Editor’s comment: All eyes on Africa

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

Despite the global concern over the rapid spread of the coronavirus – which this morning has been found partly to blame for the collapse of the troubled UK regional carrier Flybe – it’s a case of the show must go on this week in Addis Ababa where Aviation Africa is hosting its 5th summit, which has been well attended by delegates and exhibitors alike, including Regional Gateway.

Opening the summit on Wednesday 4 March, Ato Tewolde GebreMariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, commented: “Can you hear me at the back? Excuse my voice, I have the flu. But it’s only the flu…” However, he did also highlight the gravity of the current coronavirus outbreak describing it as “a huge challenge, but one that we have the capability to overcome.”

During my own travels over the past 14 days, which have seen me passing through air transport hubs in London, Los Angeles, Los Cabos and Addis Ababa, the growing anxiety among passengers has become increasingly apparent. There has been a steady rise in the number of passengers wearing masks and even surgical gloves as they move through the airport and particularly at security checkpoints. And you can’t purchase hand sanitiser for love nor money.

In some extreme cases a number of hubs including Noi Bai Airport in Vietnam and Ted Stevens Anchorage Airport in Alaska have been pictured with deserted check-in areas and baggage halls.

Admittedly the figures are worrying. More than 93,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus since it was first diagnosed at the end of 2019 and more than 3,000 people have died. But as Alan Peaford, Chairman of the Aviation Africa summit, recently pointed out, in the US last year an estimated 35.5 million people contracted influenza, while 34,200 people died. None of it is good news, but it’s important we maintain some perspective.

Under the theme ‘Creating a sustainable future for Africa’s aviation industry’, Peaford has been addressing challenges and opportunities affecting the continent during this week’s summit. In addition to the current outbreak and the impact it’s having with stakeholders across the aviation sector, this has also included the need to address capacity constraints, weak infrastructure, high taxes and poor connectivity, as well as how the industry is tackling climate change. The overriding message is that these are challenges the industry must face together in order to achieve a sustainable future.

I will also be moderating a panel on how African airports are addressing sustainable growth, which is more than just a question of facing up to the global climate emergency. It’s also about how airports are prioritising economic growth while generating social progress and ensuring safe, secure operations. A task that’s made all the more challenging by the impact of the current coronavirus outbreak.

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.

Anthony Leon Avaf20

Aviation Africa 2020: Air BP highlights low carbon solutions

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Anthony Leon Avaf20

Air BP, the aviation fuel products and services supplier has been highlighting its low carbon solutions and sustainability agenda at this year’s Aviation Africa summit being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this week.

 

Low carbon solutions

 

Air BP first began operations on the African continent 77 years ago in Mozambique and Zanzibar. It now provides fuel at around 40 network locations across Africa and is the first aviation fuel supplier in the world to achieve carbon neutrality for its into-plane fuelling services across an international network of over 250 operated facilities, including OR Tambo in Johannesburg and Cape Town International in South Africa.

 

Speaking at the summit on Thursday 5 March, Air BP’s General Manager,Southern Africa, Anthony Leon, explained how Air BP has more than a decade of experience in the use of electric powered vehicles. It has also adopted innovative stop-start technology in its hydrant dispensers which constantly monitors power demands and reduces vehicle idling. At OR Tambo International airport Air BP deployed a bespoke engine start/stop system last year. This has been increased and extended to Cape Town International with each airport now operating six hydrant dispensers with stop/start technology. By shutting the fuel dispenser engine down whilst refuelling the aircraft, it has reduced carbon emissions from those engines by around 20%.

 

“We are pleased to be sharing our lower carbon solutions and sustainability agenda with our customers and delegates at Aviation Africa 2020. With the African continent anticipated to experience phenomenal growth, it is vital that we work together with our partners, suppliers, customers and operations teams to continue to develop innovative solutions to reduce our carbon footprint and neutralise emissions,” commented Leon.

Last year at Cape Town International Air BP introduced additional offloading points in the depot which has improved its supply operations planning and stock management thus considerably reducing inefficient vehicle idling and waiting during busy periods. In addition, the fuel supplier added variable controls to pumps in its Johannesburg rail siding operations which allows for more efficient use of electric power on pump motors during lower demand periods thereby reducing electricity consumption.

