brian Corbett, CEO of Ross Aviation added: “We are proud to welcome Stuart Jet Center to our expanding network of FBOs. South Florida is an important market and we’ve long admired the level of flight hospitality that the team provides for both based tenants and transient guests on the large, well-maintained campus.”

Paragon’s network now includes 111 FBO locations worldwide in 26 countries. Top US markets consist of Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle and Washington DC. Internationally it has FBOs in Barcelona, Brussels, Cape Town, Dubai, Geneva, Madrid, Monterrey, Sydney and Paris.

Plattsburgh FBO joins Avflight network

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Avflight corporation has welcomed its 24th FBO: Avflight Plattsburgh at Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, serving the Plattsburgh, Montreal and Lake Placid region, including upstate New York, southern Quebec and Vermont. It will provide customers with convenient access to a number of local attractions and areas of interest including: Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, outdoor guide services, museums and golf resorts.

“The addition of Avflight Plattsburgh provides a key position for the Avflight Network in the Northeast,” said Gartett Hain, Avflight’s Vice President of finance. “This location serves as the ultimate gateway to thriving international businesses and leisure destinations throughout the region. We are proud to bring Avflight’s expertise and passion for aviation, backed by a network of 24 FBOs, to PBG, connecting our loyal customers with the facilities and services they expect in the Avflight Network.”

As the sole full-service FBO at Plattsburgh Airport, Avflight Plattsburgh offers 24-hour fuelling services, US customs, aircraft parking, hangar space, expert ground handling, a GPU/ power cart, courtesy transportation, rental cars, catering, aircraft maintenance, weather service access and professional concierge services.

The new FBO facility will include a 12,852 sq.ft. heated hangar, two 10-bay T-hangars; more than 100,000 gallons of fuel storage; a self-serve avgas pump; a 200,00 sq.ft. ramp and a 5,600 sq.ft. FBO terminal building.

With Avflight’s agreement with the airport finalised, the fuelling company will turn its attention to modernising the facilities in line with the Avflight brand, including new signage, design elements and décor. Once updated the FBO will feature well-appointed passenger and pilot lobbies, a flight planning room, a snooze room and a conference room with full A/V and seating for 12.

Ryanair boss announces 14 new routes from London hubs and reiterates call to suspend APD

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The popular low-cost carrier (LCC) Ryanair will launch 14 new routes from London’s Luton and Stansted airports as well as Gatwick.

The new routes are part of a winter season schedule that will see the LCC operate a combined 142 routes from the three London hubs. According to Ryaniar’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, at least some of the new London routes will be operated with the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, the extra capacity version of the MAX, for which Ryanair is the launch customer.

“Ryanair is committed to re-building London’s tourism industry, jobs and connectivity as we grow across Europe and recover air travel to pre-COVID levels. As Ryanair takes delivery of 55 Boeing 737-800 ‘gamechanger’ aircraft this winter, we are delighted to announce these 14 new routes from our three London airports in Stansted, Luton and Gatwick,” O’Leary said.

With the travel industry now showing signs of recovery, Ryanair’s growth continues to lead traffic tourism recovery and jobs in the UK. The airline also plans to create more than 500 new jobs for pilots, cabin crew and engineers this winter at its London airports as it gears up for further fleet and route growth in 2022.

O’Leary is also continuing to push for the UK Government to scrap PCR tests for fully vaccinated arrivals in line with the rise in consumer confidence for air travel. He is also calling for the suspension of air passenger duty (APD) to allow airlines and airports to recover connectivity, jobs and tourism in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.

“APD makes UK airports uncompetitive against lower cost EU airports, which is why Ryanair has added capacity at other EU airports in recent months in the likes of Zagreb, Stockholm, Billund and Riga,” he stated. “While Ryanair is committed to its London airports, the lack of Government support for aviation and tourism recovery creates further barriers to traffic and growth.”

Ryanair’s 14 new winter 2021 routes include Stansted to Helsinki, Oradeo, Stockholm, Tampere, Trapani, Treviso and Zagreb. From Luton it will serve Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Grenoble, Naples, Shannon and Turin, while from Gatwick it will serve Malaga.