Canadian regional hubs welcome return of services from Central Mountain Air

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Having resumed scheduled services to five British Columbian cities on 7 July, Central Mountain Air (CMA) is now restarting services between three additional Alberta and British Columbia destinations: Fort Nelson (YYE), High Level (YOJ)  and Edmonton (YEG).

“We are very pleased that CMA is working toward restoring scheduled air service to the community of High Level,” said High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer. “CMA has provided a valuable service to our community and been a valued corporate sponsor. The Town recognises the toll that COVID has taken on our businesses and our citizens. We are aware of the affect this virus has had on air carriers and greatly appreciate CMA’s effort to restore our access to this important mode of travel.”

South Bend Airport sees increase in summer bookings

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Flights at South Bend International Airport (SBN) are on the rise in July and August following four months of decreased flight activity at the Indiana hub.

In July the number of flights coming in and out of the airport are showing an increase of 56.2% over June. In August they are scheduled to increase another 42.1%

“SBN has been impacted by COVID-19 as most every business has been,” said Mike Daigle, SBN’s Executive Director and CEO. “As travel restrictions have been lifted, the airlines are resuming services as demand returns.”

American Airlines resumed a second daily flight to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in July. Alongside the two daily flights to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport brings American’s operations  at the airport back to pre-pandemic levels.

Having previously served SBN nonstop to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport Delta Air Lines has once again increased its service to Dallas to twice daily and resumed its one flight per day to Atlanta. Operations are set to increase again to both airports while Minneapolis-Saint Paul is currently scheduled ot return in September.

United Airlines also increased flights to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport from two to three times daily in July and in August, the airline will increase this route to four times a day.

The low-cost carrier Allegiant continues to serve all five year-round destinations from SBN, while its nonstop service to Sarasota-Brandenton International Airport will resume twice weekly in November.

Daigle added: “The safety of every passenger, employee, and individual that visits SBN has always been, and always will be, our top priority. The airlines and each of our tenant partners are doing everything possible ot ensure a safe travel experience. We are at a time where it is as important as ever for travellers to choose to fly SBN instead of driving to airports in larger cities.”

UK airports call for urgent business rates relief

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Following an unprecedented collapse in air traffic and passenger numbers, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) has called for urgent business rates relief for the UK’s air transport hubs.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic having decimated the aviation industry, airports are still having to pay more than half a million pounds a day in business rates. The AOA is calling for a year-long relief from business rates for all airports in England and Wales in line with those afforded to the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors.

“Commercial aviation in the UK has weathered the worst four months in its history and faces a lengthy recovery with passenger numbers not expected to reach pre-Covid levels for a considerable period. Our industry is on its knees and the government needs to do much more to support airports in recovering from COVID-19,” said Karen DEE, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association.

According to the AOA airports in England have paid more than £70 million in business rates since the start of the lockdown in March despite passenger numbers being down by around 97%. It has also found that the annual cost of business rates for airports in England is more than £210 million. And in Scotland and Northern Ireland, airports have been given substantial domestic rates relief for a year from the respective devolved authorities.

Dee added that, “Whilst many businesses have benefitted from business rates relief, airports in England and Wales have been forgotten and this is constraining their ability to survive through continued restrictions imposed on their operations and to help power the economic recovery of the country.

That our airports have been paying £500,000 in business rates every day during the lockdown reflects that the government simply has not grasped the severity of the challenge and threat that the pandemic has posed and continues to pose to our sector.

She concluded that a 12-month business relief programme will provide essential support for the UK’s beleaguered airports. It will also allow them to play their much-needed role in restarting the country’s economy.

Southampton and Exeter herald new routes with Blue Islands

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Southampton and Exeter airports in the UK received a welcome boost this week with Channel Islands-based carrier Blue Islands announcing new routes from both hubs.

Blue Islands, which flew an ATR72 in its new corporate colours to Southampton and then on to Exeter on Thursday 9 July, says its goal is to replace capacity that was lost following the collapse of Flybe in March. As of 31 August the airline will offer four routes from Southampton to Jersey, Manchester, Dublin and Guernsey. This is a significant expansion for the 15-year-old regional carrier as it marks the first time it will base an aircraft outside of the Channel Islands. Blue Islands has however been operating between the islands and Southampton since 2007. Since 2016 it operated as a Flybe franchisee.