 

 

Airfield Automation in Africa

 

Last year Air BP rolled out its Airfield Automation digital technology to nine airport locations in Africa. Designed to enhance safety, reliability and compliance in airport fuelling operations, it can increase speed and efficiency in fuelling. Airline customers in the region such as Airlink have been impressed with Airfield Automation and have reported improved turnaround times and enhanced accuracy in fuelling.

 

Leon, adds: “We are delighted to receive such positive feedback from the installation of Airfield Automation in Africa. With this new technology, we are playing our part in ensuring that the fuelling process is fast, efficient and safe. Misfuelling is one of the biggest risks we face in our industry. Our global solution provides an engineering barrier to help prevent misfuelling, which is good news for Africa and good news for our industry.”

 

Air BP grows its footprint in Africa

 

Air BP continues to invest and grow its footprint in Africa. In November 2019, Air BP signed a technical services agreement with Sonangol, the state-owned oil company in Angola marking its entry into the country. Air BP will support Sonangol in assuring its operations to international standards, providing advice on product quality, operations, HSSE and engineering.

 

Air BP further extended its reach last year with its first location in Nigeria at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. Air BP is working in collaboration with 11PLC (formerly Mobil Oil Nigeria plc) to provide fuelling services at both the main terminal and the general aviation terminal.  Additionally, Air BP is providing technical support and risk management expertise to the airport. Furthermore, Air BP’s technical services team has supported 11PLC in the construction and commissioning of a new 20 million litre aviation jet fuel import tank including the laying of new jet fuel pipelines both of which were completed in 2019.

 

Air BP currently supplies commercial, general and military aviation customers at nine locations in South Africa, 10 in Egypt, seven in Tunisia, seven in Mozambique, two in Morocco, two in Cape Verde and one each in Nigeria, Mauritius and Ivory Coast. The company’s operations in Africa are supported by around 180 employees.

Header image: Credit BillyPix.co.uk

Aviation Africa 2020: Airbus reiterates commitment to Africa’s aviation industry

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Speaking at this week’s Aviation Africa summit, taking place in Addis Ababa, Mikail Houari, President, Airbus Africa and Middle East, highlighted how the aviation industry is a great enabler for Africa.

 

Just as industry expansion creates jobs, attracts investment and produces manufacturing opportunities across the continent, it is also set to be a major beneficiary of Africa’s accelerating and continued economic growth, forecasted by the African Development Bank to be at 3.9% this year and 4.1% in 2021.

 

On the back of such growth, Airbus’s own Global Market Forecast (GMF) predicts that the continent’s rapid urbanisation, trade and tourism will contribute substantially to drive passenger traffic to and from Africa by 5.0% yearly over the next 20 years. An enabling environment through policies such as the African Union’s Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) further contribute to this growth.

 

From the airline perspective, African carriers are increasingly aware of the operational and economic benefits of acquiring new and modern aircraft. In fact, today airlines on the continent operate some of the most efficient and technologically advanced aircraft such as the A350XWB, A330neo, A320neo and the A220.

 

To meet market demands and Africa’s forecasted passenger growth, Houari, forecasts that Africa will need “more than 1,200 new passenger and freighter aircraft. By 2038, we will see double the number of planes we currently see in the sky according to the Airbus GMF.”

 

He added that Africa’s expanding maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) segment will continue on the same growth trajectory – Houari added this growth creates huge opportunities in terms of employment. “One direct job represents 10 indirect jobs and based on the current skills shortage we will need an additional 25,000 technicians and engineers and 20,000 pilots over the next 20 years.”

 

With a larger aviation and MRO industry, markets must be capacitated with the right skills to meet demands of the steady increase of traffic over the next 20 years.

 

To achieve sustainable growth in aviation, Houari believes that “investing in Africa’s youthful and increasingly tech-savvy population to build its capacity is vital. At Airbus, we have created several initiatives such as the “Airbus Little Engineer” programme, which has reached over 5000 learners across the continent and “Africa 4Future” for entrepreneurs. These initiatives are a reflection of our commitment to support the development of a sustainable pipeline of talent for the continent,”

 

Citing how the potential for aviation in Africa is immense and our focus remains on the full aerospace value-chain, Hoari added: “Our aim is to provide best-in-class products and services, develop sustainable partnerships, foster innovation, nurture talent, enhance skills and promote entrepreneurship in Africa.”

