ACE21: Surviving the pandemic and beyond

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This week has seen the Air Charter Expo (ACE) take place as a hybrid event with those attending the expo at London Biggin Hill joined by delegates from around the world online. Proving a popular event, this year’s expo recorded some 1,100 physical attendees with hundreds of additional delegates tuning in online for the conference sessions.

Sustainability was a key focus on the agenda with VoltAero flying in it’s hybrid-electric Cassio 1 demonstrator (the second time the aircraft has crossed the English Channel) for the static display. VoltAero’s CEO and Chief Technology Officer, Jean Botti, also took part in the conference’s Green Charter 2021 panel discussion. He was joined by Faradair’s Neil Cloughley and representatives from Tecnam to discuss new electric aircraft technology and how operations can become more environmentally sustainable.

Green charter

A session on green operations saw Air bp discuss the role of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in helping the industry reduce its carbon emissions and highlighted the fuel supplier’s ‘book and claim’ solution. The initiative enables Air bp to deliver SAF into the supply chain at one airport location and ‘book’ the carbon reduction associated with it into a registry. A customer can then ‘claims’ those carbon reductions by purchasing the benefit of the lifecycle carbon reductions that have been registered alongside their traditional jet fuel.

Meanwhile, 4Air’s President, Kennedy Ricci, revealed his organisation’s ratings framework to help organisations meet and even exceed the industry’s sustainable goals. He described the ratings framework as an opportunity to “look at the pillars of sustainability and build those into an adaptable and flexible programme.” Nicholas Kroll, Luxaviation’s recently appointed Head of Sustainability added that “the first step operators need to take when addressing sustainability is to look at their operational environment and engage with the different stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees and local residents),” as he underlined that climate change is a problem that affects everyone across the supply chain.

Sustained growth

Looking at the overall state of the industry Wingx’s Managing Drector, Richard Koe, described the forecast for the business aviation sector as looking extremely positive. Despite a 71% drop in activity in Q1 2020 compared to 2019 movements, business aviation has since seen a strong rebound in traffic with activity now exceeding the levels seen in 2019. Similarly cargo activity is now exceeding 2019 traffic and special missions such as crisis missions and medical shipments have also seen strong growth. Scheduled activity however is still trending around 42% behind 2019 figures, which is primarily due to travel restrictions, lack of demand and aircraft being grounded. Through July 2021 Koe stated that the European charter market has an estimated worth of €1.58 billion.

Looking at what the longer term growth forecast is for the charter sector, VistaJet’s Executive Vice President, Programme Sales, Francesca Swan, pointed out that having a global fleet has meant that VistaJet has been able to shift its fleet around in response to market demand around the globe, which has served the company well over the last 18 months. She also revealed that the company is seeing enormous growth in North America and Europe and is currently 50% up on 2019 figures with ad-hoc acquisitions planned to support this continued growth. She also noted that “pre-pandemic 90% of customers who could afford to weren’t flying privately. However, with commercial routes still not fully recovered and some having been stopped for the foreseeable future these passengers are turning to private aviation.” And while she believes the industry will see sustained growth going forward, certain regions will be more cautious than others.

Clive Chalmers, VP Charter, UK, AirPartner, commented on the balanced demand he is seeing explaining that while some markets have dropped off, others have picked up. “For example traffic from the events and entertainment sector has disappeared, but because scheduled services have been less reliable we’ve seen a pick up in traffic from the energy and sporting sector,” he said. Admitting that the industry still faces a harsh winter as corporate travel still hasn’t recovered he did however say that he had a “positive and optimistic outlook for long-term growth.”

And in line with the East Midlands Airport-based airline RVL Group’s plans to gear up for new commercial opportunities, David Lacy, RVL’s Head of Business Development, stated that being flexible with operations and having an “eclectic fleet of aircraft” has been key to their growth during the pandemic. “July through September 2020 we doubled our cargo revenue due to COVID charters for medical shipments and even the transport of waste water.” He added that the number of COVID tests being transported has meant regular flights every day to accommodate those thousands of tests. Concluding that the cargo market is still showing signs of growth beyond COVID shipments Lacy stated that he forecasts “sustained growth, but with peaks and troughs” with strains in global supply chains creating challenges as well as opportunities for the charter market.

