Shanghai welcomes new link with Beijing

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

Shanghai has welcomed a new link with Bejing courtesy of OTT Airlines, a newly-founded subsidiary business run by China Eastern Airlines (CEA). The regional carrier completed its maiden flight between the two cities on Monday 28 December, using an ARJ21, the first turbofan regional passenger jetliner produced by China, which can carry up to 90 passengers.

Until March 2021, OTT Airlines will fly the routes from Shanghai to Beijing, Nanchang, East China’s Jiangxi Province, Hefei, East China’s Anhui Province and Wenzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province. OTT Airlines currently has three ARJ21-700 jets, and is expected to receive another six in the next year eight more in 2022. In total, the fleet will include 35 ARJ21 jets by 2025.

The airline’s aim is to fly homegrown passenger jets in China’s mainland market, ARU21 and C919, both manufactured by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China will comprise the majority of the new carrier’s fleet.

The regional carrier is a welcome boost to the local economy with an operation team consisting of 15 pilots, 28 flight attendants, nine safety officers, two dispatchers and more than 30 engineers.

 

 

California’s Ontario Airport optimistic for 2021

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

While the events of 2020 have wreaked havoc across the commercial aviation industry, Ontario Airport in Southern California has expressed a sense of optimism for the year ahead, based on encouraging signs from the last 12 months.

Between April and October the airport recorded six straight months of traffic growth, regaining almost 50% of passenger volume compared to 2019 figures. In addition airlines resumed or initiated new services from Ontario to five destinations in 2020, including Atlanta, Chicago (Midway), Houston (Intercontinental), Seattle and Mexico City. The airport also hosted a sold-out summer drive-in movie series and added app-based ride hail operator Wingz to its ground transportation programme to increase access to the airport.

“When 2020 began, Ontario was Southern California’s newest international aviation gateway and the fastest growing airport in the US, in just its fourth year under local control,” said Alan D. Wapner, Mayor pro Tem of the City of Ontario and President of the OIAA Board of Commissioners.

An attractive low-cost airport for commercial airlines, major e-commerce hub for air cargo shippers and a driver for the region’s economy, Ontario was the airport we’d hoped it would be just a few years ago. With the vision of our commission and the dedicated service of our staff, I can say unquestionably that Ontario holds as much much, if not more, promise today than it did before the pandemic. And as coronavirus vaccines become available to more Americans, I am optimistic we will see a return to more normal travel routines in 2021.

Significantly Ontario’s role as an air cargo destination took off in 2020, growing 20% year on year. In November, FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. completed a $100 million, two-year transformation of its Ontario operations, which now features a 251,000 sq. ft. complex incorporating a state-of-the-art sorting facility capable of handling 12,000 packages per hour, nine wide-body aircraft gates, 14 feeder aircraft gates and 18 truck docks.

The redevelopment of FedEx Express’s facility, along with a 30 year lease extension, sealed Ontario’s role as a major cargo hub in North America.

“We can never forget the pandemic’s toll on human life,” said Mark Thorpe, CEO of the OIAA. “Likewise we will always remember how we adjusted at Ontario Airport, challenged ourselves to adapt and collaborated with so many partners to ensure that travel through our international gateway is safe. We faced an unprecedented threat in 2020, and what we learned about our ability to persevere under the most difficult circumstances will serve our airport, our customers and the Inland Empire well as we move into 2021,” he concluded.

 

Editor’s comment: It’s a (no frills) wrap!

By Airports, Business Aviation, FeaturedNo Comments

With the countdown to the end of the year now in full swing, this is typically a time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 12 months. And it’s fair to say there have been rather more lows than highs for many in the aviation sector, but that doesn’t mean we can’t finish 2020 on a festively positive note!

Following the recent roll out of Pfizer’s vaccine, this week has seen regional hubs around the world, including Gerald R. Ford Airport in the US, stepping up to the challenge of serving as gateway’s to transport the vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70°C throughout the transportation process. The first cargo plane carrying Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for domestic use departed the Michigan hub on 13 December and is expected to be the first of tens of thousands of shipments that will deliver the life-saving vaccine to locations around the world.

Meanwhile, according to PrivateFly’s annual Private Jet Charter trends report for 202o, its clients have flown between an impressive 648 airports this year, which according to PrivateFly CEO, Adam Twidell, is three to four times more than major airline route networks.

“2020 has certainly been an unusual year, but I’m very grateful that private aviation has not seen demand fall in quite the same way as airlines or other travel sectors,” said Twidell. “In fact at PrivateFly we have seen increased demand for private jet travel during the pandemic.”