Krimson Aviation

Aviation Africa 2020: Krimson Aviation launches luxury Ethiopian travel service

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Krimson Aviation

Based out of Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, Krimson Aviation –the flight support, charter and aviation consultancy – has unveiled its new high-end travel service Krimson Koncierge.

Speaking at the 5th Aviation Africa summit being held in Addis Ababa this week, Krimson Aviation’s Founder and CEO, Dawit Lemma, explains the new service specialises in creating escorted customised luxury excursions, tailored itineraries and bespoke destination management services for aviation crew, VIP and discerning travellers.

“Krimson Aviation has grown exponentially in the last couple of years,” Lemma tells Regional Gateway during the summit. “Customers would often ask us what to do and where to go in and around the capital and we realised that was something we could cater for. We also realised that beyond private aviation the concierge service was something we could offer business class passengers too.”

The Koncierge portfolio complements existing trip support services which until now have focused on managing hotel accommodation and ground transportation for business aviation crew. The new services offers an airport meet and greet serviced specifically for business class passengers arriving or departing on commercial airlines. It expedites transfers through the airport and reduces waiting time by more than an hour  as it speeds customers through the immigration and customs queues.

Krimson Koncierge has also secured a Tourism Investment Permit and Business License, which is necessary to conduct tourism business. This will enable Lemma and his team to deliver premium experiences tailored to the individual clients requests.

Close personal protection can also be arranged to mitigate potential risk and ensure safe passage. “We frequently receive requests for a security detail and drivers from our clients who come from all over the world, including Europe and the Middle East. But in the last six months we’ve seen an increase in business traffic and tourists from the US,” says Lemma.

Looking forward in addition to exploring more aircraft assets in the next five years, Krimson Aviation hopes to expand its services across the continent although Lemma admits that its roots remain firmly in Addis Ababa. “We’ve worked hard to develop relationships with service providers across the airport and beyond. We now have partners on the ground from Cape Town to Cairo, who we trust so we can provide all the necessary services,” he says.

And with Addis Ababa now the main aviation hub for passenger traffic coming to and around the region, Lemma reveals his goal is to “establish Addis Abba Africa’s business aviation hub and to offer unique customised experiences that can’t be found through traditional tour operators.” In the next five years he also plans to look into more aircraft assets.

Universal Aviation expands in the Caribbean

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Global FBO operator, Universal Aviation, has expanded its network in the Caribbean by partnering with local ground handling service provider, Cayman Dispatch Services (CDS), in the Cayman Islands.

CDS is based at Owen Roberts International Airport (MWCR) in Grand Cayman and provides over and under-wing services to aircraft. This collaboration will expand the Universal Aviation network to 20 locations within the Latin American and Caribbean region, in addition to its other locations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

“The Cayman Islands is experiencing record growth in travellers via both airlines and business jets,” said Adolfo Aragon, Senior VP at Universal Aviation. “The addition of a new location in the Cayman Islands with a partner with a great track record in the country like CDS enhances our ability to provide our clients with a consistent level of service that meets the growing demand.”

CDS is a Universal Certified member, passing the FBO’s standard for ground handling quality, training, safety, consistency, customer service and regulatory compliance.

Jonathan Ebanks, Deputy Director at CDS stated, “We look forward to beginning our exciting work with Universal, the airport and the Government of the Cayman Islands, to address the growing demand of business aviation in the country.”

Doncaster-SHeffield

Doncaster Sheffield Airport plans for new rail link

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Doncaster Sheffield Airport owners, the Peel Group, alongside Sheffield City Region and Doncaster Council  have submitted an outline business case to deliver a new national and regional rail connection to Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

 

The GatewayEast Growth Hub Rail scheme will introduce 4.5 miles of new track, connecting the East Coast Mainline (ECML) and the Lincoln line to a newly built station at Doncaster Sheffield Airport. The project aims to reduce congestion on the ECML and encourage growth in infrastructure for Sheffield and the surrounding areas. It is hoped that the railway will be operational by 2025.

