Toulon Hyères Airport welcomes two new easyJet routes

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Low-cost carrier easyJet is expanding its French network with the addition of Toulon Hyères Airport in the south of France. Operated by VINCI Airports, Toulon Hyères will now offer links with Paris Charles-de-Gaulle (four times a week) from 28 June and London Gatwick (two times a week) from 23 June.

The connection with Paris will act as a bridge between the Toulon hub and international destinations thanks to the numerous other lines operated via the Parisian airport. It will also help broaden the opportunities for the international and economic development of the Var region. Meanwhile the link with London Gatwick, which is also operated by VINCI Airports, is the first time since 2018 Toulon has had a direct connection to the London gateway. With more than 4,000 British citizens owning a second home in the Var region, the new route is in response to popular demand. It is also the second new connection from Toulon Hyères to another VINCI network airport, following the opening of the line to Nantes Atlantique, which occurred in July 2019.

“This achievement is the result of the excellent relationship between easyJet and VINCI Airports’ teams,” said Nicolas Notebaert, CEO of VINCI Concessions and Chairman of VINCI Airports. “easyJet is setting up for the first time at Toulon Hyères airport. The new lines to Paris and London are a fantastic opening for Var inhabitants, and will favourably support the local tourist economy’s recovery. We are particularly proud to open the line to London Gatwick, another airport in the VINCI Airports network. the synergies within our network of platforms open up development opportunities for the territories in which we are established.”

easyJet continues to grow its presence in France having established seven bases in the country. “We are happy to see Toulon-Hyères join our network and thus become the 21st airport served by easyJet in France,” said Bertrand Godinot, General Manager of easyJet France. “Our crews are eager to welcome passengers departing from Toulon-Hyères aboard our modern fleet, but also to introduce tourists to the charms of the Var region, thereby contributing to the connectivity and economy of French territories.”

Editor’s comment: Healthy celebrations for regional hubs

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With hygiene and wellbeing a priority for airports as part of COVID-era regulations, regional hubs across Europe have come out on top when it comes to implementing the best hygiene measures, according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe.

Earlier this week ACI Europe revealed the winners of its Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards, with a new award for this year being ʻBest Hygiene Measures by Regionʼ.

A total of 15 winners were recognised in the new category for their success in responding to the intense focus on hygiene as determined by customer responses to new health measures. The winners included: Alicante-Elche (pictured), Federico Garcia Lorca Granada-Jaen, Menorca, Pamplona, Murcia and Seve Ballesteros-Santander airports in Spain; Faro, João Paulo II in Ponta Delgada, Madeira and Porto in Portugal; Helsinki-Vantaa in Finland; Keflavik in Iceland; Skopje in North Macedonia and Tallinn in Estonia.

Sponsored by travel technology company Amadeus, ACI Europe’s ASQ departures awards also celebrated a number of smaller regional hubs across Europe with less than 5 million passengers per year. The ASQ departure awards highlight the world’s best airports as judged by their customers with different categories depending on the number of passengers served per year.

Offering his congratulations to all the ASQ winners, ACI Europe’s Director-General, Olivier Jankovec, highlighted how the effects of the pandemic have hit hard as passenger numbers plummeted, workforces were reduced and local communities were paralysed by travel restrictions. The awards he said, “signify the very essence of Europe’s airports as: Resilience teamed with the highest standards of customer care.” With that, he added “Bravo to all our winners, and to each and every member of our airport community as they continue to deliver excellence in the face of adversity.”

In the bigger scheme of things, the awards might seem like small victories, but with health and hygiene measures key to the recovery of airports and the wider aviation industry, perhaps there’s a thing or two the ‘little guys’ can teach the big hubs!

I hope you enjoy this week’s newsletter and have a great weekend.

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

Future of European regional air connectivity hangs in the balance

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Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has warned that the future of regional air connectivity remains at risk. The aviation trade body is calling for a more supportive EU policy framework.

Around 1.72 billion passengers were lost across the European airport network last year as a result of the global pandemic. More than 836 million (49%) were lost by regional airports – with smaller ones accounting to more than half of that loss (437 million). Most of the 193 European airports currently facing insolvency are regional airports.

