FAA invests more than $600m in building safer, more accessible airports

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The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded more than $608 million to enhance airports across the country.

The first round of 2022 Airport Improvement Programme (AIP) grants will go to 441 airports of different sizes across 46 states, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.  This funding is in addition to the $20 billion the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests  in US airports.

“In communities of all sizes, airports are vital to regional economies, sustaining jobs and getting people and goods where they need to go,” said US Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg. “These AIP grants will help make airports better, safer and more accessible, so they can better serve people in every community for decades to come.”

Examples of grants that will go to enhance safety at airports across the US include: $13.46m for Minneapolis-St. Paul International/ World Chamerlain, MN, to extend and improve the safety area, add taxiway lighting, reconstruct the taxiway and apron and replace the airport lighting vault. Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, NJ will receive $8.57m to improve its runway safety area, while Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Buffalo, NY, will receive $7.54m to rehabilitate 8,829 feet of the existing runway 5/23 pavement and lighting system as well as the reconstruction of 63 airfield guidance signs. In American Samoa, Pago Pago Airport will benefit from $18.8m to rehabilitate a runway.

Meanwhile general aviation airports will receive more than half of these first grants, with 272 grants in amounts ranging from $38,680 to more than $4.6m. These airports are recognised as being vital to communities and the wider aviation industry, offering facilities for pilots to rain, emergency medical services infrastructure and providing connectivity for rural communities. Some of the general aviation airports to benefit include: Gallatin County Airport in Sparta, KY, which has been given $4.15m to fund the final phase of its construction. Robert Curtis Memorial Airport in Noorvik, AK will be awarded $1.9m to rehabilitate a runway while two grants totalling more than $1.29m for Laughlin/ Bullhead Airport in Bullhead City, AZ, will be used to renovate the existing passenger terminal public restrooms within the existing footprint and reconstruct airfield guidance signs and the taxiway. In North Dakota, Devils Lake Regional Airport has been awarded a $36,000 grant while Jamestown Regional Airport has been awarded $45,000 to purchase aircraft rescue fire fighting vehicles and safety equipment.

Other grant awards fund projects that demonstrate the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equity and environmental sustainability. These include $1m for Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport in Gunnison, CO, to rehabilitate the existing terminal restrooms, elevators, escalators, concession areas, security screening and holding areas to meet current building codes and comply with ADA requirements. Montrose Regional Airports in Montrose, CO, will receive $1.6m to expand its existing terminal building to comply with ADA requirements. This project also rehabilitates the existing terminal building restrooms, elevators, escalators and security holding area. Finally $3.5m has been allocated for Alexandria International Airport, to purchase 15 homes and relocate 40 residents adversely impacted by aircraft noise. This project will benefit owners and tenants living near the airport.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport ups its game with premium video lounge

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Airport Dimensions has teamed up with Gameway to open a premium video gaming lounge space in Charlotte Douglas International Airport in the US.

The airport marks the fourth location in the rapidly growing Gameway network and the first in a new collaboration with Airport Dimensions. The lounge provides passengers with a premium entertainment experience while they are waiting for their flight and is equipped with individual gaming stations fitted out with: PlayStation or Xbox game consoles and top of the line Razer gaming PCs; high-end Razer gaming accessories; comfortable lounge chairs and Razer gaming chairs. Snacks and drinks are also available to purchase. Guests can play pre-downloaded games including some of today’s most popular titles such as Fortnite, FIFA, NBA2K, Madden, Call of Duty, Minecraft and Rocket League.

“Video gaming is now one of the fastest growing markets in entertainment, particularly with the rapidly growing traveller demographics of Millennials and Gen Z,” said Chris Gwilliam. Vice President Global Business Development at Airport Dimensions. “Gameway provides the best solution to engage this important traveller segment in the airport environment, making this partnership a perfect fit,” he added.

Passengers travelling through the airport can purchase access at the lounge based on the time they have available before their flight or acquire monthly passes if they are frequent flyers or regularly pass transit through the airport. Members of Priority Pass are also entitled to a complimentary hour of access plus a drink and snack.

