Marseille Airport

Passenger traffic in European airports drops to levels last seen in 1995

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Marseille Airport

Europe’s airport 2020 passenger traffic is back to 1995 levels, according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s traffic report for the Full Year 2020. Compared to 2019, Europe’s airports lost 1.72 billion passengers in 2020, a decrease of -70.4%

The report includes all types of commercial flights to, from and within Europe (full service, low cost, regional, charter, full freight and others) and reveals that EU airports were significantly more impacted (-73% and 1.32 billion passengers lost) than those in the non-EU bloc (-61.9% and 400 million passengers lost). This is mainly due to the size and relative resilience of domestic markets primarily in Russia, but also Turkey, combined with less stringent lockdowns and travel restrictions compared to the EU market.

“With just 728 million passengers in 2020 compared to 2.4 billion passengers in the previous year, Europe’s airports were back to their traffic levels of 1995,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe. “No industry can on its own withstand such a shock. While some states have taken steps to financially support their airports, only €2.2 billion has so far been earmarked for that purpose in Europe. This is less than 8% of the revenues airports lost last year,” he continued.

Jankovec also highlighted that with further decreases in traffic this year and no firm idea of when the industry will recover in sight more needs to be done .“Helping out airports is essential to rebuild air connectivity and effectively support local and regional communities and tourism. It is also critical to restore airports’ investment capabilities for the future. Without more financial support, investments in decarbonisation, digitalisation and SESAR are at risk.”

The size of domestic markets alongside the extent of lockdowns and travel restrictions have resulted in limited variations in extreme passenger traffic losses within the EU while non-EU airports showed stronger signs of recovery than their EU counterparts in terms of passenger traffic in Q4 of 2020.

In Q4 airports in Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Slovenia and Slovakia were still seeing passenger traffic below -90%, with German and UK airports following closely (-87.9% and -86.6%).  Meanwhile airports in Bulgaria (-69%), France (-78.1%), Greece (-72.1%) and Portugal (-77.2%) slightly outperformed the EU average.

Outside the EU, airports in the larger Russian (-44.2%) and Turkish (-60.7%) markets proved the most resilient in Q4, with those in Iceland (-96.2%) and Georgia (-94.8%) being the most impacted.

The report also shows that all segments of the airport industry were almost equally impacted in 2020 in terms of passenger traffic losses from the smaller regionals (-69.4%) to the top five European airports (-71.3%).

Across the European airport network, aircraft movements decreased by -58.6% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Phnom Penh Airport marks milestone in Cambodia’s fight against COVID-19

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Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Airport celebrated the arrival of the country’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday 7 February.

Arriving from China the 600,000 doses of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine were donated by the Chinese government. To mark the arrival, Cambodian Prime Minister, HUN Sen presided a ceremony under the airport’s iconic Royal Canopy.

With one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 infections around the world, Cambodia’s three international airports (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville), which are managed by VINCI Airports, have implemented a full array of hygiene protections based on guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In recognition of their strong commitment to passenger and staff well-being and safety, the three airports received Airport Health Accreditation having been audited by the Airport Council International (ACI). In the ASEAN region, the airports were among the first accredited platforms, in the same league as bigger regional hubs in Singapore, Jakarta, and Manilla.

“The delivery of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines demonstrates the essential contribution of airports to the country’s fight against the pandemic,” said Alain Brun, CEO of Cambodia Airports. “Since day one, our company has ensured that our facilities remained open and fully operational to cater to passenger and cargo flights, fulfilling vital humanitarian and economic roles.”

Pittsburgh Airport and Honeywell collaborate to test air quality improvement technology

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Pittsburgh Airport in the US has partnered with Honeywell to test air quality improvement technology at the airport’s innovation centre, xBridge – a 10,000 sq. ft. custom-built facility that was completed last year. The partnership makes the North American hub the first US airport to deploy Honeywell’s Healthy buildings dashboard and air quality sensing technology.

The dashboard at xBridge measures key indoor air quality (IAQ) parameters such as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOC). The dashboard seamlessly integrates into existing systems within the airport providing real-time updates on the airport’s air quality performance to help staff identify and correct critical building controls issues.

Commenting on the roll out of the new technology April Gasparri, Pittsburgh Airport’s Vice President of Public Safety, Operations, and Maintenance, said: “The emphasis on air quality has greatly increased due to COVID-19, and airports must look to adjust our facilities for the long term to create safer environments for travellers and the people who make travel happen every day.”

The airport has also implemented Honeywell Forge enterprise performance management software to monitor and address maintenance issues with the airport’s air filters, increase public health efforts and improve staff and passenger confidence in travel.

“Public health, safety and security are always the top priorities at Pittsburgh International Airport. Working with companies like Honeywell through our xBridge innovation centre allows us to not only test new technologies but also look for ways to solve bigger challenges that will improve the experience for our airline partners, staff and passengers,” added Gasparri.

