Veovo unveils airport social distancing solut..

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With COVID-19 lockdowns starting to ease, Veovo, the airport platform solutions provider, has released its Virtual Queueing and Passenger Density Management tools, which have been designed to monitor crowd density and maintain safe distancing airport-wide.

Veovo’s new solutions use movement monitoring and machine learning to offer real-time and predictive passenger density and movement insights.

Its Virtual Queuing solution enables travellers to pre-book a time slot for processing at airport checkpoints rather than having to wait in line. According to Veovo it will help prevent too many people from congregating in one area and will evenly distribute passengers across the airport’s checkpoints.

Meanwhile the Passenger Density Management solution monitors crowd density in queues and spaces throughout the terminal, enabling airports to take action if social distancing limits are at risk of being breached.

Acknowledging the enormous challenge the industry currently faces in supporting physical distancing, James Williamson, CEO of Veovo, commented: “To safely manage crowding, operators need accurate, timely data. By accommodating new social distancing needs in our solution, we enable safe and proactive planning to reduce crowds and to make hand sanitation and disinfection programmes more effective.”

Luton Airport opens drive-through testing cen..

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London Luton Airport has opened a drive-through testing centre as part of the government’s UK-wide programme to control the spread of coronavirus.

The testing site will be operated by military personnel on limited days including this Friday 22 May. Testing will also be available at the airport the following week.

Operating on an appointment only basis for NHS staff and other essential workers (as well as members of their household) and people over the age of five with coronavirus symptoms, the airport is part of a national network of testing centres being rolled out across the UK. Testing will not be available for air passengers arriving or embarking from the airport.

With only a handful of passenger flights operating for those with an essential need to travel, Luton is currently focused on adapting its facilities to assist that national response to the pandemic. In addition to the new testing programme, the airport will continue to support repatriation, medical and military flights, along with cargo flights delivering vital supplies including personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The desire form our teams and partners to support those in greatest need during these extraordinary times fills me with admiration for our people and the wider airport community,” said Alberto Martin, LLA CEO. Acknowledging the backing and support of shareholders, Martin added: “We will do all we can to support both our local community, and the wider national effort in tackling the pandemic.”

Meanwhile Cllr Khtija Malik, portfolio holder with responsibility for public health, said: “It’s great news that we now have a drive-through testing centre at London Luton Airport and I would also like to thank the council’s airport company for its support of this initiative which will help in the fight against coronavirus and ensure more frontline workers can return to work quickly and continue to save lives.”

 

NBAA appeals against fee increases for CBP se..

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The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) alongside other aviation association has called on the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner to reconsider significant fee increases for CBP services at several US airports.

Last week, many airports that support international operations with CBP inspection facilities funded by the user fee program received notice with nearly immediate effect of a significant fee increase – from 29% up to 54%. CBP’s User Fee program funds inspection services at approximately 60 airports, many of which support general aviation operations and in some cases these airports were asked to either accept the new fee or suspend future CBP service.

“We have great concern regarding CBP’s approach to this increase and we are requesting that the agency consider alternative pathways to address these issues,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s Vice President of International and Regulatory Affairs. “Affected airports are already facing significant decreases in international traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, severely impacting airport revenue.”

A letter sent by NBAA and other groups also asked Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan to “respect local process for airport oversight and fiscal management,” and to provide airports with sufficient time to understand and plan for the cost increase. “It is equally important that the users of these services have an opportunity to understand, consider and plan for any substantial increase.”

 

Ensuring the safe integration of drones into ..

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Under the ‘We are All One in the Sky’ initiative a group of leading European aviation associations have called on the European Commission to develop a co-operative approach to ensure the safe integration of drones into European airspace.

Joint signatories of the ‘We are All in the Sky’ initiative – representing airlines, air navigation service providers, airports, business aviation, general aviation, helicopters, aircraft and drone manufacturers and professional staff organisations – have issued an open letter to the European Transport Commissioner, Ms Valean on the EASA proposal for a high-level regulatory framework for unmanned aviation operations and UAS traffic management (UTM/U-Space).

Commenting on the open letter, EBAA Secretary-General Athar Husain Khan said: “EBAA has always supported an inclusive approach that takes into account the needs of all airspace users. The current proposal from EASA is a promising first step, but more work is required to find a solution that does not limit airspace availability.”

