UK Airports declare green list too short for meaningful aviation restart

By Airports, Featured, InsightsNo Comments

Research by the Airport Operators Association (AOA) and published by HMRC shows the scale of the financial impact on COVID-19 on aviation based on the latest Air Passenger Duty (APD) statistics.

According to AOA, in the first year of the pandemic (March 2020-February 2021), HMRC collected less in APD (£638.3m) than it did in just the two summer months July-August 2019 (£729.9m). In total, HMRC collected more than £3bn (83.3%) less tax from March 2020-February 2021 than it did in the same period in 2019/20.

AOA’s Chief Executive, Karen Dee, said the latest government figures on APD show how devastating the collapse in air traffic has been as a result of the pandemic. “With aviation being a driver of economic growth and prosperity and 1.6m jobs relying on aviation and tourism in the UK, our economic recovery hinges upon allowing the safe re-opening of international travel,” she said.

“It is disappointing that the number of nations on the green list remains extremely limited and that vaccinated people are subject to restrictions when travelling to low-risk nations. This is not the meaningful restart aviation and the UK economy need right now.”

The UK Government’s ‘green list’ of countries and territories that travellers from the UK can enter without having to quarantine on their return includes: Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel and Jerusalem, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

“The UK’s world-leading vaccination programme combined with advanced testing capabilities should allow for a genuine green light for international travel. The Government needs to introduce affordable, rapid testing for green country arrivals and keep the green list under constant review and add countries as soon as the improving health situation in Europe and the US allows,” continued Dee.

Charlie Cornish, Manchester Airports Group CEO, added that “the aviation industry will be especially concerned that the Government appears to have ignored clear scientific evidence, which shows that testing and vaccinations can support safe travel to a larger group of low-risk destinations.”

He also stated that, “Aviation supports more than 1m jobs and generates billions of pounds of economic value but is being held back by much tighter controls than any other industry. The industry has been impacted more than any other sector, and we need the same positive recovery plan that other parts of the UK economy have been given.”

Meanwhile, Henry Smith MP, Chair of APPG for the Future of Aviation added: “The economic consequences of the collapse in international travel have been devastating for sector businesses and aviation communities.

“But these impacts are far more wide reaching, aviation is an economic enabler and this limited restart of international travel risks holding back our economic recovery and continuing the pain felt by so many over the last year.

“The limited green list risks holding back the restart of our aviation industry and the full restart of a truly Global Britain… We cannot have a full economic recovery if our aviation and travel industries remain on their knees, a full, safe and proper restart of international travel is an economic imperative and there is much more that the Government must do.”

Southwest Airlines returns to Costa Rica

By Airports, Featured, NewsNo Comments

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is resuming its daily service to both Guanacaste and San Jose airports in Costa Rica, as of June 2021.

The daily nonstop services from Houston to Libera, Guanacaste and San Jose will be complemented  by additional connecting flights to cities in the US from the airline’s Texas gateway.

“We’re excited to continue the reestablishing previously served international service by reuniting the warm hospitality of Costa Rica with the heart and value of the Southwest,” said Andrew Watterson, Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer. “We’re seeing more demand for our international routes that already take our customers to Aruba, Cancun, Cozumel, Havana, Los Cabos, Montego Bay, Puerto Vallarta and Punta Cana.”

The low-cost carrier will also operate a seasonal service from Baltimore, Washington to Liberia, Guanacaste beginning 12 June.  New flights in the airline’s summer schedule will also bring an additional nonstop service between Denver and the coasts – with new or returning links to Savannah, Hilton Head; Sarasota, Bradenton; Norfolk, Virgina Beach; and additional flights to Long Beach, California and Seattle. “We’re bringing more flights in both Chicago airports, and we continue to spread our love across the Midwest with new flights in St. Louis and Kansas City, both of which are linked nonstop to Orange County, Santa Ana,” added Watterson.

Hamburg Airport recognised for comprehensive hygiene measures

By Airports, Featured, NewsNo Comments

Germany’s Hamburg Airport has been recognised for its high level of coronavirus safety measures. With European travellers longing to head away to foreign shores this summer the airport has been awarded the Airport Council International’s (ACI) Airport Health Accreditation Programme certificate – making it the fourth ACI-certified airport in Germany, following the hubs of Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin-Brandenburg.

