Editor’s comment: Sustainable team players

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With passengers now looking to travel more responsibly than ever, stakeholders across the aviation sector are upping the ante when it comes to demonstrating their sustainability commitment.

Aviation fuel supplier Avfuel is no exception. In response to growing demand from its customers, including FBOs and airports, it has teamed up with Neste – the worldʼs leading producer of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – to create a continuous supply of SAF in the US. Under the new strategic partnership, Avfuel will be branded a SAF distributor for Neste, and will sell it under the brand name Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Neste expects to have the capacity to produce some 1.5 million tons (515 million gallons) of SAF annually by 2023.

Avfuelʼs President and CEO, Craig Sincock, described the partnership as an “exciting development” and a “natural next step in response to aviationʼs growing demand for SAF.” He also said that, “Together, we are able to support aviationʼs sustainability goals and enhance supply availability at a commercial scale, filling an immense gap in the industryʼs supply chain.”

Marking a milestone as Avfuelʼs first customer to receive a consistent supply of SAF, Monterey Jet Center – an Avfuel-branded FBO based in California – is due to take delivery of the fuel in the first quarter of 2021. Prior to rolling out the programme to a larger customer base, Neste and Avfuel will work alongside Monterey Jet Center to ensure the entire supply chain, from production through to invoicing, functions smoothly.

Referencing the collaboration with Avfuel, Chris Cooper, Neste’s Vice President, Renewable Aviation, North America, highlighted that it’s about much more than just creating a supply chain. “We are really providing passengers with a meaningful way to reduce their carbon footprint when travelling on a business or private aircraft. Thanks to great partners like Avfuel, travellers who care about the health of our planet will be able to choose to board an aircraft flying on SAF.”

While it’s sometimes hard to find the positive stories amid the turmoil that continues to unfold across the aviation industry as a result of COVID-19, this latest partnership is certainly one to celebrate.

I hope you enjoy reading this week’s newsletter and for more on the relationship between fuel suppliers and FBOs as well as how these partnerships can benefit an airport, read our feature onʻThe perfect pairingʼ in the latest issue of Regional Gateway magazine.

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway.

Gloucestershire Airport in UK appoints new Managing Director

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Gloucestershire Airport in the UK has appointed Karen Taylor as the airport’s new Managing Director. The new role will take effect immediately.

The strategic location of the airfield is key to helping drive the county’s economic development ambitions and is ideally placed near to the cyber development at Golden Valley and Gloucester’s digital campus, The Forum. As such it plays a key role in supporting the local economy, both as a travel gateway and as a base for a range of businesses, including engineering, aerospace plus charter flights, flight training, and leisure flights.

Prior to her new role as Managing Director, Taylor served as the Interim Managing Director and Commercial Finance Director  and has played an integral role in developing the long-term vision for the airport. She has been instrumental in securing funding for runway improvement works and other critical capital improvements that will boost the airport’s status as a ‘gateway for growth’ and will be key to driving the airport’s development.

Commenting on her new role, Taylor said: “Gloucestershire Airport is a unique and important asset for the country. I firmly believe we have a strong foundation to develop the airport into a ‘gateway for growth’ for the many significant developments being brought forward across the region; a destination of choice providing connectivity to and from national and international destinations; and a centre of excellence for all aspects of business aviation, aviation training and other related activity.”

In line with the airport’s long-term vision for growth as a sustainable business, the regional hub is embarking on a programme of activity that will create around 1,520 jobs and enable airport improvements. This includes the new CGX Connect business park development, which has been submitted for planning consent to Tewkesbury Borough Council.

“Business growth at the airport means more choice and better services for existing airport users and will encourage individuals and businesses from across the region to realise the value of having a regional airport they can use for business and leisure right on their doorstep,” Taylor added.

The new development will also support the Airport to identify and deliver projects embracing alternative clean energy supplies and green technologies to help reduce carbon footprint, while also underpinning a long-term commitment to attract and promote associated aviation related environmental research and development.

Waltzing Matilda Aviation expands presence at Helena Regional Airport

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Waltzing Matilda Aviation (WMA) has acquired a majority ownership and management responsibility for Exec Air Montana- an aircraft charter and management (ACM) business at Helena Regional Airport in Montana, US, operating a fleet of six aircraft.

The acquisition accompanies the sale of Exec Air Montana’s full-service business aviation activities to Leading Edge Jet Center, a provider of business aviation and jet fuelling services throughout the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West regions, including FBOs, a part 145 aircraft repair station and Montana Medical Transport.

This acquisition positions WMA with a great platform for growth. Our partnership with Leading Edge Jet Center provides an opportunity to expand WMA’s presence in both the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West regions, strengthening our resilient value offering for customers. We are proud to bring WMA’s charter services, which grew over 80% above 2019 levels in 2020, to a new customer base at the Helena Regional Airport.

John Thomas, CEO of WMA.