Initially Blue Islands will base a 70-seater ATR72 aircraft at Southampton creating 20 direct jobs for pilots, cabin crew and maintenance staff. A further 20 more indirect jobs will be generated in ground handling and other associated activities. Paul Simmons, Blue Islands’ Executive Director, explained that when the market improves, the airline “plans to add a second aircraft at Southampton, covering an increased selection of routes and frequencies.”

In addition to the new routes from Southampton, Blue Islands will also start daily flights from Exeter to Manchester from 31 August. And from the 3 September it will fly three times weekly from Exeter to Jersey. The airline will work with partners to offer connections for passengers travelling northbound beyond Manchester.

“Moving into Exeter Airport, where we also hope to set up a base in the next few months and position one of our ATR aircraft, is part of a significant expansion for us,” added Simmons.

Last weekend Exeter saw its first commercial flight depart the airport for the first time since lockdown began. “We’ve undertaken various measures in line with government guidance,” said Matt Roach, Exeter Airport’s Managing Director. “It went really well and it was great to see those flights were in demand and people really want to travel and we hope to continue seeing passenger confidence continue to build in the coming weeks.”

Scottish regional carrier Loganair started flying from Exeter for the first time at the beginning of July. The routes to Newcastle and Edinburgh are being operated on Embraer regional jets. “In the middle of a difficult period for aviation and UK business as a whole, the addition of Blue Islands and Loganair mark the first signs of recovery and give a much-needed boost to regional air connectivity,” continued Roach.

Following the announcement of Blue Islands’ new routes, the Channel-Islands based airline has partnered with Loganair to offer passengers a broad new range of regional air connections across the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Editor’s comment: Up, up and away

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It’s been four months since I stepped foot in an airport, so I’m beyond excited to be delivering this week’s newsletter fresh from the tarmac of Southampton Airport in the UK. And even better I’m going on a flight, thanks to Blue Islands, so should be high in the skies above when today’s newsletter drops into your inbox.

This week has yet again seen a welcome increase in the number of flights taking to the skies with Eurocontrol reporting that the biggest flows are domestic. However, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation has also reported it is now seeing significant increases in air traffic flows between countries. New and additional routes are being added to schedules daily with Hamburg, Bordeaux and Manchester airports all announcing an uptick in flight schedules.

Blue Islands, the Channel Islands airline, has been busy planning its future through the pandemic. Central to its plans going forward is the introduction of new routes and jobs at Southampton Airport. Having previously served Southampton from Jersey as a franchise carrier of Flybe, today marks Blue Islands’ debut at Southampton with its  ATR72 aircraft sporting a brand new livery. It’s only a short hop from Southampton to Exeter, but I have my mask and hand sanitiser at the ready and can’t wait to get up in the skies again.

Another event I’m looking forward to later this month is AviaDev’s Africa Tomorrow virtual conference. Themed around reinventing resilience in Africa’s aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors, the conference is taking place on 21 July. I’ll be moderating a session that will look at the new normal for African airports as well as actionable solutions for a post-pandemic landscape. I’ll be joined by Fundi Sithebe – Chief Operating Officer for Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), Nicolas Deviller – Deputy CEO Ravinala Airports in Madagascar and Lawal B. Abdullahi – Operations Officer, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

It’s set to be a packed day of conference sessions and networking with plenty of insightful discussions covering Africa’s aviation sector. So if you haven’t already, register here now.

Best wishes,

Chloë Greenbank, Regional Gateway Editor.

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

Sustainable aviation fuel delivered to San Francisco via pipeline

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San Francisco Airport (SFO) in the US has marked a milestone in its journey to achieving not just carbon neutrality but also net zero energy and zero waste.

Neste, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from waste and residue raw materials, has delivered its first batch of SAF to SFO via pipeline. Branded Neste My Renewable Jet Fuel, the SAF will be used by major airlines committed to reducing their carbon emissions.

The pipelines used to deliver SAF to the airport were originally designed to carry fossil fuels and other oil products. Alternatively the fuel would be delivered by truck, which would in turn have used fossil fuel. To get the fuel from Houston in Texas where it was produced, Neste teamed up with Crowley, a family-owned vessel logistcs and management company based in Florida. Crowley transported Neste’s SAF to California on a US flagged tanker where it was stored in a refurbished tank that had previously been used to store oil products before being safely delivered to SFO.

