Swedavia implements action plan to address COVID-19

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In response to a dramatic decline in passenger volumes as a result of COVID-19 Swedish airport operator, Swedavia, has implemented an action plan to adapt its services. Operations across Swedavia’s network of 10 airports will be scaled down to a minimum based on the market situation. Meanwhile, a comprehensive review of the company’s investment portfolio is also being carried out.

“We are in the midst of a social crisis of an unprecedented nature,” said Jonas Abrahamsson, Swedavia’s President and CEO. “Our most important priority now is to limit the spread of the disease and protect people’s lives and health. However, the consequences for a company that enables people to meet are dramatic, since our revenue is in principle completely variable and connected in one way or another to passenger volume.”

For the first two months of March the decrease in passenger volume across Swedavia’s airport network was around 30%. This downturn is expected to continue as airlines continue to suspend services.

While the airport operator reports it will do its utmost to safeguard its mission of providing access to meet the current demand from commercial traffic and air ambulance flights it also warns that it expects to lay off 1,900 out of a total of about 2,500 employees until further notice.

Abrahamsson concludes that: “When the situation around COVID-19 has stabilised and demand has once again rebounded, we naturally want to be able to scale up our operations as quickly as possible and then have our fantastic employees back. However, right now, there is enormous uncertainty about future developments, and it is not possible to provide any forecasts as to the future. We therefore also need to prepare ourselves by creating room for manoeuvre as developments unfold.”

Riga Airport stays open with limited operations

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Following the temporary suspension of international scheduled and non-scheduled passenger flights Riga Airport will remain open so that it can cater for repatriation flights, cargo transportation and other permitted flights, including domestic flights from Riga to Liepāja operated by the national airline airBaltic.

There are currently 45 aircraft parked at the airport: 37 airBaltic aircraft, 6 SmartLynx and two WizzAir aircraft as well as three private aircraft. More than 50 aircraft will remain at Riga during the flight restriction period.

In cooperation with the Emergency Medical Service, the airport will screen passengers arriving on repatriation flights with medical points at the airport working to the schedules of these flights.

“The safety and health of our employees and the public are a priority and value at Riga Airport, and we must adopt and implement the measures in place to limit the further spread of COVID-19 virus,” said Ilona Līce, Chairperson of the Board of Riga Airport.

“Our main task during this time of crisis is to ensure the operation of these flights, as well as the operational and financial stability of the company, so that airport operations can be fully restored as soon as possible once the situation normalises,” she continued.

Companies operating at the airport will continue to repair aircraft, while training flights and technical flights without passengers will continue to operate.

Līce concluded that she would like to “thank the airport’s professional team for their efforts during this stressful period.”

CANSO urges decision makers to keep skies safe

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With the COVID-19 pandemic plunging the global aviation industry into an unprecedented crisis, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) has urged urged governments to protect air navigation service providers (ANSPs) from financial collapse.

“The current crisis has unfortunately hit our airline customers hard, but airlines deferring payment or not paying at all for air navigation services is absolutely not the solution,” said CANSO Director General, Simon Hocquard.

ANSP revenues are directly related to the volume of air traffic they control, so the air traffic management (ATM) industry is under severe pressure and is extremely vulnerable to the dramatic decrease in air traffic currently being experienced across the globe. “We need to make sure we do not create long term damage to the aviation system and avoid one company’s solution being another’s problem,” Hocquard continued.

Explaining that suspending operations and laying off a large proportion of staff is simply not an option, he added: “We have to continue to keep our operations running safely, to keep our sectors manned in order to ensure the safe transit of aircraft including cargo flights delivering vital medical supplies and food. We cannot close our airspace, we still have flights to manage, albeit at a reduced level. The airlines and society rely on the ANSPs to provide a safe service when the traffic comes back, and so the ANSPs must be kept solvent as well as the airlines.”

