AFRAA and Routes MoU

AFRAA and Routes sign MoU to support growth in African aviation

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The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and Routes have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to stimulate new air services and champion the African aviation industry in what is the first formal agreement between the two in history.

Through the partnership, AFRAA and Routes will work jointly on sharing data and analytics, the promotion of key issues affecting airlines and airports within Africa and access to media opportunities – among other mutually beneficial actions.

With projections indicating that the African continent will be one of the fastest-growing aviation markets within the next 20 years – accounting for 334 million passengers by 2037 – Abdérahmane Berthé, AFRAA Secretary General commented that the MoU will be beneficial to support the development of aviation in Africa: “Which is growing at above global average rates but accounts for less than 3% of global traffic.”

“Strong partnerships among industry stakeholders are instrumental to the realisation of African aviation’s potential which will result in economic and social benefits for the continent,” Berthé added.

“Among our new strategic objectives is to become a hub for data intelligence and expertise on the African Aviation Industry,” he continued. “African airlines have to keep up with the developments through proper information management and data intelligence. We count on the data and analytics support from this partnership to back this objective.”

Steven Small, brand director for Routes, said: “We are delighted to have established a formalised agreement with AFRAA, following many years of working closely together.”

“The synergies in values between our organisations, regarding driving a sustainable air transport industry for the African region, makes this a powerful partnership that we are excited to develop,” he added.

Editor’s comment: All eyes on Davos

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

All eyes have been firmly focused on the World Economic Forum (WEF) taking place in Davos, Switzerland, this week. Government and business leaders have been joined by billionaires, climate activists and even the odd pop star for the forum, which is this year marking its 50th anniversary.

Despite the global climate crisis being one of the dominant topics for discussion at this year’s summit, which follows the theme ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’, eyebrows have been raised at the number of attendees who have arrived by private jet. Airports including Zurich, Samedan, Friedrichshafen and even Geneva have handled a significant increase in private jet activity. Not ideal given aviation’s reputation for its contribution to carbon emissions.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and one of the big stories that has come to light is that many of the business jets flying to and from the event are being fuelled with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The collaboration between Finnish fuel provider Neste and Jet Aviation Zurich has meant that SAF is available for the first time ever in Switzerland at Zurich Airport. Neste’s My Renewable Jet Fuel has a carbon footprint that’s up to 80% smaller than fossil fuel.

Commenting on the collaboration Thorsten Lange, Neste’s Executive Vice-President for Renewable Aviation said:

We are very excited about Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel being now available for the first time at the Zurich Airport. The aviation industry has set clear targets for a more sustainable future. And as the world leaders gather at the World Economic Forum, we are proud to co-operate with Jet Aviation and Zurich Airport and offer WEF visitors our sustainable aviation fuel, which contributes to efficient reduction of aviation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, under a payment-transfer initiative known as “book-and-claim,” operators flying to Davos were, for the first time, able to purchase SAF supplies, even at airports where SAF is not available. The initiative was in place at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, Laurence G. Hanscom Field Airport and Dulles International Airport. SAF will be apportioned to the purchasing aircraft at each of these hubs, and consumed through a routine operation at California’s Van Nuys Airport (VNY).

While it might not have been intentional, SAF is certainly getting the spotlight it deserves. As Brandon O’Reilly, CEO of Farnborough Airport, pointed out earlier this week during a media briefing, SAF is a tangible key to aviation’s sustainable future. Increasing the demand for SAF will be the game changer for more production, but stimulating that demand is where the challenge currently lies. We need to get the message out there that where there’s demand SAF will follow.

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.

Bole Airport

Ethiopian Airlines plans for a new airport in Addis Ababa

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Bole Airport

Despite Addis Ababa’s Bole Airport having just opened a second terminal last year more than doubling the airport’s capacity to more 22 million, the CEO of state-owned Ethiopian Airlines has revealed plans for a new ‘mega’ airport south of Addis Ababa.