He added that, “Private aviation has always offered the convenience of using smaller airports to get closer to your destination, but this year we’ve provided a huge number of bespoke routings, due to repatriations and other atypical itineraries.”

Twidell concluded that with vaccines now on the horizon, “travel confidence is increasing and while much of the usual business travel provided by our sector is still on hold, we are optimistic for continued growth in 2021”.

Although commercial airlines have struggled for survival amid the impact of the global pandemic, according to LIFT Airlines co-founder, Gidon Novick, there has never been a better time to launch a new carrier. The start-up South African low-cost airline serving key domestic routes from O. R. Tambo including Cape Town and George Airport, flew its maiden flight on 10 December.  Its aim is to fly in the face of the “outdated supply-drive, high-debt airline model. Instead it’s time for a demand-driven business model. One that’s super-efficient, leverages off record low input costs and is both agile and flexible,” said Novick.

And despite Australia’s international borders remaining closed, the country is experiencing a surge in domestic travel with airports across the country welcoming the news that Jetstar, the homegrown low-cost carrier, is set to operate more domestic flights in February and March 2021 than ever before.

As we wrap up this crazy and challenging year, there’s no doubt that 2020 has been a reset for the industry. Nonetheless, as airports and airlines are already demonstrating, there is plenty to be hopeful for in 2021.

On that note I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support this year and to wish you happy holidays and a safe and prosperous 2020. The next Regional Gateway newsletter will be sent on 7 January, but you can still follow us online and on social media until then. In the meantime my parting gift to you for 2020 is the latest issue of Regional Gateway magazine, which is out now!

Best wishes,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

Airports concerned at lack of alignment on slot relief for summer 2021

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

Airports and airlines have urged the European Commission (EC) to align its proposal on airport slot relief in summer 2021 with aviation industry recommendations.

According to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, the proposal does not sufficiently address the extent of the continuing crisis in air transport, the likely state of recovery in summer 2021 and the required level of airport slot relief measures that would best support aviation’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Airports, alongside airlines and slot coordinators negotiated a worldwide recommendation for relief measures in the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB). Developed in parallel to these negotiations, the Commission proposal differs significantly from the WASB recommendation.

The EC suggests in its proposal that airport slots should be handed back three weeks prior to operation on a rolling basis, but offers no ability for airlines to return slots in bulk without risking future access to airports. In addition, the proposal also does not support airlines seeking access to airport slots in summer 2021, because they will not get the opportunity to plan for a full season or series in one go.

In contrast, the approach recommended by WASB is for carriers to be incentivised to return to their full series of airport slots in February (ahead of the summer season) in return for alleviation from airport slot usage requirements altogether. This would allow for the early reallocation of those airport slots and their ad hoc use throughout the season if needed. Similarly airlines can optimise their schedules under challenging conditions. This is an essential measure that would facilitate the industry’s ability to cater to demand when and where it materialises.

The EC proposal does not offer any alleviation and proposes that every single airport slot series be operated at least 40% of the time – an unrealistic expectation that could lead to airlines operating ‘ghost flights’ simply to maintain their slots.

While ACI Europe’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec, welcomed the EC’s efforts to make a timely proposal for summer 2021 slot relief, he warned it falls short of what is needed. “In contrast to the industry’s recommendations, the EC’s proposal does not allow for sufficient early planning opportunities for airports and airlines alike – which risks hindering recovery and adding costs,” he said. “We believe that the full package of balanced airport slot relief measures proposed by the industry should be implemented in full to ensure European aviation has a fair and level playing field to recover.” He added that ACI Europe will actively engage with all EU institutions and governments to push for the necessary changes.

Meanwhile the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) Regional Vice President for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman, stated that:

The Commission’s proposal is insufficient for a crisis of this magnitude. They have ignored the expertise of airlines and airports who are experiencing first-hand the magnitude of the shifts in consumer behaviour, as well as the independent views of the slot coordinators who best understand the mechanics of slot coordination. The industry is proposing a smarter and more agile policy that will support recovery, facilitate slot mobility, and ensure that consumers have access to competitive services when demand returns. We stand ready to work with the EU institutions to see the changes needed to make good of this proposal.

Australian airports boosted by rise in demand for Jetstar’s domestic services

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

Airports across Australia have welcomed the news that Jetstar, the Melbourne-headquartered low-cost carrier (LCC) is set to operate more domestic flights in February and March in 2021 than in any previous year. Travel demand for the airline’s low fares are already exceeding pre-COVID levels.

