California’s Ontario Airport sees gradual recovery in passenger volumes

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Ontario International Airport (ONT) in southern California saw the number of air travellers rise to almost 200,000 in September, while commercial freight volume increased by more than 20%.

The increase in activity reflects a gradual recovery for the Californian hub. September’s passenger count was more than 195,000, a decrease of 58.4% compared to the same month last year. The number of domestic passengers exceeded 191,00, while international travellers totalled more than 3,500, decreases of 57% and 84.5% respectively. Indeed, since reaching its low point in air travel in April following the initial COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario’s passenger volumes have grown on a percentage basis every month between May and September.

“Cargo continues to be a point of strength and pride for us as Ontario enjoys the fastest rate of growth among airports in the continental US,” said Mark Thorpe, CEO of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA). He added that, “While passenger volumes remain significantly lower year-over-year, Ontario’s rate of recovery puts it third among US airports and first among airports in California.”

October has seen Delta Air Lines begin a twice-daily, nonstop service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, while Volaris is planning a new service to Mexico City beginning in November.

In terms of commercial freight volume in September, the airport experienced a 22.5% gain, marking the sixth month this year of better than 20% growth, with shipments totalling more than 73,000 tonnes. On a year-to-date basis, freight volume was nearly 645,000 tonnes, almost 20% more than the January to September period in 2019.

Airports brand European Council’s cross-border travel restrictions a failure

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Following the adoption on Tuesday 13 October by European Affairs Ministers of a Council Recommendation on travel restrictions, airports and airlines across the aviation sector have branded it a failure and issued a stark warning of the potential consequences.

While the Council recommendation sets out guidance to member states on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement it fails to encourage a restart of travel through effective coordination and proportionate, predictable and non-discriminatory measures, according to aviation bodies Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Airlines for Europe (A4E) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Stakeholders across Europe’s aviation industry are pushing for a common pre-departure COVID-19 testing framework to replace quarantines for passengers travelling from high risk areas, in order to re-establish freedom of movement in Europe. However, the Council Recommendation does not propose to replace quarantines with testing, effectively meaning borders remain closed. It also fails to harmonise the rules applicable for cross-border and domestic travel and ignores the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s opinion that travel restrictions – and in particular quarantines – are of ‘questionable effectiveness’ when community transmission is on-going, which is currently the case across much of Europe.

ACI Europe says that expectations for an effective solution now rest with the European Commission, which has charged the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and ECDC with the development of an EU Testing Protocol for Travel.

Tucson Airport innovates with toe tapping solution

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With airports everywhere innovating to make sure their terminals are safe and touchpoints are kept to a minimum, Tucson Airport (TUS) in the US has come with an innovative solution. All five of the airport’s pre-security elevators now have toe-tap buttons.

Installation of the buttons  (which are located both inside and outside the elevator) was carried out by KONE, the Tucson Airport Authority’s (TAA) elevator service provider at a cost of under $70,000.

TAA has invested more than a quarter of a million dollars in upgrades throughout its TUS Cares campaign to ensure a safe and healthy experience for passengers, employees and tenants. While some changes such as  the mandate for face coverings and the introduction of plexiglass shields are more apparent, others such as an enhanced air filtration system are less obvious.

Bruce Goetz, TAA’s COO and VP of Operations, explained that, “Custodial crews do a great job of thoroughly cleaning and sanitising the entire terminal… the toe tap buttons provide the option to people concerned about touching too many surfaces.”

The buttons are intended to limit the potential spread of COVId-19, but the convenience they provide is likely to benefit travellers long after the pandmeic has passed.

Blue Grass Airport welcomes Miami link in time for the winter holiday season

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Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky has welcomed a new non-stop Saturday seasonal service to Miami International Airport. Flights will be operated by American Airlines and will begin on 7 November and will run weekly until 3 April 2021.

The flights to Miami will not only provide access to all the city has to offer from its historic Art Deco architecture, beaches and nightlife to dining and shopping , but it’s also easy to hop on a connecting flight from the Florida hub to the Caribbean and Latin America. Connecting services to Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Aruba and the Dominican Republic are all options from Miami.

London City Airport calls for Global Travel Taskforce to take decisive action

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Robert Sinclair, London City Airport’s CEO has urged the new Global Travel Taskforce to move quickly to get business air travel back up and flying again. He said that he hoped the group would “acknowledge the fundamental importance of business air travel to the economic recovery prospects of the UK and other sectors such as hospitality and leisure.”

Prior to the pandemic data shows that the UK’s domestic aviation sector contributed £15 billion to the UK economy. New polling shows that demand for air travel among UK business leaders continues to be widespread. A new report by WPI strategy reveals the majority of UK business leaders see air travel as key to their future economic prospects and would return to the skies if quarantine measures were eased.