The certification, which is valid for one year, takes into account diverse factors in all aspects of airport operations including: the possibility for social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, spatial layout and passenger facilities, passenger communications, and the protection of personnel.

“Many people in northern Germany are longing to fly on holiday again or to see their friends and family who live far away,” said Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport. “Business travellers want to meet their partners in person again. Passengers rightly expect a high standard of hygiene and safety measures. At Hamburg Airport, we are doing everything to ensure that passengers feel safe and at ease here. That is why we had our performance reviewed on the basis of independent criteria – successfully. Certification in the ACI Health Accreditation programme confirms that the measures we have put in place are well thought-out and effective, and that they are applied consistently.”

Hamburg Airport has implemented numerous hygiene and protective measures to make travel as safe as possible since the start of the global pandemic. An inter-department Expert Group maintains constant communication to ensure the measures always keep pace with new regulations and developments. Employees in almost every functional role at the airport are represented, bringing with them a broad spectrum of expertise.

Medical masks are mandatory inside the terminals and on-board aircraft. Self-service kiosks throughout the terminal have masks, disinfectant wipes and gels available to purchase. Perspex panes, hand disinfectant dispensers, floor markings an display monitors help people comply with the now familiar hygiene rules while at the airport. Additional cleaning teams have also been deployed. Airlines offer ‘non-contact’ check-in facilities as well as self-bag drops.

Passengers as well as the general public are able to undertake a coronavirus test at the airport from service providers, Centogene and EcoCare.Both PCR tests and rapid antigen tests are available, subject to charges.

Dubai Health Authority partners with Emirates on digital verification of COVID-19 medical records

By Airports, Featured, NewsNo Comments

Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) have begun to implement full digital verification of COVID-19 medical records connected to testing and vaccination for travellers based in the UAE.

Those passengers travelling with Emirates and that have taken a PCR test in Dubai can choose to check-in without presenting their physical COVID-19 PCR test report. In addition, customers who have received their COVID-19 vaccination at a DHA health centre in Dubai can, together with their COVID-19 PCR test results, have their documents synchronised during flight check-in. The new streamlined verification procedures will enable secure and faster processing times for passengers departing from Dubai International Airport.

The integration comes less than two months after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority, and is a first-of-its-kind agreement between an airline and a government health authority. The integration also makes Dubai one of the first cities in the world to implement full digital verification of traveller medical records related to COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

“The UAE Government has been very supportive and is one of the leading countries in the use of technology and digital applications. This initiative is in line with the government’s vision and we are delighted to take this step within the aviation sector to cooperate with DHA in linking our systems together to enhance the customer experience by processing the relevant documents in a more efficient, secure and effective manner. Our partnership with the Dubai Health Authority in managing passenger travel is unique and is a first step towards other initiatives that will be launched in the near future,” said Adel Al Redha, COO for Emirates Airlines.

Emirates is one of the airlines that has introduced best business practices and applications to re-energize and stimulate international travel. In the coming months, the next phase of digital verification will see secure integration of health records within the IATA Travel Pass as another option to help facilitate travel for passengers.

Luton Airport expands COVID-19 testing capability

By Airports, Featured, NewsNo Comments

Ahead of the planned restart of international travel, London Luton Airport (LLA) has opened a new in-terminal COVID-19 testing facility with Collinson, a COVID-19 testing provider.

Complementing the existing drive-through facility in the airport’s mid-term car park, the in-terminal expansion will offer the full range of Government-approved COVID-19 tests. Collinson is currently the only provider to have a rapid RT-LAMP solution, which unlike RT-PCR tests which can take up to 48 hours, can release travellers from quarantine the same day. Luton’s testing facilities are able to conduct 144 tests per hour, with the ability to scale up to meet a surge in demand once travel restrictions are lifted.

