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. 

Wizzair announces route between Sweden and Poland

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Hungarian airline, Wizzair, has launched a new route between Skellefteå in Swedish Lapland and Gdansk, Poland. 

This route is the airline’s only service to the Northern part of Sweden and will operate twice a week, beginning 4 June 2020. At the time of writing, Wizz Air is the only airline to provide this direct route from Gdansk. 

The addition of Skellefteå to the airline’s network will be a gateway to the Swedish Lapland. This connection is expected to benefit the tourism and business communities of the region which is “constantly growing”. 

“Given the wealth of attractions Lapland has to offer and our great fares, we are sure customers will enjoy visiting this beautiful Swedish region,” said Andras Rado, Corporate 

Prescott Regional Airport breaks ground for new passenger terminal

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Prescott Regional Airport – Ernest A. Love Field, in Arizona, has begun construction of a new $13.9 million new passenger terminal, expected to be complete by spring 2021. 

The airport is partnering with Willmeng Construction and DWL Architects to replace the current 1940’s terminal with a new $13.9 million, 18,000 square-foot facility. The designers suggest further expansion will be “easy” as air service grows. 

“The airport is a major economic driver for this entire region and as we see the economy continue to grow, there is great opportunity for more economic development around the airport,” said Greg Mengarelli, Mayor of the City of Prescott. “This new terminal is only the beginning as we look at future expansion.”

Prescott Regional Airport has seen a boost in passenger utilising commercial air service following the introduction of United Express (operated by SkyWest Airlines) in August 2018. Since then, over 73,000 passengers have used the service.

The new terminal will be constructed along with the development of a commercial service apron, baggage handling system, vehicle parking and roadway. It is hoped that these additions will enhance the travel experience for all passengers. 

The airport has received funding and support from the FAA and state partnerships to begin this project. Dr Robin Sobotta, Airport Director of the City of Prescott commented, “An economic generator is happening to our community. Thank you to our engineering, design and construction partners who turn dreams into reality, you’ve done it for us! I’m glad we’re building our first terminal together.”

The airport has said construction will not interfere with flights or airport activity.

Luton Express Service

London Luton Airport welcomes rail proposals

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Luton Express Service

London Luton Airport (LLA) has welcomed East Midlands Railway’s proposal to introduce a new Express service, anticipated to commence December 2020. 

The timetable would introduce a non-stop service every 30 minutes between London St Pancras and London Airport Parkway, operated by electric trains. This express service would run from 06:00 to 22:00 with additional late night and early morning services to compliment airport departures. The service would also be separately branded.

Half hourly service from Corby and other East Midland stations to London Luton Airport would also be introduced under the proposals, allowing passengers quick transport between destinations.

LLA’s campaign for an express rail has been supported by groups such as easyJet, the CBI and Federation of Small Businesses. The airport suggests a direct rail link would bring new benefits to the local community and national economy, and would see a reduction of up to 70,000 car journeys to the airport annually. 

Network Rail are expected to make a final decision on the proposals in late spring, with the new timetable to commence from December 2020. The potential introduction of a Luton Airport Express Service will be enhanced by the developments of the Direct Air-Rail Transit (DART) service, which is to be completed the following year. The investment would result in a fixed link between the airport and the station, allowing passengers to travel from central London to the airport in 30 minutes. 

“We fully support EMR’s proposals to introduce express services, which are vital to encourage more passengers to travel to the airport by rail,” said Alberto Martin, CEO of LLA. “I look forward to working with Abellio as the new franchise operators throughout their franchise term, to see how we can further enhance the service with more trains and direct access to major cities in the North.”


Malta airport reveals “radical expansion” plan

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Malta International Airport (MIA) has announced its development and innovation programme to create the “best airport experience in Europe”.

The plans for expansion were launched to address continued traffic growth, with the airport recording a passenger growth of 7.4% in 2019. The expansion is expected to include a major increase in floorspace particularly within the check-in hall, security area, departure and check-in area. This adaptation is hoped to enhance passenger flow, incorporating a more effective passenger journey through the terminal.

New developments will take place across the airport estate including the construction of another business park (SkyParks II), a new hotel and development of the Apron. MIA is also to see the introduction of a new building management system, enabling energy and water management optimisation to support the development of an energy-efficient building. 

MIA is partnering with The Design Solution and consultancy Pragma to carry out the €100million development project. 

“The Terminal Expansion Project will equip us with the capacity to handle further traffic growth and enable us to offer a 5-star airport experience. This will be achieved through a combination of increased operational space, a superior F&B and retail offering, a stronger sense of place and the use of cutting-edge technologies,” said Alan Borg, CEO of MIA. 