Header image: From left to right: David Lacy, RVL Group, Clive Chalmers, AirPartner, Francesca Swan, VistaJet and Richard Koe, WINGX.

ACI World Customer Experience Global Summit 2021: Airports report on lessons learned during pandemic

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The demand for air travel is there but disparity between regulations and travel requirements in different regions is hampering a faster recovery. That was one of the key messages during a panel discussion on the customer experience during airport recovery, which took place on Wednesday 8 September as part of ACI World’s Customer Experience Global Summit.

The first day of the hybrid event, which has seen delegates and speakers attending in-person in Montreal, Canada as well as online has seen lively and insightful discussions on the importance of customer experience as airports prepare for a long and sustainable recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reach Airports’ new CEO, Andrew O’Brian, who previously oversaw operations at Quito Airport in Ecuador explained that in Latin America and the Caribbean “initially recovery has been driven by the diaspora wanting to reconnect with family and friends.” He also highlighted that in North America much of the outbound travel has been driven by customers seeking out destinations that are easy to travel to in terms of the new measures and testing requirements following the pandemic. He also highlighted the need as we enter this recovery period to ensure that all customers and their needs are being considered. “My mother is in her 80s and would love to get on a plane and see her kids and her grandchildren, but all the additional technology and travel requirements are a confusing prospect for someone who’s not necessarily a seasoned traveller,” he said.

Meanwhile Rafael Alberto Smith, Director of Terminal Operations/ Maintenance & Loading at Punta Cana Airport in the Dominican Republic said that unsurprisingly most of the passengers travelling through his airport are leisure travellers. With Punta Cana airport operated by Corporacion Aeroportuaria del Este (a private corporation run by Puntacana Resort and Club) the airport has been able to diversify by transferring some of its staff across the group’s accommodation facilities while air traffic has been reduced. The airport is also forecasting significant growth in inbound tourism for the winter months as travellers increasingly seek out winter sun destinations following the pandemic. Smith also commended the “excellent job” the Dominican Government has done with its vaccination programme in terms of facilitating the region’s recovery process.

Looking ahead, Jost Lammers, CEO and Chairman of the management board at Munich Airport, said that while different territories are recovering at different speeds there are certain elements of health and safety measures he believes will stay. “We need to reduce these measures as much as possible, but it will be one of the layers of air travel going forward,” he said.

Philippe Rainville, President and CEO of Aeroports de Montreal agreed saying that certain testing facilities installed at Montreal Airport for departing passengers will remain in place. “Country by country there will be some level of testing required as new pockets of disease arise.”

O’Brian urged the airport community to “stay positive,” as he said that at some point the World Health Organization (WHO) will declare the pandemic over. “When the pandemic first started, we had to adapt, be resilient and get creative. We’ve learned tremendous lessons along the way, but I hope all the protocols go and we can put this whole scenario behind us in a year or so.” One of the biggest lessons learned according to O’Brian is that health and space will be at the forefront of airport and terminal design going forward. “Airports have to consider where they will invest and how they will manage that. Everything is about the journey and keeping people safe and healthy.”

Johanne Gallant, President and CEO of Fredericton Airport, also expressed her hope that “everything will go back to normal as soon as possible.” However, she also believes that some elements will continue to be rolled out, such as the digital health pass. She also noted that while passengers will want to see regular cleaning and disinfectant measures some measures, such as physical distancing especially in smaller airports where space is at a premium are simply not practical. “Why are we continuing with social distancing in the terminal and at the gate when as soon as a passenger is on board the aircraft that doesn’t seem to apply?” she asked.

Rainville meanwhile stressed that with communication being key its now more important than ever for airports to be able to connect with their passengers as soon as their ticket is purchased. “We need a direct relationship with our passengers as soon as their flight is booked, so that we can answer their questions around travel and ensure that seamless journey. The technology is there to allow us to do this, it’s now about getting the airlines to work with us and provide us with access to passengers.”

