Uzbekistan revamps airport for business aviation

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Plans are well underway for the conversion of Tashkent’s Vostochny airport in Uzbekistan from a military and cargo hub to an airport serving the business aviation community.

Expected to become a centre for innovation in Central Asia, the revamped airport will be dedicated to private and corporate jets. To improve operations the runway is being extended and widened. In addition, a new terminal building will be dedicated to government officials and foreign delegations, while another will be used for business passengers flying in general aviation aircraft.

The first phase of the project, which is due for completion in 2020, will feature the upgraded runway, aprons and taxiways, the new terminals, a modern hangar, fire-safety depot, dispatch centre and a restaurant. A hotel complex is also in the pipeline.

Expressing his support for the redevelopment of the airport, Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, told the Tashkent Times: “Business Aviation provides efficient, productive and secure business travel to accommodate schedules and reach destinations not compatible with the limitations set by commercial airline itineraries.”


Regional Gateway

ACI AGM: Congratulations to ACI Europe’s Best Airport winners

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Congratulations to all those who were declared Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s Best Airport Award winners.

The winners were announced during a gala dinner for the 28th ACI World/ Europe annual general assembly. The reception was hosted by Brussels Airport and was held at the impressive Atomium in the Belgian capital, on Tuesday 19 June.

The awards aim to recognise achievement in core activities such as customer service, facilities, retail, security, community relations and environmental awareness. The judging panel was drawn from a group of independent experts including the European Commission, Eurocontrol, European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and European Travel Commission.

In the under 5 million passenger category, Tallinn Airport was awarded Best Airport for its ambitious large-scale expansion and reconstruction of its airside area with minimum operational disruptions. The new state-of-the-are pre-flight security screening checkpoint, as well as the airport’s close cooperation with stakeholders such as the Estonian tourist board, were also highlighted as key factors in the judge’s decision.

Torino Airport in Italy was highly commended in this category.

In the 5-10 million passenger category, Bristol Airport in the UK and Seville Airport in Spain were declared joint winners. Bristol’s environmental strategy towards carbon neutrality, as well as its continued investment in infrastructure, staff training and increased public transport links all contributed to the airport being given the award.

Meanwhile Seville distinguished itself with its active policy to promote its connectivity and for its “Connecting Seville to the World” project. The airport was also chosen by the judges for its improvements in security and its communication strategy at a local, national and international level.

Hamburg Airport in Germany was awarded the Best Airport Award in the 10-25 million passenger category, for its innovative additional services to increase the passenger experience and its commitment to the environment.

Prague Airport in the Czech Republic was highly commended in this category.

For the over 25 million passenger category, Barcelona El Prat was highly commended, While Rome Fiumicino Airport was declared the overall winner. The Italian airport won praise for its small terminal re-design and focus on developing new markets and routes.

Other awards that were given included the Eco-innovation award – Amsterdam Schiphol Airport; the Accessible Airport Award – Pafos International Airport; the Human Resources Excellence Award – Lene BeierSimonsen Holling, HR Development Director at Copenhagen Airport; and the World Business Partner Recognition Award – Oxera Consulting LLP.

ACI AGM 2018: ACI unveils new ASQ commercial survey for airports

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The Airports Council International (ACI) has announced the latest addition to its Airport Quality Service programme.

The ACI ASQ Commercial Survey has been designed to help airports of all sizes boost the passenger experience by providing insights into commercial performance. It also helps airports to optimise ancillary revenues including retail and food and beverage.

Angela Gittens, ACI World’s director general, described ACI’s ASQ programme as the “only truly world-renowned and globally established benchmarking programme measuring passengers’ satisfaction while they are travelling through an airport.

She also said that this latest survey “reflects the growing competition among airports” and the “importance of passenger experience as a key business driver.”

Data for the commercial survey is collected from departing passengers in gate areas while their experiences are still fresh in their minds.