 

The scheme is expected to have a “positive economic impact” as it has the potential to deliver 33,000 jobs in the North within the next decade – 10,000 would be deliverable in the next five years – in engineering, aviation manufacturing, energy and construction. Additionally, as the number of people who can access the airport through sustainable transport increases from 2.4 million to 9 million, it will also have an impact on the environment. There is to be an expected reduction of 18,000 car journeys which ultimately will result in the elimination of around 23,000 tonnes of CO2 in the UK’s road network.

 

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster said, “This GatewayEast Growth Hub Rail scheme is ‘oven-ready’ and demonstrates how Doncaster can deliver the North’s essential economic growth ambitions, delivering jobs and housing locally and by unlocking further economic potential at the airport, our borough, Sheffield City Region and across the North. The rail connectivity will quadruple access to the growth hub for jobs and flights by a sustainable travel mode.”

 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted an overall rise of passengers in the aviation industry to 8.2 billion by 2037 but showed a decrease in the demand within the UK industry. In response to this potential undersupply of future aviation, the scheme looks to connect the airport directly to East and West Coast mainline at high speed in order to increase its accessibility.

 

Peter Kennan, Board Member on the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership commented, “The importance of rail access to Doncaster Sheffield Airport cannot be underestimated…and development of ground transportation to the airport and its surrounding commercial and residential developments will be a major spur to further significant growth in jobs and economic opportunity all in an environmentally sustainable way.”

 

Dan Jarvis, MBE MP Mayor of the Sheffield City Region commented, “The benefits to communities and businesses through connecting the country’s fastest growing regional airport to the national and regional rail network are huge. We have to make sure that we get people off our roads and onto sustainable public transport. This investment would help make that a reality.”

Doncaster-SHeffield

Eastern Airways announces new base at Teesside

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UK airline and Flybe franchise partner, Eastern Airways, is expanding its UK network by opening a base at Teesside International Airport in North-East England, this summer.

 

Three aircraft will be based at the Teesside hub operating routes to destinations including: London City, Southampton, Dublin International, Belfast City, Cardiff and Isle of Man. These connections are expected to all be underway by the end of May this year.

 

The project aims to increase the airline’s presence at the airport with the addition of 185,000 seats per year. Eastern’s existing service from Teesside to Aberdeen Dyce will also see an increase in frequency.

 

Roger Hage, Eastern Airways’ General Manager Commercial & Operations, described the development as “a significant strategic partnership for both the airline and airport.” The expansion of routes operating from Teesside will also mean that passengers will benefit from a number of onward connections in the wider flybe network.

 

“Eastern Airways is one of the longest-serving airlines to fly from Teesside International serving the critical corporate oil and gas market with flights to Aberdeen,” added Tony Burgess, Managing Director of Eastern Airways. “We’re delighted to now be strengthening our ties with the airport and branching out to bring enhanced connectivity to some new city destinations for business and leisure travellers.”

 

An additional engineering base will be built at the airport, ensuring the reliability of the aircraft that will operate the new routes. The airline also stated that it is looking at how it can continue developments to extend networks for all regions.

 

Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen claimed that the area has seen a demand for the return of direct flight to London. He said, “For too long, we’ve lacked this most basic connection, which is why I’m delighted to announce today’s new services which will bring the Tees Valley even closer to the capital with a twice-daily service. This isn’t job done, this is the next stage in our 10-year rescue plan to secure the future of Teesside International.” He continues to announce that the new base is the first step of the airport’s partnership with Eastern Airways to “expand and increase flights in the future”.

Ontario introduces Frontier

Ontario Airport to introduce Frontier route to Seattle

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Ontario introduces Frontier

Southern California’s Ontario International Airport (ONT) has introduced a nonstop service to Seattle with Frontier Airlines, expected to launch in June 2020. 

This is to be the sixth new route for the carrier within its ONT schedule this year, taking Frontier’s total ONT network to nine services. This includes flights to Denver, Orlando, Austin and San Antonio. 

Frontier is to use an Airbus A320 – seating 186 passengers per aircraft – to fly between ONT and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on scheduled flights three days a week. 

“We pride ourselves on becoming a low-cost airport,” said Mark Thorpe, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA), adding that the airport’s approach “is proving to be attractive to our airline partners.”

“Ontario has capacity to grow which is advantageous to carriers adding new aircraft and our hallmark no-hassle experience continues to appeal to our travelling customers,” Thorpe continued.