Neste’s SAF is made from sustainably sourced 100% renewable waste and residue materials, like used cooking oil or animal fats, instead of crude oil. It is 80% less carbon intensive over its lifecycle than traditional fossil jet fuels so offers an immediate solution for reducing the direct greenhouse gas emissions of flying. The volume of SAF that Neste expects to provide to SFO will deliver roughly the same greenhouse gas emissions reductions as taking 1,200 flights between SFO and New York City on an A320 or 737 out of service.

“To anyone wondering what the future of air travel is – it will be low-emission, it will be sustainable, and it will be powered by sustainable aviation fuel,” said Chris Cooper, VP for Renewable Aviation at Neste North America. “The FAA expects more than 1.3 billion Americans to board an aircraft in 2040. This milestone shows that Neste is ready to play its part to help the aviation industry plan for and create a sustainable future where we can keep these people flying with a much, much smaller carbon footprint.”

Meanwhile, SFO’s Airport Direcotr Ivar C. Satero commented: “This is a major milestone in our goal to make SFO a hub for the use of SAF in our pursuit of carbon neutrality.” He added, “By focusing on the entire supply chain process, achievements like this one have the power to transform the landscape of our entire industry. I am grateful for our partnership with Neste to make this climate quantum leap a reality.”

The deal is part of the airport’s five-year strategy to achieving not just carbon neutrality, but also net zero energy and zero waste.

Dallas Fort Worth enhances in-airport dining experience

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Airport e-commerce platform, Grab, has launched its ‘bring your own device’ Order at Table (OAT) technology at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

OAT technology allows passengers travelling through the airport the convenience and control of ordering and paying for food from their own devices without the need to download an app. Customers  can order and pay digitally, or solely use contactless payment to pay their bill by scanning a unique QR code or tapping an NFC tag on their seat. They can browse menus, place food orders and pay their bill all from their own device, therefore removing the typically high-touch aspects of the sit-down dining experience.

“In this new normal, the importance of contactless technology and the ability to digitally order at any location is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” said Jeff Livney, CEO at Grab. “As US airports see enplanements come back, we hope our platform will help to ease the stress of travelling while health and safety concerns are at the front of mind for travellers.”

Meanwhile, Pat Banducci, CCO at SSP America, added: “Technology will play a key role in the recovery of the travel experience. Through our partnership with Grab, we look to continue to help facilitate that recovery by implementing self-order and pay solutions to drive the business forward.”

The launch of Grab at Dallas Fort worth follows the announcement at the end of June that Grab had partnered with in-airport food and retail delivery leader AtYourGate to provide a range of services to help the aviation industry and passengers as airports around the world reopen to commercial passengers. The strategic partnership will allow airports to provide both pick-up and delivery at participating food and beverage as well as retail concessions.

Speaking in June, Livney emphasised that the partnership is “designed to support the industry as we face some of the toughest challenges we’ve ever seen. Having contactless ordering options during this health crisis is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ and they are going to be fundamental to the way we all do business going forward. We’re confident the combination of the Grab platform technology and integration with AtYourGate’s delivery capabilities will enhance the passenger journey while making operations smoother, scalable and more efficient and therefore more commercially viable for airport concessionaires.”

IATA issues safe travel guidelines

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As airports and airlines around the world continue to resume operations for commercial traffic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed eight changes to air travel to ensure that passengers and staff remain safe.

The eight changes include the wearing for face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation workers; more frequent and deeper airport cleaning and sanitisation of airports and aircraft; health screening including self-declaration and temperature screening; greater use of contactless and self service processes; physical distancing in the airport where possible; simplified cabin services to lower movement and interaction with passengers; limited movement in the cabin during flight to reduce congregation of passengers; and contactless procedures for customs and border protection on arrival.

IATA is also encouraging passengers to wear protective face coverings on public transport when travelling to the airport and to be aware that many airports will restrict terminal access to passengers, staff and those accompanying passengers with reduced mobility or unaccompanied children.

IATA has also teamed up with Airports Council International (ACI) World to call for costs related to public health measures aimed at mitigating the spread of communicable diseases should be borne by governments. The two associations argue that as the industry begins to restart and plan for a long-term, sustained recovery, the health and safety of passengers and staff remains the foremost priority for airports and airlines. But they also underline that there needs to be harmonisation in the solutions that are implemented and indeed that the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations require governments to pay the costs of health measures.