While the wellbeing of air traffic control teams is of paramount importance, many ANSPs have already introduced operational measures aimed at helping the industry as much as possible. These measures include removing constraints to shorten routes and maximise flight efficiency. They are also deploying cost containment measures but a decrease in revenue could significantly impair their ability to handle traffic safely and seamlessly when volumes pick up once again.

To ensure the industry to continue on both a resilient and sustainable path CANSO is calling on decision-makers and those in positions of authority to enable financial support for all industry stakeholders including ANSPs, airlines, airports and handling agents .

Editor’s comment: We are all in this together

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Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

It’s difficult to know what to write in this week’s newsletter without reflecting on how much the world has changed in the last couple of days, let alone weeks or months. Just two weeks ago I travelled from Mexico to Ethiopia via London for the 5th Aviation Africa summit. Now, with much of Europe in lockdown, the prospect of any international and in some cases domestic travel is unlikely for the foreseeable future. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak is the greatest threat the global aviation sector has ever faced.

The rapid reduction in demand for air travel in recent weeks has led to airlines suspending services, in some cases across their entire network, and airports (regardless of their size) are also faced with having to enforce annual leave, temporary staff reductions and even the possibility of closure.

In a statement earlier this week, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) CEO, Charlie Cornish, said: “This temporary and dramatic downturn requires us to act now to protect our position at this crucial time. This will include enforced annual leave, reduced working hours, temporary pay cuts and temporary lay-offs.” He added that MAG’s executive team has also taken a pay cut, and recruitment and capital expenditure plans have been frozen. “We are doing what we need to do in the face of an unpredictable and fast-moving situation.” It’s a similar situation for airports around the globe.

Cornish also warned that, “Aviation is essential to some of our most important industries and in forging trading relationships… Government needs to take decisive action now to make clear its total and unwavering support for airports, airlines and other travel companies. The UK depends on air travel to support its economy. The Government must stand behind the aviation industry to make sure it is still there and ready to help the economy recover once this is all over.”

These are unpredictable times for aviation and businesses in general. But there is a sense of solidarity among many stakeholders. Luxaviation Group has launched the European Business Aviation Solidarity Initiative (EBASI). The group will support the European business aviation industry by sharing its expertise in procurement, purchasing power and finance resources with business aviation companies for free, allowing them to concentrate on the core operations of their business.

Meanwhile, and in recognition of the fact that airport operators remain first and foremost concerned with protecting the health and welfare of travellers but are also businesses in their own right, Airports Council International (ACI) World has proposed a global policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a general sense across the aviation community that we are all in this together as this crisis continues to unfold,” said ACI World Director General, Angela Gittens. “As the economic policy response is formulated, however, it is important to note that no measure or relief package should disproportionately benefit one sector at the expense of another…. The aviation industry and governments should approach the prospects for recovery strategically, pragmatically, and in partnership,” she concluded.

“Unprecedented times” is a phrase we will continue to hear repeatedly during this period, but so to is “we are all in this together”.

The Regional Gateway team is committed to standing alongside the global airport community and will continue to report on news concerning air transport hubs around the world, as well as highlighting the hard work of our industry colleagues throughout this challenging period. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’ve got a story you’d like to share.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Regional Gateway e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

Star Air soars across India

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Star Air has become the first regional airline in India to launch services between Indore (Madhya Pradesh) and Kishangarh (Ajmer-Rajasthan).

The airline launched its service on 18 February 2020. Mr Shrenik Ghodawat, MD of Star Air commented, “Star Air is the first airline, which has fulfilled the aspirations of millions of people, by starting the first-ever direct flight services between Indore and Kishangarh (Ajmer).”

Additionally, in response to passenger demands, Star Air is launching a route between Belagavi and Kishangarh via Indore, commencing from 16 March 2020. The extension of flights between Kishangarh to Indore will eliminate around 10 hours of transport for customers, expecting to reach people from the South and West Maharashtra, North and West Karnataka and many districts around Indore, providing easier connectivity to more rural areas.

