Editor’s comment: Park life

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

 

As airlines increasingly operate skeleton services and ground their aircraft in response to the falling demand in traffic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic there’s a new issue arising. Where to park all these aircraft?

 

According to Flightradar24, there can be anywhere up to 20,000 flights in the sky at any one time but as the number of airlines suspending their services grows daily, airports across the globe are finding themselves serving as giant parking lots.

 

Cirium data has found that the number of planes in storage has doubled to more than 5,000 since the start of the year. More are expected to be parked up in the coming days with carriers including Qantas, GOL, Singapore Airlines and Emirates all suspending their services.

 

Qantas is already in discussions with airports and the government about parking its aircraft. Avalon Airport, west of Melbourne, expects to take 50 planes from Qantas and its low-cost offshoot, Jetstar. Reports suggest that Qantas is sending 30 engineers to Avalon to help maintain the planes so they can re-enter service once demand picks up again. The Australian carrier also plans on parking some of its ageing 747s at Alice Springs, which boasts a desert storage facility. Meanwhile with Cathay Pacific cutting 96% of passenger capacity in April and May, most of its aircraft have been left lined up at its hub, Hong Kong Airport. Austrian Airlines has already brought most of its aircraft home to Vienna Airport and British Airways has left much of its fleet of grounded A321s at Glasgow Airport.

 

In the US, 20 Delta Connection regional jets and 30 more from United Express will be parked up indefinitely at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport near Macon. The county will be paid for the aircraft to stay at the airport, the mayor said. TBI Airport Management, the company that runs the airport, is seeking FAA approval to close an auxiliary runway to free up more space, if necessary.

 

And at Denmark’s Copenhagen Airport two of the airport’s three runways have temporarily been recommissioned to accommodate grounded aircraft. The third runway will remain active for take-offs and landings.

 

The drop in passenger demand and air traffic has seen airports lose significant revenue from landing and take-off fees, as well as ramp fees, fuelling, car parking, duty free and other non-aeronautical tariffs. But could they recover some of that lost revenue from aircraft parking and maintenance services?

 

It’s not about making a profit (one report on CNN suggests that major European hubs charge in the region of $285 per hour), but about working together with local authorities and governments to find a solution that benefits all the players and ensures the industry is ready to get up and flying again once signs of recovery start to appear.

 

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.

Brits urged to return home amid airport closu..

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The UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has urged Brits currently overseas to “return home now” amid the news that airports are starting to close “some without any notice”.

As governments begin to enforce lockdowns to protect their citizens the temporary suspension of commercial flights is leading to the closure of airports around the world.

Stating that the “the time to come home is now while you still can… and while there are still commercial routes to do so.” Raab also emphasised that where people could not get a commercial flight home the government would work “round the clock” to bring them back.

The UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also reiterated that, “This is a very difficult time for British citizens travelling overseas, or those with families and loved ones abroad.

“We’re in close contact with airlines, who are working tirelessly to ensure British citizens travelling overseas can safely return to the UK. We are also working closely with other government departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to ensure airlines are able to operate to bring people back home.”

Updated travel advice from the FCO tells all British tourists and short-stay travellers to return home as authorities have warned that further closures to air routes are likely to come in the next two days, and could see no notice given. A statement from FCO read: “Today’s update reflects the pace at which international travel is becoming more difficult with the closure of borders, airlines suspending flights, airports closing, exit bans and further restrictions being introduced daily.”

Riga Airport stays open with limited operatio..

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Following the temporary suspension of international scheduled and non-scheduled passenger flights Riga Airport will remain open so that it can cater for repatriation flights, cargo transportation and other permitted flights, including domestic flights from Riga to Liepāja operated by the national airline airBaltic.

There are currently 45 aircraft parked at the airport: 37 airBaltic aircraft, 6 SmartLynx and two WizzAir aircraft as well as three private aircraft. More than 50 aircraft will remain at Riga during the flight restriction period.

In cooperation with the Emergency Medical Service, the airport will screen passengers arriving on repatriation flights with medical points at the airport working to the schedules of these flights.

“The safety and health of our employees and the public are a priority and value at Riga Airport, and we must adopt and implement the measures in place to limit the further spread of COVID-19 virus,” said Ilona Līce, Chairperson of the Board of Riga Airport.