Tewolde Gebremarian said the new $5 billion airport would cover an area of 35km2 and would be able to handle 100 million passengers. Ethiopian Airlines is currently based at Bole Airport but Tewolde feels it would no longer be able to accommodate the flag-carrying airline.

“Bole Airport is not going to accommodate us; we have a beautiful expansion project. The airport looks very beautiful and very large but with the way that we are growing, in about three or four years we are going to be full.”

With 19 million seats in 2019 Ethiopian is by far Africa’s largest airline.

Construction of the new airport is expected to begin later this year in Bishoftu, which is situated around 39km southeast of Addis Ababa. No details have been given on how the new airport will be funded or will be tasked with the construction

Ethiopian Airlines posted a net profit of $260 million in the 2018/2019 financial year according to Reuters and last year launched four-times weekly flights from Manchester in the UK to Addis.

Pictured: Addis Ababa’s recently expanded Bole Airport

Leeds Bradford Airport unveils plans for sustainable terminal

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Leeds Bradford Airport has unveiled fresh plans to build a state-of-the-art terminal which will aim to improve passenger experience and to also deliver one of the UK’s most environmentally efficient airport buildings.

The new plans are set to be submitted in spring 2020 and will replace a recently consented scheme and the existing terminal building.

The plans propose the construction of a three floor, 34,000 terminal on an alternative site within the airport’s boundary to deliver enhanced facilities which would allow the airport to meet its expected passenger demand and improve the level of service and efficiency. Features would include better surface access, with the site located nearer to the proposed rail link, fresh interiors and improved shopping, restaurant and bars.

If approved, the upgrade would create an airport terminal classified as ‘excellent’ by the BREEAM sustainability standard – only awarded to the most environmentally efficient buildings internationally. Completion of the terminal would also enable the airport to meet its target of net zero carbon emissions from airport operations by 2023.

“This proposed development is hugely exciting for Leeds Bradford Airport and the North and replaces our previously approved plans,” said Hywel Rees, Chief Executive of Leeds Bradford Airport, adding that the airport aims to “profoundly change the perception and reality of customer experience for passengers. To do this we need a terminal that meets the needs of the future in passenger flow and energy efficiency.”

Rees commented: “This proposal is not about growing beyond our predicted capacity; it is about meeting the same demand in a more efficient way, with a smaller environmental footprint; it is about creating a more modern building that can achieve operational excellence to give passengers the best experience; and it is about addressing the challenges we know our passengers face far too frequently and that cannot be overcome within our current building.”

The reveal of the new proposal marks the start of a consultative process and if approved, it is anticipated work could begin before the end of 2020 – with the terminal set to be completed in early-2030. The project will be privately funded by LBA’s owners AMP Capital.

“There has long been an understanding that regional airports form a vital part of providing connectivity to access global markets, attracting inward investment, and enabling a sharing of cultures,” said Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. “The plans to improve Leeds Bradford Airport are crucial and form a key part of the wider Northern Powerhouse and national aviation strategy, with environmental sustainability, including closer access to rail links, once built, critical.”

The airport’s existing terminal was built in 1965 and is the 15th busiest in the UK by passenger numbers. LBA received approval to expand its existing terminal in January 2019, and the airport’s current roadmap signposts a target of seven million passengers by 2030.

Aviation Minister, Paul Maynard, commented: “Leeds Bradford Airport is the global gateway to one of the most beautiful parts of the world, so it is vital passengers get the world class service this new terminal will provide. The new building will be more sustainable and efficient, helping the airport meet its net zero carbon emissions target by 2023, while boosting the local economy and securing thousands of jobs.”

Lubeck Airport

Lübeck Airport launches regional airline

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Lübeck Airport in north Germany is launching its own regional airline, Lübeck Air which will offer scheduled services to connect the city to Munich and Stuttgart.

Launching in June 2020, the airline will provide regular nonstop services to Munich and Stuttgart from June.