The new service is likely to provide tourist with easier access to destinations, consequently benefitting the cities economies will an increase to tourism. The airline has aimed to make “currently suffering” routes become reliable and direct.

Embraer Profit Hunter at London Oxford

London Oxford Airport welcomes Embraer’s Profit Hunter

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Embraer Profit Hunter at London Oxford

Currently on a world tour visiting prospective airline customers, Embraer’s EMB-195 E2 Profit Hunter touched down at London Oxford Airport on Monday 16 March. The striking black and gold inspired Lion design drawing admiring crowds as it landed on the 1,552m runway, showcasing its unique characteristics to land on a short runway.

The aircraft has already stopped at Hydrabad Airport in India and Dubai World Central Airport, UAE. It arrived in London on 16 March having taken off from Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus (taking off just before the country closed the airport for international arrivals) and will be heading to Cape Verde on 19 March.

The Profit Hunter is the largest commercial airliner ever to land at the Oxford hub, which during late 2010 was a temporary home to an Embraer Lineage 1000 (a VIP version of the EJ-190 commercial variant).

James Dillon-Godfray, London Oxford’s Head of Business Development, stated: “We are delighted to welcome this stunning commercial aircraft to Oxford. It shows the extraordinary field performance of this family of jets.”

The twin engined, single aisle, fly by wire, state of the art Embraer E190-E2 with its high-aspect ratio wings, is the largest variant of Embraer’s family of upgraded E-Jets, delivering lower operating costs, significantly reduced emissions and noise levels. The Pratt & Whitney PW1900G geared fan powered aircraft features Honeywell Primus Epic avionics and a new flight management system.

“Tech Lion” is the latest of the specially painted jets that form Embraer’s E2 demo series, which includes a tiger, an eagle, and a Great White shark.

AOA warns UK airports could close without government intervention

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The Airport Operator’s Association (AOA) has warned that UK airports may face closure if the government doesn’t intervene.

“Governments across the world are supporting their national aviation industries, as many parts of the global travel industry have come to a halt,” said Karen Dee, CEO of the AOA, commenting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As some airlines call on the UK Government to act similarly, we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.

“The UK’s airports are critical national infrastructure, fulfilling a vital public service, and are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is essential that airport businesses remain operating and are able to weather this storm, so that they can provide the connectivity which drives growth, employment and prosperity after the crisis has abated.

“With travel bans proliferating and passengers unwilling to fly, traffic through airports has plummeted. UK airports are taking immediate and drastic action to cut costs and are scaling back investments in light of the situation. Due to the fixed costs of operating airports, the government will need to provide additional support.

“The government must step in to see airports across the four home nations through the current crisis, and make an unequivocal commitment to doing whatever it takes to sustain the UK aviation industry.”

Among other measures the AOA suggests that the government should be ready to provide or organise emergency financing as a measure of last resort. It also suggests that business rates and other government rates and taxes on airports should be suspended and that there should also be a deferral of payments of all VAT, corporation tax and other taxes for the duration of global flight restrictions.

“For the sake of the UK economy it is essential for the UK Government to catch-up to its peers across the continent and provide support to the sector and the wider economy through financing, guarantees, grants and tax relief.

Dee concluded by underlining that, “To help kick-start aviation again once the pandemic is retreating, the government should suspend Air Passenger Duty for six months.”

airBaltic to temporarily reduce services

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Due to the development of the ongoing coronavirus crisis and its impact on the global aviation sector, airBaltic has made a decision to temporarily decrease its overall capacity by a further 30% and to temporarily reduce its fleet to a total of 22 operating aircraft between March 29 and May 31, 2020. The move will see the airline cancel more than 2,000 flights.