“Our main task during this time of crisis is to ensure the operation of these flights, as well as the operational and financial stability of the company, so that airport operations can be fully restored as soon as possible once the situation normalises,” she continued.

Companies operating at the airport will continue to repair aircraft, while training flights and technical flights without passengers will continue to operate.

Līce concluded that she would like to “thank the airport’s professional team for their efforts during this stressful period.”

HungaroControl perseveres with launch of SkyH..

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Despite the cancellation, due to the coronavirus outbreak, of this year’s World Air Traffic Management which was due to take place in Madrid 10-12 March,  The Hungarian Air Navigation Services Provider (ANSP) HungaroControl is proceeding with the launch of SkyHub, the brand behind all its complex products and services, which make up the company’s tailored solutions to industry. Under SkyHub the company plans to continue tackling customers’ most tackling issues and deliver sustainable performance.

Attila Simon, Director of Business Development commente: “We are about to launch SkyHub, the brand behind all our complex products and services together, that provide end-to-end tailored solutions to industry. This is the next step in our evolution to stay at the forefront of the ATM industry.”

Additionally, the company has stated that is already harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to leverage its benefits within simulation and operational environments. An example of this is HungaroControl’s Virtual Pseudo Pilot, the ultimate software solution for ATC simulators built with unique pilot logic, which executes pseudo pilot tasks. Similarly, its AI based DeFog Tool is a state-of-the-art software solution enables you to guide aircraft even in dense fog.

mallaghan deicing

Mallaghan awarded €3m de-icer contract

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mallaghan deicing

Serving more than 79,000 flights at Vnukovo, Domodedovo, Pulkovo airports in Russia UTG Aviation Services has awarded a €3m contract to Mallaghan (providers of airport ground support equipment) for the provision of six de-icing units.

The equipment will be used by the UTG Domodedovo ground handling company at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow. “Winter conditions in Moscow are one of the worst on the European continent in regards of icing precipitation,” said Artyom Rakov from UTG Domodedovo. “Some seasons we have more than 100 de-icing days and our ground support equipment (GSE) must be able to withstand these harsh conditions,” he added.

“Aircraft safety is always imperative, thus efficient procedures and innovative technology allow UTG Aviation Services holdings to ensure a seamless experience for passengers despite the challenging weather conditions.

“Together with engineers from JSC ‘Aerosmart Systems’, another company from UTG Aviation Services specialising in GSE maintenance and rentals, we have advised on developing 50+ changes for special package of equipment – ‘Arctic Kit’ for those de-icers.

“Mallaghan has done an incredible job. They have extensive experience in the manufacturing of ground support equipment, so had the capability to adapt the technology for our strict and very demanding requirements.

“The team had a complete understanding of our needs based on its vast experience and we worked very closely throughout the design and manufacture of these units.”

Commenting on how this is Mallaghan’s first entry to the Russian de-icer market, Owen McKenna, Sales Director at Mallaghan, said: “The requirements were quite unique and challenging so the technical specification is therefore entirely bespoke.”

Whilst the Mallaghan product portfolio has traditionally focused on passenger stairs, high lift trucks for catering and cabin cleaning, de-icers, water trucks and toilet trucks, the company recently launched an Airport Bus.

Doncaster-SHeffield

Doncaster Sheffield Airport plans for new rai..

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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
Stansted Dementia Friends

London Stansted trains 1,000 staff as Dementi..

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London Stansted Airport has reached a new milestone as more than 1,000 members of staff have been trained to become Dementia Friends, completing awareness training to support passengers with hidden disabilities travelling through the airport.

The airport is working with the Alzheimer’s Society to train all its staff, from security officers and office workers to firefighters and engineers, aiming to become a dementia-friendly community. The scheme will now be rolled out further, with the airport encouraging the 200 on-site businesses to make all 12,000 people working at the airport dementia-aware.

“An airport can be particularly stressful for a passenger living with dementia, so we’ve teamed up with the Alzheimer’s Society to make sure that they get the best support possible at every point during the airport journey,” said Lucy Martin, Accessibility Manager at London Stansted Airport. “Our aim is to train all our staff across all levels and roles and encourage the 200 on-site companies to adopt the training too and work with us towards London Stansted being a dementia-friendly airport.”