Picking up on the point of communication being key, O’Brian underlined that “the 3 Cs – communication, collaboration and coordination – have never been so acute and important to the airport community.”

Reflecting on the lessons learned throughout the pandemic Gallant concluded: “We’re stronger and more resilient than we ever thought. It’s in the hard times that you see the true characters in your team. We’ve stuck together, we’re here to stay and grow and although we hope it won’t happen we’re far better prepared now should another pandemic come about.”

It was a sentiment that was echoed by her fellow panellists with Lammers adding that one of the key lessons he’s learned has been “to push harder and earlier”.

Smith wrapped up on a jovial note admitting that “other than lowering my handicap during lockdown, as a sector we have come out stronger and we have all realised we are capable of doing things we weren’t expected to do or thought capable of doing.”

Look out for the September issue of Regional Gateway magazine in which we feature an exclusive interview with Reach Airports CEO, Andrew O’Brian. 

Airport merger and acquisition opportunities revealed in CAPA report

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The Centre for Aviation (CAPA) has released a new research report revealing potential airport merger and acquisition opportunities for the second half of 2021 and beyond.

Researched and produced by leading CAPA analysts and backed by industry data, the report highlights airports and airport groups that could be attractive to investors. It also identifies other airports that may be a target for mergers or acquisitions.

“Airport transactions for the most part have ground to a halt as the pandemic bites,” said CAPA’s Managing Director, Derek Sadubin. “But as we begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel, opportunities across the sector are beginning to re-emerge. This new CAPA report supports investors, financers, government and infrastructure planning departments to look beyond just the next few weeks or months ahead and take the first step towards identifying real opportunities for the future.”

The report concludes by pinpointing the operators and investors to watch, based partly on their participation in the sector already and partly on their level of activity before the pandemic.

The impacts of the global pandemic have meant the last 18 months have been the quietest for airport merger and acquisition transactions since the early 19902. While some that were already in the works did proceed, for example in Brazil and Japan, new investment opportunities have been hard to locate.

And while, CAPA acknowledges that investors with a penchant for airports couldn’t be blamed for walking away from a business where the passenger – the ultimate customer base – collapsed by up to 99% along with most of the auxiliary revenue streams. Nonetheless it says, after a lengthy period with little activity in the airport sector, prospects look bright and a few key bids may pave the way for more to come.

Airport towns in the south ready to boost UK’s economic recovery

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Business leaders from across the South in the UK have called on Government for a clear policy on opening borders and removing the ‘hassle factor’ for those wanting to travel, in a bid to rebuild the economies of the region’s airport towns post-pandemic.

Airport towns in the South, including London Luton, Southampton, London Southend, London Gatwick and London Heathrow, are ready to boost the UK’s economic recovery with a focus on apprenticeships and sustainable innovation, but a shift in policy is needed to help them make this happen.

Catalyst South – a group of local enterprise partnerships – brought together aviation businesses from across the South at a summit in July to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry and airport towns in the region. The future of how airport towns will be shaped was discussed with the aim of establishing an action plan that will allow the Catalyst South group to work with businesses, educators and the public and private sectors to put measures swiftly in place to prevent a cycle of decline in airport towns.

Three key drivers emerged from the meeting, comprising sector-specific support at a national level from the government; how LEPs and Catalyst South can help to facilitate the industry’s move too Jet Zero; and community recovery and growth, including the diversification of local economies and job support for residents.

The pressing need for continued support for the whole aviation industry was a key message to emerge. This means ongoing aid for all supporting services, such as hotels, carparks, engineers and aircraft management, which are all cogs within the wider aviation industry.