“The aviation industry wants to get the world moving again,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “We have successfully worked with ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organisation) and many governments worldwide to put in place standardised protocols that safeguard public health and give travellers the confidence to return to the skies. But the industry is still on the edge of a financial precipice. The extra costs of health measures mandated by governments must – as the WHO recommends – be borne by governments. That will enable the industry to focus scarce resources on reconnecting the world and boosting economic recovery.”

ACI World’s Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira agreed saying: “ACI believes the cost of any health measures that are required should be borne by governments. ACI and IATA are aligned on this issue, as set out in the Safely Restarting Aviation – ACI and IATA Joint Approach which was our input to ICAO’s TakeOff guidance. This laid out that public funding of health measures should be ensured, including but not limited to infrastructure or operational changes needed for their implementation.”


Rwanda airports set to reopen

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Having closed its borders on 20 March, the Rwandan government plans to reopen airports on 1 August for scheduled commercial traffic.  The country’s airports reopened to private and charter tourist flights on 17 June.

The Ministry of Infrastructure announced on Saturday 4 July that airports, including Kigali International Airport (KIA) will reopen, weeks after the country reopened its tourism and hospitality services.

A statement from the ministry read: “To ensure the safety and health of passengers, crews and staff, airport operations will adhere to guidelines developed by the Ministry of Health and recommendations of the ICAO Council on Aviation Recovery Taskforce.”

All passengers, including those in transit will be required to show proof of COVID-19 PCR negative test from a certified laboratory, taken with 72 hours of arriving in Rwanda. “For passengers entering Rwanda, a second PCR test will be conducted upon arrival, with results delivered within 24 hours during which time they will remain in designated hotels at their own cost,” the government said.

Measurements put in place by Rwanda’s airports to safeguard passengers and staff include hand sanitisers, physical distancing markings, disinfection of the airport and equipment, airport staff well trained on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures, and comprehensive guidelines to ensure safe operations. Passengers will also be required to complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in Rwanda.

Passengers planning travel to Rwanda are advised to familiarise themselves with the new airport procedures and to arrive at the airport at least three hours before a flight. Passengers that test positive or come from areas where there is confinement will not be allowed to travel through the country’s airports.



UK airports welcome introduction of ‘safe travel’ list

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With the UK Government set to remove travel restrictions on a list of 60 countries from Friday 10 July for travellers who live in England, airports across the UK have welcomed the Department for Transport’s ‘Safe Travel’ list which has been unveiled in time to kick-start the summer season.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s Aviation Development Director, Chris Harcombe, said: “We welcome the news as it is critically important to the start of recovery for the aviation industry.” The airport’s runway has remained operational throughout the coronavirus pandemic for freight operations moving perishable goods and PPE, but Harcombe has welcomed the relaxation of the government’s self-isolation rule for passengers arriving in the UK.

The government’s 14-day quarantine rules on inbound passenger travel will be relaxed from 10 July while non-essential travel restrictions from the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) ceased on 4 July. “Our first post-lockdown flight took off on Wednesday and the latest announcement means that more passengers can look forward to getting away for a long-awaited summer break,” Harcombe added.

The government’s safe travel list includes the majority of destinations served by Doncaster Sheffield Airport and its two main operators Wizz Air and TUI. These include popular holiday destinations such as Lanzarote, Tenerife, Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Kos and Rhodes in Greece, Tunisia, Cyprus and Turkey, with TUI flights recommencing from 1 August.

“The safety and well-being of customers and colleagues is the number one priority at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, that continues to strictly follow all guidance from Public Health England and the relevant authorities. Passengers will see our enhanced safety measures within the terminal building include social distancing, the use of safety screens, hand sanitiser stations and an enhanced cleaning programme. Passengers and staff will asked to wear face coverings at the airport and to follow the up to date public information displays,” Harcombe concluded.

Meanwhile Charlie Cornish, Group CEO of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), said: “These travel corridors will open up the chance for people to enjoy a well-earned break abroad and directly benefit the hundreds of thousands of people whose jobs depend on air travel for their livelihoods – whether they work in aviation or for the UK’s tourism and hospitality businesses, which can now welcome the first overseas visitors we will have seen for months.

“The government should continue to take a risk-based approach to quarantine arrangements and, where possible, build more air bridges to key tourism and business destinations with low infection rates. Each one will help protect jobs and preserve billions of pounds worth of economic activity in the UK.”