UK air bridges set to boost European aviation

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UK ministers are in talks to create air bridges that could allow Britons to holiday in Spain, Italy, Greece, France and other countries without quarantining on their return.

Since 8 June people arriving in the UK have had to self-isolate for 14 days in a move that was introduced to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The air bridges will enable passengers arriving in the UK from the specified countries to do so without quarantining and will be a welcome boost to airlines and airports as well as passengers ahead of the peak summer season.

Austria, Germany, Croatia and Turkey are also reportedly among the countries officials are considering to create ‘air bridges’ with. It is also understood that long-haul air bridges are also being considered for further down the line. Those countries being considered to share an air bridge must have a small enough rate of infection to allow people to travel there and back without having to undergo 14 days of self-isolation.

Amid the news that the airport ground handling company Swissport announced plans to cut more than 4,500 jobs, some are arguing that air corridors should be considered across the whole of the EU and Schengen area. In addition, the European commission has warned it could be considered discriminatory to allow travel corridors between some but not all EU countries.

Describing the air bridges as “travel corridors” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a Downing Street press conference that they are a “massive priority” to reinvigorate the aviation industry and help rebuild the economy.

The UK bridges policy is expected to be finalised on Thursday 25 June at a COVID-19 strategy meeting.

Editor’s comment: Green-sky thinking

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There have been multiple occasions over the last couple of months when conversations have turned to how COVID-19 lockdowns and the subsequent restrictions on flights have meant less pollution in the skies above us and cleaner air. As a result there has been a call for aviation to focus on a green recovery and for rescue packages to come with green strings, such as reduced carbon footprints and frequent flyer levies.

According to Tanja Grobotek, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation’s (CANSO’s) Director Europe Affairs, “The current crisis gives us an opportunity to ‘build back better’ by reducing carbon emissions from flying in the most efficient way.”

So, it’s welcome news that while airports, airlines and passengers are united in their welcome for the gradual return of commercial flights, Europe’s aviation sector is also committed to contributing to the recovery of European economies in line with the Green Deal objectives.

In particular, stakeholders across the industry are calling for EU leaders to introduce specific decarbonisation initiatives in their allocation of future COVID-19 funding.

“Airports – along with our partners in the aviation eco-system – have been brought to their knees by this crisis,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe. “Our determination to pursue climate action, in line with ACI Europe’s commitment to Net Zero carbon emissions under the airports’ control remains as robust as ever – but our ability to invest has been hit hard. Aviation is one of the sectors where decarbonisation is particularly challenging, so including it in a joined up green recovery makes sense for all,” he continued.

A combination of public and private investment will be essential to allow air transport leaders to speed up work to decarbonise the sector – in line with the EU goal of climate neutrality by 2050. Specific proposals include: boosting the production and uptake of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as well as investments in sustainable airport and heliport infrastructure and continued investment in the European Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.

Stakeholders are also suggesting the implementation of a green incentive scheme for airlines and aircraft operators to replace older aircraft, as well as the need to increase public funding and public co-funding rates for Civil Aviation Research and Innovation (Clean Aviation and SESAR).

With experts predicting that air traffic won’t return to pre-pandemic levels much before 2023, the coming months offer a definite window of opportunity to address the climate risks posed by the aviation industry and ensure appropriate action is taken.

Best wishes,

Chloë Greenbank, Regional Gateway Editor.

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Airlines push for airport slot waivers to be extended

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With airlines in Europe currently in the midst of the slot co-ordination process for the winter season they are required to return slots they will not operate by the end of August. However, with the aviation industry in recovery mode following the COVID-19 pandemic airlines are arguing that they will not be able to operate at the same size and scale seen in previous seasons.

Industry associations including the European Regions Airline Association (ERA), the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) and Airlines International Representation in Europe (AIRE) have underlined their appreciation for the speed at which the slot use was waivered for this year’s summer season. However they warn that with the airline industry still in the midst of the crisis and airlines expecting to post a loss of €74.67bn in 2020 and losses of €14.17bn already forecast already for 2021, this waiver needs to be extended.

Without the certainty of a waiver, airlines assume a huge risk to schedules and networks that have been designed and optimised over decades. Given the crisis is still ongoing with the threat of continued travel restrictions looming winter demand will be insufficient to sustain existing schedules at required levels.