There were calls in the short term for a clear solution to open borders sensibly and remove the ‘hassle factor’ to encourage people to start travelling again, giving the industry and its supply chain the opportunity to recover from the impact of the pandemic. There were also calls to help airport towns diversify their economies and build resilience to try and lessen the shockwaves felt from any similar events in the future. There is an urgent need to provide support to residents who are currently still furloughed and at risk of losing their jobs when the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme ends in the autumn. Data for the scheme showed that there were 33,200 jobs still on furlough within the passenger air transport sector in May 2021, equating to 57% of employees.

As such, the sector is urging Government to formulate a specific response and plan too aid post-pandemic recovery in airport towns, due to the recognition of unique difficulties faced in these areas. This would include a sector-specific extension of the furlough scheme to try and prevent the cliff edge these towns and businesses face at the end of September.

As well as examining the local economies of airport towns in more detail, identifying the needs depending on the level of reliance that areas place on airports, Catalyst South will also bring together a Task Force to drive forward the work and identify actions that can be taken by local organisations brought together by LEPs. Together these organisations will develop a comprehensive strategy for recovery that encompasses all aspects of the industry, including supply chains, support services and job growth.

“By bringing the right people together to understand the local perspectives, we will have a greater collective voice, which we can take to Government and the private sector to encourage the investment and interventions that are needed,” said LEP Network Chair, Mark Bretton.

“This will be an important contribution to LEPs; role in the Government’s plan for Growth and to ensure that the challenges faced in the region are recognised as part of Levelling Up. The impact on towns in our region as a result of the pandemic’s effect on airports cannot be ignored,” he continued.

“Another important pillar of this work is to drum up local support for these airport towns in their medium and longer-term recovery. LEPs are best-placed to bring together these organisations, using our unique convening power across the business, third sector, academic and Government landscape to provide the best support in the coming months.”

UK aviation stakeholders launch new interim decarbonisation targets

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Tuesday 22 June saw the UK aviation industry reaffirm its commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 by establishing interim decarbonisation targets of at least 15% reduction in net emissions relative to 2019 by 2030 and a 40% net reduction by 2040.

These interim milestones are reflected on a new chart taking account of the effects of COVID-19 on aviation demand, and complement an ever-growing set of voluntary industry pledges to drive down emissions fast. The announcement of these  interim targets also kickstarts work to update the sector’s Decarbonisation Road Map by the middle of 2022. The roadmap was first published in 2020.

Talking in an online forum on Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps outlined that, “while decarbonising aviation is a huge challenge, the change and progress we have seen already within aviation has been remarkable.”

Referencing COP26, which is taking place in October 2021, Shapps also highlighted that “in five months time we will send a message to the rest of the world that Britain’s transport industry is leading the way to cleaner travel and that aviation is now a fully paid up member of the net zero club.”

And reinforcing the UK Government’s commitment to investing in and supporting new technology pathways to achieve net zero emissions and the need to address policy barriers, Shapps also noted that, “as the first major economy in the world to commit to net zero by 2050, [the UK] is leading the charge to cut aviation emissions through the Jet Zero Council.”

Meanwhile, Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industry Strategy described the interim targets as an important milestone for the British aviation industry. “They show that airports, aerospace manufacturers and airlines share in our ambition to adopt the new and emerging technologies necessary to fight climate change.”

Underlining the role that UK airports play in delivering net zero aviation by 2050, Karen Dee, Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association (AOA), said: “Despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, airports remain committed to tackling the climate crisis. As the AOA set out in our Airport Recovery Plan, we can and must return to 2019 passenger levels without 2019 environmental impacts. Airports will play their part in achieving the goals set out by Sustainable Aviation today, including by modernising UK airspace to reduce noise and climate impacts, ensuring airport infrastructure is ready for sustainable aviation fuels and reducing ground-based emissions of buildings and vehicles operating on and around airports.”