Once analysed this data provides valuable insights into: Why passengers choose to spend or not in commercial areas; which passenger groups use retail, food and beverage and other commercial services the most; what airports should do to improve the commercial services experience for passengers; and what they can do to improve commercial revenues.

When its combined with the organisation’s departures and arrivals surveys it provides a powerful, holistic view of every touch point through the pasengers’ journey.

Crucially, it also helps airports “make important commercial decisions regardless of their current retail offerings, size, location and passenger make-up,” concluded Gittens.

Asheville Regional Airport welcomes Spirit Airlines

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Asheville Regional Airport is welcoming ultra-low-fare carrier, Spirit Airlines and will mark the carrier’s 67th service station in its network.

From 6 September 2018, Spirit will begin service from Asheville Regional Airport to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Tampa International Airport (TPA).

“We are pleased to welcome Spirit Airlines to Asheville Regional Airport,” said Lew Bleiweis, A.A.E., executive director of the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority. “They are providing nonstop service to popular Florida destinations, and will undoubtedly bring many visitors to our great region as well. We look forward to seeing their bright yellow livery on site at our airport, and ultimately to the great added air service they will provide to our community.”

Service to and from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando will each run three times weekly, while service to and from Tampa will operate two times weekly starting in September. From 8 November 2018 service will increase to four times weekly to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando and three times weekly to Tampa.

“We are so excited to offer service between the beautiful Asheville region and three cities in sunny Florida, as they are all incredible destinations.” said Mark Kopczak, Spirit Airlines’ vice-president of network planning. “Guests in Florida will be able to experience all the cool things to do in Asheville, including taking in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, trying out some of the over 80 craft breweries in the area, and experiencing the local arts scene in downtown Asheville. Meanwhile, guests in the Asheville area who are looking for a warm beach vacation this winter will now be able to getaway for less with our ultra-low fares.”

ACI AGM 2018: Building an airport brand and reputation

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Hundreds of airport leaders and exhibitors have gathered in Brussels for the 28th Airports Council International (ACI) World General Assembly, Congress and Exhibition.

Speaking during an airport leaders’ symposium on Tuesday 19 June, David Feldman, managing partner, Exambela Consulting led an animated discussion covering airport branding and reputation.

Branding an airport

“Each airport is a destination in its own right and each one is different,” said Fred Lam, CEO, Hong Kong International Airport and second VP, ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Board. This sentiment of airports being destinations or communities in their own right was something that was echoed by all CEOs on the panel.

Dr. Michael Kerkloh, CEO, Munich Airport and chair, ACI Europe underlined that airports have different infrastructures depending on whether they are low-cost, regional or hub airports. “But the best way to build a brand is to focus on the local market” and to make the airport a reflection of that.

The community factor

Involving the local community is key to an airport’s reputation and branding said Joseph Lopano, CEO, Tampa Airport. He revealed how his airport runs tours for local school children. “We need to get them involved and understanding the role that airports play in the local economy and that the airport sector offers an exciting job market.”

Describing airports as “great places to work”, Lopano raised the issue of how to attract and retain talented staff within airports. Explaining his theory as to why airports aren’t always  considered the most exciting places to work, Arnaud Feist, CEO, Brussels Airlines revealed how his airport was built by engineers. “They were concerned with operational excellence, but not necessarily what the passenger wants and how they experience the airport.”

He added “technical skills you can always find, but what we need now is staff with people skills – they need to be able to react to unknown and constantly changing events.”

Other speakers challenged this theory however, declaring airports exciting places to work. Thomas Woldbye, CEO, Copenhagen Airport, raised a smile from the audience, saying he believes “airports are just getting sexier.”

Airports of South Africa CEO, and chair of ACI World, Bongani Maseko, stated that for him being an airport leader and managing a team of staff “is similar to being the conductor of an orchestra. You want everyone to play the same tune, but you understand you are different things to different people. It’s a role he stipulated that requires you to be “innovative.”