The training considers the whole airport environment and the challenges it can present to people living with dementia.

Mark Neville, Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Communities Coordinator for Essex, said the step showed a “united approach” from the airport, adding, “We know that busy environments, like airports, can often cause confusion and stress for people living with dementia. By having a better understanding of the condition and making adjustments, big and small, airport colleagues can make this experience much smoother.”

The scheme is one of several London Stansted has in place to improve accessibility of the airport for people with hidden disabilities.

ACI calls for closer co-operation between air..

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ACI EUROPE’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec has called for closer co-operation between airports and Air Traffic Management (ATM) to improve performance and sustainability.

Speaking at EUROCONTROL’s Digitally Connected Airports conference, Jankovec highlighted the importance of all players in the aviation ecosystem and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) in particular to work together in managing and developing infrastructure capacity in the air and on the ground.

Airport Operational Centres (APOCs) are local collaborative operational platforms designed to bring together the airport operator, the local ANSP, airlines, ground handlers, police and customs. This facilitates a “constant sharing of information” to ensure a better (and more integrated) use of available airport and airspace capacity. ACI Europe suggest this leads to a reduction in flight delays and cancellations.

“In Europe, airports went through a major business transformation as Governments have stepped back in favour of corporatisation and privatisation. That transformation has clearly led airports to focus on operational efficiency and quality. This is as much about putting the passenger at the forefront of everything we do as making the most of our facilities,” Olivier Jankovec explained.

The association suggest that ANSPs have yet to join APOCs at major European airports, with the exception of London Heathrow where NATS is participating. ACI EUROPE considers that “the establishment of formal contractual relationships between airports and ANSPs would help achieve that.”

Jankovec continued: “Our efforts to achieve more efficiencies require ANSPs to work with airports in a more integrated manner. This means breaking existing operational silos – and finally getting ANSPs to get involved in and support Airports’ Operational Centres.”

These issues have become increasing relevant in the face of the Climate Emergency and the industry’s sustainability drive, Jankovec stressed, adding, “By adding even more pressure on the need for more operational efficiency, the Climate Emergency makes the case for airport & ATM integration a no-brainer. But beyond that, the EU’s climate objectives require an ambitious structural ATM reform that can achieve real de-fragmentation.”

Heathrow airport

Heathrow Airport responds to Judicial Review ..

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A judgement by the UK’s Court of Appeal has applied the brakes to the expansion of Heathrow Airport with a third runway, finding that the government’s policy on the new runway was “unlawful” as it did not take climate commitments to the Paris Agreement into account.

The judges declared the government’s decision to allow the expansion was unlawful, preventing the project from going ahead until a review finds it fits the relevant provisions and the UK’s climate policy.

Commenting on the findings of the Judicial Review, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “The Court of Appeal dismissed all appeals against the government – including on ‘noise’ and ‘air quality’ – apart from one which is eminently fixable. We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are confident that we will be successful.”

“In the meantime, we are ready to work with the government to fix the issue that the court has raised,” the spokesperson continued, adding that Heathrow had been a leading force in encouraging the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accord. “Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of Global Britain. We will get it done the right way, without jeopardising the planet’s future.”

The airport suggested the outcome requires the government to undertake more work to ensure a third runway would “definitely be compatible with a strategy to mitigate climate change under the Paris Agreement.”

In a summary of the judgements, the Court of Appeals stated: “We have not decided, and could not decide, that there will be no third runway at Heathrow,” adding that a national policy statement supporting the project is not “necessarily incompatible with the United Kingdom’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change under the Paris Agreement…”

The airport announced on 20th February that it has become one of the world’s first major aviation hubs to become carbon neutral for its infrastructure, and the first to target zero carbon by the mid-2030s.

The Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, tweeted: “Airport expansion is core to boosting global connectivity. We also take seriously our commitment to the environment. This Govt won’t appeal today’s judgement given our manifesto makes clear any Heathrow expansion will be industry led.”

In 2018, MPs voted in support of the government’s proposal for a third runway at Heathrow, and the expansion plans have also received support of regional airports in the UK.

Birmingham Airport Customer Service

Birmingham Airport invests in customer feedba..

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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.”