Montserrat Barriga, ERA Director General, says: “As we now enter the challenging period of restarting aviation from virtually nothing, we must ensure consumer confidence is rebuilt and that the industry can respond to demand and resume essential air services in a sustainable manner. It would be environmental and financial suicide for airlines to be forced to operate services purely to protect their post-recovery network. It is therefore vital during the restart that the sector continues to be supported and alleviation measures will be a vital ingredient for this recovery.”

However, the additional operational flexibility created by the slot waiver comes at a high cost to airports as it enables airlines to declare full schedules, hold on to the requested slots and cancel those flights closer to their date of operation.

Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has responded to the call for an extension to the slot waiver scheme by calling for a data-driven approach. This would enable an evidence-based approach to assess whether extending the waiver beyond the end of October is the most appropriate measure to support the restoration of air connectivity. The association has also suggested that slots allocated in response to new requests should not be eligible to qualify for the waiver, while slots must not be covered by waivers when an airline publicly announces that it will cease or reduce services at an airport. That way airlines that are ready and able to operate won’t be blocked from entering airports by airlines having confirmed they will exit these markets while continuing to hold slots.

Commercial flights resume at Bournemouth and Exeter airports in the UK

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Both Exeter Airport and Bournemouth Airport in the UK are welcoming the resumption of commercial passenger flights.Both airports are operated by Regional & City Airports (RCA).

Ryanair passengers took off from Bournemouth for Malaga on 23 June for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the airline to ground its flights. Additional routes are also available to book throughout July for flights to destinations including Alicante, Dublin, Faro, Girona, Krakow, Malta, Murcia, Palma, Paphos, Prague and Tenerife.

TUI plans to recommence services to Antalya, Corfu, Dalaman, Lanzarote, Palma and Tenerife from 1 August.

“In the middle of a difficult period for aviation and UK business as a whole, a return to commercial flying marks the first signs of recovery and gives a much-needed boost to regional and international air connectivity,” said Steve Gill, Managing Director of Bournemouth Airport .

Meanwhile Ryanair plans to recommence routes from Exeter to Alicante and Malaga from Saturday 4 July, followed by additional routes with Loganair later in the summer to Edinburgh and Newcastle. matt Roach, Exeter Airport’s Managing Director, said: “We’re delighted to get going again, and in particular to welcome Loganair to Exeter Airport for the first time, particularly as it secures key routes to Newcastle and Edinburgh for our region and customers.”

From 1 August TUI will recommence routes from Exeter to Corfu, Dalaman, Heraklion, Lanzarote, Palma, Paphos, Tenerife and Zante.

Both airports have remained open for medical and military flights as well as general aviation throughout the pandemic. With commercial flights now resuming, additional measures have been introduced to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and passengers. These include the installation of additional hand sanitiser units, enhanced cleaning, protective screens and the installation of floor markings and signage to help passengers maintain safe social distances.

Air Navigation Solutions launches package to help airports reinstate operations

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Air Navigation Solutions (ANSL), the UK-based air navigation services provider (ANSP) has launched an operational compliance solution to help airports reinstate or scale up their operations in the wake of COVID-19.

ANSL originally developed Attis to manage the recovery and scaling up of its own air traffic management operations at its existing airport locations. But the solution is now being offered to other airports that have either closed or substantially reduced operations since March.

The Attis Basic package is offered free of charge to airports and delivers everything required for the management of a safe and compliant recovery. It includes all Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) required core elements, including: training, rostering, PPE requirements, cleaning and COVID risk assessments engineering. A wider range of tailored services are also available to airports.

“This is a critical time for all elements of the aviation industry to work together to ensure we collectively recover from the pandemic,” said Henry Game, Managing Director of ANSL. “We are keen to play our part in this vital process by sharing our proven expertise in air traffic management to enable airports to scale up their operations in a safe, compliant and cost-efficient manner,” he added.

Meanwhile, Paul Diestelkamp, Head of Business Development & Solutions at ANSL added: “Our work with airports of differing sizes has given us a clear understanding of their operational and compliance needs. This has enabled us to quickly develop solutions that not only serve our existing locations, but can be tailored to the needs of other airports to also help them recover from the pandemic.”

Swoop seeks airport partners to support economic recovery

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Canada’s ultra-low-cost-carrier (ULCC), Swoop, is seeking strategic airport partners in North and Central America and the Caribbean. The airline has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for airports to collaborate with the ULCC to stimulate travel and help lead the economic recovery.

Airports that can demonstrate an understanding of the value provided to travellers through air fares and low fees in terms of creating demand as well as well as the importance of travel and tourism in stimulating economic recovery are invited to complete a pre-qualifying questionnaire. If successful they will be invited to submit a formal response to the RFP.