Regional airports and especially those dependent on international air connectivity and with few domestic routes, such as Cork Airport in Ireland, have seen their air connectivity decimated over the last 12 months. Cork Airport has gone from more than 50 routes with multiple weekly frequencies in 2020 to one single air route currently being operated with just three weekly frequencies. Overall, close to 7,000 air routes have been lost across the European airport network.

“The cliff-edge fall in air connectivity we have experienced at Cork Airport illustrates what’s happened to regional airports across Europe,” said Nial MacCarthy, Chairman of ACI Europe’s Regional Airports Forum and Managing Director of Cork Airport. “The vaccine rollout accompanied by vaccine and testing certificates should provide the conditions for airports – and the whole travel and tourism sector – to finally get back on our feet. But make no mistake, rebuilding our route networks will take a number of years – and the speed at which this will happen will directly impact the recovery of local economies and jobs in our communities. With every +10% gain in direct air connectivity yielding a 0.5% increase in GDP, the case for the EU to accelerate greater policy and financial support for airports and air connectivity is an economic no-brainer.”

MacCarthy highlighted the need to enable Air Connectivity Restart Schemes not just throughout 2021, but realistically for the next three years. These schemes, he said, will enable states to provide a direct per passenger subsidy to restart previously operated air routes or to support the launch of new ones and will play a vital role in supporting the revival of the sector and the local economies it serves.

Adding that beyond the recovery, regional airports will be facing a harsher reality moving forwards and that regulations will be needed to adapt and better support air connectivity, Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe stated: “Regional airports were already bracing with diseconomies of scale, demand seasonality, traffic volatility and the ability of airlines to exert dominance before the COVID-19 crisis. These long-standing issues of financial viability will only be magnified by the new economic landscape coming out of the pandemic. This means that we will need a review of policy and regulations across the board to better support regional air connectivity – structurally. Amongst these the ability to keep providing operating aid to regional airports beyond the current 2024 deadline under EU State aid rules will be crucial.”

Noting that Europe’s regional airports support 1.9 million jobs and facilitate 84.5 billion in GDP, Jankovec concluded: “The reality is that for most regions, there are not, and will not be, efficient alternatives to air connectivity in the future. EUROCONTROL estimates that even taking into account the expected development of high-speed rail networks, the potential for flight reductions is only 0.4%.”

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.

Editor’s comment: We’re all (really hoping to be) going on a summer holiday

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The sun doesnʼt have to be shining brightly and the sea doesnʼt have to be blue, but I would certainly welcome a trip abroad. And it seems I am not alone in my desire to take to the skies for a change of scenery…

According to the latest report by the European Travel Commission (ETC), the good news for airports is that the proportion of Europeans willing to travel during spring 2021 grew by 20% compared to the organisationʼs November 2020 survey. Whatʼs more, the number of Europeans planning to travel in the next six months increased (albeit slightly) from 49% to 52%. Together, these figures point to a more positive outlook for spring-summer, compared to only 12% of respondents considering taking a trip in January-February 2021.

More than 5,740 respondents participated in ETC’s survey for its latest report. Titled “Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 4” the report also reveals that intra-European travel is now the top choice for travellers with more respondents wanting to take a trip to another European country (40%)  than to travel domestically (36%). Meanwhile, leisure is identified as the primary purpose for almost 63% of the surveyed Europeans planning to travel in the short-term, while visiting friends and relatives is the main motive for another 21% and business travel accounts for 9% of respondents.

Confidence in air travel is also steadily on the rise with 52% of Europeans now willing to travel by air, compared to 49% in September. Simultaneously, a lower percentage of respondents (17%) consider that flying poses the greatest risk to their health, down from 20% in September 2020.

However, while Europeans are increasingly eager to travel, ETC has also warned that Europeʼs aviation infrastructure, and airports in particular, need greater support if they are to meet traveller demand. With airports currently at risk of irreversible damage, ETC has joined forces with Airports Council International (ACI) Europe in calling for changes to be made to the EUʼs COVID-19 State aid framework. The two organisations have sent a letter to the European Commission highlighting how the tightening of travel restrictions is preventing recovery in passenger traffic and asking for State aid rules to enable greater  financial assistance for airports and to support air connectivity across Europe.

Itʼs going to be a tough few months ahead before we will see if European travellers’ dreams do come true in time for summer, but nothing is impossible!