Frontier has previously announced plans for nonstop services to Las Vegas, Newark and Miami, estimated to be launched in April 2020, as well as San Salvador in May and Guatemala City in June. 

ONT had a passenger volume increase of more than 9% in 2019, so it is hoped that this new route will contribute to a similar rise this year. Daniel Shurz, Senior VP of Commercial for Frontier Airlines stated, “Ontario International Airport’s convenience paired with Frontier’s low fares and friendly service have proven to be a combination for success and we look forward to enhancing our valued partnership.”

Birmingham Airport Customer Service

Birmingham Airport invests in customer feedback system

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Birmingham Airport Customer Service

Birmingham Airport has invested over £100k in a bespoke customer feedback system which is to be available throughout the site. 

The airport has partnered with realtimeknowledge.com, a company which specialises in operational reporting, to create the system named the ‘Voice of the Customer’. It is aimed at improving and innovating the airport’s customer feedback process, enabling the customer experience team to resolve any trends of issues. Overall, it is expected to highlight problems that need immediate improvement. 

“We’ve been focused more than ever on making improvements to the passenger journey. Ensuring our passengers have the best experience possible is a priority for us – we want passengers to remember Birmingham Airport for all of the right reasons,” said Stuart Haseley-Nejrup, Head of Customer Experience of Birmingham Airport. “The Voice of the Customer system will help us to do just this, allowing us to delve much deeper into feedback, quicker than ever before.”

Feedback gathered through the Voice of the Customer system will be directly sent to the customer experience team who are able to react to passengers concerns and comments immediately. This investment will allow feedback to be submitted through mediums including 59 instant feedback touch screens, 10 QR codes for mobile or tablet devices, or written feedback posted in any of the 10 designated post boxes. Written feedback will be manually entered into the system so it can be analysed with other responses. These feedback points will be located in key passenger touchpoint such as check-in desks, security, departure gates, washrooms, lounges and on-site car parks. 

Since its introduction in January, the system has gathered 47,000 pieces of feedback compared to an estimated 1,000 a year through previous written surveys. Haseley-Nejrup commented, “The uplift in feedback since implementing the system has given us invaluable information to create great experiences for our customers, as well as highlighting any friction points across the customer journey for us to make improvements to.” As the system is live, it enables passengers to react in the moment so areas in the terminal that potentially fail can be attended to faster than it may have before.

Recent improvements supported the airport’s score of 90% through the CAA’s departing passenger survey, as well as other awards on customer service. The airport hopes to use the gathered information to create “a frictionless customer journey, which is easy and accessible for all.”

Hobby Facial Recognition

Houston’s Hobby Airport introduces facial comparison technology

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Hobby Facial Recognition

Houston-based William P. Hobby Airport has become the first in Texas to use facial comparison technology for international arrivals and departures. 

The technology launched at the airport on 19 February 2020 and is set to reduce wait times at security checkpoints.

Upon arrival, an international traveller will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. CBP’s facial matching technology will then compare this photo with archived images that the traveller previously provided to the government such as passport and visa photos. In the cases where travellers cannot be matched, they will be manually processed by a CBP officer. New photos of US citizens will be deleted within 12 hours; photos of foreign nationals will be stored in a secure DHS system.

Simplified Arrivals is expected to cut the wait times at US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by half, whilst aiming to “enhance the travel experience” for the one million international passengers that go through Hobby Airport annually. 

“Hobby Airport has taken a big leap into the future of travel…This is an important step to realise our goal of becoming a 5-star airport,” said Houston Aviation Director, Mario Diaz.

Houston Airports (HAS) are working with CBP and Southwest Airlines, after the success of the biometric exit process was introduced in November 2018. “CBP is committed to working with our partners to ensure that the travel system is secure and efficient,” said Houston Director of Field Operations, Judson W. Murdock II. “The speed, accuracy and reliability of facial comparison technology enable CBP officers to confirm a traveller’s identity within seconds while further enhancing the customer experience.”

Passengers are provided the opportunity to opt out of the biometric process where they will instead be processed manually, consistent to existing requirements for entry to the US. CBP has used facial comparison technology to intercept more than 250 imposters attempting to gain access to the US since September 2018, by using another person’s travel documents.