Knock Airport welcomes Ryanair link with Birmingham

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Irish low-cost carrier (LCC), Ryanair, has added a Birmingham to Knock service to its 2022 schedule. The twice weekly service reinforces the airline’s commitment to the UK as it rebuilds its tourism industry following the global pandemic.

“We are pleased to add this new route to Knock as part of our UK’s 22 schedule, offering our customers yet another amazing European destination to choose from when planning their summer break,” said Ryanair’s Director of Commercial, Jason McGuinness.

As part of its growth plan, the airline has already added more than 560 routes and opened 16 bases throughout the last 12 months. Looking ahead to next year, the “addition of 65 new B737-8200 ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft to its fleet, which offer 4% more seats, 16% less fuel and a 40% reduction in noise emissions, making Ryanair’s S’22 schedule the most exciting and environmentally friendly to date,” added McGuinness.

Birmingham Airport named as Flybe’s new headquarters and crew base

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The revived regional carrier, Flybe, has revealed that Birmingham Airport in the UK will serve as its new headquarters and first new crew base. The launch of the new Flybe is expected not only to enhance essential regional connectivity in the UK, but also to create many valuable industry jobs and help restart local economies as they rebound from the pandemic.

The airline is among the first UK carriers to be certified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) since Brexit. It will serve key regions across the UK and EU with operations scheduled to begin in early 2022. In a move that will create around 200 direct new jobs in the Birmingham and West Midlands region, the airline’s HQ and operations centre will be located in Birmingham Airport’s Diamond House. An additional 400 direct jobs are projected to be created nationwide.

Describing Birmingham as “an ideal choice”, Flybe CEO Dave Pflieger, cited the city’s great people, highly skilled workforce, its central UK location and the airport’s function as a global travel as reasons behind choosing the West Midlands hub as its home base.

“The announcement marks the culmination of over 12 months of dedicated hard work by all involved, and it would not have been possible without the support of the CAA and the UK Government,” he said.

Meanwhile Nick Barton, Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport added: “Flybe’s announcement that Birmingham has been chosen to become the headquarters for its launch next spring is fantastic news for our region’s connectivity needs, and it will bring with it some great new employment opportunities. Dave’s vast experience in managing start-up airlines and turnaround situations, coupled with the recovery of the Midlands’ economy post-Covid, means that Flybe’s return to the skies from Birmingham is a shot in the arm for our airport as well as West Midlands businesses and communities. We look forward to working with Dave and his team in preparation for next spring and to launch such a well-known brand here in Birmingham.”

Belfast City Airport launches digital transformation programme

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Belfast City Airport has kickstarted a six-figure, five-year, digital transformation programme to enhance operations and future-proof the airport for sustainable growth.

The first phase of the innovative programme, accelerated by support from Tourism Northern Ireland’s ‘Embrace a Giant Spirit Digital Welcome’ fund, has already successfully delivered an Amazon Alexa skill, implemented by AirChat, an omnichannel, automated customer service tool, and installed the first of a 20-screen digital way-finding portfolio in the terminal building.

The airport is the first in Northern Ireland to harness voice search functionality and implement a 24/7 multi-channel customer service tool, allowing passengers greater choice and flexibility in how, when, and where they receive their travel updates.

“Like any modern business, digital transformation is vital to Belfast City Airport, not only for effective operations on a day-t0-day basis now, but also in future-proofing the organisation for sustainable growth,” said Brian Roche, Director of IT at Belfast City Airport.

“The creation and implementation of these digital platforms will not only benefit our inbound and outbound customers greatly and provide another layer of excellent customer service and assistance, but also proves our commitment to continually providing an airport experience that exceeds the expectations of our passengers,” Roche continued.

As one of the world’s most popular voice-controlled virtual assistants, Amazon Alexa tackles the important issue of digital accessibility by acting as an invaluable tool for those with visual impairments or physical, communicational, or cognitive disabilities.

The AirChat platform allows users to register for real-time, pre-departure flight updates which are then sent directly to their device via Facebook, Twitter, What’s App and webchat, but also unlocks the opportunity for the airport to communicate with passengers even before they arrive on-site or after they have completed their journey.

Commenting on the airport’s digital developments, Roche added: “Our passengers are at the heart of everything we do and convenience for our passengers is the catalyst behind our investment in these digital solutions, and those to come later down the line in the roll-out of our complete business transformation strategy.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Tourism NI recognised the same opportunities we identified to further enhance the passenger experience and welcome at Belfast City Airport and pledged its support to helping us develop our vision.”

And in recognition of the role that Belfast City Airport plays as a main gateway to Northern Ireland, Dave Vincent, Chief Digital Officer at Tourism NI added: “Already a central transport hub that offers a quick, safe, convenient transit, the airport’s dedication to further enhancing the passenger welcome through digital innovation is to be applauded.”

The customer-facing elements of Belfast City’s digital transformation follow the launch of the airport’s new website and will help solidify its position as UK and Ireland’s most convenient airport, with the highest Civil Aviation Authority ranking for accessibility services.

