charlotte douglas

Editor’s comment: It’s safe to fly

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charlotte douglas

As it looks beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest challenges for the global aviation community has been the need to restore passenger confidence.

Whether it’s in the terminal building or onboard an aircraft, airports and airlines are constantly battling against concern from passengers over the risk of disease transmission. This is further exacerbated by haphazard, restrictive international travel bans and blanket quarantines.

So, it’s welcome news that after a six-month analysis of the air travel industry’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Flight Safety Foundation has concluded that industry efforts have succeeded in greatly reducing the possibility of transmission in airports and on aircraft.

“The latest evidence shows that airports and aircrafts have very low levels of transmission,” said Dr Hassan Shahidi, Flight Safety Foundation’s CEO and President (pictured). He added that, “With the health and safety measures that airlines, airports and security personnel have now put in place, the risk of contracting this virus appears extraordinarily low, much lower than in other public places.”

International airport health accreditation programmes, improved cleaning and disinfection procedures and technologies, as well as contactless check-in and other self-service solutions, and socially distant boarding and deplaning procedures are all credited with enhancing health safety.

Given the “extraordinary measures” that have been implemented, Dr Shahidi underlined that, “the travelling public should have increased confidence to fly”.

With a bleak winter looming, we all (media included) have a role to play in sharing that it’s safe to fly and in keeping pressure on governments to introduce universally accepted testing standards – the UK Government’s commitment to implementing a testing system for international travel is a welcome first step. We also need to keep looking forward and hope that the industry’s recovery picks up speed in the new year.

Enjoy your weekend,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway.

covid testing at heathrow collinson

Government’s commitment to testing welcomed by UK airports

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covid testing at heathrow collinson

Following pressure from industry associations, trade bodies and aviation stakeholders, the UK Government has launched a new Global Travel Taskforce to consider how a testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented to boost safe travel to and from the UK. It will also look at what steps can be taken to facilitate business and tourist travel through innovative testing models and other non-testing means and more broadly, what steps can be taken to increase consumer confidence to support the recovery of international travel.

The Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care have been working extensively with clinicians, health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities of testing international arrivals.

To accelerate the work currently being done on proposals for a future testing regime, the taskforce will look at the feasibility of these initiatives based on a single test taken after a period of self-isolation. It will also explore alternative testing models, including pilots with partner countries to ascertain whether self-isolation could be undertaken pre-departure.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conceded that, “Our understanding of the science now means we can intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel sector.” He also stated that, “This new taskforce will not only help us move towards safer, smoother international travel as we continue to battle this virus but will also support global connectivity – helping facilitate more covid secure travel whilst protecting the population from imported cases.”

The group has revealed that it will consult closely with partners from the aviation, travel, healthcare and testing sectors to implement measures to support the recovery of the travel sector.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) has welcomed the Government’s commitment to testing as a first step, however it has also warned that a system must be implemented as quickly as possible.

“We have been talking about testing since June and many other countries around the world are already successfully using it. We must start the operation of the scheme as quickly as practicalities allow so the UK is not left behind. We believe that from a health perspective a testing regime can be far preferable to just relying on quarantine,” said Karen Dee, AOA Chief Executive. She also explained that airports will work with the Government to get a testing system up and running as quickly as possible.

She added that, “Today’s announcement must be the start of a renewed focus on our sector – it is essential that the Government bring forward the promised Aviation Recovery Package of support including business rates relief for airports in England and Wales, continuation of VAT-free sales airside, funding for the CAA and a temporary suspension of Air Passenger Duty.”

These much needed steps Dee added, will help support airports as they look to tackle the challenging winter months ahead.

“This announcement is positive and encouraging, but it is vital that the Government step up its support to protect our international connectivity,” she concluded.

Aurigny agreement with Eastern Airways to boost regional connectivity

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Guernsey-based airline Aurigny has signed an agreement with Eastern Airways that will enable passengers to book  flights from Guernsey on Eastern’s route network via Southampton to regional hubs including Manchester, Belfast City, Leeds-Bradford, Teeside, Aberdeen and Dublin in a single transaction.

By making the onward booking in a single transaction customers can also avoid the need to pay UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) twice.