“Opening this in-terminal testing centre at LLA will offer access to all the necessary travel testing solutions, providing passengers further confidence in their availability to travel safely. This is  another vital step in our preparations to kick-start our recovery once restrictions are lifted,” said LLA Operations Director, Neil Thompson.

The new in-terminal facility is available for staff and members of the public seeking extra reaasurance or to check if they have previously had the virus. And as tests are provided by Collinson, they do not draw on NHS capacity. “For both consumers and the industry, travel testing is key to a successful summer,” said David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “With flexible, convenient testing processes, administered by a medical professional, passengers flying through Luton Airport can rest assured that all of their testing requirements are catered for when travel opens up once again.”

Ahead of the planned restart of international travel, London Luton Airport (LLA) has opened a new in-terminal COVID-19 testing facility with Collinson, a COVID-19 testing provider.

Complementing the existing drive-through facility in the airport’s mid-term car park, the in-terminal expansion will offer the full range of Government-approved COVID-19 tests. Collinson is currently the only provider to have a rapid RT-LAMP solution, which unlike RT-PCR tests which can take up to 48 hours, can release travellers from quarantine the same day. Luton’s testing facilities are able to conduct 144 tests per hour, with the ability to scale up to meet a surge in demand once travel restrictions are lifted.

“Opening this in-terminal testing centre at LLA will offer access to all the necessary travel testing solutions, providing passengers further confidence in their availability to travel safely. This is  another vital step in our preparations to kick-start our recovery once restrictions are lifted,” said LLA Operations Director, Neil Thompson.

The new in-terminal facility is available for staff and members of the public seeking extra reaasurance or to check if they have previously had the virus. And as tests are provided by Collinson, they do not draw on NHS capacity. “For both consumers and the industry, travel testing is key to a successful summer,” said David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “With flexible, convenient testing processes, administered by a medical professional, passengers flying through Luton Airport can rest assured that all of their testing requirements are catered for when travel opens up once again.”

Launch date for Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble gets the go ahead

By Airports, Featured, NewsNo Comments

Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to a launch date of 26 May for the opening of a travel bubble between the two countries. Authorities will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation until then, and will proceed with the launch if the situation continues to be steady and remain under control in both destinations.

The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) will be launched under stringent arrangements to better safeguard public health and porvide greater stability. Travellers on the ATB must have remained in either Singpaore or Hong Kong in the 14 days prior to departure, and the 14  days period must exclude any time spent in quarantine or Stay-home notice (SHN) arising from their last return to either destination from overseas. In addition,  they must also download and install Hong Kong’s LeaveHomeSafe (LHS) app on their mobile devices prior to leaving Singapore for Hong Kong.

Should the ATB be suspended, when the seven-day moving average of the unlinked community cases in either Sinapore or Hong Kong increases to more than 5, the bubble will only be resumed when the COVID situation has stabilised.

Passengers travelling between the two cities must only fly on designated ATB flights. Currently these flights are operated by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Travellers are advised to check with the airlines on which flights have been designated ATB flights.

All travellers must also adhere to the prevailing border control measures and public health requirements of both cities.

Manchester Airports Group calls for roadmap to restriction-free travel

By Airports, Featured, Insights, NewsNo Comments

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is calling for a clear path to restriction-free travel to ensure the full revival of the UK’s ailing aviation sector.

The UK’s largest airport group MAG, which owns and operates Manchester, as well as London Stansted and East Midlands Airport, has revealed figures showing passenger numbers were down 90% across the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic.

In March 2019, MAG served more than four million passengers, compared to 140,000 in March 2021  – a -97% decrease. Manchester Airport handled just 95,798 passengers in March 2021, 89.8% down on the 942,000 it handled 12 months earlier. At Stansted the figure was 44,259 this March, compared with more than 800,000 a year earlier and at East Midlands Airport, the airport served just 71 passengers for the whole of March this year, against 106,529 in 2020.

In March 20119, MAG’s 12-month rolling passenger numbers stood at nearly 62 million, compared to just over six million in March 2021 – down a total of 90%.

The group underlines that a roadmap should be based on greater cooperation between the UK Government and its overseas counterparts, to share information about the emergence of new COVID-19 variants of concern and eliminate the need for travellers to take expensive PCR tests on their return.

