SITA ramps up development of digital identity for air travel

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SITA has stepped up its commitment to developing a permanent self-sovereign identity for air travel. The IT provider has become a premium donor of the Sovrin Foundation, the international non-profit organisation focused on the advancement of self-sovereign digital identity.

Self sovereign means a lifetime portable identity for any person, organisation or thing that allows the holder to present verifiable credentials in a privacy-protecting way. These credentials can represent things as diverse as a passport or an airline ticket.

Having successfully deployed its Smart Path technology at airports to streamline the departure process through the use of a single biometric token, using a passenger’s face as their passport SITA’s expanded role with the Sovrin Foundation is key to speeding up the development of a permanent digital identity for use during air travel and accepted by governments, airlines or airports globally.

“We expect in the coming years that the development of a universally accepted digital identity will replace the traditional passport,” said Gustavo Pina, Director of the SITA lab. “This will allow travel across borders with any airline or airport while ensuring that passengers remain in full control of their identity while providing actionable, trusted data only to appropriate parties such as border agencies.”

Benefits of implementing self-sovereign identity include reduced arrivals infrastructure, providing new opportunities to increase existing airport throughput by design and not expansion.

UK’s first waste-to-jet-fuel plant one step closer to reality

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With the desire to keep the focus on a green recovery in a post-Covid world sustainable fuels technology company Velocys has revealed that resolution to grant planning permission for the UK’s first commercial scale waste-to-jet fuel plant has now been given.

A collaboration between Shell and British Airways, the plant, Altalto Immingham, will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of everyday municipal household and commercial waste and turn it into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The fuel can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 70% compared to the traditional fossil fuel equivalent. Velocys will also improve air quality, with up to 90% reduction in particulate matter (soot) from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100% reduction in sulphur oxides.

“It’s fantastic news that the Planning Committee has approved our waste-to-jet-fuel project, which will be a first for the UK. Sustainable aviation fuels are essential for decarbonising this challenging sector and achieving net zero emissions by 2050,” said Henrik Wareborn, CEO at Velocys. “That’s why Velocys are calling on the government to co-ordinate policy between departments to help us fund a fleet of world leading sustainable aviation fuel facilities in the UK.”

The resolution was given by North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC)’s Planning Committee. A formal decision notice will be issued subject to the completion of standard legal agreements with NELC. All statutory consultees have indicated their acceptance of the plan.

Cllr Philip Jackson, Leader, North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “For such a high profile project to choose North East Lincolnshire just shows how competitive we are for the investment market, and with projects like this choosing our patch just shows how we can work with the private sector to make locating here an easy choice.”

Aviation Minister Kelly Tolhurst added: “Innovative technologies – like the development of sustainable aviation fuels – firms up the UK’s position as a leader in aviation, and shows the determination the industry has in continuing to operate, but in a more environmentally-friendly way.


Hackers steal easyJet customer data

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Just as airlines are looking to restart their services British low-cost carrier easyJet and its customers have been hit by another debacle. The LCC has announced that data of nearly nine million of its customers has been stolen by computer hackers. The airline said the attack was a “highly sophisticated” cyberattack on its systems but has not disclosed which email addresses and travel details have been stolen.

Of the nine million affected passengers, more than 2,208 have had their credit card details stolen, reports the Guardian. The airline has stated that it will be contacting customers directly within the next few days.

In a statement carried by the Guardian, easyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said,

“We would like to apologise to those customers who have been affected by this incident.

“Since we became aware of the incident, it has become clear that owing to Covid-19 there is heightened concern about personal data being used for online scams. As a result, and on the recommendation of the ICO, we are contacting those customers whose travel information was accessed and we are advising them to be extra vigilant, particularly if they receive unsolicited communications.”

easyJet has since stopped any unauthorised access and is working with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the National Cyber Security Centre.

A statement from HMG Aerospace

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we find ourselves feeling increasingly proud of the industry’s ability to adapt, respond and become ever more resilient to the critical challenges that confront it. Although the long-term effects of this crisis will reach far and strike deep, many within the industry have already taken the first few steps back towards normal – or at least “new normal” – service. Ryanair has announced that as of July 1, it plans to reinstate 40% of its scheduled service. Wizz Air intends to increase operations from Gatwick Airport, and Boeing has asked its largest supplier of 737 MAX parts to restart manufacturing. Whilst many airlines have had to reshape and resize their operations, this forced restructure gives them the opportunity to strengthen their business model and consolidate their fleet. They will rebuild on stronger and hopefully greener foundations.