Eastern Airways’ Managing Director, Tony Burgess, said, “We are delighted to announce and excited to commence this partnership with our friends at Aurigny, which will allow us to collectively provide greater connectivity focussed initially on our Southampton Airport hub.” He added, “By forging this partnership and joining our networks, we will now look forward to welcoming many more customers on board and providing them with an extended choice of simplified route options and seamless connectivity whether they be travelling for business or pleasure.”

Both operators are working with the developers of Worldwide by easyJet to align their booking system and allow a seamless single point of booking for each other’s services to or from Guernsey.

“This is great news for our customers as it is often a challenge in small market jurisdictions to offer the regional connectivity desired by all as demand does not justify direct flights,” said Aurigny’s Commercial Director, Malcolm Coupar. By teaming up with Eastern, the airline is able to offer customers a much wider regional network from Southampton.

As we come out of this pandemic, I expect we will see more airlines concentrate their operations out of certain hubs and that agreements between airlines will be more commonplace for the benefit of the customer. We are also working on agreements with other airlines offering services from the UK to develop ‘Worldwide by Aurigny’, which will offer customers connecting flights to Worldwide destinations booked via the Aurigny website.

Malcolm Coupar, Commercial Director at Aurigny.

Pictured: Guernsey Airport

London City resumes Zurich link with BA CityFlyer

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London City Airport in the UK welcomed the return of flights to Zurich in Switzerland on Monday 5 October. The reinstatement of London City’s fourth most popular international route will see BA CityFlyer offer five flights per week between the two cities.

Welcoming the return of the flights, London City Airport, CCO, Richard Hill, said: “This is a positive step for the airport, good news for business travel, and an important step in the economic recovery.

“Zurich is a key hub of international business, finance, and government. So, it is crucial that London has strong, fast and easy connections direct from the centre of the capital.”

Hill also underlined the airport was hopeful that with COVID-19 cases consistently falling in Switzerland, the Government will remove it from the quarantine list. “This would be enormously welcome for our airlines and would allow them to schedule more routes and rotations through the winter season.”

According to a recent survey conducted by London City Airport with business leaders in the UK on their intentions to travel, two thirds said they consider travel to be important for the future of their business. An additional survey of more than 4,700 customers also demonstrated a strong desire to travel, with 79% of those surveyed saying they are likely to travel when told it is safe to do so.

Alongside industry partners, the airport is calling on the UK Government to replace the current quarantine regulations with a consistent testing regime for air travel. This, it says, will make travel more viable for more people, which would be a significant shot in the arm for the aviation and travel industry.



Woolpert expands airport infrastructure services by acquiring JViation

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Jviation Inc, an airport planning, survey, architecture, engineering and construction management firm has been acquired by Woolpert in line with its vision of becoming the world’s leading architecture, engineering, geospatial and strategic consulting firm.

Jviation, which has more than 100 employees, serves general aviation and commercial service airports, as well as state aeronautics departments and airline and related aviation business partners. The acquisition strengthens Woolpert’s existing aviation service offerings and expands its geographic footprint in the western US. Headquartered in Denver, Jviation has offices in Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming, Missouri and Ohio.

“The firm’s culture, size and complementary services and geographies make this the perfect fit for Jviation,” said Jviation principal JD Ingram.

By joining Woolpert, Jviation and its clients gain airport planning, engineering and architecture bench strength, in addition to innovative geospatial resources and expertise that include aerial and mobile lidar, subsurface utility engineering, unmanned aircraft systems, urban air mobility, and technology consulting. Jviation also gains access to Woolpert’s global architecture, engineering and geospatial markets and services.

Woolpert’s Senior Vice President and Infrastructure Sector Leader Tom Mochty, said the addition of Jviation reinforces Woolpert’s focus on industry excellence and strategic growth. “This acquisition gives our teams the ability to provide a greater depth and breadth of AEG service offerings, and it greatly enhances Woolpert’s position as an industry leader within the aviation market.”

Los Angeles Airport enhances mobile food and beverage ordering

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LAX food app

Passengers travelling through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in the US can now use their mobile device to order food and beverages from restaurants throughout the airport’s terminals.

A collaboration between Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), Unibail-Rodamco Westfield Airports (URW Airports) and Grab, LAXOrderNow is part of LAX’s digital marketplace strategy to enhance the travel experience. It also provides a way for passengers to order and pick up food without having physical contact with another person.