JOhn Wayne Airport

California’s John Wayne Airport welcomes new link with Sacramento

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JOhn Wayne Airport

Passengers travelling from Sacramento in the US will soon be able to fly direct to southern California’s beautiful beaches with a nonstop service from Spirit Airlines. The US-based carrier will begin its new daily service between Sacramento Airport and John Wayne Airport on 1 March.

“We are excited to add another great nonstop option connecting the Sacramento region to southern California, as COVID vaccines become increasingly available and more people choose to travel,” said Sacramento Airport’s Director, Cindy Nichol. “Whether travellers are looking to relax on the beach, get active outdoors or experience delicious seaside dining, southern California is a popular year-round destination.”

The region is also popular for families with plenty of theme park attractions also on offer.

Referencing his enthusiasm for the new connection, Spirit Airline’s Vice President, John Kirby added: “We are excited to bring more low-cost options to our guests in the Golden State, with a new nonstop flight connecting Sacramento to Santa Ana.”

All passengers travelling from Sacramento are required to wear a face covering and adhere to social distancing guidelines whenever possible throughout their journey. Passengers are also advised to arrive early in anticipation of additional security screenings at the airport as a result of procedures introduced in response to the global COVID-19 outbreak.

Allegiant Air’s service expansion includes three new hubs

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Allegiant Air is adding three new cities to its network  as part of a major  service expansion comprising 21 nonstop routes. Portland, Oregon; Key West in Florida and Jackson Hole in Wyoming, will all be added to the low-cost carriers’ schedule. Eight routes that were delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic are also included in the airline’s route newly-released schedule.

“Today, travellers are seeking destinations that allow them the chance to recreate in a safe way, usually outdoors,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant’s Vice President of Revenue and Planning. “The three cities we’re adding to our network – Key West, Portland and Jackson Hole – are gateways to some of the United States’ most scenic destinations, including national parks and other outdoor attractions that are in high demand.”

New links from Jackson Hole include Los Angeles, Phoenix Mesa Gateway, McCarran International Airport and Reno-Tahoe. From Key West, passengers will be able to fly with Allegiant to Nashville and Sanford International Airport in Orlando, and from Portland Allegiant links will include California’s Santa Maria and Monterey Regional airports, as well as Idaho Falls Regional Airport.

Porter Airlines updates tentative restart of flights

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Having temporarily suspended operations in March 2020, the Canadian-based regional carrier, Porter Airlines, has established 29 March as a revised tentative date for restarting flights.

“With the introduction of vaccines, we are more optimistic about determining a date in the near-term to reintroduce flights than at any point since the pandemic began,” said Michael Deluce, President and CEO of Porter Airlines. “More time is needed to assess the vaccine’s influence on current travel restrictions and when it is appropriate to begin operations again. We expect to establish a time for this to happen in the first part of 2021,” he added.

Nashville Airport highlights importance of sustainable design

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Designed by Fentress Architects, Nashville Airport’s new Concourse D has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification, in recognition of the project’s sustainable, wellness-oriented design and construction process.

The certification makes Nashville’s new $292 million, 115,000 sq. ft. concourse one of only five constructed airport facilities in the US, and one of nine airport facilities worldwide, to earn LEED Silver under the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) rigorous LEED v4 standards.

The most widely used green building rating system in the world, LEED is seen as an international symbol of excellence. The programme’s performance-based approach and progressive sustainability benchmarks are designed to optimise building performance and support occupant health and wellbeing.

“Fentress Architects has been at the forefront of green building design for over four decades,” said Curtis Fentress, FAIA, RIBA, Principal in Charge of Design at Fentress Architects. “Energy conservation is a key element of not only our design approach, but our values as a firm. We are proud to have leveraged our expertise, along with the commitment of all partners involved in this significant project, to realise BNA’s forward-thinking sustainability standards.”

The expansion of the airport’s concourse was completed in July 2020 and has elevated the airport as a world-class facility with six domestic aircraft gates, public art, diverse traveller amenities, and improved ramp amenities and function space.

Commenting on the LEED certification as a coveted mark of environmental distinction, Nashville Airport’s President and CEO Dough Kreulen said: “We’re building not only a bigger airport, but also a better, greener, more sustainable airport. I’m proud of our commitment to these principles and appreciative of all the hard work that went into obtaining this recognition.”

The project’s green design and construction components include: electrochromic glass that blocks out excessive sunlight and heat for passengers’ comfort while reducing glare and energy consumption for climate control; energy efficient and programmable lighting that dims when natural light is adequate for visibility; a focus on human health and wellness with features including an abundance of dayglighting, green cleaning practices and water bottle filling stations; light-coloured building and paving materials that retain less heat, reducing energy use while mitigating heat-island effect; geothermal cooling; water-conserving plumbing and recycling bins throughout the concourse and 80% of construction waste diverted from landfills.