“With its own railway station and located at the junction of the A1 and A20 motorways, the airport’s connections are already excellent,” commented airport manager Jürgen Friedel. “Daily non-stop connections to the south of Germany will be a useful addition to the range offered by tour operators from this summer.”

lubeck airFlights will be operated with an ATR 72-500 turboprop, which the company suggests has “proven itself for regional traffic.”

“We are creating an offer that many people don’t even know anymore,” chief pilot Tobias Oberschäfer commented. Each ticket includes a piece of baggage and hand luggage, a small meal onboard and a seat pitch of 89cm.

“As the Lübeck Air plane surprises with seating for only 60 passengers – all of them window or aisle seats,” he continued.

The airline will also host a Falcon 7X with a range of up to 12 hours, offering business and VIP charter flights and able to land at very small airports.

The airline will be located at Lübeck Airport which currently serves mainly general and business aviation, however, its operators intend to make it the largest commercial airport in Schleswig-Holstein for scheduled and charter airport once again. The airport filed for insolvency in 2014 and commercial services ceased in 2016.

Since then the airport has gained a new operator and is currently going through the process of a terminal modernisation project with construction of an extension hoped to be finished in June. The terminal will be extended with a new waiting area and baggage claim while the old terminal has received a new look and will accommodate shops and check-in gates as well as offices and a restaurant with a large viewing terrace.

The airport has plans to grow, aiming to make the airport attractive for business and private flights as well as scheduled and charter flights. On its website the airport says: “Since mid-December 2018, the Airport Lübeck has had legal certainty for our development and building intentions. This has put an end to a waiting time of almost 10 years. Now the long-planned measures can be taken so that the resumption of scheduled and charter air traffic can finally become a reality.”


TSA reports record number of guns detected at airport checkpoints

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the US reported a record number of guns caught at airport checkpoints in 2019 – more than ever before in the agency’s history.

A total of 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags or on passengers at checkpoints across the country, approximately a 5% increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 4,239 detected in 2018.

The TSA reported that firearms were caught at 278 airport checkpoints nationwide. The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2019 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 323; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 217; Denver International with 140; George Bush Intercontinental with 138; and Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 132.

Eighty-seven percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded.

“The continued increase in the number of firearms that travellers bring to airport checkpoints is deeply troubling,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “There is a proper way to travel safely with a firearm. First and foremost, it should be unloaded. Then it should be packed in a hard-sided locked case, taken to the airline check-in counter to be declared, and checked.”

Travellers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA and even if a traveller has a concealed weapon permit – firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an aircraft. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and TSA advises travellers to familiarise themselves with state and local firearm laws, while airlines may also have additional requirements.

Travellers with proper firearm permits can travel legally with their firearms in their checked bags if they follow the guidelines. For example, firearms must be unloaded and packed in a locked hard-sided case, ammunition must be in its original box and can be packed inside the hard-side case next to the firearm.

The case should be taken to the airline check-in counter. Firearms are transported with checked baggage and placed in the cargo hold of the aircraft.

Take a look at our graphic to see the number of weapons identified 2008 to 2019:



Editor’s comment: It doesn’t have to be taxing

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

If the first few weeks of the year are anything to go by then the aviation industry is set for an exhilarating ride in 2020.

Earlier this week the future of Europe’s largest regional carrier looked uncertain. Amid speculation on Monday 13 January that Flybe was on the brink of collapse, the airline remained tight lipped, simply stating that it “continues to provide a great service and connectivity for customers” and that it wouldn’t “comment on rumour or speculation.”

However, one day later, Flybe was commenting on a rescue deal that had been secured. The UK Government has agreed to defer the level of Air Passenger Duty (APD) paid by the regional carrier and raised the possibility of a loan for the airline – although discussions on the latter are ongoing. This in turn prompted shareholders behind Connect Airways – the consortium led by Virgin Atlantic and the Stobart Group which took over the ailing airline last year – to increase its investment in line with plans to rebrand Flybe under the name ‘Virgin Connect’ later this year.