Currently, the UK Government proposes that all passengers – even those returning from low risk countries on the ‘green list’ – will have to take a PCR test, so it can gather data that will help with genomic sequencing. This could be avoided, says MAG, if governments collaborate on sequencing and sharing data variants.

The testing requirement is part of the Global Travel Taskforce’s ‘traffic light’ framework, announced last week, which categorises countries  as red, amber or green based on the risk associated with visiting them. Subject to final confirmation, it is set to come into play on 17 May, the earliest date non-essential travel can resume. According to MAG, this framework should be improved to include a fourth, restriction-free category capitalising on the success of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme.

“The UK Government is among the first to have set out proposals for a system that enables international travel to resume and should be applauded for taking the lead,” said Charlie Cornish, CEO, MAG.

“After more than a year of almost total shutdown – and with so  many jobs and so much economic value at stake – it’s really important we get people moving again once it is safe to do so. We now need Government to confirm the 17 May start date as soon as possible, along with the list of countries that fall into each ‘traffic light’ category.”

Under the UK’s traffic light system, travellers returning from green list countries will have to take a pre-departure test and another PCR test within two days of getting back. Meanwhile those returning from amber list countries are also required to self-isolate for 10 days and take an extra PCR test, while for those returning from red list countries a mandatory government-approved hotel quarantine package will be imposed.

Cornish added that the price tag for testing will hold back the UK’s recovery and its ability to power the UK’s economic revival as a whole. “The requirement to complete a PCR test on return from even the safest countries adds potentially unnecessary cost and the Government’s attention must now turn to finding smarter and more affordable ways to manage the risk posed by new variants of concern.”

He added that this should be achieved by “forging ever-closer partnerships with key markets and developing transparent ways of sharing data into these variants so they can be effectively contained.

“Where we can trust data from other countries, forcing people to spend money on expensive PCR tests, to obtain the very same information, would represent a colossal waste of everyone’s money. COVID-19 is a global problem and requires a coordinated international response, not just in bringing the pandemic under control, but in developing solutions to enable a return to restriction-free travel between countries where there is a lower level of risk.”

He also alluded to the fact that the Government should also be looking to the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme as a route to removing further barriers to travel.

“Only by setting ourselves on a course back to restriction-free travel now will the aviation industry find itself on a road to full recovery, unlocking the wider-ranging economic benefits that brings,” he concluded.

 

 

 

Europe’s airport network faces ‘deepening crisis’

By Airports, Featured, Insights, NewsNo Comments

Latest data released by the Airports Council International (ACI) Europe shows a deepening crisis in the sector, with air traffic in a continuing downward spiral.  The data also shows that Europe has a two-speed aviation market – with airports in the EU/ EEA/ Switzerland still sinking into the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other European airports led by those in Russia and Turkey are faring much better.

EU/ EEA/ Swiss and UK airports saw passenger traffic decreasing from -85% in January to -89% in March. This reflected the third wave of COVID-19 infections experienced by these countries with severe travel restrictions and bans as well as wide-spread domestic lockdowns. UK airports were particularly affected, along with those in countries relying exclusively on international traffic.

Meanwhile, airports in Russia and Turkey saw a marked improvement in passenger traffic during this period from -59% in January to -49% in March, with Q1 closing at -54.8%. This is due in large part to airports in Russia and to a lesser extent Turkey and Ukraine reflecting larger domestic markets combined with less severe lockdowns and travel restrictions.

“If anything, these figures show not only that the crisis has not receded, but that things have actually got worse for airports since the beginning of the year – especially for those in the EU, EEA, Switzerland and the UK,” said Olivier Jankovec, DG of ACI Europe. “Beyond rock bottom traffic and collapsed connectivity, there is no escaping the fact that the financial resilience of Europe’s airports is faltering by the day. We desperately need to get the recovery underway during the Summer and are anxious to see the vaccination roll-out finally improving the epidemiological situation.”