According to Emma Walbridge, CEO at Gameway, the gaming lounge will offer passengers the opportunity to have fun while travelling for both business and leisure. “We firmly believe that the airport experience should be valued as an integral part of the travel journey, and simply put, our mission is to make airports entertaining. It made perfect sense for Gameway to partner in the development of this location with Airport Dimensions, as they are the global leaders in delivering experiences for air travellers. We know this is only the first in many more joint projects to innovate the airport experience and make time spent in airports both relaxing and fun! We also appreciate the spirit of partnership shown by both Paradies Lagardere and the CLT Airport team, as its clear that all parties involved in this project truly prioritise the traveller experience.”

Frequentis strengthens presence in the Middle East with Qatar CAA collaboration

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Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) has tasked Frequentis with upgrading its existing voice communication system (VCS) and modernise its air traffic control (ATC) tower operation.

The collaboration will help the airport meet air traffic demand resulting from the World Cup being held in the country later this year. A major fixture on the sporting calendar, the football World Cup will significantly increase passenger traffic to the region, with daily air traffic movements expected to increase from 700 to 1800 movements.

To help manage this increase in air traffic, QCAA is upgrading both its main and back VCS systems to enhance airport operations and maintain safety as airspace demands change. The back-up VCS will benefit from Frequentis’ next-gen VCX X10 to increase resilience. In addition, QCAA will also implement Frequentis electronic flight strips in the ATC tower to support air traffic controllers with effectively managing the increased workload and maintaining safety during peak air traffic movements.

Josef Kutschi, Managing Director Frequentis Middle East, commented: “Frequentis has provided QCAA with reliable ATM systems since the 1990s. Our electronic Flight Strips integrated with the ATM system marks the generation of tower automation, which will allow QCAA to handle the expected, significant air traffic increase.”

Both the digitalisation of paper strips and the implementation of the IT-based VCX X10 optimise the latest demands for tower digitalisation, paving the way for automation and efficiency, improving controllers’ situational awareness and workflows.

Designed to fullfill the latest trend towards Virtual Centre operations and, being fully ED-137 compliant, the VCS X10 fully supports the digitalisation of ATC communication and the standardised implementation and interoperability of voice over IP (VoIP). The Frequentis smartSTRIPS system is already deployed on five continents, covering installations from two to more than 90 controller working positions.

Hannu Juurakko, Frequentis VP ATM and Chairman of the ATM Executive Team concluded: “The X10 architecture allows for a flexible, scalable and modern approach to air traffic management and smartSTRIPS is an essential tool to support controllers in their challenging role.”

Servy strengthens presence in Canada with airport marketplace launch at YVR

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Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Canada has welcomed the launch of Servy’s second airport marketplace programme with the arrival of the Order Now service at the Canadian hub.

YVR Order Now offers passengers the opportunity to order their meals using their phones. The mobile ordering platform lets users avoid waiting in queues and notifies them when their meal is ready for pick up from the restaurant counter.

There are currently more than 20 participating restaurants at Vancouver with menus available in both English and French.

“In 2022, the average travellers wants and expects a digital experience at the airport,” said Jason Rickoff, SVP, Business Development at Servy. “We are thrilled to be further expanding our presence in Canada and look forward to working with Vancouver International Airport to bring our hyper-convenient, self-service solutions to the airport’s travellers and staff. YVR Order Now exists to provide an efficient and simple solution for travellers to make quick purchases at the tap of a finger. We look forward to adding more restaurant and retail partners to the service throughout the year, further enhancing hospitality and the travellers experience when they visit YVR.”

Meanwhile, Robyn McVicker, VP Passenger Journey at YVR added: “The YVR Order Now programme is another example of innovation and digital transformation helping make the travel journey through YVR an effortless and enjoyable one. As travellers look for a more personalised experience they will now have the opportunity to order from our fresh local restaurant partners and enjoy delicious food either while waiting for their flight or onboard the aircraft.”

European tourism to demonstrate resilience throughout 2022

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European tourism will remain resilient amidst risks on multiple fronts, according to the European Travel Commission’s (ETC) most recent edition of its quarterly report European Tourism Trends & Prospects. The report monitors the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as current economic and geopolitical headwinds and anticipates that European tourism will continue recovering in 2022, albeit at a slower pace than previously hoped.