From an operational perspective Honeywell’s Healthy Buildings dashboard can visualise information via a single screen to allow the Pittsburgh facilities staff to make real-time decisions based on air quality fluctuations. If increased occupancy creates higher carbon dioxide levels for example, the airport can immediately respond to improve social distancing or incrase airflow to the HVAC system in a specific zone.

Based on a recent survey fielded by Honeywell, 61% of surveyed airport workers were particularly concerned about potential COVID-19 transmission through the air and 40% identified outdated ventilation systems as a bigger safety threat than co-workers not following safety guidelines.

“Airports face challenges managing indoor air quality such as outdoor pollutants from airside operations, varying occupancy density and numerous zones with different heating and cooling demands.  The team at Pittsburgh International Airport has an innovative mindset and is looking to identify ways to further improve its indoor air quality to solve these problems,” noted Keith Fisher, Vice President and General Manager of services for Honeywell Building Technologies. “We’ve been able to deploy new solutions at Pittsburgh to keep it current with the latest technology and create a safer and healthier space without any downtime,” he concluded.

AOA AGM Airport panel

Editor’s comment: Are the storm clouds finally clearing?

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AOA AGM Airport panel

It would seem that for aviation (and the world at large), hope is finally on the horizon following promising news on the COVID-19 vaccine front. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech’s announcement that early study results indicated their vaccine was more than 90% effective in protecting people from the virus that causes COVID-19, sent airline stocks soaring. Eurocontrol’s Director General, Eamonn Brennan, described the vaccine breakthrough as “encouraging”, saying it “could have a huge impact on aviation”.

Speaking at the Airport Operator Association’s (AOA’s) AGM on Monday 9 November, the UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, stated that, “The primary solution has to be getting passengers flying again safely, ideally through a vaccine, but before that through effective testing.” He also committed to a new ‘test and release’ scheme for UK airport operators that will start once the nation’s current lockdown is over (2 December) to allow a “much reduced period of self isolation” for those arriving in the UK. “Beyond the lockdown,” he said, “this should encourage people to book flights with confidence.”

Referencing the critical role that the UK’s regional airports play both in the country’s economic recovery and in providing regions with an identity and a sense of pride, Jim McMahon, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, argued that “Government must do more to support these vital hubs.” He also underlined there hasn’t been enough cross-governmental support between European countries, as he stated that: “Frankly, the UK Government has been too late in coming to the table on this and leading the way especially for airports.”

Robert Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport, described current quarantine regulations as a “patchwork quilt of travel restrictions that are crippling the industry”. However, he was also cautiously optimistic about the future, saying: “Demand is there for air travel, we saw that in July when travel restrictions were relaxed… But harmonised departure protocols must be put in place.” Rob Bishton, Director of Safety and Airspace Regulation at the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, agreed that until a vaccine is in place “testing is the progressive solution that can be used to avoid repeating the same problems for aviation next year as we’ve had this year”.

Meanwhile, Karen Smart, Managing Director at Manchester Airport, said that not enough support is being offered to airports.  “They are high cost businesses. You can’t just furlough staff, shut the doors and say costs have gone away. But our government has failed to recognise that and provide adequate support.”

Gatwick’s CEO, Stewart Wingate, gave a nod to the need to ‘build back better’ with a sustainable aviation industry. “We want to see increased production and supply of sustainable aviation fuel, and we want to work alongside government in developing clear strategies for the use of hydrogen and electric technologies.” Echoing this message, Derek Provan, CEO at AGS Airport Group (which owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports), also believes that the industry will grow and build back better as we start to focus on the future.

The messaging was similar at the African Airline Association’s (AFRAA’s) AGM, where Ali Tounsi, the Secretary General for Airports Council International (ACI) Africa said that overall passenger traffic in 2020 will be down 60%, costing the industry US$2.6 billion. He urged local governments to support their airports and alleviate the financial impact of the pandemic through measures, such as waiving airport concession fees, providing loans and grants, as well as tax relief for the aviation sector and help with the cost of public health measures in airports.

Tounsi also called for wider collaboration and cooperation between airports, airlines and regulators. “They must be united in their view that a consistent approach to testing passengers is key to restoring passenger confidence, as well as preventing border closures and quarantine restrictions that have slowed Africa’s aviation recovery.” While contactless solutions involving biometric and self-service technology will be integral to the future of African airports and reducing the risk of virus transmission, the cost of rolling out new technologies in this area will be prohibitive for some airports and especially Africa’s smaller regional hubs.

However, like his European counterparts, Tounsi concluded: “I remain positive about the future. Airports are vital to aviation’s ecosystem and they will play an integral role in the global economic recovery.”

Much of 2020 has been a tale of two halves. It’s been about battening down the hatches to survive the storm, but also about resilience and optimism that once this pandemic is over the industry will recover as quickly as it can, so long as the appropriate measures are in place.

Have a great weekend,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

Header image: From right to left – Karen Dee, AOA; Rob Bishton, CAA; Derek Provan, AGS Group; Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport; Karen Smart, Manchester Airport; Robert Sinclair, London City Airport.