I hope you enjoy this weekʼs newsletter and have a great weekend,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

Airports and tourism bodies unite in call for revision of state aid rules

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European airports alongside tourism organisations have made an appeal for changes to the EU’s COVID-19 State aid framework. The organisations are arguing that without these amends, their respective industries will suffer irreversible damage in a constantly deteriorating situation.

The European Commission has acknowledged that travel will continue to pose a particular challenge in the fight against COVID-19. It has also reiterated the recent advice against non-essential travel “until the epidemiological situation has considerably improved, particularly in the light of the outbreak of new variants.” Airports Council International (ACI) Europe and the European Travel Commission sent a letter on 19 January to the European Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, pointing to how the tightening of travel restrictions across European States is preventing recovery in passenger traffic and reveals yet steeper falls in air connectivity across Europe. The organisations have urged the Commissioner Vestager to come up with more flexible and more effective State aid rules enabling States to provide the financial assistance needed by airports and to support air connectivity.

According to ACI Europe, another 700 air routes have disappeared from European airports since the end of November. This brings the total figure of lost air routes close to 7,000. For the months ahead, ACI Europe is forecasting that passenger traffic in European airports will be down -56% this year (a revision of its previous forecast of -43%).

“The Commisson’s current COVID-19 State aid framework is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to airports,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe. “It involves limitations and conditionalities that are very hard to comprehend and that are simply unacceptable given the situation we are now facing – not to mention the fact that airlines have already been granted almost 15 times more financial aid than airports so far.”

Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of ETC, added:

What we are asking for is only the support which is proportionate to the severity of the crisis and the outlook we now face. This is about making sure the aviation infrastructure does not suffer irreversible damage, which would in turn create an instant ripple effect through the tourism ecosystem and the local communities dependent on them. We need urgent action – every day counts.

The two organisations are asking for three core requests to be set out to the European Commission. These include: The possibility for airports to obtain full compensation for damages due to COVID-19 and for as long as travel restrictions remain in place;  The possibility for airports to be compensated for unrecoverable fixed costs for as long as travel restrictions remain in place – without any cap or limitation as regards total amounts; and the opportunity for airports to benefit from Air Connectivity Restart Schemes – whereby States can provide a direct per passenger subsidy to airlines restarting air routes previously operated or launchidn new routes.

Editor’s comment: A fabulous time to experiment

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With light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the news that COVID-19 vaccines could be rolled out in some countries as early as next week, airports and airlines are firmly focused not just on restarting but also on seeking out opportunities to expand their services.

Speaking during the Routes Reconnected conference earlier this week, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said that now is a “fabulous time to experiment”. The New York-based carrier has announced 62 new routes since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and recently secured landing slots at two of London’s secondary hubs – Gatwick and Stansted – for its transatlantic routes that it plans to launch in early Q3, 2021.

Referencing how JetBlue’s growth of about 5–7% each year is based on adding capacity to current markets, Hayes said, “but suddenly, we have airplanes sitting on the ground and we have business travel demand that’s likely to be suppressed for a while, so we have a tremendous amount of assets to try new things.” He added, “it’s really about taking advantage of cash-positive flying based on demand in certain markets.”

Hayes also acknowledged that in an environment where there’s very little demand, airlines are currently chasing after the same ball. So it’s important for airlines to look at local insights and regional-specific data for a destination, which is something airports can help with.

Also speaking at the Routes Reconnected conference, airBaltic’s CEO, Martin Gauss, revealed that he expects to see demand for travel returning in March next year. “A lot of people are desperate to go somewhere else and to have a different experience. It is in our DNA as humans,” he said.

Going forward the Riga-based carrier plans to operate with more flexibility and speed when it comes to route planning. “Typically in the past it would take a couple of weeks to open a route, but now we have the capacity, the aircraft are on the apron and the crew are ready. So, from a commercial perspective, that means we can make a decision and open a route the next day,” said Gauss. He also referenced that in the absence of big marketing campaigns the airline is using social media to help gauge the level of demand from customers, particularly on leisure routes.

Gauss also revealed that the airline is now looking at various airports across Europe that had been dismissed previously. AirBaltic has replaced all its turboprops with a fleet of A220s, which are key to the airline’s survival strategy in a post-coronavirus market. As well as being able to land at most airports the A220-300 “is easier to fill with just 145 seats as opposed to 230, so we will be able to fly to destinations where a competitor might feel there isn’t enough demand,” Gauss added. Noting that flexibility is now more important than ever, he said airBaltic “will consider medium- and long-haul routes – if you have the capacity and have done your homework you have to be flexible with the routes you fly.”