While international tourist arrivals to Europe are forecast to be 30% below 2019 volumes in 2022 and this sector is not expected to exceed 2019 levels until 2025, domestic travel is projected to fully recover this year.

Despite remaining in negative territory, year-to-date data for Q1, 2022 showed that across all reporting destinations, arrivals are estimated to be 43% lower on a weighted basis relative to 2019 – an improvement over the 60% decline observed in the previous quarter. The fastest rebounds based on data to February were reported by Serbia (-11%) and Turkey (-12%). Other destinations recovering at a faster pace based on data to February-March 2022 are Bulgaria (-18%), Austria (-33%), Spain and Monaco (both -34%) and Croatia (-37%).

Luis Araujo, ETC’s President said: “Over the course of the pandemic, the European tourism sector has become adept at dealing with uncertainties and challenges. The sector is steadily recovering from COVID-19 and there is cause of optimism. Nevertheless, European tourism will have to maintain this fortitude throughout the year as Europe continues to deal with the significant fallout from the ongoing Russo-Ukraine conflict. ETC calls on EU institutions to continue to provide sufficient and timely financial aid and other support to the sector, especially to destinations heavily reliant on tourism from Russia and Ukraine.”

The report also shows that COVID-19 is ebbing as the primary factor influencing consumer travel plans. Helped by the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, as well as destinations’ health protocols and certifications, international travellers are now less hesitant about visiting Europe. Many countries, such as Spain, France, and Italy, have removed the requirement for COVID testing prior to travel, conditional on vaccination status. As a result of these actions, Western Europe is forecast to be the best performing region globally this year, albeit 24% below 2019 levels.

The US remains among the best performers of all long-haul source markets with transatlantic travel between the US and Europe this year one of the key drivers of the European travel sector’s recovery.

In contrast, there have been no immediate signs of Chinese tourist arrivals returning to pre-pandemic levels. China, the world’s largest spender, is currently enduring a severe outbreak of the Omicron variant in Shanghai and other big cities, prompting authorities to reimpose strict lockdowns and mandatory testing to suppress the spread of the virus. More than 50% of reporting destinations saw declines of more than 90% in Chinese tourist arrivals compared to 2019.

The report also underlines that the Russo-Ukrainian conflict will result in reduce outbound travel from both source markets. In the short-term, neighbouring countries and those most reliant on Russia and Ukraine as source markets will be worst affected in terms of tourism performance. Eastern Europe’s recovery has been pushed back to 2025 due to the conflict, with arrivals now forecast to be 43% lower in 2022 compared to 2019.

The impact of the war could mostly hurt destinations such as Cyprus, Montenegro, Latvia, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania, where Russians made up at least 10% of total inbound travel in 2019. Beyond the visitor impact, Russian tourists tend to be high spenders meaning that an even greater impact will be felt in terms of tourism expenditure in these destinations.

Besides the direct effects of reduced travel from both Russia and Ukraine, the conflict has created other problems for the European travel sector, including inflationary effect of economic sanctions on Russia. These will continue to exacerbate rising jet fuel prices and could cause airfare price hikes this year. Other rising costs such as food and energy could also erode consumer demand for travel. In addition, a recent survey by MMGY Travel Intelligence indicates that 62% of US travellers planning to visit Europe stated concerns about Russia’s war on Ukraine spreading to other countries as a factor impacting their travel plans.

Farnborough Airport collaborates with yacht brokerage company to boost luxe yachting lifestyle

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London’s dedicated business aviation hub, Farnborough Airport, has teamed up with the yacht brokerage company, Edmiston, to create a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the largest ever air-side advertisement on the airport’s radar tower, as part of a new fully immersive guest experience.

Passengers using the airport will find the award-winning terminal’s welcome wall and customer service vehicles featuring Edmiston’s iconic red branding, a newly designed Edmiston Lounge, and in July, the terminal’s 18m high air-side radar tower will also showcase the yacht company’s branding.