The terminals will be developed to make the passenger journey more effective with promotion of F&B and retail offers. Airside developments and landslide zones will aim to incorporate retail and catering for those arriving and departing the airport.

The design of the extended terminal “will capture the spirit of the Maltese islands” the airport suggest, utilising traditional patterns, materials and colours,  to reflect the sea and skies of the destination and “celebrating the spirit, heritage and natural beauty of Malta.”

Cork Airport retains ‘most punctual’ title

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Ireland-based Cork Airport has again been named the most punctual among Irish international airports in 2019, according to OAG research.

The airport offers over 50 routes across the UK and Europe, along with multiple long-haul worldwide connections through major European hub airports. It managed to hold an on-time performance of 83.7% in 2019, a +3.5% increase in punctuality on the previous year. A total of 2.6 million passengers passed through Cork Airport in 2019.

2020 marks the fifth year of consecutive growth for Cork Airport, with an expected growth of 5% in passenger numbers to 2.7 million passengers. The addition of two new routes are expected to help the airline reach this goal. A daily flight to Amsterdam Schipol will offer connections to 170 destinations worldwide and is planned to launch 30 March. Also, a direct flight to Zadar, Croatia is to commence in April 2020. 

“With Cork Airport continuing to grow strongly year-on-year, it is fantastic to see that we have retained our status as the most punctual airport in the country,” said Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director of Cork Airport. “It is key that we maintain the aspects that the public love about Cork Airport – ease of access, convenience, award-winning customer service and minimal wait times.”

New Delhi Airport

Groupe ADP to acquire 49% stake in GMR Airports

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Airport developer and operator, Groupe ADP, has signed a share purchase agreement to acquire a 49% stake in the Indian group, GMR Airports.

The agreement has been made at a total purchase price of 107.8 billion INR (approximately 1,360 million euros).

The agreement is subject to certain conditions and will be carried out in two phases. The first phase will be carried out in the days following the announcement for a 24.99% stake, with a second phase for 24.01% subject to regulatory conditions – notably, obtaining the customary regulatory approvals for this type of project, particularly from the Reserve Bank of India. This will be concluded in the upcoming months.

Once completed, GMR Airports will be jointly owned with GMR Infrastructure Limited, which will retain a 51% stake and control over the company, and Groupe ADP which will be granted highly extended governance rights.

Groupe ADP suggested the acquisition is in line with the company’s international development strategy, based on the acquisition of airport clusters in dynamic regions. Air traffic in India is expected to rise by 6.5% per year on average between 2018 and 2038, with international traffic alone expected to grow at an average pace of 6.7% per year.

Augustin de Romanet Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aéroports de Paris SA-Groupe ADP said: “This acquisition comes with a robust industrial partnership and enables Groupe ADP to build, only two years after taking control of TAV Airports, a unique worldwide network of airports with a solid industrial expertise and strong development capacities. Medium and long term growth driver, this acquisition is a transforming position for the group in one of Asia’s most dynamic and promising countries.”

GMR Airports has a portfolio of seven airports in India, Philippines and Greece, and a subsidiary specialised in project management. Three of the airports are currently operated by GMR Airports including Delhi International Airport and Hyderabad International Airport in India, and the Mactan-Cebu Airport in the Philippines.

The remaining four airports are either under development (including Goa and Heraklion) or have been added to the portfolio after a bidding process (Nagpur and Bhogapuram) and will be operated by the group once works are completed.

GM Rao, Chairman, GMR Group commented: “The partnership with Groupe ADP is in line with GMR’s business direction to become a global airport developer and operator. We have been on a journey of defining airports of the future with key focus on passenger experience by leveraging enhanced technology and offering superior amenities. With Groupe ADP, GMR will have smoother access to global markets, opening up newer avenues of business growth.”

During the financial year 2019, GMR Airports recorded a total revenue of 715 million euros and reported an EBITDA of 205 million euros.

Through the acquisition, Groupe ADP will be granted extended rights including the presence of board members at GMR Airports’ board, equal to that of GMR Infrastructure Limited board members. It will also have the right to appoint predetermined executives within GMR Airports.

Image: Delhi Airport.

Are Ostersund Airport

Swedavia implements electric aviation strategy

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Swedish airport operator, Swedavia, is adopting a strategy for 10 of its airports to handle electric aircraft. A testing venue is planned to be put into operation this autumn at Åre Östersund Airport with the aim of launching the first commercial electrified route by around 2025. 