With 515 business leaders the report revealed that 88% of business leaders with more than 250 employees believe air travel is important to the future success of their business. Meanwhile 48% thought the government’s travel and quarantine restrictions were the single biggest barrier to business air travel, while 76% believe that airport testing would increase confidence when travelling.

“The UK aviation industry is the third largest in the world and a global success story,” said Sinclair. “But it is not just an industry itself, it also acts as an enabler of other industries such as trade, tourism, hospitality, imports, exports and conferences. We know that the demand for air travel is there, but restrictive quarantine measures are currently holding business leaders back from flying, and the UK economy from beginning its recovery.”

He added that he hoped the Global Travel Taskforce moves quickly to introduce a roadmap for aviation which sets out how a testing regime can be implemented quickly.  “Doing so could deliver a much-needed shot in the arm for business air travel, boosting economic growth across every region and every sector.”

Warner Rootliep, Managing Director of KLM Cityhopper echoed Sinclair’s comments saying: “KLM has a long standing commitment to serve the UK regions. We have rebuilt our regional presence in the UK over the last few months, reopening all routes. Connecting the UK regions to the world through our hub in AMS is of vital importance to the regional economy of these communities, especially in these challenging times… We hope the Taskforce will be able to define a roadmap that will allow us to eliminate the quarantine measures and reinstall travel confidence so that we can continue to rebuild our regional frequencies that is so vital for the regional economy.”

Riga Airport welcomes introduction of passenger registration system

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Riga Airport has welcomed the government’s decision to set up an electronic passenger registration system. Introduced on Monday 12 October, the electronic confirmation can be easily completed by passengers online and will contribute to public safety by allowing state services to identify and warn travellers more efficiently where passengers develop COVID-19 after their flight.

Previously passengers had been asked to provide paper certificates that were not only inconvenient for most passengers but also required disproportionate resources for collecting, sorting and handing over to public authorities. Further processing of paper questionnaires by the State Police and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (SPKC) was also inconvenient and time consuming.

By completing the certificate online at before arriving in Latvia, travellers will be complying with national epidemiological precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 infections. Passengers are then issued a QR code on the website and in their email, which will need to be presented on a mobile device or in printed form before boarding their flight. Airlines have the right to refuse flight to passengers who do not have the QR code.

With the control of completing e-certificates in line with applicable laws entrusted to the airlines themsevles, Riga Airport will provide support to carriers operating at the airport.  The airport will also monitor the existence of QR codes for arriving passengers and provide assistance to those who have not filled in the questionnaire.

Australia’s Newcastle Airport in race to secure funding for runway upgrade

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Following the absence last week of a Federal Government budget announcement, Newcastle Airport in Australia remains cautiously optimistic that it will secure funding for its $65 million upgrade to the runway it accesses from RAAF Base Williamtown.

The project will see the runway upgraded to Code E status, which would allow wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft to access the airport and connect the region and northern New South Wales to the rest of the world.

The runway upgrade needs to be delivered in conjunction with scheduled $115 million Defence maintenance work which is due to start in June 2021 and is slated for completion in November 2022. Subsequently, additional funding for the runway upgrade project needs to be confirmed before the next budget cycle, with a stop date in the first quarter of next year. Failure to do so could see the airport waiting until the next RAAF upgrade in 20 years time.

Although no specific funding has been announced for the project, there have been a number of significant infrastructure and regional funding pools announced, which the airport is confident apply to its upgrade project. Newcastle Airport CEO, Dr Peter Cock said he was hopeful the airport would be able to access some of the funding earmarked in the budget for regional infrastructure.

“I remain confident that the Federal Government understands the importance of this project for the region and the nation,” he said.

He added that upgrading the runway will provide confidence and hope at a time when it is most needed and will deliver tangible benefits. “From local tourism operators and hospitality owners to agricultural producers and freight and logistics providers, this project will drive significant jobs and huge economic return  well into the future.”

As such, Dr Cock also asserted that the airport “Will be working hard and engaging with other regional leaders to put together a compelling case as to why this project should be top on the list of projects to be funded. Doing so will ultimately add £12 billion to the regional economy and provide 4,000 full-time jobs. That is a huge amount of potential that is currently untapped.”

Swiss ANSP partners with Rohde & Schwarz for future voice communications systems

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Skyguide, the Swiss air navigation service provider (ANSP) has selected Rohde & Schwarz CERTIUM voice communication system (VCS) to rationalise its voice communications architecture and meet future air traffic control (ATC) operations requirements.

The new VCS will be implemented under the umbrella of the skyC@T project and will be a Swiss-wide solution. Depending on the options, it will replace four to seven legacy VCS.

Described as the ‘perfect match’ for Skyguide’s demanding requirements CERIUM VCS-4G provides native VoIP services through a Swiss-wide redundant VCS. The system simplifies and rationalises the overall voice communications architecture, making use of state-of-the-art technologies, including virtualised applications and service-oriented infrastructures with country wide distribution of system components. It can also be seamlessly integrated into Skyguide’s existing communications environment.