Header photo: Dave Vincent, Chief Digital Officer at Tourism Northern Ireland (left), joins Belfast City Airport’s Director of Information Technology, Brian Roche (right), to launch six-figure, five-year, digital transformation programme.

Birmingham welcomes extension of TUI’s summer 2022 programme

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TUI UK is expanding its presence at Birmingham Airport by increasing its flying schedule to more than 11 destinations from the UK hub for summer 2022. It has also reintroduced flights to Madeira.

As the airline with the largest regional airport network in the UK, we’re committed to offering our customers as much availability as possible to our great range of holidays. We’re delighted to expand our summer 2022 programme from Birmingham with increased flying to several destinations and a reintroduced route, providing even more flight options for our customers.

Richard Sofer, Commercial and Business Development Director at TUI.

In response to customer demand, TUI will increase its frequency of flights to more than 11 destinations. Flights to Sharm El Sheikh, Costa Dorado, Florida and Boa Vista in Cape Verde will operate three times weekly, while flights to Mallorca will operate ten times a week. Meanwhile flights to Antalya in Turkey will be operated five times a week, to Dalaman seven times a week and to Bodrum and Izmir two times per week. There will also be an extensive Greece programme available, with the choice of 11 Greek islands on offer; Flights to Kavala will operate once a week, twice a week to Chania, Santorini, Skiathos and Halkidiki, three times a week to Kefalonia, Heraklion and Kos, four times a week to Rhodes, and five times a week to Corfu and Zante.

The reintroduction of flights to Madeira will fly twice a week and for those looking to travel long-haul, Cancun, Jamaica, Punta Cana and Orlando Melbourne International in Florida will all be served by TUI.

“It is great news that TUI is expanding its list of holiday destinations for summer 2022,” said Tom Screen, Aviation Director at Birmingham Airport. “Whether it is a short hop to Europe or a long-haul getaway, this extensive range of holiday options has something for all travellers looking to book for summer 2022.”

Airport Dimensions and Swissport expand airport lounge network

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A new deal will see Airport Dimensions, the airport lounge specialist, and Swissport, which owns Aspire, a leading global lounge and global aviation services company, acquire the No1 Lounges business through its joint venture Swissport ALD. The acquisition will see Airport Dimensions and Swissport operate nine No1 lounge portfolio spaces at Birmingham and London Gatwick as well as London Heathrow Airport in the UK.

The agreement will also see Airport Dimensions and Swissport take on the exclusive Clubrooms brand which offers guests a first-class luxury lounge experience in a private and intimate setting.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we welcome this transaction which enables us to strengthen and secure our business and carry on our mission to make it easier for our customers to eat, drink and relax in style before they fly. The new funding will enable us to further enhance No1’s lounging experience so that we continue to offer industry-leading innovation and choice for our customers. We cant’ wait for travel to return and to reopen our business after such a disruptive year. We’re excited about the future and look forward to welcoming our customers back,” said John Upton, CEO of No1 Lounges.

Mignon Buckingham, CEO of Airport Dimensions, added that, “We’re delighted to have the opportunity to invest in the exciting No1 brand.” She added that, “No1 Lounges, Airport Dimensions and Swissport are fully aligned in our commitment to offering a more unique, more personalised, and more enjoyable experience for travellers across the airport journey, giving them an alternative to other F&B options during their stay at the airport. This investment is just one of many Airport Dimensions continue to make to enhance the experience for the traveller, offering them choice and control whilst driving increased revenue performance for the airport.”

The newly acquired group plans to continue to provide the full range of existing No1 products, including Premium Security (express security) at Gatwick, enhanced by Airport Dimensions’ portfolio of digital and physical offerings. With its partnership with digital ordering companies Servy and Inflyter, plus the e-commerce platform Connecta, the traveller journey for No1 lounge guests will be more adaptable and personalised than ever.

Birmingham Airport launches drive-through COVID-19 test service

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Birmingham Airport in the UK has opened a drive through COVID-19 screening service in conjunction with Cignpost ExpressTest.  The facility will be particularly useful for members of the public who are asymptomatic and do not quality for NHS emergency testing, but require a negative result either to visit family members or to travel abroad. Eight drive-through lanes will have the capacity to process more than 8,000 tests per week.

The drive through facility builds on an existing partnership between Cignpost ExpressTest and Birmingham Airport, with a walk-in site being open since January.

“We are pleased to have developed and expanded the fit to fly testing service here at Birmingham Airport,” said Al Titterington, Terminal Operations Director, Birmingham Airport. “Following the success of Cignpost, which opened in January within the terminal building, this new drive through services ensures our customers can book tests with even more ease and convenience.

“Here at Birmingham we are continually putting our customers first by ensuring that as the travel restrictions change we have the right facilities in place to assist our customers and guarantee they are fully prepared for their trip,” he added.