With game-changing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), permanent carbon removal, and new low and zero carbon technologies, such as electric and hydrogen powered aircraft, on track to become more mainstream in 2030, panelists agreed that the pace of decarbonisation is ramping up. However, to ensure the UK aviation industry continues to lead the world in aviation decarbonisation, further support is needed in five areas critical to realising net-zero flight:

  • Key policies this year to deliver a UK SAF industry and commercialise SAF, most urgently by providing a demand signal and price support – the primer for up to 14 UK plants generating sustainable fuel from household and industrial waste by the middle 2030s, supporting at least a 32% reduction in emissions from UK aviation by 2050;
  • A positive, long-term signal for investment in aerospace technology and the development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft thorough increased and extended funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute;
  • The completion of vital airspace modernisation generating significant carbon savings through more efficient flying and shorter journey times;
  • Policies that incentivise the commercialisation of carbon removal technologies that enable carbon neutral or carbon negative aviation fuel, allowing the aviation industry to address any remaining residual emissions;
  • UK Government to seek a more robust international commitment for aviation carbon reduction at the ICAO Assembly in 2022, ensuring emissions are reduced across the globe and not exported from the UK..

ICAO outlines technical specifications for vaccination validation

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The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has published new technical specifications for a Visible Digital Seal (VDS) which will deliver important benefits for secure and efficient COVID-19 testing and vaccination validation.

The ICAO VDS stores datasets for test and vaccination certificates in a two-dimensional barcode which can be paper or screen-based. Border control and other receiving parties can verify the data against established requirements efficiently and seamlessly, including through the use of self-service kiosks and processes.

The VDS barcode is digitally signed for security with the signature based on the same public key cryptographic infrastructure principles already used to support ePassport issuance and authentication by more than 145 countries globally.

“As States attempt to reopen borders for travellers, they are frequently requesting passengers to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or testing as a prerequisite for entry,” commented Dr. Fang Liu, ICAO’s Secretary General.

“A lack of international standardisation to-date has meant that reading and validating these proofs is frequently challenging, and these new VDS specifications will help make the related processes and documents much more efficient and less vulnerable to fraud. The VDS solution also makes use of already-established infrastructure and procedures, meaning States can implement VDS barcodes quickly, and at minimal costs,” she continued.

The publication of the new VDS specifications follows the approval of Guidelines for the use of VDS for Travel-Related Health Proofs by ICAO’s Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART), in March 2021. To enhance awareness of the VDS solution and provide initial guidance for State-by-State implementation ICAO plans to deliver a series of webinars over the coming weeks.

Interview: Jon Howell, CEO and Founder of AviaDev, and Nicolas Deviller, Deputy CEO of Ravinala Airports

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Although we’re all missing live ‘in-person’ events, AviaDev Africa, which is this year being hosted by Ravinala Airports Madagascar from 9-11 June, is set to deliver an exciting, engaging event that offers robust discussion, interaction and insights. Regional Gateway will be leading a roundtable discussion on how African airports can leverage non-aeronautical revenue opportunities. Ahead of the event, we spoke with AviaDev’s MD Jon Howell and Nicolas Deviller, Deputy CEO of Ravinala Airports, to find out more.

European airports prepare for summer chaos thanks to additional COVID-19 checks

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With the ongoing easing of travel restrictions within Europe and beyond, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has warned that passengers travelling through Europe’s airports over the summer are at risk of having to spend hours in airport queues due to COVID-19 checks.

Although still well below pre-pandemic traffic levels (2019), passenger traffic is set to increase nearly three-fold from 47 million passengers this month to 125 million passengers in August. Managing such an increase will amount to an unprecedented operational challenge due to the unique combination of space constrained facilities and more peaks in traffic, as well as multiple and diverse COVID-19 checks,

“Airports are desperate to see their facilities coming back to life,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe. “But the level of both uncertainty and complexity in planning for the restart is just mind blowing now. With each passing day, the prospect of travellers enduring widespread chaos at  airports this summer is becoming more real. We absolutely and urgently need governments to step  up advance planning on the full range of issues involved – and work more closely with airports and airlines,” he added.

According to ACI, airlines’ current plans are pointing to air traffic being very much concentrated on peak periods this summer – more than last year or even more than in summer 2019 at some airports. With traffic peaks are a usual feature of airport operations driven by airline scheduling, airport facilities are designed to efficiently accommodate the large passenger volumes. However, that becomes extremely challenging when capacity is reduced as a result of physical distancing and when seamless operational processes are no longer possible due to additional COVID-19 checks.