The pandemic has created a more charitable and democratic aviation industry. The web is awash with news stories detailing the contributions made by businesses around the globe to the fight against COVID-19. From helicopter manufacturers like Leonardo supplying HEMS helicopters for aircraft availability and mission effectiveness, to airlines like flydubai operating flights across four continents to repatriate citizens, the industry has shown willing to rally round and support those in need. In addition, there has been a significant increase in companies seeking to engage with their customers, offering them the chance to directly influence future business decisions. We have been particularly impressed by a recent Eurowings initiative, whereby the company utilises social media to ask its customers what services they would like the airline to provide both during and post-COVID-19. Discussions and decisions are being released from the confines of the corporate boardroom and presented to the people who will be most affected by them: the passengers.

Taking inspiration from the industry we serve, here at HMG Aerospace we have adapted in order to continue delivering. We have taken advantage of the various digital services available to ensure that our products are published on schedule and that our editorial content is topical, rich and often exclusive. From dynamic digital magazines to video interviews with senior aviation executives; from digital marketing solutions to news websites and weekly newsletters, not forgetting our participation in pioneering online broadcast events like FlightPlan by Inmarsat Aviation and APEX, HMG Aerospace remains as committed as ever to supporting and reporting on the industry.

On behalf of all the team at HMG Aerospace, keep safe and well.

Best wishes,

Mark Howells and Becky Howells

Luton Airport opens drive-through testing centre

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London Luton Airport has opened a drive-through testing centre as part of the government’s UK-wide programme to control the spread of coronavirus.

The testing site will be operated by military personnel on limited days including this Friday 22 May. Testing will also be available at the airport the following week.

Operating on an appointment only basis for NHS staff and other essential workers (as well as members of their household) and people over the age of five with coronavirus symptoms, the airport is part of a national network of testing centres being rolled out across the UK. Testing will not be available for air passengers arriving or embarking from the airport.

With only a handful of passenger flights operating for those with an essential need to travel, Luton is currently focused on adapting its facilities to assist that national response to the pandemic. In addition to the new testing programme, the airport will continue to support repatriation, medical and military flights, along with cargo flights delivering vital supplies including personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The desire form our teams and partners to support those in greatest need during these extraordinary times fills me with admiration for our people and the wider airport community,” said Alberto Martin, LLA CEO. Acknowledging the backing and support of shareholders, Martin added: “We will do all we can to support both our local community, and the wider national effort in tackling the pandemic.”

Meanwhile Cllr Khtija Malik, portfolio holder with responsibility for public health, said: “It’s great news that we now have a drive-through testing centre at London Luton Airport and I would also like to thank the council’s airport company for its support of this initiative which will help in the fight against coronavirus and ensure more frontline workers can return to work quickly and continue to save lives.”


Riga Airport resumes international passenger flights

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With the introduction of a comprehensive epidemiological safety programme Riga Airport has resumed international passenger flights to Vilnius, Tallinn, Oslo and Frankfurt. Four flights daily will be operated by the national carrier airBaltic.

The programme #ForbidTheVirusFromTravelling provides a set of measures to ensure the protection of the airport, its employees and its passengers. It has been designed in consultation with Latvian health authorities and taken into account the recommendations of international aviation organisations.

“In order to contribute to the control of the disease and to take care of the safety of employees and passengers, together with airlines, cooperation partners and specialists, we have done extensive and thorough work to prepare Riga Airport for work in the conditions of the pandemic,” said Laila Odina, Chairperson of the airport board. She went on to say that the effectiveness of additional measures  introduced at the airport “also depends on each of us – how responsibly and carefully we will meet the requirements. That is why I encourage us to travel ourselves, but we should not let the virus travel.”

Given that social distancing will be difficult to ensure throughout the airport journey due to infrastructure and security procedures the Minister of Transport has stipulated that all travellers, except children under the age of 7, must wear a medical mask when at the airport.

Commenting on how Riga Airport’s programme is a good example for other European airports to follow, Raimonds Gruntiņš, Director Regional Affairs, Europe, International Air Transport Association (IATA), said, “The programme is based on close cooperation between the airport, airlines and public authorities, following the recommendations of international experts and good practices. It covers important aspects that should be taken into account in order to make passenger services and other airport processes as epidemiologically safe as possible, while taking care of both passenger and aircraft service quality and aviation security.”

Mccarren Airport PPE vending

McCarran Airport introduces PPE vending machines

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Mccarren Airport PPE vending

Passengers travelling through Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport can now stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE) from three vending machines located in the airport. The machines are stocked with equipment including hand sanitiser, gloves and face masks.