With Flybe carrying more than half of UK domestic flights outside London, the potential loss of the carrier would have been a huge blow to regional airports across the UK as well as Europe. The airline accounts for the vast majority of flights from airports including Southampton, Belfast City, Exeter, Cornwall Newquay and Anglesey. Any loss of service to these hubs would have a detrimental impact to the local economy and jobs.

Welcoming the news of the rescue package, the Airport Operators Association’s (AOA’s) CEO, Karen Dee, stated: “The action the government has taken to help secure the future of Flybe will support the current and future jobs that this connectivity provides at UK airports and in the regions.” She also underlined the “critical and unique role in the UK aviation system,” that Flybe plays in terms of “supporting the development of the regions, providing essential connectivity to businesses and stimulating the growth in trade.”

While Dee also revealed she is looking forward to the UK Government’s longer-term plans to review APD – “Europe’s highest aviation tax”, the news wasn’t so well received by climate activists who have branded the move a disaster for the environment. Anna Hughes, director of Flight Free UK, said: “Flying is already artificially cheap owing to a lack of tax on kerosene. To cut APD as well would be a disaster for the environment.”

Also calling for a reform, but this time on the way airport slot allocation is governed, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe is arguing that the core principles of existing legislation date back some 27 years and are no longer fit for purpose.

Olivier Jankovec, Director-General of ACI Europe, commented: “A regulatory regime based upon what the air transport market looked like 27 years ago is not only anachronistic – it is limiting the ability of airports to pursue more sustainable operations, develop air connectivity for their communities and to promote airline competition for the benefit of customers.”

Urging the European Commission to pursue an ambitious reform, ACI Europe is calling for greater consideration to be given to airports’ and their regions’ strategic objectives in the slot allocation process; increased transparency over slot allocation decisions; special provisions to apply for the allocation of slots at extremely congested airports; and the introduction of a ‘slot reservation system’ to incentivise airlines to hand back unused slots for reallocation in a timely manner.

After the relaxing festive break, there’s nothing like easing back into things gently…

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.

Southampton Airport introduces canine crew

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Southampton International Airport has employed some four-legged helpers to help soothe nervous fliers and passengers with hidden disabilities. The Canine Crew, a pack of therapy dogs from the charity Therapy Dogs Nationwide, will be on patrol once a week and will be stationed in arrivals as well as departures along with their volunteer handlers.

Fully temperament tested and highly experienced in their trade, the therapy dogs will benefit passengers as well as staff in the airport.

“Four-legged companions are well known for boosting general happiness, well-being as well as mood and we are very excited to welcome them to the Southampton Airport family,” said Simon Young, Head of Passenger Operations. “Our sister airport in Aberdeen was the first in the country to trial airport therapy dogs and we are happy to be carrying on that legacy,” he added.

The launch of Southampton Airport’s Canine Crew on Tuesday 14 January coincided with a charity collection for national pet charity, Blue Cross. Commenting on the collaboration Kirsty Smith, Rehoming Supervisor at Blue Cross Southampton said: “We see every day how incredible pets are and how much of a benefit they bring to our lives; through the joy they bring and often helping alleviate our stress and worry in difficult situation.”

Meanwhile Paulette Hockley, Placement Officer at Therapy Dogs Nationwide, added: “We are very privileged to have passionate volunteers who keep our charity running by taking their own dogs into establishments to give comfort, distraction and stimulation.

“We are looking forward to working with Southampton Airport and sharing the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy with both passengers and team members”

ACI Europe calls for reforms to EU airport slot regulations

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Airports Council International (ACI) Europe is calling for vital and overdue change in the way airport slot allocation is governed. The core principles of existing legislation date back some 27 years with ACI Europe arguing they are no longer fit for purpose to promote more efficient operations and more effective competition within the aviation industry for the benefit of consumers.

“A regulatory regime based upon what the air transport market looked like 27 years ago is not only anachronistic – it is limiting the ability of airports to pursue more sustainable operations, to develop air connectivity for their communities and to promote airline competition for the benefit of customers,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe.