The additional checks at airports to verify COVID-19 test certificates, passenger locator forms and quarantine documentation are performed by public authorities, airlines and/ or ground handling companies. They are being carried out at multiple times both at departure and on arrival, most of the time manually, resulting in inefficiencies and considerably slowing passenger processing time. For example, checks on COVID-19 tests upon departure are currently duplicated or even triplicated at 77% of Europe’s airports.

In addition the implementation of physical distancing through all airport processes has resulted in constrained space across terminals – severely reducing available physical capacity and increasing passenger processing times. These operational impacts are felt particularly during peak times.

ACI Europe is urging European Governments to: Adopt and implement in a uniformed manner the proposed revised EU Council Recommendation for travel within the EU; Ensure that they will be ready to issue common and interoperable EU digital COVID-19 certificates by 1 July at the latest and that, together with the European Commission, they recognise both digital and manual COVID-19 certificates issued by EU neighbouring countries as well as other third countries which are easing travel restrictions within Europe; Ensure that COVID-19  checks are not duplicated during the travel journey and that these checks are carried out as early in the passenger process as possible.

The airport association is also calling for the deployment of adequate state resources (staff) at airports to ensure that manual checks and border control proceses to do not delay travellers. And it is calling on EASA and ECDC to reconsider physical distancing requirements at airports based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation and the fact that an increasing proportion of travellers will be fully vaccinated.

Are regional airports set for a post-pandemic surge of passengers?

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With domestic air travel in bigger markets such as the United States the first to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, regional airports are set to play an outsized role in the coming years, according to David Lavorel, CEO, SITA at Airports and Borders. The question is, he says, are they prepared for a surge of passengers?

As air travel ground to a halt in April last year, regional airports were as hard hit as their international counterparts with near-stagnant passenger and flight activity levels. But as we emerge from the crisis and operations normalize, these airports are expected to recover faster than their larger peers. And with that, they will once again face the same landside and airside capacity constraints they were experiencing in pre-COVID times but with the added challenge of managing new COVID-era health requirements.

Changing populations and remote workers

Several factors are at play in the rapid recovery for regional airports. Ramping up the pressure will be inward migration from the bigger cities due to the pandemic’s influence on population movement. With work less tied to the office, the lure of the big city is losing its appeal. For many remote workers, moving away from major urban areas becomes a distinct possibility as the everyday commute to the office fades into the distant past. A Gallup Poll early in the pandemic found nearly seven in 10 employees in the US to be working remotely all or part of the time. Similarly, Gensler Research Institute’s City Pulse Survey revealed a spike in popularity of second-tier cities, with one in four London and New York respondents considering moving to smaller, less populated areas.

Another factor is that with constantly changing entry and health requirements around the world, passengers will increasingly pivot from long-haul and business travel to domestic leisure travel, fueled by the pent-up demand from travelers seeking a break.

The future is about lower costs, efficiencies, and better ways of working

In the face of these profound changes, regional airports will need to adjust their strategies to address the post-pandemic environment. Like bigger airports, regional airports will need to consider a digital shift to cope with future capacity constraints.

Passenger and airline expectations

Passengers traveling from regional airports are also demanding the same digital experience and efficiencies they receive at international hubs. On top of that come greater airline expectations, route volatility, space constraints, staff multi-tasking, and a myriad more. Then, of course, as journeys become more digital, there’s the growing need for seamless interoperation across travel systems and technologies – not just among airports large and small, but also with other modes of transport.

The cloud: making the digital journey accessible

From our experience in digitizing the industry – before and during the pandemic – we see common issues facing highly cost-conscious regional airports, with a desire to be able to fund the types of smart digital ways of working found in larger airports.

The good news is that cloud technology makes the digital journey and cutting-edge IT affordable and accessible for regional airports. With leading passenger processing capabilities accessible via the cloud, airports can enable shared common-use approaches in the most cost-effective way, saving on infrastructure, space, and maintenance. Not only that, they’re well placed to embrace further capabilities as they choose, such as self-boarding, self-bag drop, off-airport processing, and more.