Lopano wrapped up the discussion saying airport leaders face many challenges, but it’s their responsibility to build the right team and understand as an airport community “we’re all in this together.”

Header image: From left to right: David Feldman, managing partner, Exambela Consulting; Martin Eurnekian, executive director, Corporacion America and president, aCI-LAC & vice chair, ACI World; Arnaud Feist, CEO, Brussels Airport; Fred Lam, CEO Hong Kong International Airport, Joseph Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport; Bongani Maseko, CEO Airports Company South Africa and Chair, ACI World; Dr. Michael Kerkloh, CEO Munich International Airport; Thomas Woldbye, CEO, Copenhagen Airport.

Council seeks funding for Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone

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Blackpool Council are looking to secure funding to implement the first delivery stage of the approved masterplan for Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone.

On 18 June the council presented the report to the Blackpool Executive Committee, seeking approval for an initial three year allocation of capital funding of £28.8m to deliver essential infrastructure and support for the Enterprise Zone masterplan. The council will use their ability to borrow at preferential rates.

The council said the funding will be essential to “help secure early investment in the site, kick start development, build momentum and reinforce market confidence.”

Approved in February 2018, the masterplan sets out the potential of the 25 year lifespan of the Blackpool Airport’s Enterprise Zone status, which includes 270,000 sq. metres new floorspace, an estimated 5,000 new jobs and £300m private sector investment. It will also deliver over 280 new businesses on site and up to £2 billion of GVA (gross value added) to the local economy over the 25 year lifespan.

The funding sought is for the implementation of phase one of the masterplan (the first three years of delivery) which will seek to achieve as much revenue as possible in the early years.

Securing the appropriate level of funding for the first three years (to 2021) will facilitate developments which include the reconfiguration of Blackpool Airport infrastructure, as well as new airport hangars and new airport navigational aids and control tower to support ongoing operations and the provision of new aviation facilities for phase two of the Enterprise Zone.

Councillor Mark Smith, cabinet member for Regeneration, Enterprise and Economic Development said: “The Enterprise Zone has the potential to dramatically change the economic landscape of the Fylde Coast and Blackpool Council are committed to delivering a premier business location within the north west that will sustain long term economic growth and investment.

“The goal of the Enterprise Zone is to be the driving force of the local economy, unlocking key development sites, consolidating and building new infrastructure, attracting new business, investment and jobs, and providing a skilled, highly trained future workforce that the Fylde Coast can be proud of. Blackpool Council is sending a strong signal by its firm commitment to prudential borrowing to deliver and secure a sound economic future for the citizens of the Fylde Coast.”

He continued: “Development within the Enterprise Zone will be undertaken as a series of individual projects throughout the course of its life. The Council as the accountable body will explore various options for securing additional private sector investment to help deliver the overall Masterplan objectives.”

Turkish airports welcome new links with Luton

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Just in time for the peak summer season, London Luton Airport (LLA) has opened new links with four destinations in Turkey thanks to SunExpress.

A joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, the leisure carrier which already operates twice weekly flights to Izmir from Luton, will now also serve: Antalya, Bodrum, Ankara and Gazientep. The flights to Ankara and Gaziantep are the only direct services to these destinations from the UK.

Talking at the launch of the new service on 15 June, Jonathan Pollard, CCO at LLA said: “We have worked closely with SunExpress since they joined us as a partner three years ago and it is fitting they have chosen the year of our 80th anniversary to increase the number of destinations offered from LLA.

The collaboration with SunExpress also comes as the airport nears completion of its £160 million transformation, which will increase capacity to 18 million passengers by 2020. The expanded and upgraded terminal will incorporate new boarding gates, more seating, a greater variety of shops and restaurants, as well as improved surface access. Work on the new £225 million light rail system, Luton DART, which will link the airport with the station by 2021 has also now begun.