“It’s not unthinkable that someone will show up at the airport and has left behind one of those items that’s almost essential now to air travel,” said Christine Crews, a McCarran International Airport spokesperson.

An airport spokesperson told USA Today that a three pack of face masks are selling for $7.50, while a reusable cloth mask costs $14.50. A ten pack of alcohol wipes cost $5.25, N95 masks are $8.25 apiece and a 50ml bottle of hand sanitiser costs $4.25.

McCarran recorded a 2.3 million passenger drop in March compared to the same month in 2019. This equates to a 53% decrease in arriving and departing passengers year over year.

Although McCarran claimed on its twitter handle that is was the first airport to install PPE vending machines Tulsa International Airport has also started selling masks in its vending machines, while other airports are selling PPE in terminal retail stores.



European airports warn of irreversible consequences

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European airports saw a -98.6% drop in passenger traffic (a loss of -202 million passengers) throughout April compared to the same period last year, according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe. It also highlighted that in April Europe’s network of 500+ airports welcomed only 2.8 million passengers – the same volume that was handled by Dublin airport alone during the same period in 2019.

“Europe’s airports are on their knees. They have lost more than 315 million passengers since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and they will exceed half a billion passengers lost before the end of May,” warned Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe (pictured right at the ACI Regional Airports 2019 conference in Poland). “All their revenue sources have essentially dried up, most of their staff furloughed and investments stopped – yet cash is still flowing out in running costs as most have remained at least partially open.”

With 71% of Europe’s smaller regional hubs (those with less than 1 million passengers/ year) already loss making before COVID-19, these airports are the most exposed to the risk of airports potentially “going bust”. The high seasonality of their business – with the summer holidays accounting for 70% of their revenues – is compounded by the risks of not seeing travel and border restrictions eased over the coming weeks. Jankovec also pointed out: “Beyond smaller regional airports, business continuity is a systematic issue for the airport industry – with larger airports across Europe also fighting for survival.”

ACI Europe has unveiled its ‘Off the ground’ project to underline that to protect air connectivity, tourism, jobs and regional development airports also need to be supported, not just now but beyond the current crisis.

The association has called on the European Commission to revisit State aid rules beyond the temporary framework in place to respond to COVID-19 by:

  • Clarifying that the maintenance of airport operations to accommodate essential air traffic during the COVID-19 crisis falls within the public remit and can thus be financially compensated by States without being considered as State aid.
  • Provide temporary derogations to the 2014 Aviation State Aid Guidelines to increase the possibility for airports with up to 3 million passengers to receive public financing – including for decarbonisation – and to provide maximum flexibility as regards start-up aid to airlines to enable the reopening of vital air routes.

Greater harmonisation is also being called for with European states urged to fully coordinate and align the conditions under which the current restrictions to air travel can be lifted. This should include the lifting of quarantine requirements for incoming travellers.

“There can be no compromise when it comes to the health and safety of passengers and staff. COVID-19 confronts us with an unprecedented challenge as a vaccine or an effective treatment are still distant prospects. Just as everyone is doing in our daily lives, we must adapt on an on-going basis to operate our airports and protect livelihoods in ways that reduce transmission risks as much as possible. This means looking at the most effective combination of measures, which must be fully coherent across all transport modes and tourism activities,” said Jankovec.

While measures such as wearing masks, the availability of disinfectant gels in terminals, increased cleaning and improved ventilation are all being rolled out at airport’s around the world, the need to adhere to physical distancing is clearly the most challenging measure for any mass transport system infrastructure. Jankovec stated it can also have negative health consequences as it requires passengers to arrive early and spend more time at the airport before their flight. Ultimately this could result in more crowded facilities – which can defeat its intended purpose.

Highlighting that the implementation of physical distancing at airports should be done in ways that are operationally feasible and under conditions that are effective at reducing transmission risks, Jankovec concluded: “Airports need their health authorities to work cooperatively with them to adapt physical distancing to their specific layout and operations.”

Hamburg named Best Regional Airport in Europe

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Germany’s Hamburg Airport has for the fifth time been named the Best Regional Airport in Europe at the annual Skytrax World Airport Awards. It also ranked second overall in the World’s Best Regional Airports category.

Chubu Centriar International Airport Nagoya in Japan took the top spot in the world category. Elsewhere around the globe Durban King Shaka was declared the winner in Africa, Adelaide in the Australia/ Pacific region, Bangalore in India and Central Asia, Haikou Meilan in China, Medina in the Middle East, Rostov-on-Don in Russia and CIS, El Salvador in Central America/ Caribbean, Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky in North America and Quito in South America.