Jetstar will operate more than 850 return weekly flights across 55 routes by March 2021 – this represents more than 110% of Jetstar’s pre-COVID schedule (compared to March 2019). The additional services will be operated by the airline’s Airbus A320s that would normally be used to serve overseas links to destinations such as Bali and Singapore.

According to Jetstar Group CEO Gareth Evans, “Travel demand to popular holiday spots is bouncing back in the lead up to the summer holidays.

“Australians are globally renowned for loving travel and as we approach 2021, demand for our low fares services is stronger than ever.”

Almost 90% of Australians plan to travel domestically in 2021, according to a recently conducted survey carried out by Jetstar. More than half of the 1,500 people surveyed also said they plan to visit destinations they’ve never been to before and, in good news for businesses reliant on tourism, are more likely to spend on domestic travel than they would have been in previous years. The survey also revealed that Hobart and Melbourne saw the biggest rise in popularity as destinations, with Cairns and the Gold Coast rising even further in appeal to families with international travel off the cards for some time to come.

With international borders remaining closed, Evans conceded that there is “a lot of repair work to do given the huge toll the COVID crisis took on airlines.”

However, he concluded: “The flexibility we have across our fleet means we can offer these extra services, help boost tourism and the local economies of the communities we fly to and also get more of our people back in the air.”

Southwest Airlines plans to increase links to California

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

US low-cost carrier (LCC), Southwest Airlines plans to boost its links to California by serving both Santa Barbara Airport and Fresno Yosemite International Airport in the second quarter of 2021.

“Our arrival in the heart of California, both on the Central Coast and in the Central Valley, will round out nearly four decades of investment in our California Customers and communities,” said Southwest Airlines CCO and Executive Vice President, Andrew Watterson.

“While other airlines seem to fall in and out of love with the state, we’re focused on increasing the reach of our low fares and flexible policies in places where we expect them to make a difference.”

Kevin Meikle, Director of Aviation for Fresno Yosemite International Airport, added that the new links are in response to demand from residents and businesses throughout Central California to be able to benefit from the LCCs service and connectivity. “Southwest will expand the Central Valley’s air transportation gateway to Yosemite, sequoia  and Kings Canyon National Parks, and we look forward to our new partnership with Southwest and their arrival in the spring,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Cathy Murillo of Santa Barbara, said: “We salute Southwest’s bold decision to enter one of the most vibrant and beautiful regions in California, bringing visitors to our sweeping coastline to experience our mild Mediterranean climate and distinctive Spanish-influenced architecture. For our residents, our partnership with Southwest will energise the economic rebound to come in 2021.”

Following the first Southwest flight to Palm Springs on 19 November, the addition of Fresno and Santa Barbara will position Southwest Airlines as an option in 13 California airports before summer 2021, further deepening the airline’s commitment to the Golden State.

Alaska

Alaska Airlines offers pre-clear service for Hawaii-bound passengers

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

Passengers travelling with Alaska Airlines to Hawaii can now opt to avoid lines and bypass the airport screening process once they arrive in Hawaii with an approved negative COVID-19 test by using Alaska’s Pre-Clear programme.

The airline’s Pre-Clear programme launched this week in coordination with the State of Hawaii and is the first of its kind to enable travellers to obtain an exemption from the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine before departure. Once a passenger has been pre-cleared they are given a pre-clear wristband at check-in or at the departure gate.

Hawaii began a pre-testing programme back in October, which allowed passengers entering the state having tested negative for COVID-19 in advance of their arrival to proceed without the current two-week mandatory quarantine. However travellers have been subjected to long wait times on arriving in the islands as part of this programme. As a result Alaska received approval to pre-clear guests who complete the state’s requirements prior to check-in, so that no additional screening is needed after arrival at Hawaii’s airports.

“As guests start planning their 2021 travel to Hawaii, we’re focused on making the journey as safe, easy and hassle-free as possible,” said Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines’ President. “We appreciate Hawaaii’s partnership to help ensure our guests are well-informed and visit these beautiful islands responsibly, wearing a mask and following the state’s safety guidelines.”

Having successfully piloted the Pre-Clear programme over the last week with flights from the West Coast to Maui, the airline plans to roll out the programme on all flights to Oahu and Kona on Hawaii Island.

“We appreciate Alaska’s commitment in helping to keep our community safe,” said Hawaii Governor, David Ige. “Alaska has been a true partner from the very start of the programme by communicating with their guests about the state’s requirements so that they are well prepared for their visit. Alaska’s Pre-Clear programme adds another layer of safety by helping to ensure that the majority, if not all, of Alaska’s guests arrive in Hawaii with proof of their negative COVID-19 test results.”