The Edmiston Lounge features a fully bespoke design, decked out with luxurious fabrics and furniture paired with Edmiston photography, a travel library, works of art and yacht models. In July, Edmiston’s creative branding placement will wrap two sides of the airport’s radar tower. The banner scales 18m high and 18m wide, making it the largest ever air-side advertisement in a UK airport.

“We believe there is great brand synergy between Edmiston and Farnborough Airport in offering exceptional service and an unrivalled private travel experience,” said Simon Geere, CEO of Farnbourh Airport. “We are delighted to launch our collaboration with Edmiston, and we look forward to welcoming clients travelling through our airport as they await their departure.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Edmiston, CEO of Edmiston said: “Guests travelling through Farnborough Airport can now experience a slice of the Edmiston lifestyle whilst waiting for their flight. We will offer them the greatest service and comfort when using the jet terminal, much as they would receive on one of our yachts, providing a completely seamless service from sky to sea.”

The creative branding sees two high-end luxe travel brands coming together to offer guests an immersive experience by adding extra touch points throughout the customer journey.

Masks are a thing of the past for Europe’s airports

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The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have updated their Aviation Health Safety Protocol to advise that wear mask wearing is no longer mandatory on public transport, this also needs to be the case at airports and on-board aircraft.

The Aviation Health Safety Protocol, advises European States and industry on the progressive de-escalation of protective measures aimed at limiting the risk of COVID-19 infection during air travel. Reflecting the evolution of the epidemiological situation and risks  as well as the latest scientific evidence, the updated guidance also removes the requirement to ensure physical distancing within terminals and other airport areas. In addition, it removes access restrictions to airport terminals, therefore allowing passengers and all other visitors to enter and use the range of services there.

Where health checks and testing requirements remain in place, the guidance advises that States should implement ‘One Stop’ arrangements to avoid duplication between departure, transit and arrival processes.

Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec, welcomed the updated guidance saying: “Over the past two years, the EASA-ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol has been essential to ensure risk-based and uniform COVID-19 protective measures for air travel across Europe. This remains the case with today’s update, with guidelines that continue to be effective, proportionate, and practical – and which reflect the fact that an increasing number of States no longer mandate wearing face masks nor social distancing for travel.”

He also noted that with the summer season set to be a busy one, the new guidance marks another step in the safe recovery of European aviation and it will make the travel experience much more pleasant, while keeping passengers and staff safe.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) Director General, Willie Walsh commented that “Travellers can look forward to freedom of choice on whether to wear a mask. And they can travel with confidence knowing that many features of the aircraft cabin, such as high frequency air exchange and high efficiency filters, make it one of the safest indoor environments.”

Birmingham Airport switches to renewable electricity

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With ambitions to be net-zero by 2033, Birmingham Airport has made the switch to using electricity generated from renewable sources.

Commenting on the latest step in its lower carbon journey, Tom Denton, Head of Sustainability for Birmingham Airport, said: “This reflects our sustainability ambitions and is a small but important step towards our eventual goal of net-zero carbon by 2033. We’re pleased, but, with so much more work still to do, it’s still way too early to celebrate.”

In recent years, the UK hub has reduced the carbon emissions it controls by 33%, by introducing low-carbon alternatives into its operation, including solar, electric vehicle transition and other energy-efficiency measures.

“We’re excited to be supplying Birmingham Airport with zero carbon, 100% renewable electricity and supporting them in their sustainability journey,” said David Taylor, Sales and Marketing Director of Bryt Energy. “We’re proud to be a part of it and look forward to helping them explore future opportunities for carbon reductions,” he added.

The airport’s contract with Bryt Energ runs until the end of March 2024.

Ground handlers and airports unite to address complex operational challenges

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The Airport Services Association (ASA) and Airports Council International (ACI) Europe have issued a joint statement addressing the complex operational issues faced by ground handlers and airports alike as we enter what the industry is forecasting will be a busy summer travel season.