“At every stage of the project, from the design process to construction, the project team remained committed to aligning our approach with the airport’s sustainability targets,” said Deborah Lucking, AIA LEED AP BD+C, Director of Sustainability at Fentress Architects. “Fentress is committed to advancing sustainability and human wellness in the built environment and achieving LEED  v4 Silver showcases the project team’s dedication to going far beyond the minimum LEED requirements to achieve certfication,” she concluded.

To find out more about terminal architecture and design trends for regional hubs check out the latest issue of Regional Gateway magazine.

WestJet slashes capacity with knock-on effect on domestic hubs

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Following the Canadian government’s decision to introduce inbound testing and the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, WestJet has noted significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations on flights. Subsequently the airline has made further cuts to its schedule as it continues to face volatile demand and instability in the face of continuing federal government travel advisories and restrictions.

Cuts to the airline’s schedule include the elimination of more than 230 weekly departures (including 160 domestic) and the removal of more than 30% of capacity versus prior months. It will also include the suspension of 11 routes (Edmonton-Cancun, Edmonton-Puerto Vallarta, Edmonton-Phoenix, Vancouver-Cancun, Vancouver-Phoenix, Vancouver-Puerto Vallerta, Vancouver-Cabo, Vancouver-Los Angeles, Vancouver-Palm Springs, Calgary-Las Vegas, Calgary-Orlando).

Around 1,000 employees across the WestJet Group will also be impacted through a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leave and reduced hours. There will also be a hiring freeze implemented.

“The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO in response to the government’s new testing regime. “We have advocated over the past 10 months for a coordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, but this hasty new measure is causing Canadian travellers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come,” Sims continued.

“Regrettably, this new policy leaves us with no other option but to again place a large number of our employees on leave, while impacting the pay of others,” he added.

The airline plans to remove approximately 30% of its currently planned February and March capacity from the schedule, a more than 80% reduction year on year. In addition, the airline will reduce domestic frequencies by 160 departures as frequently evolving advisories, travel restrictions and guidance continue to negatively impact demand trends.

Swedavia reports decrease of more than 30m passengers overall in 2020

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Swedish airport operator, Swedavia, has reported a decrease of 86% in passenger traffic across the 10 airports in its portfolio for December 2020. A total of just 408,000 passengers flew via its airports last month compared to 2,852,000 passengers during the same period in 2019.

In total last year saw a decrease in more than 30 million passengers (74%) compared to 2019, meaning air travel in Sweden during 2020 was back to levels last seen in the early 1980s.

“Air travel has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic and due to the escalating spread of COVID-19 and subsequent travel restrictions implemented, passenger volume decreased 86% in December,” said Jonas Abrahamsson, Swedavia’s President and CEO.

“The course of the pandemic, combined with new and expanded restrictions, is contributing to continued enormous uncertainty about the market situation in early 2021. The winter months are also always a seasonally weak period for air travel,” he continued.

Of the 408,000 total passengers that flew in December, 262,000 were international passengers, while 146,000 passengers were domestic travellers. In 2019 916,000 domestic passengers travelled through Swedavia’s airports during the same month.

While Abrahamsson admitted that he can see conditions in place for an “emerging normalisation and recovery in air travel in time for the summer season,” he also warned the performance of the air transport sector depends entirely on the pandemic and the major vaccination efforts now being made.  “So we also anticipate continued great uncertainty in terms of demand and expect the pandemic to have a significant impact on air travel this year as well,” he noted.

Swedavia’s seven regional airports saw passenger volume decrease between 68% and 92% to a total of 71,000 passengers in December. For the year, air travel overall decreased 70% to 1,664,000 passengers at the regional hubs compared to 5,491,000 travellers for the same period in 2019. The airport operator’s three primary hubs: Stockholm Arlanda, Göteborg Landvetter and Bromma Stockholm  all saw a decrease in passenger volumes of more than 85% during December, while the latter saw the biggest decrease both in December and the period January-December, with a decrease of 97% and 80% respectively.

Kiruna Airport and Luleå Airport were the two regional hubs that performed best in December and over the past 12 months, although demand was still limited at both airports.


Madrid Airport reopens after temporary closure following snowstorm Filomena

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Following the temporary closure of Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport, after the snowstorm Filomena caused more than 60 flights to be diverted to other airports, the Spanish hub has now reopened and gradually resumed flight schedules.

The airport was forced to close on Friday 8 January after heavy snowfall covered the Spanish capital and much of the rest of the country. Storm Filomena caused the biggest snowfall in decades in Madrid having moved north from the Gulf of Cadiz. High-speed and other train services to and from the city were also suspended as a result of the storm.

Such adverse weather is incredibly rare in Spain, which is better known for its sunnier climes, so the freezing conditions are not something the airport would typically have to deal with.

A statement on Aena’s (the Spanish airport operator) website read: “Operations at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport are being returned gradually. Aena is coordinating with airline departures from terminals T4 and T4S. There are no departures from T1-2-3, at the moment. No arrivals will be produced.” Passengers are also advised to check the status of their flight with the airline and not to travel to the airport until their flight has been confirmed.