Commenting on Luton’s transformation, Wilken Bellmann, head of network planning and scheduling for SunExpress revealed that the launch of the new routes provided a “great opportunity for me to see the transformation which has taken place at LLA. I am sure that our passengers will be very pleasantly surprised when they see the changes.”

Meanwhile, Taner Beyoglu, the new director of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office for the UK and Ireland, who also attended the launch celebrations added his enthusiasm for the new flights. “It is wonderful to see so many new Turkish destinations being launched by Sun Express, which will offer more choice to British tourists visiting Turkey and also a better holiday experience with easier access to many fascinating resorts.”

Low-fare air traffic on the rise at Bordeaux

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Low-cost flights are proving to be the star players at Bordeaux Airport.

The gateway to France’s Aquitaine region continues to show significant growth in the low-fare sector with low-fare traffic in May up 24.5% compared with the same month in 2017. In total low-fare traffic at the airport accounted for 293,000 passengers.

Spanish airline, Volotea, topped the polls with traffic up 31%, while easyJet followed in second place with 24.8%.

Disruption caused by Air France strikes and air-traffic control in the Marseille region meant that Bordeaux’s domestic traffic was down by 5.9%. In total 151 flights were cancelled, resulting in a loss of traffic of approximately 21,000 passengers and a 3.6% percentage point increase.

Overall the airport handled 632,000 passengers in May, an increase of 9.5% on the same period in 2017.

Header image: Volotea aircraft at Bordeaux Airport © ADBM_FBlazquez

ACI AGM 2018: Passenger traffic on the rise at airports around the world

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Ahead of its annual general conference and exhibition this week in Brussels, the Airports Council International (ACI) has found that sound economic conditions in Q1, 2018 have helped boost demand for air transport.

Passenger traffic grew 6.7% year-on-year in the first quarter. “The strong start to 2018 illustrated the strong and clear link between aviation and trade and strong economic conditions,” said Angela Gittens, director general, ACI World.

Healthy labour markets and rising consumer and business confidence are part and parcel of strong air transport and airport sector. An open approach to trade is also key to a burgeoning air freight sector, however. Even with the great strides that have been achieved in air transport demand across the world’s airports, the risk of adverse trade relationships among major economies still looms as a potential challenge.

Angela Gittens, director general, ACI World.

African airports have fared particularly well, making a strong comeback in 2018 with passenger traffic growing by 12.7% in the first three months of 2018. Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Cairo in Egypt were all highlighted for their rebound in passenger traffic with growth of 70.8%, 48.4% and 11.3% respectively.

The Asia-Pacific region was found to be the largest contributor to global growth in air transport demand. Guangzhou was noted as one of the fastest growing hubs in the world, while India has continued to capitalise on the country’s strong appetite for air travel. Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai airports all grew by double digit proportions in the three-month period.

European airports also continued to achieve record gains that exceeded average annual growth rates. The first quarter of 2018 saw passenger traffic jump up by 7.7% year-on-year. It came as no surprise that London Heathrow remained in the top position in terms of passenger growth, but Frankfurt was also highlighted for capitalising on both a strong hub airline and low-cost carrier expansions.

In Latin America, many airports experience a resurgence with a gain of 5.4% in passenger numbers in the first quarter. Sao Paul achieved growth of 3.5%, while Mexico City had quarterly growth of 7.2% and Guadalajara rocketed up 16.1% during the same period.

North America was no exception to the upward trend, achieving growth rates well above its mature market status. Toronto, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, were among those who observed robust growth.
The Middle East however didn’t fare so well, posting one of its weakest growth rates since 2001. In the first quarter of 2018, passenger traffic grew modestly, by 1.2%. The ongoing political strife among states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were credited for taking their toll on the region’s aviation market.


British Irish Airports Expo 2018: Regional airports in the UK back Heathrow expansion

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As the debate over a potential third runway at Heathrow Airport gathers momentum ahead of the government’s vote in the coming weeks, leaders from 40 UK airports have written a letter collectively outlining their support for a third runway at Heathrow.

