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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Finavia steps up use of masks for passengers ..

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Finnish airport operator Finavia is expanding the use of masks at its airports.All airport personnel working in a customer facing environment are required to wear mouth-nose protectors and passengers are also advised to use masks while moving through its airports.

“Now that Finland is gradually easing the coronavirus-related restrictions, Finavia turns its gaze to the future as well,” said Ulla Lettijeff, Helsinki’s Airport Director. “We are preparing ourselves for the return of air traffic carefully and gradually. We have already implemented various coronavirus-related measures at our airports and, if necessary, we are ready to adapt our instructions quickly. Right now, we are expanding the use of masks to protect passengers and employees,” she continued.

Lettijeff also urged passengers to acquire their own masks before arriving at the airport, as she stressed that the airport has only reserved a limited number of mouth-nose protectors. “Airport employees have already had access to masks but, going forward, Finavia is requiring the use of a mask in customer service tasks at all workstations that do not have a seperate protective plastic barrier,” she said.

Finavia is offering one batch of mouth-nose protectors initially to those companies at its airports working in a customer interfacing environment. Beyond the initial supply the airport operator requires individual companies to take care of their own employees independently.

In addition to the use of masks, Finavia has already implemented various other measures to ensure passenger and staff wellbeing and to reduce the risk of the further spread of coronavirus. Hand sanitiser is available at customer service points and security control. Passengers are reminded to keep a safe distance with tape markings and authorities’ instructions. Airport buses only transport 50% of the normal number of passengers. The airport has also introduced intensified cleaning and disinfection of contact surfaces in terminals and is recommending that passengers complete their online check-in before arriving at the airport wherever possible.

ERA on how quarantine will damage air transpo..

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The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) has labelled the latest quarantine measures imposed by the UK and Spain “arduous and damaging” to the recovery of air transport in Europe.

The Spanish Government’s announcement that it will impose a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving from overseas starting on Friday follows the UK ‘s recent announcement to also impose a mandatory two-week quarantine for incoming air passengers. In a statement ERA said these measures will have a detrimental effect and lengthen the time it will take for the travel and tourism industry to resume operations and services to consumers.

The association’s statement also highlights that it’s vital that measures introduced by member states, stakeholders and the air transport industry are financially, operationally and logistically viable, as well as being practical in their execution. Consumer confidence will be vital in allowing airlines to restart their operations and to receive future passenger bookings. Imposing quarantine measures that are unlikely to be controlled or enforced, provide no strategic benefit, especially as the risk of virus transmission on board an aircraft is low.

ERA Director General Montserrat Barriga said: “A clear set of measures across the EU and third countries is needed urgently to allow aviation to recover. A strategic set of processes and protocols can be implemented to make that happen that would re-establish confidence in flying. Quarantine measures will enforce a stalemate situation that benefits neither the passenger nor the airline. Collaboration is needed by all involved, otherwise the pathway to reconnect and reunite Europe will remain long, lengthy and  economically devastating.”

Roger Hage, General Manger (Commercial and Operations) of ERA member airline Eastern Airways added:” Given the propensity for these measures to restrict major corporate customers who shuttle staff or delivery projects, including sectors such as maritime, construction and energy this could severely impact economic recovery across many countries: which as a UK-based operator we believe is notable for the island’s economy. We would advocate for a very clear rethink as to how to distinguish between discretionary and employment specific passenger movements.”

Doncaster Sheffield responds to coronavirus c..

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Doncaster Sheffield Airport is pivoting its core business in response to the coronavirus, by facilitating the delivery of essential supplies such as perishables and medical supplies. It is also providing a rapid response to deliver critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to NHS frontline workers.

Back in February the airport was looking forward to celebrating its 15th year with a selection of new long-haul flights to destinations including Cancun, Mexico, Sandford, Florida and Cape Verde. Fast forward to May and although passenger flights have temporarily ceased, the levels of freight and cargo have doubled from this time last year.

Ideal Medical Solutions (IMS),a UK distributor specialising in supplying surgical equipment to medical and surgical professions has sourced large volumes of high-quality PPE from China. Global supply chain manager Ligentia has changed focus from retail to manage its transport to the UK, chartering freight flights to land and offload at Doncaster Sheffield.

As a result of the partnership between the airport, IMS and Ligentia, more than 5 million pieces weighing more than 22 tonnes arrived at the airport on Thursday 7 May where they were offloaded by the airport’s cargo and operational team.

“Ordinarily May would be the start of our summer season with passengers setting off on their holiday. The outbreak has halted our passenger operation for the time being, whilst our cargo throughput has doubled from this time last year,” said Chris Harcombe, Aviation Development Director, Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

“We’ve handled 5,000 tonnes of freight in six weeks since 15 March across 60 flights. March and April traffic is up 45% against the same period last year and have over 300 tonnes of PPE scheduled to come through Doncaster Sheffield Airport. We also have over 500 tonnes of perishables coming through every week on its way to supermarket shelves,” he continued.