“LAX is leading the airport industry in developing new ways for our guests to access all the information and services they need through their mobile devices,” said Justin Erbacci, CEO, LAWA. “LAX Order Now is another step in creating that customised, seamless travel experience, while also keeping our guests safe with another touchless service.”

Passengers and airport visitors use their camera app on their mobile device to scan one of many QR codes located throughout the airport or visit LAXOrderNow’s site directly from their mobile to search and browse menus from any participating restaurant. Customers then collect their orders from a designated pick-up area with seals on all packaging. They are also provided with updates and alerts concerning their order.

Concessionaires in seven LAX terminals – not just those managed by URW Airports – are participating in the programme, marking the first time such a uniform online dining service is available at the Los Angeles hub. There are more than 20 food and beverage locations on the platform currently, with more expected to be added soon. An in-airport, contactless delivery option is also in the pipeline.

“Partnering to keep people safe and healthy in the airport is key to restoring confidence in travel,” said Mike Salzman, EVP and Group Director, URW Airports. “LAX Order Now is a testament to how we can work together to bring new initiatives to market that create a more efficient experience, help drive sales and return airport employees to their jobs.”



Pressure mounts to drop quarantines in favour of testing protocol

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Pressure from European airports as well as other aviation stakeholders has intensified to drop quarantines in favour of an EU-wide passenger testing protocol.

Aviation bodies, including Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Airlines for Europe (A4E) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have outlined a common framework for pre-departure testing to re-establish freedom of movement in Europe ahead of the upcoming holiday season. This will provide far greater assurance and the ability for cross-border travel, that will enable travellers to plan family reunions or vacations. ACI Europe has also underlined this will serve as a lifeline to the millions of workers in the travel and tourism sectors whose jobs remain at risk.

All three organisations state unequivocally that a common testing protocol would further reduce transmission risks, restore confidence among the travelling public and protect livelihoods by allowing the travel and tourism sectors to begin their recovery.

The proposed framework is based on two overarching principles: Quarantines must be replaced by testing prior to departure – Research has established that 65% of travellers agree that quarantine should not be requried for passengers who test negative for COVID-19. Furthermore, travel restrictions must be coordinated and based on common risk assessment. This supports the risk assessment criteria and the common colour coding system/ mapping of designated areas already proposed by the European Commission, but which is yet to be endorsed and fully implemented by other EU states.

Data from IATA show air traffic to, from and within Europe is down by 66.3% year to date and the latest figures from ACI Europe reveal that as of 27 September passenger traffic in the EU had further plunged to -78%. Following a letter sent to the European Commission President von der Leyen on 17 September calling for action to help prevent the further demise of the industry, industry bodies have now submitted a framework for how an EU-wide testing protocol for travel (EU-TPT) could work.

The associations have reiterated their calls for the Commission and Member States to prioritise the development and implementation of the testing protocol. “We need to learn to live – and travel – with the virus,” the letter said. “Re-establishing the free movement of people and air connectivity across our continent in a safe way must be a priority.”

A testing protocol would allow for passengers to travel in a safe and harmonised way, rather than having their plans disrupted and made uncertain by constantly moving quarantine goal posts.

The letter also highlighted the continually worsening outlook for passenger demand along with crippingly low forward bookings for the winter season – down -80% from 2019. The planning certainty and risk-based safety of a common testing protocol would give European countries an effective way to reduce transmission both in communities and during air travel whilst stimulating the economy.



Åre Östersund Airport

Åre Östersund Airport to be used as test site for electric planes and aviation

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Åre Östersund Airport

Green Flyway, a collaborative project for the development of electric aviation, has opened and inaugurated premises for an international test centre for electric planes and drones at Åre Östersund Airport in Sweden. The airport is one of ten operated by airport operator, Swedavia.

Alongside other regional hubs, such as Norway’s Roros Airport, Åre Östersund will facilitate the testing of electric planes and drones under the Green Flyway initiative. The EU and inter-regional project will see a number of electric aviation partners collaborating with other stakeholders, such as the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration, the Swedish Transport Administration and a number of airlines, in Sweden and Norway. Green Flyway offers a dedicated test environment for electric aircraft, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), air traffic management (ATM) and infrastructure. Test flights will be conducted in a unique environment with easy access to airspace.