The letter calls on the European Commission to

  • Develop further the latest regulation proposal to secure the support of the aviation industry.
  • Launch a new and more comprehensive consultation, involving key representatives from manned and unmanned aviation organisations all together.
  • Ensure the transparency and efficiency of the regulatory processes and related decision-making processes.

The signatories have expressed their support for developing a regulatory framework for U-Space. from a safety, public security, capacity and economic perspective a performance-based and risk-based regulatory framework can provide certainty to all airspace users and the aviation community. It can also facilitate the safe integration of drones in Europe’s skies, ensuring commercial drone services can grow.

The upcoming U-Space Regulation represents an important opportunity to achieve this goal worldwide. The signatories believe that the lessons learnt form the implementation of the proposed regulation in Europe should be leveraged to inform ICAO’s Global UTM Framework and other regulatory efforts across the world.

Riga Airport resumes international passenger ..

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With the introduction of a comprehensive epidemiological safety programme Riga Airport has resumed international passenger flights to Vilnius, Tallinn, Oslo and Frankfurt. Four flights daily will be operated by the national carrier airBaltic.

The programme #ForbidTheVirusFromTravelling provides a set of measures to ensure the protection of the airport, its employees and its passengers. It has been designed in consultation with Latvian health authorities and taken into account the recommendations of international aviation organisations.

“In order to contribute to the control of the disease and to take care of the safety of employees and passengers, together with airlines, cooperation partners and specialists, we have done extensive and thorough work to prepare Riga Airport for work in the conditions of the pandemic,” said Laila Odina, Chairperson of the airport board. She went on to say that the effectiveness of additional measures  introduced at the airport “also depends on each of us – how responsibly and carefully we will meet the requirements. That is why I encourage us to travel ourselves, but we should not let the virus travel.”

Given that social distancing will be difficult to ensure throughout the airport journey due to infrastructure and security procedures the Minister of Transport has stipulated that all travellers, except children under the age of 7, must wear a medical mask when at the airport.

Commenting on how Riga Airport’s programme is a good example for other European airports to follow, Raimonds Gruntiņš, Director Regional Affairs, Europe, International Air Transport Association (IATA), said, “The programme is based on close cooperation between the airport, airlines and public authorities, following the recommendations of international experts and good practices. It covers important aspects that should be taken into account in order to make passenger services and other airport processes as epidemiologically safe as possible, while taking care of both passenger and aircraft service quality and aviation security.”

Mccarren Airport PPE vending

McCarran Airport introduces PPE vending machi..

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Mccarren Airport PPE vending

Passengers travelling through Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport can now stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE) from three vending machines located in the airport. The machines are stocked with equipment including hand sanitiser, gloves and face masks.

“It’s not unthinkable that someone will show up at the airport and has left behind one of those items that’s almost essential now to air travel,” said Christine Crews, a McCarran International Airport spokesperson.

An airport spokesperson told USA Today that a three pack of face masks are selling for $7.50, while a reusable cloth mask costs $14.50. A ten pack of alcohol wipes cost $5.25, N95 masks are $8.25 apiece and a 50ml bottle of hand sanitiser costs $4.25.

McCarran recorded a 2.3 million passenger drop in March compared to the same month in 2019. This equates to a 53% decrease in arriving and departing passengers year over year.

Although McCarran claimed on its twitter handle that is was the first airport to install PPE vending machines Tulsa International Airport has also started selling masks in its vending machines, while other airports are selling PPE in terminal retail stores.

 

 

Blackbushe Airport

Blackbushe Airport reopens in phases

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Blackbushe Airport

Following the UK Department for Transport’s latest guidance regarding recreational general aviation, Blackbushe Airport will commence its phased reopening on Tuesday 19 May.

Phase One will last for at least three weeks (it is expected to end on 9 June) and will see several changes at the airport in terms of how it operates. It will open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, but will remain closed on Sundays and Mondays. It will also operated reduced opening hours: from 09.15 to 18.00.

The tower and fire service will remain operational but the cafe will not open initially and there will be limited staff working at the airport. All payments will be made by telephone or bank transfer. No physical payments (including credit/ debit cards) will be made on site. Flights must adhere to the DfT’s guidelines, that only solo flight, or flights where everyone is from the same household are permitted.