For example, available now, our own SITA Flex brings leading cloud-based passenger processing capabilities acting as the enabler of the digital passenger experience, based on safe and healthy low-touch, contactless and self-service journeys from check-in to boarding. Airlines get the ability to enable passengers to use their mobiles to have a near walk-through, touchless airport experience, while airport workforces can use mobile devices to coordinate and perform tasks efficiently.

It’s also important to have ready-to-go cloud-based (SaaS) airport management capabilities to help optimize resources while supporting collaborative processes and decision-making. Talking to our airport customers about their needs for operational flexibility, we have solutions providing digital ways to manage capacity challenges better, keeping a proactive eye on passenger flow and disruptions.

Best in class baggage and airport management IT

One of the biggest demands we see is for cost-effective access to best-in-class baggage and airport management systems. SITA recently launched a simple, scalable, and more affordable version of our leading baggage reconciliation system, SITA Bag Manager, that allows smaller airports to reduce the number of mishandled bags by up to 20% by automating the typically manual process of reconciliation. They can also shore up dwindling revenue; an airport that processes 4 million bags per year could generate approximately $100,000 over the course of five years by implementing SITA Bag Manager Lite.

Beyond that, we’re working with regional airports to introduce the most advanced flight information display systems along with simple operational messaging and network capabilities – as already used by hundreds of airports in all corners of the globe.

Let’s be prepared

What’s clear from our conversations with regional airports is that as they look to a new operating environment, they want to be prepared for the changes coming and a return to capacity. With more scalable technology available, they now have the ability to deliver the same experience to their airlines and passengers as they would as major hubs.

Surge in bookings for rapid PCR tests at Liverpool John Lennon Airport

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Healthcare company, Salutaris People, which provides rapid PCR testing at Liverpool John Lennon Airport in the UK, has reported a 10-fold surge in bookings for its rapid PCR tests.

According to Salutaris People the unprecedented demand has been triggered by passengers who had originally booked subsidised PCR tests through airlines and package holiday operators. After using self-administered postal PCR tests, their results had been returned as ‘unclear’ from laboratories. An ‘unclear’ test result is when a PCR test is returned inconclusive and does not indicate either a ‘positive’ or a ‘negative’ test result. Other travellers had reported delays in receiving their results, which had prompted them to take a secondary PCR test to avoid missing their scheduled flights and holidays.

“We have experienced a surge in the last two weeks, which has been due to a number of airline passengers booking secondary PCR tests with us,” said Ben Paglia, Managing Director of AKEA Life, the clinical testing partners to Salutaris People.

He explained that, “Unclear test results can occur for two reasons. More often than not, this is down tot he test being self-administered by the public and not carried out by a trained healthcare professional. The secondary reason id down to the way in which the tests are transported to the lab, which can also affect the test result. With the airlines and travel companies using postal PCR test kits, there is the continued risk of more incidents like this occurring. This not only creates a further cost for the passenger with secondary testing, but also creates uncertainty over whether the test result will come back unclear.

“Unfortunately, the test providers and the laboratories will not offer a refund to a customer when an ‘unclear’ test is confirmed. In the unlikely event of that happening – where a person has attended the Salutaris test suite for a rapid PCR test and an ‘unclear’ result was produced – we would naturally refund the customer or provide a second test free of charge.” he added.

Offering trained healthcare professionals who administer PCR tests in person with test results processed immediately at its onsite laboratory Salutaris People provides the rapid PCR testing service in partnership with Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Test Assurance Group (TAG). The purpose-built private test suite and onsite laboratory is located adjacent to the airport in an existing overflow car park. Passengers can book their test online with free parking provided next to the test suites. Tests results can be returned within 24 hours or passengers can opt for a 3-hour epxress service.

As well as Liverpool John Lennon Airport Salutaris People’s service is also offered to passengers flying from Manchester Airport.