Europe accounts for half of the world’s most congested airports and this capacity crunch is hampering competition which in turn limits air connectivity and passenger choice. ACI Europe’s Position Paper on Airport Slot Allocation is underpinned by a comprehensive study undertaken by independent expert Professor Amedeo Odoni of MIT, which analyses the functioning of the EU Airport Slot Regulation.

The paper highlights that capacity shortfalls have built up across the European airport network, with limited prospects for new airport infrastructure developments. This is demonstrated by the entry of low-cost carriers into major airports over the past decade to make use of what capacity does remain, and the growth of the aviation market to an extent that Europe now has several totally saturated airports with no spare capacity.

“Indeed, under the current rules, airports have no say in the way in which the very infrastructure they are creating and investing in is being used by airlines. This needs to change and the Position Paper we have published together with the independent research upon which its conclusions are drawn, clearly show the imperative for reform,” added Jankovec. He added: “Our goals are shared ones. Connectivity, sustainability and consumer choice. We urge the European Commission to pursue an ambitious reform of airport slot allocation rules, and trust that Member States and Parliament will heed this call.“

To achieve this reform, ACI EUROPE calls for:
• Greater consideration to be given to airports’ and their regions’ strategic objectives in the slot allocation process
• Increased transparency over slot allocation decisions, in particular the application of secondary allocation criteria
• Broadening of the scope of the ‘New Entrant Rule’, while removing the possibility of abuse by airline groups, so as to guarantee more effective airline competition at airports
• The right for Member States to allow secondary trading of slots should they consider it in the interests of competition and capacity optimisation – with the appropriate safeguards and conditions
• Special provisions to apply for the allocation of slots at extremely congested airports, in the interests of competition, capacity optimisation and the maximisation of economic and social benefits
• The strengthening of the system of historic rights by better balancing the minimum series length, providing a clear definition of force majeure and maintaining a minimum usage requirement
• The introduction of a ‘Slot Reservation System’ so as to incentivise airlines to hand back unused slots for reallocation in a timely manner so as to avoid a waste of airport capacity and suboptimal air connectivity.

Allegiant boosts connections to underserved cities

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Low-fare leisure carrier Allegiant has announced its largest ever service expansion, driven primarily by new routes connecting underserved cities to popular destinations.

The airline has announced 44 new nonstop routes, and most of the routes are non-competitive, with no other airline providing service between those airports, Allegiant suggested.

“There is a lot of leisure demand for cities that are regional destinations, and this route expansion will address some of that need,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant vice president of planning and revenue. “Also, this growth is about Allegiant being true to our mission as a company. We’re increasing the number of low-cost, affordable travel options for people who may otherwise be priced out of air travel.”

The new services including 14 routes to three new cities: Chicago, Boston and Houston.

New seasonal routes to Boston Logan International Airport include services from Grand Rapids, Michigan from 7 May; Asheville, North Carolina and Knoxville, Tennessee from 8 May, as well as Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, Florida on 14 May.

The new seasonal routes from Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport include services from Knoxville, Tennessee beginning 21 May; Asheville, North Carolina from 22 May; Savannah, Georgia from 28 May and Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida from 5 June.

Chicago Midway International Airport will gain six new seasonal routes, with the first (to Allentown, Pennsylvania) beginning 14 May.

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) is one of the airports gaining a new additional service through Allegiant, with the airline adding a seasonal service to Charleston International Airport from 22 May.

The new route will mark the airport’s 33rd nonstop destination (a record for the airport), as well as Allegiant’s eleventh route from SDF.

Dan Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority said: “Announcing new, nonstop service to Charleston International Airport from Louisville is a great way for us to kick-off a new year.”

Mann added that the airline’s continued investment “speaks to the community’s strong desire for additional leisure travel options.”

“Thanks to a booming economy, a great convention scene and a thriving tourism industry, our city is attracting more than 16 million tourists a year, and news like this will help us build on that,” commented Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Direct flights like this help local businesses, make us more attractive for businesses looking to locate here and provide great new options for people wanting to travel to and from our city.”