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.”

Editor’s comment: A changing landscape

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

With just a few weeks to go until we bid farewell to 2019, the past 12 months have had their fair share of uncertainty for Europe’s airport community. Mixed signals on the economy, environmental protests, Brexit confusion, political turmoil and the collapse of several airlines have left airports facing unprecedented challenges.

Speaking at the Airport Operators Association’s (AOA’s) conference held in London last week, Karen Dee, AOA’s CEO, underlined that while aviation is “a driver of economic activity and prosperity,” UK airports have rarely faced a more challenging operating environment and their continuing success will depend on recognising and adapting to the changes that lie ahead.

The decarbonisation of aviation is probably the most pressing issue facing the industry, with Sir Jim Fitzpatrick, the Labour party’s former aviation minister, saying that “sustainable aviation should be the first line of attack, not last line of defence.”

While many airports are already addressing the issue and implementing sustainable solutions, the International Air Transport Association’s UK manager, Simon McNamara, said “more effective communication of what is being done is needed.” Dee also emphasised the need for airports to “move further and faster.”

Time to act is now

Stacey Peel, associate director of ARUP, suggested that in order to meet ambitious carbon neutral goals, airports should be thinking now of how they will operate in 2050. “What do battery-powered aircraft mean for airports?” she asked. “How airports are designed and the infrastructure that’s needed is changing, and that has to be addressed immediately,” she said.  Peel also underlined the point that the industry’s heavy reliance on carbon offsetting isn’t sustainable as she questioned: “this won’t be an option in years to come, so are we making the right investments now?”

AOAConf19 Met office Jason LoweLooking at how climate variability and change will impact on airports, the Met Office’s Professor Jason Lowe revealed that in the UK at least there will be an increase in hot, sunny days and flash flooding, and large reductions in snowfall. “Subsequently, airports will need to look at how they’re addressing water management,” offered Prof. Lowe. He also stated that climate change is also impacting atmospheric circulation and passengers can expect more turbulence when flying in the future.

Here come the drones

Meanwhile, Mark Swan of Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) urged delegates to take heed of the drone invasion. “Thousands upon thousands of drones will enter our airspace in the next three to five years,” he warned as he cited the urgent need to factor this into airspace design.

Robert Light, head commissioner of the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN), added that no matter what their size “airports are often afflicted by the same issues, so will benefit from mutual co-operation. Aviation noise must be discussed in a frank and open manner.” He also stressed “airspace modernisation will deliver overall noise benefits, so we can’t ignore the noise issue in the carbon agenda.”

There is of course one major hurdle still to come, for the UK and Europe at least, in the form of Brexit. Speakers agreed that aviation needs to be at the front of a post-Brexit world to determine what it looks like. Dee echoed this, saying: “Government needs to be behind the industry and to provide a solid framework to ensure the UK continues to be outward facing post-Brexit.”

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.

Airports in the Philippines count the costs from Typhoon Kammuri

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The Philippines has been rocked by tropical storms this week as Typhoon Kammuri (known locally as Typhoon Tisoy) reached the country, with airports closing and preparing to face the storm.

According to reports, at least 200,000 people have been evacuated from coastal and mountainous areas.

Taking stock of the effects to airports in the country, The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has found that airports in the Bicol region (CAAP Area Center 5) sustained the most damages due to the typhoon.

The authority is currently validating reports of the damages in Legazpi Airport, as images said to be of the damage to the airport circulate online. Security officers have been dispatched to augment support in the region’s central airport. Virac Airport meanwhile has been said to have sustained minimal damages.

Other airports in the area include Bulan, Daet, Masbate, Naga and Sorsogon.

Meanwhile in Area 8, Calbayog Airport’s fire station and passenger terminal building incurred several damages, with the estimated cost of damages at the airport totalling P2.5 million.

The CAAP confirmed Catarman and Borongan Airports can’t be reached currently, while Tacloban, Ormoc, Guiuan, Catbalogan, Biliran, Hilongos and Maasin airports obtained no damages.

The authority called airlines and airports to prepare for the typhoon in the days preceeding the storm, issuing a memo to airports for the immediate implementation of its Precautionary Actions and Safety Measures.

‘Friendly WiFi’ introduced at East Midlands Airport

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Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has become the first UK airport operator to be certified as offering safe, child-friendly WiFi at East Midlands Airport (EMA) under a government-backed scheme.

As the region’s gateway to mainland Europe, the US and Mexico, EMA serves 4.8 million passengers annually. The airport extended its free WiFi access for passengers from one hour to four. The service is available in all the main passenger areas including the check-in hall, bars and restaurants, at the gates and at arrivals.

Passengers travelling through the East Midlands hub can now do so with the reassurance that the airport’s free WiFi network will filter out inappropriate content. The government-initiated standard for public WiFi was launched in 2014 to ensure public WiFi meets minimum filtering standards, particularly in those areas where children are present.

“More and more of the 62 million passengers we welcome to our airports every year choose to connect to the free WiFi we offer, whether that’s to check flight details, catch up on emails or chat to friends and family before they fly,” said Tim Hawkins, chief strategy officer at MAG.

“As I’m sure many parents know, children also want to use their connected devices when they are at the airport and, as a group, we know that is our duty to keep them safe online. Friendly WiFi provides further reassurance to parents, and all our passengers, that they can browse safely.”

Airports and other facilities displaying the Friendly WiFi symbol have WiFi filters which deny access to inappropriate content, including indecent images and advertisements or links to such content.