Pilots refuelling at the airport have been asked to remove fuel caps and then stand away while their aircraft is refuelled by an operator. Although hand sanitisers will be available at gates between air and landside and in the refuelling areas, pilots are advised to bring their own sanitiser too.

After three weeks on 9 June, the decision will be taken as to whether to proceed with phase two.

 

European airports warn of irreversible conseq..

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European airports saw a -98.6% drop in passenger traffic (a loss of -202 million passengers) throughout April compared to the same period last year, according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe. It also highlighted that in April Europe’s network of 500+ airports welcomed only 2.8 million passengers – the same volume that was handled by Dublin airport alone during the same period in 2019.

“Europe’s airports are on their knees. They have lost more than 315 million passengers since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and they will exceed half a billion passengers lost before the end of May,” warned Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe (pictured right at the ACI Regional Airports 2019 conference in Poland). “All their revenue sources have essentially dried up, most of their staff furloughed and investments stopped – yet cash is still flowing out in running costs as most have remained at least partially open.”

With 71% of Europe’s smaller regional hubs (those with less than 1 million passengers/ year) already loss making before COVID-19, these airports are the most exposed to the risk of airports potentially “going bust”. The high seasonality of their business – with the summer holidays accounting for 70% of their revenues – is compounded by the risks of not seeing travel and border restrictions eased over the coming weeks. Jankovec also pointed out: “Beyond smaller regional airports, business continuity is a systematic issue for the airport industry – with larger airports across Europe also fighting for survival.”

ACI Europe has unveiled its ‘Off the ground’ project to underline that to protect air connectivity, tourism, jobs and regional development airports also need to be supported, not just now but beyond the current crisis.

The association has called on the European Commission to revisit State aid rules beyond the temporary framework in place to respond to COVID-19 by:

  • Clarifying that the maintenance of airport operations to accommodate essential air traffic during the COVID-19 crisis falls within the public remit and can thus be financially compensated by States without being considered as State aid.
  • Provide temporary derogations to the 2014 Aviation State Aid Guidelines to increase the possibility for airports with up to 3 million passengers to receive public financing – including for decarbonisation – and to provide maximum flexibility as regards start-up aid to airlines to enable the reopening of vital air routes.

Greater harmonisation is also being called for with European states urged to fully coordinate and align the conditions under which the current restrictions to air travel can be lifted. This should include the lifting of quarantine requirements for incoming travellers.

“There can be no compromise when it comes to the health and safety of passengers and staff. COVID-19 confronts us with an unprecedented challenge as a vaccine or an effective treatment are still distant prospects. Just as everyone is doing in our daily lives, we must adapt on an on-going basis to operate our airports and protect livelihoods in ways that reduce transmission risks as much as possible. This means looking at the most effective combination of measures, which must be fully coherent across all transport modes and tourism activities,” said Jankovec.

While measures such as wearing masks, the availability of disinfectant gels in terminals, increased cleaning and improved ventilation are all being rolled out at airport’s around the world, the need to adhere to physical distancing is clearly the most challenging measure for any mass transport system infrastructure. Jankovec stated it can also have negative health consequences as it requires passengers to arrive early and spend more time at the airport before their flight. Ultimately this could result in more crowded facilities – which can defeat its intended purpose.

Highlighting that the implementation of physical distancing at airports should be done in ways that are operationally feasible and under conditions that are effective at reducing transmission risks, Jankovec concluded: “Airports need their health authorities to work cooperatively with them to adapt physical distancing to their specific layout and operations.”

Hamburg named Best Regional Airport in Europe

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Germany’s Hamburg Airport has for the fifth time been named the Best Regional Airport in Europe at the annual Skytrax World Airport Awards. It also ranked second overall in the World’s Best Regional Airports category.

Chubu Centriar International Airport Nagoya in Japan took the top spot in the world category. Elsewhere around the globe Durban King Shaka was declared the winner in Africa, Adelaide in the Australia/ Pacific region, Bangalore in India and Central Asia, Haikou Meilan in China, Medina in the Middle East, Rostov-on-Don in Russia and CIS, El Salvador in Central America/ Caribbean, Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky in North America and Quito in South America.