The RFP process will take place over several weeks and airports across North and Central America and the Caribbean, with facilities suitable for the operation of Boeing 7370800 NG, are invited to participate.

Charles Duncan, Swoop’s President, underlined that he believes the key to recovery lies in collaboration and creativity. “We are encouraged by the early signs of recovering demand for ultra-low fares and are eager to collaborate with airports across the region to re-think how we, as an industry, approach affordable and accessible air travel.”

Swoop entered service in 2018 and has welcomed 2.5 million travellers in its first two years of operation. Its success in Canada has been credited to its unbundled airfare model. “This demonstrated demand for ultra-low fares translates to increased passenger traffic in airports, and the significant spillover effect through the support of jobs and businesses in local economies, all of which are essential for economic recovery,” added Duncan.

Airports mark lifting of intra-EU travel restrictions

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Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has marked the lifting of travel restrictions between most of its member states by publishing two landmark documents.: 10 Commitments from the airport industry to Passengers, Communities and Authorities, and 10 Recommendations to National Authorities and the European Institutions.

The documents have been published in collaboration with the national airport associations of France (UAF&FA), Germany (ADV), Italy (Assaeroporti), Romania (RAA) and the UK (AOA).

The first document outlining the 10 commitments to passengers, communities and authorities shows the priority placed by Europe’s airports on delivering the safe, reliable and sustainable passenger experience. According to ACI Europe the document reiterates the fact that Europe’s airports are amongst the safest, cleanest and most controlled public spaces as we strive to return to normality.

Additionallly, the industry’s commitments embrace its continued climate action towards the target of Net Zero CO2 emissions at the latest by 2050 for operations under its control.

Welcoming ACI Europe’s commitments, the European Commissioner for Transport Mrs Adina Vălean said: “Every journey starts with a first step and every journey by aircraft starts at the airport. I welcome the commitments made by the European airport industry on confidently and safely restoring air connectivity. They are fully in line with our guidelines and specifications, showing responsibility and care both for passengers and for staff. This is the new normal as we learn to live and travel with the virus.”

Meanwhile the 10 recommendations for national authorities and European institutions underline airports’ critical role in the economic development as well as the connectivity of the regions and communities they serve. ACI Europe is calling on policymakers to develop a clear plan to re-build air connectivity and re-invigorate tourism, championing collaboration at national and European levels and ensuring that no stakeholder is excluded from supporting measures.

“Europe’s airports are economic enablers with safety running through their very DNA,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General. “Our 10 commitments and 10 recommendations are concrete, confident and unequivocal… We clearly ask of European policymakers and national and international level that they match our commitments with proportionate and harmonised actions. The European Commissions’s call to member states to lift remaining intra-EU restrictions as of today, and with the wider world by the end of this month, is a welcome signal with which we stand fully aligned. Let’s reconnect and fly again,” he concluded.

Pictured: Cork Airport and Lodz Airport

Airports point to imbalances in air transport relief

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With passenger traffic down by -98% in May compared to the same period last year, European airports only saw 4.3 million passengers travel through their doors compared to 216.8 million in May 2019.

“With well over half a billion passengers lost so far this year and still no revenues coming in, Europe’s airports are anxiously waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted and airlines to resume operations,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General commenting on the drop in passenger traffic. “With the epidemic now de-escalating in many countries and a plan to allow for intra-European travel – at least within the Schengen area  – by the end of the month, we are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel,” he continued.

However, he warned that with the recovery expected to be slow and gradual he doesn’t see a return to last year’s traffic volumes before 2023. He also argued that the UK’s blanket quarantine will further decimate an already struggling industry.

“Most national authorities are quite rightly taking a phased approach, but it’s vitally important that devices such as quarantine are risk-based and proportionate. If quarantine  is used as a blunt instrument as it is in the UK, it is one which will deliver an economic and social blow from which we will all struggle to recover.”

As such government support is essential not just to restore the air connectivity that is underpinning the livelihood of communities, businesses and citizens – but also to safeguard the ability of both airports and airlines to invest and decarbonise.

ACI Europe has also underlined that governments in Europe have almost exclusively helped airlines, with more than €24 billion of financial support already approved – and more to come. However the majority of airports have been excluded from national aid programmes for aviation. Airports have generally benefitted from temporary unemployment schemes, leaving them in an extremely difficult financial situation.