Meanwhile Dan Gill, COO, Ligentia added: We have changed our focus to concentrate on providing support where there is greatest need. Our head office is based in Yorkshire and we were aware of the freight capacities at Doncaster Sheffield Airport to enable us to deliver to the NHS frontline.”

UK aviation industry pushes back against quar..

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As part of measures aimed at avoiding a second peak of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK Government has said that it will impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine period on passengers arriving by air in the UK.

Addressing the nation on Sunday 10 May, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I am serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.”

A reciprocal deal with the government in Paris means restrictions would not apply to passengers from France. In a joint statement, the UK and French governments agreed to “work together in taking forward appropriate border measures.

Describing the mandatory quarantine as having “a dramatic impact on our industry”, Karen Dee from the Airport Operators Association said: “If people have to quarantine for 14 days, they will be much less likely to want to travel, so there will be a dramatic impact on us at a time when we are already seeing passenger numbers decline by around 98%.”

Meanwhile, a letter from industry trade body Airlines UK on behalf of a number of airline and airpot CEOs to the Prime Minister asserted that “an open-ended quarantine, with no set end date, will make an already critical situation for the UK aviation, and all the businesses we support, even worse. People will simply choose not to travel to and from the UK, at the same time as economies in Europe and around the world begin opening up their borders and removing their own quarantines – making the UK aviation sector unable to compete.”

Derek Provan, Chief Executive Officer of AGS Airports, which owns Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton Airports said: “We expected to be moving into a restart position hopefully within a matter of weeks but it is now clear that with this measure in place, we are back to the drawing board once again to understand when we may restart the economy and open our airports properly.”

Industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) has said it would seek exemption to the quarantine for offshore workers as some reside outside of the UK and will be affected by these new measures.

Airport industry to be hit by $97 billion los..

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According to the latest figures from the Airports Council International (ACI) World, the global airport industry is due to be hit by a loss of more than 4.6 billion passengers and $97 billion in revenue during 2020.

The forecasts of prolonged – and more widespread – impacts and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in worsening predictions for traffic and revenue losses for airports across all regions.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airports, the wider aviation ecosystem, and the global economy continues to worsen and represents an existential threat to the industry unless governments can provide appropriate relief and assistance,” said ACI World Director General, Angela Gittens.

“As traffic and revenue have collapsed, the airport industry has taken all possible measures to preserve stability, but the challenge remains that a significant portion of airport costs are fixed,” she continued.

ACI World has applauded governments around the world that have stepped in to support both airport jobs and operations, but Gittens highlighted that more needs to be done in to ensure that operations can be scaled up to meet demand as the industry restarts.

Measures for airports that ACI World has called for include wage subsidy schemes, the protection of airport charges and revenues, urgent tax relief, waivers to airport rents and concession fees, the continuation of charges on air cargo operations to maintain essential airside and cargo facilities. The association is also calling for grants and subsidies, secured financing, loans at preferential rates, and bank guarantees to be made available.

Echoing ACI World’s statement, the UK Airport Operators Association’s (AOA’s) CEO, Karen Dee, underlined the need for a “strong, vibrant airline and airport sector that is able to compete domestically and internationally to deliver the routes and accessible air fares that passengers and businesses rely on.”

Dee has called on the UK Government to take a number of steps. “Airports need clear public health measures, based on medical advice, that ensure passenger safety and wellbeing while facilitating travel,” she said.

“In light of the expected long road to recover, continued financial support will be necessary to ensure that UK airports can facilitate the restart of the aviation industry,” she continued as she highlighted that the government needs to invest in the future success of the UK’s aviation industry or risk UK aviation falling behind its international competitors.

Editor’s comment: Face to face with the fut..

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Face to face with the future of flying

 

Although the impact and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to result in catastrophic predictions for air traffic and revenue losses for airports around the world, there is a definite sense that we are moving into the next phase of responding to the disease – taking decisive action to prepare for the rebound.

As countries across the globe start to gently ease their lockdown restrictions, airports are exploring measures they can adopt to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus. At Ontario Airport (ONT) officials are advising passengers to wear face coverings and use common-sense measures such as washing hands with soap and water regularly and avoid touching their faces to help prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, the airport is also spraying every surface of the airport nightly with a highly effective disinfectant using a cordless electrostatic backpack sprayer. It allows the disinfectant spray to attract to the surface, rather than float in the air, bringing 360-degree disinfection and sanitising capabilities.