Ford Airport in the US ready to serve as gateway for vaccine distribution

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

As the closest airport to Pfizer’s Kalamazoo manufacturing operations in Michigan, Gerald R Ford International Airport in the US is prepared to serve as a national and international gateway for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

With a 10,000 ft. runway, dedicated cargo facility and the appropriate ground support Ford Airport has the necessary infrastructure needed to support the transportation process. Critically it also the capacity needed to stage and transport billions of doses of the vaccine, which must be kept at -94 Fahrenheit.

The first cargo plane carrying the vaccine for domestic use departed from Gerald Ford Airport on 13 December, with tens of thousands of shipments expected to deliver the life-saving vaccine to locations across the US and around the world in the coming months. Airport officials have already been in discussion with four global carriers that have expressed an interest in transporting the widely anticipated vaccine.

“We’re here, we’re ready to help and we’re eager to get to work,” said Torrance Richardson, president and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. “We have invested in the infrastructure needed to accommodate the wide-body aircraft that will be used to transport the vaccine – and we have the team in place ot handle the aggressive delivery schedule.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Ford Airport has adopted a number of measures to ensure its passengers and staff stay as safe and comfortable as possible through its Fly Safe. Fly Ford. campaign. The airport has also announced it will also serve as a COVID-19 drive-up test site for guests and the local community.

Commenting further on the airport’s role in transporting the vaccine, Richardson added: “Ford Airport is honoured to be a key part of the distribution chain for Pfizer’s life-saving vaccine. We often say our airport is the gateway to the world –  this gives us the opportunity to underscore that in an exceptionally meaningful way.”

Manchester welcomes Antalya link with SunExpress

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

Manchester Airport in the UK has welcomed a new link to Antalya in Turkey, which will start flying in Spring 2021.

A joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, SunExpress is launching direct flights between the two cities on 26 March. The route will be served twice per week before going up to four a week from 30 May.

“It’s great to see SunExpress launch services to Antalya from Manchester Airport, the UK’s global gateway in the North,” said Karen Smart, Managing Director of Manchester Airport. “After a difficult year, the route will mean families and households across our vast catchment will have additional access to one of our most popular summer destinations.”

Meanwhile, Peter Glade, CCO of SunExpress, said: “After a year of staying at home, the people of Britain deserve a sunny vacation. Our new services to Antalya will serve the British people to arrive at their well-deserved holiday destination, fast, relaxed and for a competitive price, experiencing our unique SunExpress service.”

The new route from Manchester is already available for booking online.

Southampton celebrates the return of British Airways

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

After what has been a truly challenging year at Southampton following the demise of Flybe, the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent travel restrictions on airlines and the delay on a decision on the airport’s runway extension, Southampton is closing the year with some good news. British Airways has unveiled that it will be launching 11 new European routes from the airport in summer 2021.

The exciting summer schedule will see BA CityFlyer connect customers travelling from England’s south coast with popular holiday destinations in Spain (Malaga, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca), Italy (Florence), Portugal (Faro), Greece (Mykonos), France (Bergerac Dordogne Perigord, Limoges-Bellegarde and Nice Cote d’Azur) and Germany (Berlin), as well as Edinburgh in Scotland. The airline will operate up to 17 flights each weekend between 1 May and 31 October 2021. Flights will be operated using BA CityFlyer’s existing fleet of Embraer 190 aircraft.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the British Airways family,” said Tom Stoddart, Managing Director of BA CityFlyer. “The ideal location of the airport and excellent facilities on offer will hugely benefit our customers along the South Coast as they plan to take to the skies again and book a well-deserved holiday in the sun.”

Southampton’s Operations Director, Steve Szalay, described the announcement as “fantastic news” for both the air transport hub and the surrounding region during what has been one of the most challenging years.

“It’s also great to see BA return to the airport once again and the range of excellent destinations on offer is sure to be a welcome early Christmas present for passengers looking to plan a European holiday next summer.”

Southampton has submitted a planning application to Eastleigh Borough Council to extend its runway by 164cm(538ft) to increase the number of flight and the type of aircraft that can land. It was initially hoped a decision would be taken before the end of the year, but that decision has been delayed until the new year.

“We’ve always been clear that the runway extension is critical to the survival of Southampton Airport, which is why it’s important we take on board all feedback to ensure all stakeholders are aligned, supportive and the right decision is reached for our community. We will be submitting additional information to Eastleigh Borough Council to review early in the New Year.