Skytrax defines a regional airport as any airport that primarily offers domestic and intracontinental flights with a few intercontinental services. Winners are chosen on the basis of indepdent passenger surveys, wiht passengers evaluting numerous criteria, including transport infrastructure connections, the check-in process, friendliness of service staff, waiting times at the security checkpoint and shopping opportunities.

Commenting on Hamburg’s win, Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO at Hamburg Airport said: “Being honoured with the Skytrax World Airport Award means a great deal to us, because the recipient is chosen by the people that we have put at the heart of all we do: our passengers… The strong commitment of our staff over the past year too made this fantastic result possible. I am proud to have such a motivated workforce. Our task now is to continue to stand together, facing and overcoming the extensive impact of the coronavirus together.”

German airports ranked well overall in the ‘World’ category for the awards. Hamburg was followed closely by Cologne/ Bonn in third place and Dusseldorf in fifth.

Editor’s comment: What are they thinking?

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What are they thinking?

While countries around the world start to ease their lockdown restrictions, a controversial decision by the UK Government to impose a 14-day quarantine period on passengers arriving in the country has left aviation stakeholders bewildered. It begs the question, what are they thinking?

Two months ago when the UK entered its lockdown period, its borders remained open, with passengers free to travel through its ports without any screening, medical assessments, temperature checks or quarantine measures being imposed. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of countries, including Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Qatar and Germany included airports as their frontline defence to manage and reduce the flow of potential COVID-19 carriers from entering their country. Strict quarantine measures were applied for all returning nationals or residents while foreign visitors were banned from entry.

Amid its lack of airport measures Britain has been described as “an outlier”.

But on Sunday 10 May British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, outlined plans to impose a mandatory quarantine for all travellers arriving in the UK by air come the end of May. However travellers from France – whose own quarantine exempts EU countries and the UK – are free to enter the UK.

The aviation sector was quick to sound the alarm at the prospect of a quarantine period. Karen Dee, CEO of the Airport Operators Association said that it would have a “devastating impact” on the UK aviation industry and the wider economy. And following an announcement from Ryanair that it hopes to have 40% of its scheduled service running from July, the airline’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has warned that many of his customers will choose to flout any self-isolation requirements. O’Leary told reporters, “It’s unimplementable and unenforceable anyway, so I think people will largely ignore it.” He did argue, however, that by the time we get to 1 July, masks and temperature checks are likely to be the norm for all public transport across Europe. “It would be a reasonably modest extension to add those to airport terminals and onboard aircraft.”

Additionally, a letter written by Airlines UK and signed off by a number of airport CEOs expressed the “collective and serious concern and frustration” regarding the proposed quarantine measure for UK inbound travellers.

The letter underlined that there has been:

“No clarity on key details of the proposal, including the Sage advice underpinning the measure against potential alternatives, its geographic scope, whether it only affects air travel or includes other transport modes, how enforceable such a measure will be in reality, the conditions and process for withdrawing it and, critically, what cross-industry measures UK Government will now take as a matter of urgency to support a sector which in effect will be grounded for the foreseeable future.”

The association is working with government to agree a set of new, effective health protocols guided by the science (such as face masks and temperature checks) that can be implemented at UK airports as soon as possible.

On Tuesday 12 May, Spain also announced it plans to introduce a mandatory two-week quarantine for travellers arriving from overseas in a bid to prevent visitors from sparking a second wave of the coronavirus. However, with the country’s state of emergency due to end later this month, the Spanish quarantine is only due to be applied to travellers arriving between 15–24 May. What’s more, truck drivers, airplane and ship crews, cross-border workers and health staff working in Spain will be exempt.

With Airports Council International (ACI) reporting that European airports saw a -98.6% drop in passenger traffic during April compared to the same period last year, Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General, warns, “If some air traffic and revenue generation capabilities are not restored in time for the peak summer months, we will see airports across Europe going bust, with a far-reaching domino effect upon local communities.”

Restarting operations is an immediate priority to ensure we avoid large scale and irreversible damage. As such, the need for European states to fully co-ordinate and align the conditions under which current restrictions to air travel can be lifted are even more pertinent than ever before.

Surely to facilitate the return to a new kind of normal, governments need to be supporting the aviation sector and lifting quarantine requirements for incoming travellers, not introducing them!

Have a safe weekend,

Chloë Greenbank, Regional Gateway Editor.

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