Looking ahead, preliminary data for April shows no significant improvement, despite the Easter holidays at the beginning of the month. In the first 10 days of April, passenger traffic at Europe’s airports was down by -80%, with airports in the EU/ EEA/ Switzerland and the UK at -87% and others at -48.7%.

Taking stock of the actual performance of passenger traffic during Q1 and of further delayed recovery prospects for international travel, ACI Europe has now released a downgraded traffic forecast for 2021 highlighting that passenger traffic at Europe’s airports is now set to decrease by -64% in 2021, down from a -52% forecast in January. And a full recovery to passenger volumes seen in 2019 has been re-forecast from 2024 to 2025.

With revenues down by €30 billion during 2020, European airports still stand to lose another €29 billion in revenue in 2021. Slow traffic recovery, combined with much increased airport competitive pressures will heavily constrain revenues.

Recovery on the horizon for California’s Ontario Airport

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

Noting a positive trajectory in its recovery, Ontario International Airport in California has regained more than half of the passenger volume lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which nearly decimated global air travel a year ago.

According to data released by the airport, the total number of passengers that travelled through Ontario Airport in March – nearly 260,000 – was 11% higher than the same month last year when airport activity was effectively ground to a halt following government orders to close borders to most international air travel and public health authorities issuing stay-at-home orders.

However, in recent months, reports have shown that Ontario International Airport has the strongest passenger recovery rate in California and one of the strongest nationwide. Domestic passenger traffic is up nearly 16% from March 2020 and improving to about 63% of its March 2019 pace. Overall passenger volume, including international travel, had improved to about 60% of its March 2019 pace – an encouraging sign that the recovery is underway.

“It is not surprising that passenger volume was higher in March this year than March last year, but in looking back to March 2019, the pre-pandemic year, we get a better measure of our recovery and see encouraging signs with more than half of our traveller volume back,” said Mark Thorpe, CEO of the Ontario International Airport Authority. “Given the new and restarted services in recent months by airlines operating at Ontario and plans announced for the initiation of more flights coming by summer, we are confident that recovery is on the horizon, especially as more travellers receive vaccines and resume more normal travel routines,” he continued.

Air cargo shipments also continued their surge as many Americans transitioned to working from home and families increased their reliance on e-commerce for household goods and supplies. Commercial freight tonnage increased nearly 6% last month compared to March last year. And for the first quarter of this year, freight volume increased by double-digits to 11.5%.

 

London City resumes key domestic routes as it gears up for summer revival

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

To re-establish important domestic connectivity and tourism links between Scotland and the UK London City Airport is restoring key regional routes to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. The latter will be operated by Loganair, while Edinburgh and Glasgow will be operated by British Airways.

As momentum starts to build ahead of the summer and with the potential restart of international travel, British Airways operated by BA CityFlyer will resume flights to Edinburgh on 15 April and Glasgow from 17 May. Both routes will start with two weekly rotations but that is expected to pick up as demand builds for the summer holiday season.

Loganair’s service between London and Dundee will commence on 16 April and will also operate on a twice weekly rotation.

With staycation opportunities high on the agenda for the coming months the reintroduction of Scottish flights from London city comes as travel restrictions betwen the two home nations begin to ease. It also comes ahead of the much anticipated England vs. Scotland football match at Euro 2020, which will be held at Wembley on 18 June.

“Regional air connectivity is vital for the recovery of aviation, tourism and the UK economy, which is why we are delighted that our airlines have restored key domestic regional routes with flights resuming shortly to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee,” said Anne Doyere, Head of Aviation, London City Airport.

“With travel restrictions to ease further in the coming weeks, many people will be eager to embark on a well-earned holiday or staycation within the UK. The speed, safety and convenience of London City Airport means we are well placed to welcome back our passengers when they are ready to fly again.”

According to London City a survey of 2,000 people found there was a strong desire amongst the British public to return to air travel as soon as restrictions are lifted. The survey found that 72% of frequent flyers said they were keen to resume flying this summer, with a preference for short-haul destinations. In preparation for the restart of aviation, the airport has partnered with Collinson to offer onsite testing facilities for passengers to accommodate the full range of departure and arrival tests for both UK and global markets.