Skytrax defines a regional airport as any airport that primarily offers domestic and intracontinental flights with a few intercontinental services. Winners are chosen on the basis of indepdent passenger surveys, wiht passengers evaluting numerous criteria, including transport infrastructure connections, the check-in process, friendliness of service staff, waiting times at the security checkpoint and shopping opportunities.

Commenting on Hamburg’s win, Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO at Hamburg Airport said: “Being honoured with the Skytrax World Airport Award means a great deal to us, because the recipient is chosen by the people that we have put at the heart of all we do: our passengers… The strong commitment of our staff over the past year too made this fantastic result possible. I am proud to have such a motivated workforce. Our task now is to continue to stand together, facing and overcoming the extensive impact of the coronavirus together.”

German airports ranked well overall in the ‘World’ category for the awards. Hamburg was followed closely by Cologne/ Bonn in third place and Dusseldorf in fifth.

Editor’s comment: What are they thinking?

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What are they thinking?

While countries around the world start to ease their lockdown restrictions, a controversial decision by the UK Government to impose a 14-day quarantine period on passengers arriving in the country has left aviation stakeholders bewildered. It begs the question, what are they thinking?

Two months ago when the UK entered its lockdown period, its borders remained open, with passengers free to travel through its ports without any screening, medical assessments, temperature checks or quarantine measures being imposed. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of countries, including Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Qatar and Germany included airports as their frontline defence to manage and reduce the flow of potential COVID-19 carriers from entering their country. Strict quarantine measures were applied for all returning nationals or residents while foreign visitors were banned from entry.

Amid its lack of airport measures Britain has been described as “an outlier”.

But on Sunday 10 May British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, outlined plans to impose a mandatory quarantine for all travellers arriving in the UK by air come the end of May. However travellers from France – whose own quarantine exempts EU countries and the UK – are free to enter the UK.

The aviation sector was quick to sound the alarm at the prospect of a quarantine period. Karen Dee, CEO of the Airport Operators Association said that it would have a “devastating impact” on the UK aviation industry and the wider economy. And following an announcement from Ryanair that it hopes to have 40% of its scheduled service running from July, the airline’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has warned that many of his customers will choose to flout any self-isolation requirements. O’Leary told reporters, “It’s unimplementable and unenforceable anyway, so I think people will largely ignore it.” He did argue, however, that by the time we get to 1 July, masks and temperature checks are likely to be the norm for all public transport across Europe. “It would be a reasonably modest extension to add those to airport terminals and onboard aircraft.”

Additionally, a letter written by Airlines UK and signed off by a number of airport CEOs expressed the “collective and serious concern and frustration” regarding the proposed quarantine measure for UK inbound travellers.

The letter underlined that there has been:

“No clarity on key details of the proposal, including the Sage advice underpinning the measure against potential alternatives, its geographic scope, whether it only affects air travel or includes other transport modes, how enforceable such a measure will be in reality, the conditions and process for withdrawing it and, critically, what cross-industry measures UK Government will now take as a matter of urgency to support a sector which in effect will be grounded for the foreseeable future.”

The association is working with government to agree a set of new, effective health protocols guided by the science (such as face masks and temperature checks) that can be implemented at UK airports as soon as possible.

On Tuesday 12 May, Spain also announced it plans to introduce a mandatory two-week quarantine for travellers arriving from overseas in a bid to prevent visitors from sparking a second wave of the coronavirus. However, with the country’s state of emergency due to end later this month, the Spanish quarantine is only due to be applied to travellers arriving between 15–24 May. What’s more, truck drivers, airplane and ship crews, cross-border workers and health staff working in Spain will be exempt.

With Airports Council International (ACI) reporting that European airports saw a -98.6% drop in passenger traffic during April compared to the same period last year, Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General, warns, “If some air traffic and revenue generation capabilities are not restored in time for the peak summer months, we will see airports across Europe going bust, with a far-reaching domino effect upon local communities.”

Restarting operations is an immediate priority to ensure we avoid large scale and irreversible damage. As such, the need for European states to fully co-ordinate and align the conditions under which current restrictions to air travel can be lifted are even more pertinent than ever before.

Surely to facilitate the return to a new kind of normal, governments need to be supporting the aviation sector and lifting quarantine requirements for incoming travellers, not introducing them!

Have a safe weekend,

Chloë Greenbank, Regional Gateway Editor.

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