France, Germany and Italy are all cited as cases in point, with all three countries extending €19.3 billion in financial support to their former flag carriers, without providing specific support to their airports.

“Keeping airlines afloat – or rather flying, is obviously in the interest of airports. But this does not per se secure their financial viability,” said Jankovec. “With selective governmental support not benefitting all airlines, and with no condition attached for recipient airlines to support their suppliers – including airports, the current situation creates huge imbalances in the air transport eco-system. This essentially brings us back to the era when the interest of airlines used to command aviation policy, with no consideration for other industry stakeholders – let alone consumers.”

Alongside the national airport associations in Germany (ADV), France (UAF&FA) and Italy (Assaeroporti), ACI is calling on governments and the EU to address these imbalances and safeguard the proper functioning of the Single Aviation Market. Measures the association’s would like to see implemented include:

Allowing airports to benefit from temporary unemployment schemes under the most favourable conditions and beyond the summer months. They would also like to see financial compensation granted to airports for the costs involved in remaining open when travel restrictions eliminated demand for air transport as well as for the costs involved in implementing sanitary measures. Other suggested measures include ensuring that charges paid by airlines for the use of airport facilities reflect underlying costs and the further liberalisation of air traffic rights and relaxation of airlines’ ownership and control rules to facilitate the restoration and development of air connectivity.

Turkish airports see return of domestic services from Pegasus

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Following the temporary suspension of flights at the end of March in response to COVID-19 the Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines has resumed domestic flights and is currently operating 39 domestic routes to 27 destinations in Turkey.

It is flying from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen to Antalya, Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Bodrum, Trabzon, Van, Dalaman, Kayseri, Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Gazipaşa, Hatay, Konya, Malatya, Samsun, Muş, Ordu-Giresun, Sivas, Şanlıurfa, Erzurum, Batman, Erzincan, Mardin and Kars. There are also flights from Izmir to Adana, Ankara, Mardin, Elazığ, Kayseri, Samsun and Trabzon; as well as from Adana to Trabzon, Antalya, Bodrum and Van; and from Ankara to Antalya and Bodrum.

“We are really pleased to be relaunching our flights following their temporary suspension as part of the restrictions put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Pegasus Airlines CEO Mehmet T. Nane. “It has only been our flights, not us, which have stopped during this uncertain time, which has seemed to us like years rather than months. We have worked continuously for the days when we would be reunited with our guests. We are therefore delighted to have relaunched our domestic flights after this period of restrictions… In the next phase we will also gradually increase our schedule to include further domestic routes, as well as restarting international flights,” he added.

Explaining the changes embraced by the airline as we move into this next phase of recovery, Nane said:

The HES code is a new requirement  that has been developed as part of the new measures from the Turkish Ministry of Health so that our guests can fly safely within Turkey; and to ensure that travel is managed during situations of increased risk. Under these new measures, it will not be possible to book tickets, check-in online or at the airport, and thus to travel on domestic flights without the HES code. In addition, all our guests will be required to wear masks at the airport and on board the aircraft. There will be temperature checks at the airport. Our staff at the check-in counters will be assisting guests wearing visors. These and other similar measures will now be part of our lives, and we will continue to keep you informed as we progress.

Swedavia appoints new director for Malmö Airport

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Karin Öhrström has been appointed as the new Airport Director for Malmö Airport by Swedish airport operator, Swedavia. She will assume her new duties on 1 September.

Öhrström holds a Master’s degree in engineering and has been in her current position at energy services provider, E.ON Energilösningar for more than 20 years. She is currently Head of Customer & Sales and brings extensive experience from her previous management positions and duties.

“I am both proud and pleased that we have recruited Karin as the new airport director of Malmö Airport,” said Susanne Norman, director of regional airports at Swedavia. “Her knowledge and experience will be a major addition to the airport and to Swedavia. Our ambition is to continue developing Malmö Airport as an important regional airport that contributes to acess in southern Sweden and to continue driving our climate change work,” Norman continued.

Öhrström will succeed Peter Weinhandl, who has been Malmö’s Airport Director since 2012 and will retire in September this year.

“This is a new and exciting industry for me, one that nevertheless has surprisingly many similarities with the energy sector. Swedavia has an inspiring social remit, a clear customer focus and wants to lead the way in areas that are important to me. This includes regional access and growth as well as the aviation industry’s transformation in the face of climate change, but also gender equality and sustainability. I am really looking forward to taking on my new duties together with all the employees at Malmö Airport,” said 49-year-old Öhrström.