While ASA’s Managing Director, Fabio Gamba, and ACI Europe’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec, welcome the return of air travel after the devastating impact of COVID-19 on their respective industries, they agreed that the recovery of passenger traffic has accelerated sharply and suddenly. “While still remaining below pre-pandemic (2019) levels, passenger traffic has also become much more concentrated over peak periods,” their statement read. “In fact, at many airports traffic peaks are at, or higher than, pre-pandemic levels.

Coping with this sudden increase in air traffic has proved challenging for airports and their operational partners, in particular ground handlers. It has resulted in an increase in flight delays and cancellations, as well as a degraded passenger experience at many airports, as key processes including check-in, security screening and baggage delivery involve longer waiting times.

The main underlying reason for these disruptions has been the difficulty to scale up staffing to the levels required to accommodate the surge in passenger traffic.

Outlining the reasons for the staff crunch, the two organisations said the cause is: Airports and ground handlers have been forced to lay off staff due to the collapse in air traffic in 2020 and 2021. “The fact that airports and ground handlers received far less financial aid than airlines and that such aid came rather late was a significant contributing factor to their weakened operational capabilities.”

The extremely tight labour market across Europe was another contributing factor. “The fact that security and ground handling jobs have for many years stood at the lower end of the pay scales and also involve working in shifts seven days a week is a clear handicap in attracting people in the current inflationary environment.”

In the case of ground handling in particular, years of liberalisation triggered by the EU Ground Handling Directive, have resulted in a downward spiral that has now become both socially and operationally unsustainable. If low wages and compromised service quality were already a concern pre-pandemic, they are now coming to the fore.

Finally the training and security clearance requirements have also made it impossible to quickly adapt and deploy additional staff. It can take up to 16 weeks between staff recruitment and deployment.

While both associations that in the short-term there is no quick and easy fix to the staffing issues, they highlighted that disruptions could be reduced by: Faster security clearance from competent authorities for airport and ground handling staff; Airlines adapting their schedules to reduce traffic peaks and returning unused slots as early as possible; Effective and even closer dialogue and cooperation between all partners involved.

“In the medium-term, EU rules on ground handling need to be reconsidered with a renewed focus on resilience. It is crucial that no further liberalisation of ground handling is pursued without a robust legal package aimed at guaranteeing a minimum quality of service and the promotion and recognition of the ground handling workers’ skills through, for instance the creation of widely recognised training passports. Also, the ability to set an upper limit on the number of ground handling suppliers based on the size of the market (or airport) would go a long way in addressing both social and operational shortcomings,” the statement concluded.

Long Beach Airport unveils new ticketing lobby and baggage inspection facility

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Situated in California, Long Beach Airport has unveiled its new ticketing lobby and checked baggage inspection system (CBIS). The two projects are part of a wider $110m Terminal Area Improvement Programme to make strategic pre-security enhancements at the regional hub.

Mayor Robert Garcia explained that the new facilities will provide an even better experience for passengers. “These two projects reflect a $52m investment in our airport’s infrastructure, funded from airport revenue and federal grant funding.”

Designed by Corgan and constructed by Swinerton, the ticketing lobby, which officially opened on 4 May, complements the adjacent historic terminal and builds on the airport’s status as a first-class gateway to Southern California. Features of the 16,700-sq.ft facility include common use ticket counters and self-service kiosks, non-porous, anti-microbial surfaces, ample space for improved passenger circulation, improved baggage checking and optimised energy performance, LED lighting and reduced indoor and outdoor water usage.

Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art CBIS facility, which is connected to the ticketing lobby, allows the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) to more efficiently screen checked baggage. It replaces what was originally designed to be an interim facility after 9/11.

These two latest projects are the first two components of Phase II of the Terminal Area Improvement Programme. A baggage claim facility is currently under construction and is expected to be complete before the end of 2022. Phase I of the Terminal Improvement Programme was completed in 2012 and included a passenger concourse featuring modern design, local eateries and an innovative outdoor design with a spacious post-security garden.

Commenting on the latest development projects for the nearly 100-year-old air transport hub, Airport Director, Cynthia Guidry said:”I am honoured to now contribute significant modernisation projects to the airport’s rich aviation history. This renews the passenger experience and positions Long Beach Airport for the future.”

The airport’s historic terminal building is also due to undergo major renovations.