“We are doing everything in our power to maintain ONT during this national emergency and we will be ready for a return to full operations as state and county governments ease safer-at-home orders,” said Atif Elkadi, Deputy CEO, ONT.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has become the first airport to trial a full-body disinfection chamber. The airport is also conducting a pilot test of applying an antimicrobial coating on all passenger facilities and high-touch surface areas in the terminal. And both Bournemouth Airport in the UK and Paine Field Passenger Terminal in Washington are looking at the use of fever detection technology to identify passengers with high temperatures and determine whether they are fit to fly.

Chinese-based technology and innovations company, KC Wearable, has developed a smart helmet (pictured) for screening fevers in public spaces, that’s ideally suited to the airport environment. It can scan up to 13 people at once and 200 people in a minute.

Airports are certainly facing up to the challenge of ensuring the health and safety of all those passing through their doors. But Vilnius Airport in Lithuania has adopted a different tactic altogether. Ensuring that social distancing measures are adhered to and passenger numbers are restricted, it’s innovating in a different way by hosting a drive-through cinema on the airport apron in the absence of commercial passenger traffic. It’s the first time the tarmac space has been used for anything other than the parking, refuelling and boarding of aircraft and is all part of the Vilnius International Film Festival, which runs until the end of May.

Fly-through cinema. I hope it doesn’t catch on!

Have a safe weekend,

Chloë Greenbank, Regional Gateway Editor.

If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

$9m funding secured for remote airstrip upgra..

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The Australian Federal Government is investing $9 million across 45 airstrips in isolated communities to ensure that those living in remote, regional and rural locations will be better connected with vital air services.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said funding under the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program will enhance the safety and accessibility of aerodromes in remote areas and improve delivery of essential goods and services including health care. Works will include improving runway surfaces, stormwater drainage and runway lighting.

“These airstrips provide access for aero-medical flights, urgent supplies and allow people to travel to regional centres for essential work and appointments,” Mr McCormack said.

“We are investing in the future of regional communities by delivering better and safer access for regional Australians needing to travel.”

Harrods Aviation reopens Luton and Stansted F..

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Following its temporary closure on 27 March, Harrods Aviation has reopened its London Luton and Stansted FBOs and maintenance hangars. Air Harrods, the helicopter management business, has also resumed operations.

In response to the UK Government’s COVID-19 guidelines the decision to temporarily close both facilities was taken by the board to safeguard the welfare of its staff and customers, and in the wider general interests of the country.

Initially hours of operation and staff numbers will be limited for safety reasons, but as the situation becomes clearer and aircraft movement numbers increase operations are expected to get closer to normal during the summer months.

“We are confident we have in place the correct measures to ensure we can operate efficiently and safely at both bases,” said Kerry Besgrove, operations director for Harrods Aviation. With new arrival and departure procedures in place, health screening and a very strict entry policy to our facilities, we feel the time is right to safely open once again our operation.”

Paul Norton, managing director of Harrods Aviation added, “I would like to thank our incredible workforce who, to a person, have been understanding and supportive during this pandemic, both those furloughed and those who remained working from a home environment, I thank you.”

Virgin Atlantic to stop flying from London Ga..

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Virgin Atlantic has said that it will stop flying from London Gatwick Airport as it expects to cut just over 3,000 jobs or up to a third of its workforce.

Having taken its inaugural flight from Gatwick in 1984, the airline, which was founded by Sir Richard Branson, has struggled to secure a UK Government bailout following the coronavirus crisis. It plans to reshape and resize the business to ensure it is fit for the future.

Describing how the airline has weathered many storms since its first flight 36 years ago, Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO said that “none have been as devastating as COVID-19.” While Government and private sector talks (to financially support the airline) are ongoing, Weiss stressed that the carrier “needs to reduce costs and preserve cash.

The carrier plans to retain its landing slots at the airport in case demand increases in the future, although it has made it clear it will leave with or without holding on to the slots. Instead it will focus on operating from its London Heathrow base and Manchester.

The announcement will be a further blow to Gatwick as Virgin’s decision to cull its workforce and stop flying from Gatwick follows the news that British Airways plans to make up to 12,000 of its staff redundant and could also look to exit Gatwick. The union Unite has said that the latest move threatens the future of Gatwick Airport.

“We have grave concerns about the impact on Gatwick Airport and the local economy following this latest blow,” said Unite assistant general secretary, Diana Holland.

“The Virgin announcement that it is pulling out of Gatwick follows that of Norwegian and BA indicating that they are reducing operations and pulling out of Gatwick.

“There have been 18,000 job losses announced in the UK aviation sector in the last week alone and this makes the case even more more strongly that the aviation industry-specific package Unite has consistently called for, and the government has promised, must now be delivered.

“The UK has world class airline and aerospace companies –highly developed and world leading, but the sector needs support in the period of recovery from this pandemic, if it is to retain this position.”