Priced at £80 per person for travelling passengers and £99 for the test-only service, ExpressTest is delivered using the latest gold standard PCR equipment that is fully CE-IVD certified and manufactured to the highest possible standards, with tests carried out by trained Screening Practitioners. Cignpost ExpressTest also provides gold-standard PCR tests at Gatwick and Heathrow as well as at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland.

Since the resumption of international leisure travel on 17 May, Birmingham Airport has seen a spike in passenger numbers with airlines restarting several flight services to Portugal, Madeira and Greece.

Noting the increased desire for testing since international travel resumed in England, Christian Corney, CEO of Cignpost ExpressTest said, “Our new drive through centre at Birmingham Airport builds upon a strong pre-existing partnership and will be a great addition to our nationwide services. We are proud to bring COVID-19 screening services to the local community, and whether for personal or business travel, we remain committed to delivering the best possible service at an affordable price.”

Birmingham Airport welcomes five new European beach destinations with easyJet

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Popular European low-cost airline easyJet and easyJet holidays have launched new routes from Birmingham Airport in the UK to five new European beach destinations in time for summer.

Offering passengers from the Midlands even greater choice for a holiday this summer, easyJet will offer flights to Majorca, Malaga and Alicante in Spain, Faro in Portugal and Corfu in Greece from 29 June. The three Spanish destinations are some of the most popular holiday hotspots in Spain with hundreds of kilometres of coastline, rich history, fantastic food and beautiful scenery. As the Algarve’s capital Faro is a historic and culturally-rich city that is home to historical sights, bustling plazas, a marina and age-0ld architecture. Meanwhile situation in the North of the Ionian Sea, Corfu is one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful holiday destinations and offers award-winning sandy beaches, warm water and charming towns.

“We are pleased to announce more connectivity to Birmingham today in flying to popular beach destinations and getting customers away on their much-needed summer holiday across Europe this year,” said Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK Country Manager.

“We believe that a framework can be put in place for the safe reopening of travel and a strong summer, and we are currently focused on working with the UK Government Travel Task Force in the coming days and weeks. We are hopeful that progress will continue to be made with the vaccination programmes in Europe, with several countries in Europe having indicated they will be welcoming British tourists this summer. We remain of the view that international travel can restart and that, with the right framework in place, restrictions can be safely and progressively reduced and in some cases removed by mid-summer for key destinations.”

Nick Barton, CEO of Birmingham Airport added, “We are more than pleased that easyJet will be adding additional leisure destinations direct from Birmingham Airport this summer. easyJet already offers direct routes to Amsterdam, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Geneva, so these additional sunshine routes demonstrate the strong demand in the region for both business and leisure travel and the carrier’s commitment to serving the Midlands.”

Flights from Birmingham to Malaga will operate twice weekly on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 29 June. Flights to Faro will operate three times a week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and will also start on 29 June. Birmingham to Alicante will operate three times per week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 30 June while three weekly flights to Majorca on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays will begin on 3 July and Birmingham to Corfu will operate twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays from 4 July.

Birmingham Airport introduces lateral flow testing for employees

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Birmingham Airport in the UK has introduced a free of charge rapid testing service for all its on-site employees to support the national drive to identify any positive cases of the virus in the workplace. The initiative is part of ongoing efforts to protect both customers and staff from COVID-19 and compliments the airport’s onsite passenger testing service, delivered by ExpressTest – a paid for service for those needing to prove a negative PCR or antigen COVID test and relevant ‘fit to fly’ certification.

Solihull Council has been enlisted to train airport personnel to set up and carry out quality assured testing. The airport has created a booking platform and dedicated testing centres for staff to carry out regular testing whilst working on site.

“Birmingham Airport is crucial to the region’s air transport needs, and as we prepare to restart the operation, testing will play an incredibly important role in our collective recovery,” said Al Titterington, the Airport’s Terminal Operations Director.

The aim of the lateral flow testing service is to detect workers that may be carrying the virus but who are asymptomatic. Results are sent directly tot he employee from the NHS Test and Trace service within 30 minutes of taking the test.

“By offering lateral flow tests to all who work at the airport, we can increase the chances of finding asymptomatic cases to protect our passengers, employees and partners and create the right conditions and reassurance to serve customers once restrictions are eased,” added Titterington.

With the airport preparing to welcome back employees and passengers once it is safe to gradually ease travel restrictions,  significant changes to its infrastructure have already been made to create a COVID-secure environment, in line with Government guidance. This includes the provision of hand sanitiser units throughout the site, perspex screens at customer touchpoints, social distancing markers and signage and an enhanced cleaning regime, using safe, anti-viral, mist treatment. It is also mandatory to wear a face covering in airport buildings and buses.

“It’s great to see workplace testing being rolled out by the airport,” said Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council. “The airport is a key economic asset within Solihull and so it is important to support this as national restrictions begin to ease… As we start carefully on the road to reopening, it’s important that businesses and workplaces encourage testing for their employees to identify positive cases quickly.”