“The health and safety of our employees and the public is airBaltic’s highest priority,” said Martin Gauss,airBaltic’s CEO. “The situation is changing very quickly, and we are forced to make some hard but necessary decisions. For now, we have reduced the capacity and cancelled flights, unfortunately we have to temporally reduce our team as the scale of operation is decreasing significantly. These are temporary measures during the crisis, and we need to be ready to get back on our growth path once the situation improves.”

In line with network adjustments, airBaltic is also having to temporarily reduce the number of its employees by up to 400. The company will seek voluntary solutions, unpaid leave, non-extension of probation time and termination.

However, the airline was also quick to point out that it has a well-developed crisis plan. Since 28 February, an action group C19AG has been established at the company, which regularly evaluates the latest situation to ensure it takes the necessary measures.


Signature Flight

Clear Channel Airports extends partnership with Signature Flight Support

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Clear Channel Airports (CCA), the US-based airports business of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, has renewed its contract with the global FBO network Signature Flight Support to transform the media and marketing approach for over 140 private aviation terminals throughout North America and the Caribbean.

Signature Flight Support’s new advertising programme will include new custom digital networks of LCD and LED screens across the top 20-25 private aviation terminals around the country. Many of the high-end brands that have consistently advertised across these private aviation terminals increased experiential and select exclusive foundation partner opportunities will be available.

“We are excited to extend our partnership with Signature Flight Support,” said Morten Gotterup, President, Clear Channel Airports. “Their network of FBOs presents the world’s leading brands and products with the absolutely unique ability to interact with the world’s highest net worth individuals, partners and families as well as in many cases their staff representatives,” he added.

“We will be working very closely with the Signature Flight Support team to create truly innovative and unforgettable advertising and sponsorship opportunities from new experiential activations to exclusive brand partnerships. Our partnership is poised to create some groundbreaking initiatives in the private airport advertising sector.”

Meanwhile Shawn Hall, CCO, Signature Flight Support said “We are thrilled to build upon our long-standing partnership with Clear Channel. Together, we are focused on maximising the opportunities that only our unparalleled network can deliver to the world’s leading brands.” He added: “We’re excited to bring to life new and innovative approaches to advertising in our FBOs, along with exclusive experiences and surprise and delight moments that engage and excite our customers. We look forward to collaborating with like-minded brands and partnering with them to deliver compelling, multi-year campaigns and activations.”

Signature Flight
OTG shopping

Checkout-free shopping arrives in US airports

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OTG shopping

Hospitality group OTG is introducing Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in its CIBO Express Gourmet Markets at two US airports enabling passengers and visitors to shop faster by selecting their items and walking out.

The new technology was rolled out at Newark Liberty’s Terminal C on 16 March with additional stores at the New York hub as well as LaGuardia Airport following suit.

By using Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in these markets, busy airport travellers can quickly enter the store using their credit card, grab the items they wish to purchase, and just walk out for maximum speed and convenience.

“We’ve found that shoppers truly appreciate checkout-free retail experiences, so we’re thrilled to be working with an innovative company like OTG to bring our proven Just Walk Out technology to their airport stores,” said Dilip Kumar, Vice President, Physical Retail & Technology at Amazon.

Rick Blatstein, CEO of OTG, explained that the introduction of Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in OTG stores is expected to revolutionise the airport experience for passengers. He added that this work with Amazon is another step in OTG’s ongoing commitment to providing a frictionless experience.

“We’re incredibly proud to be integrating Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology into the OTG airport experience,” he said. “OTG has always embraced technology as a means of optimising the airport experience so that we can give our guests their time back. By using the world’s most advanced shopping technology in our CIBO Express Gourmet Markets, we’re doing just that by putting our guests in full control of their time.”

According to OTG, its reimagined airport terminals are designed to be perfect gateways to the cities and regions they serve, integrating here-and-now technology, iconic design and locally sourced dining and market options that create a true sense of place. Reinforcing this philosophy the adoption of Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology showcases the company’s approach to leveraging advanced and innovative technologies to create a seamless airport experience and to offer its airline carrier partners terminals that travelers want to visit.