“It is very gratifying and important for the advancement of electric aviation and as well as Sweden’s goal to have domestic flights be fossil-free by 2030 and all flights fossil-free by 2045 to take the first step in developing a national and international test centre for electric aviation through the Green Flyway electric aviation project,” said Peter Fahlén, airport director at Swedavia’s Åre Östersund Airport.

With preparatory work for electric aircraft underway across Swedavia’s portfolio of airports, “Åre Östersund is focusing on ensuring that the airport’s infrastructure is ready to handle commercial electric aircraft in the future,” continued Fahlén.

All ten of Swedavia’s airports are expected to have zero carbon emissions from their own operations by the end of 2020. Swedavia is also actively working to promote the industry’s transition to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and aims to have 5% of all fuel used to refuel aircraft at its airports fossil-free by 2025.

Editor’s comment: Don’t forget the airports!

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Although the industry is still showing signs of recovery, it is slower than originally forecast. And as a result of government’s re-introducing restrictions and lockdowns in certain key markets since mid-August, IATA has reduced its forecast for air traffic recovery to be down 66% compared with last year. It’s previous prediction was for a 63% decline year-on-year.

So it was welcome news for Australian carriers that the federal government is continuing its support to ensure that regional and major domestic routes across Australia remain available. More than $150 million has already been handed to Australian airlines through the Domestic Aviation Network Support and Regional Airline Network Support programmes. Originally due to end in September, this support has now been extended into 2021.

Good news for airlines, but what about Australia’s airports? While the Australian Airports Association (AAA) has welcomed the extension of the federal government’s support programmes, it says more must be done to support the country’s struggling airports.

“While these programmes provide a huge helping hand to our airlines, our airports are still being considered as an afterthought,” said AAA Chief Executive, James Goodwin.

“Airports have been good corporate citizens during this pandemic, staying open and in many cases reducing or waiving landing fees for airlines despite losing $320 million a month in revenue.

“Even with this programme in place, jobs on the ground are hard to sustain because the majority of regional airports are council-owned and don’t have access to JobKeeper [employment protection scheme],” he continued. According to AAA, more than 70% of staff at regional airports have been placed on reduced hours, been redeployed or made redundant.

“To provide sector-wide support, the government must use the budget to support the costs of essential, government-mandated services such a international and domestic security screening, airfield security and extra COVID-19 cleaning,” Goodwin concluded.

It’s not just Australia where aviation relief packages tend to focus on airlines rather than airports. But we all know that an airline needs an airport in order to fly as much as an airport needs an airline and all its passengers. And we certainly won’t achieve much without working together as one industry.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget if you haven’t seen the latest issue of Regional Gateway magazine, get your free copy by subscribing now.

Chloë Greenbank,

Editor, Regional Gateway

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East Midlands Airport celebrates arrival of Aer Lingus Regional

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east midlands airport

East Midlands Airport (EMA) has welcomed a new passenger airline in the form of Aer Lingus Regional on 1 October. Operated by Stobart Air, Aer Lingus Regional will fly to and from Belfast up to three times daily using an ATR72-600 aircraft.

The new service re-establishes the link between the two cities that was lost following the demise of Flybe last year.

“We’re delighted to welcome a brand new airline to East Midlands Airport,” said Clare James, EMA’s Managing Director. “This is a positive development and is especially welcome in these challenging times for aviation. Direct connectivity to Belfast is a boost for this region and the new route provides frequent and easy access to Northern Ireland for people who are visiting for leisure or business. It’s also great news for tourism in the East Midlands and we offer a very warm welcome to visitors who want to explore everything this region has to offer.”

The convenient flight times of the new link will provide passengers travelling from the East Midlands with easy access to Belfast and Northern Ireland whether they’re visiting for a day or longer.

Also commenting on Aer Lingus Regional’s new service, Stobart Air Managing Director, Andy Jolly said: “we are pleased to establish a base at Belfast City Airport and to work closely with East Midlands Airport, Belfast City Airport and our partners Aer Lingus to operate flights to and from East Midlands.

“This new Aer Lingus Regional route will facilitate key links and connectivity between Belfast and East Midlands and ensure we provide choice, value and convenience for our customers.”