This project is a part of Swedavia’s ambition to promote the transition to fossil-free domestic domestic air transport in Sweden by 2030 and fossil-free air transport for all flights originating in the country by 2045. The airline has been working to transition to bio jet fuel with the aim that 5% of fuel used to refuel at Swedish airports will be fossil-free by 2025. 

“Bio jet fuel is critical in a short-term perspective for driving the aviation industry’s transformation in the face of climate change. But in the long term, electrification can also play a key role. Swedavia wants to take an active part at an early stage of this development and get an understanding of the conditions needed for electric aviation from an infrastructure perspective,” said Jonas Abrahamsson, Swedavia’s President and CEO.

Looking ahead all 10 of Swedavia’s airports will all be developed for handling electric aircraft with Åre Östersund, Umeå Airport and Visby Airport already in the initial stages of developing electric aviation.

Operations for a testing venue are expected to begin in Autumn 2020, flying between Åre Östersund and Røros Airport in Norway. This movement is in collaboration with a number of partners in Sweden and Norway who are within the EU project Green Flyway. Currently, plans for aircraft parking stands, infrastructure for charging stations and the power supply are underway. 

Abrahamsson added: “We believe there is good potential for the first commercial electrified route in Sweden within five years. In the longer term, the electrification of routes can be an important addition to today’s scheduled traffic, primarily domestic flights. But electric air transport can also lead to brand-new routes between regional centres, which would benefit access and regional growth as well as create a whole new business model for air transport.”

Are Ostersund Airport

Editor’s comment: Where is everybody…?

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

Last year saw European airports experience their slowest passenger growth for five years according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe. Its 2019 traffic report found that passenger traffic across its European airport network (46 countries) grew by +3.2% in 2019 compared to +6.1% in 2018.

Echoing this reduction in growth for air passenger traffic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) also revealed earlier this month that global passenger traffic results for 2019 grew by just +4.2% compared to the previous year. It marked the first year since the global financial crisis in 2009 that passenger demand has fallen below the long-term trend of around 5.5% annual growth.

So, if they’re not in the airports and they’re not on the aircraft where have all the passengers gone?

Describing 2019 as a “pivotal year”, ACI Europe’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec, said that while passenger volumes were up “the deceleration has been notable on the back of both supply and demand pressures.”

That said he did also stress that some of the supply-side pressures might start easing, “especially if the 737 MAX is finally approved to fly and and if the recent decrease in oil prices is not reversed”.

The exposure of EU airports to airline bankruptcies and EU airlines generally limiting capacity growth and network expansion, as well as the ongoing Brexit uncertainty, all correlated with growth halving in the latter half of the year.

While just 51% of smaller regional airports (those handling less than 5 million passengers) reported an increase in traffic, larger regional airports including (Krakow, Seville and Nantes) demonstrated significant gains in passenger traffic as a result of route development strategies and the expansion of direct international air connectivity.

Looking forward, ACI Europe reports that airports have planned for continued lower growth in passenger traffic with the recent coronavirus outbreak causing uncertainty across the industry as the wider economic consequences start kicking in.

IATA and ACI Europe might be reporting slow passenger growth, but it’s full speed ahead for the Regional Gateway team. At the beginning of next month I’m off to Ethiopia for the 5th Aviation Africa summit, where I’ll be moderating a session on the rise of Africa’s sustainable airports. Then at the end of March I’ll be in Paris for Passenger Terminal Expo. Oh yes, and we’re busy closing the March issue of Regional Gateway magazine… And breathe!

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.

Siemens teams up with Kunming Changshui International Airport

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Kunming Changshui International Airport in China has tasked Siemens Logistics with improving capacity by installing a more efficient baggage handling and sorting system.

The agreement includes the delivery of a state-of-the-art early bag store (EBS) solution for 3,000 bags and the latest generation of VarioTray technology. The latter consists of a 2,700m long tray-based conveyor line, a LineStacker to stack unused trays, and 26 TilterPlus tray systems that can discharge bags to both sides. A high-performance IT system will facilitate intelligent process management throughout the entire baggage handling system.

“With our leading EBS and innovative tray technology, we will make a significant contribution to help Kunming Airport cope with rising passenger numbers and increase its efficiency and competitiveness,” said Michael Reichle, CEO of Siemens Logistics.

The airport will be the third hub in China to benefit from Siemens’ Lift & Run EBS, which allows passengers to check in early, for example the evening before departure.

The country’s fourth airport after Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai and its biggest in southwestern China, Kunming is an important gateway to the region. In 2018 it served more than 47 million passengers. Ensuring airport operations continue to run smoothly throughout the installation is integral to Siemens’ delivery of the new technology.