We selected CERTIUM VCS for skyC@T, due to its capacity and cost effectiveness. It allows us to redesign the overall VCS architecture and to align it with the latest industry standards and technologies.

Stephan Meister, Skyguide’s Head of Communication, Navigation and Surveillance.

Heinz School, Managing Director of Roschi Rohde & Schwarz AG added: “Our team is very proud to have been selected by Skyguide with its worldwide reputation for best practices in ATC. With our strong local expertise in the implementation of demanding projects and value-based systems maintenance, we see ourselves as a long-term partner to Skyguide, jointly building and supporting Skyguide’s new and future-proof VCS backbone.”

Header image:  Rohde & Schwarz CERTIUM VCS selected by Skyguide for skyC@T

Vinci Airports trials world first contactless solution at Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport

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French airport operator, Vinci Airports, has selected IDEMIA and Resa Airport Data Systems (RESA) to trial a world first – a wholly contactless and biometrics-based passenger experience in Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport. The new system will initially be available at the French hub for Transavia and TAP flights to Portugal.

“We are thrilled to launch MONA today, a world first, at a time when airports need game-changing innovations so they can give passengers an even safer, more enjoyable and personalised experience,” said Vinci Airports France & Americas Director Valérie Vesque-Jeancard.

The remote smartphone-based passenger biometric registration gives passengers a smoother, contactless end to end solution from ID registration until they board the aircraft. The process starts at home with passengers registering their faces at home using Mona, Lyon Airport’s smartphone app. Passenger registration is secured by a biometric match between their smartphone-based face and scans of their ID document and boarding card. Described as a ‘totally accurate and reliable identity management system’ IDEMIA’s solution enables passengers to speed through all identity control points without having to show their travel documents.

Philippe Barreau, IDEMIA Executive VP Identity and Public Safety, explained that, “This trial harnesses contactless biometric technology that gives users an unrivalled airport experience without letting up one jot on security. This bears out our capacity to constantly innovate to safeguard passenger trust and help pave the way for even smoother and more secure future travel.”

As a leading biometric security solutions market leader IDEMIA has partnered with leading airport systems integrator RESA. The latter’s automatic and biometric compact gate dubbed Major eGate, (which also caters for passengers with disabilities), comes with an integrated camera that allows travellers to pass through to the security restricted area and then board the aircraft based merely on facial recognition.

“Current Covid restrictions forced us to rethink how to take care of passengers and their interactions with airport security staff and equipment,” said RESA CEO Renaud Willard. “The biometric trial underway at Lyon Airport was made possible by French industrial collaboration, whereby hi-tech saved the day despite the current pandemic and economic crisis. We have shown here that passengers can pass through airport checks fully contactless and without handing over paper documents while shoring up security to boot.”

RESA’s IATA-certified CUPPS system means that as well as being universal and secure, IDEMIA’s solution works on all airline systems. However, while France’s national authority responsible for data privacy (CNIL) has recommended this new service to safeguard passenger data and rights, it is still subject to formal CNIL approval.

Shell and Red Rock sign agreement to increase SAF distribution

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In line with efforts to increase the distribution of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), Shell has entered into an agreement with Red Rock Biofuels to purchase SAF and cellulosic renewable diesel fuel from its new biorefinery in Lakeview, Oregon.

Shell plans to distribute the SAF to Red Rock’s existing airline customers.

“SAF is crucial to aviation’s success in reaching net zero emissions by 2050, alongside new technologies and high-quality carbon credits,” said Anna Mascolo, President of Global Aviation at Shell. “But to enable SAF to fulfil its potential we need to be proactive and resolute in finding opportunities to increase availability of SAF today and tomorrow.”

She added that an increase in SAF is dependent on, “collaboration across the whole value chain.”

Red Rock’s refinery is scheduled for completion in early 2021. Once operational, it will be the world’s first commercial scale plant to utilise waste woody biomass from forests at risk of wildfire to create SAF and cellulosic renewable diesel.

“This has been one of the most devastating wildfire seasons on record,” said Terry Kulesa, CEO of Red Rock. “We have seen wildfires grow in intensity, acreage, and damage to public health and the environment. One of the many potential benefits of this plant is to reduce the waste woody biomass lying on the forest floor which may help to mitigate the spread of wildfires.”

Referencing the new partnership, Kulesa also commented: “With its operational capabilities and global supply chain expertise, Shell is ideally positioned to support us in helping make low-carbon SAF more widely available to airlines who are committed to reducing emissions and tackling climate change.”

In general, lifecycle carbon emissions from SAF and cellulosic renewable diesel are expected to be up to 80% lower than conventional jet fuel. The SAF will be supplied to airports through existing airport infrastructure and can be used blended by airlines without technical modification to their current fleet.