Underlining the benefits of a hub airport and Heathrow’s domestic passenger discount as key reasons for their support, the letter states that as “operators of airports, we understand aviation economics and that Heathrow’s expansion is the right choice for our strategic growth.”

Nation-wide benefits

Describing hub airports as the most efficient vehicle for capacity growth, and growth more broadly in the aviation sector, the letter disputes allegations made by some politicians and broadcast outlets saying: “It is reckless and dangerous to scaremonger MPs around the UK, as it almost certainly means that communities outside of London, will lose out and get left behind in the global race. It is not for London politicians to speak on our behalf.

The leaders also underlined that every corner of the country stands to benefit from the growth and trade that will stem from links to an expanded UK hub airport. “Expansion at Heathrow will provide much-needed, long-haul connectivity to our passengers and will double the cargo capacity for the benefit of UK exporters.”

Lauding Heathrow’s “commitment to domestic connectivity,”  the letter cited several: Heathrow’s reduction in domestic passenger charges by £15 per passenger (which it introduced in January 2018); its investment in a £10 million fund to kick-start domestic routes; and its proposal to ring-fence new slots for domestic use, as evidence of its dedication to boost regional connectivity.

Economic powerhouse

Speaking at this year’s British Irish Airports Expo held at Olympia in London on 12 and 13 June, Emma Gilthrope, Executive Director of Heathrow Expansion, Heathrow Airport described the airport as an “economic might.” She added that as a national hub it is the airport’s responsibility to “bring that global connected economy into regional economies throughout the UK.”

With Brexit looming, she also emphasised that “transport infrastructure will be vital for foreign direct investment,” while surface access is a critical issue for the airport’s expansion delivery team. “We need to create a truly integrated transport hub for the UK,” she added.

“As we see a future where we trade, connect and see more, it’s vital we have a hub infrastructure that makes all of that happen and connects a global, confident Britain to growth opportunity. This complements our equally vital and vibrant regional point-to-point airports.”

Meanwhile, during her keynote speech at the expo on Tuesday 12 June, Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg CBE, said: “We need all our airports to thrive. And every region of the UK to benefit from improved air links. And the economic benefits they bring.” She also reiterated that “one of the key benefits from expanding Heathrow will be the increase in connectivity to the nations and region s of the UK the importance of regional connectivity.”

One of the signatories on the letter of support, Al Titterington, managing director, Cornwall Airport Newquay, told Regional Gateway during the British Irish Airports Expo that although he remains loyal to Gatwick, he is fully behind Heathrow’s expansion plans. “We stand to reap the benefits of this expansion. It opens up a whole new market for us both in terms of inbound and outbound tourism,” he said. “A link with Heathrow would enable Cornwall to have onward connections to every continent of the globe as well as easy access to London.”

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, The Scottish Government also added his support saying: “Heathrow’s plan addresses how all Scottish airports benefit from the new runway capacity by providing a significant boost to the country’s connectivity (while offering significant job creation and major investment opportunities).”

Increased competition and lower fares

In contrast to British Airways boss, Willie Walsh, telling UK ministers back in February that they would be “foolish” to sign a blank cheque for Heathrow’s expansion, low-fare giant, easyJet, has now waded in to the debate pointing out what it sees as clear reasons the capacity-constrained hub needs expansion. Essentially, it will enable low-cost carriers to utilise the airport fully, allowing them to provide new routes, as well as lower fares and increased competition against the more expensive legacy carriers that use Heathrow on dozens more UK and European routes.

Both easyJet and Flybe (which already operates out of Heathrow), have published indicative route maps, showing which UK routes they would look to operate from an expanded Heathrow.

But, it was Emma Gilthorpe’s closing statement that left a lasting impression.

This is an enormous project that will last well into the next century. Heathrow has been a legacy for those who came before us to better the lives of those who come after us. How our children and future generations reach the world and connect with it will be dependent on the government’s decision over the third runway