Gauss also referenced the importance of ongoing collaborations between airports and airlines in understanding each other’s needs. “There are many regional hubs struggling because they didn’t get the same sort of support as airlines from their government. So it’s about airlines understanding what an airport is capable of offering and how they can support them and airports need to understand what airlines have had to go through as well as what can and needs to be done to attract those airlines back.”

But the messaging was clear – the end of the crisis is now in sight!

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to sign up to receive your complimentary issue of the latest edition of Regional Gateway magazine, which is due out shortly.

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

easyJet to help get passengers back flying with easy, cheap COVID-testing

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Popular low-cost carrier, easyJet, and easyJet holidays have partnered with Confirm Testing and City Doc to offer access to convenient and affordable testing when it is required into countries across its network. This follows the recent announcement of the UK Government’s ‘test to release’ scheme which will mean quarantine can be reduced if a negative test is taken five days after arriving in the UK.

“I’m really pleased to be able to offer our customers convenient testing options at cheaper rates than are widely available on the market. This coupled with the news that quarantine can be reduced with a negative test, is a key step towards travel getting back to normal,” said Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet.

The collaboration will enable passengers to access preferential prices for both companies using a unique code provided when they book through easyJet and easyJet holidays websites. Passengers will receive a reduced rate of £75 per home test with Confirm Testing or £100 per home test or £150 for an in clinic test with CityDoc. Both testing companies aim to provide tests within 48 hours of a test being returned to them.

“We continue to push for testing the efficacy of rapid testing technologies like antigen and LAMP testing which could be undertaken on departure at the airport and for further reducing quarantine, making it easier and less onerous for people to travel,” added Lundgren.

It is clear that while testing will continue to be important to keeping people moving in the coming months, eventually the vaccine will play a role in reducing this and return travel to normal. Governments and industry need to work together to achieve this and we stand by ready to support where we can.

Testing has already become a requirement for entry for a number of easyJet’s key destinations like Germany, Spain and Italy.

Airports propose plan for EU and government support

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On behalf of airports across Europe, the industry trade body Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has called on the European Commission to urgently adopt an EU Recovery Framework for Aviation and for governments to provide the requisite funding to support airports – and the recovery of air connectivity.

With second lockdowns and travel restrictions now in place in countries across Europe the financial situation for airports is only expected to worsen in the coming weeks.

And while sustained air freight traffic remains a bright financial spot for airlines, its impact on airports is marginal, as the bulk of their revenues is linked to and dependent upon passenger traffic. In addition, airports, unlike airlines, do not get advance revenues as they are only paid after the services is provided and their facilities used. And while airlines have benefitted from more than €31.8 billion in financial aid from European Governments, the support extended to airports has been limited to €840 million.

“Large scale job losses and insolvency are no longer worst case projections for Europe’s airports,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General. “We’re already looking down the barrel of the gun, and the crisis continues to deepen. The situation requires urgent and decisive action with an ad hoc Recovery Framework for Aviation at EU level enabling support beyond 2021 and governments providing financial support accordingly. That should include as a priority extending supportive employment schemes for all staff working at airports, compensating airports for lost revenues and supporting the rebuilding of air connectivity up to 2023.”

The European Commission has extended its Temporary Framework enabling EU States to support the companies affected by the pandemic until June 2021. However, ACI Europe argues this is insufficient to address the devastating and lasting impact of COVID-19 on aviation and on airports in particular. ACI Europe is requesting that this Temporary Framework should be extended to the end of 2021 and must be supplemented by a Recovery Framework for Aviation.

The latter should include compensation for damages due to COVID-19 remaining available for airports as long as travel restrictions by Member States are prevent the recovery of air traffic. There also needs to be a common framework allowing States to establish Air Connectivity Restart Schemes. These targeted and time limited schemes would allow support for the resumption of air routes suspended due to the pandemic until 2023 through a degressive per passenger contribution – on a non-discriminatory basis.

In addition Emergency Public Service Obligation orders should remain in place until the end of 2021 and immediate and longer-term adjustments to the 2014 Aviation State aid guidelines should be made to extend the possibility for airports to receive both operating and investment aid – with a particular focus on the financing of climate action and sustainability projects.

Duty and tax free shopping on arrival in EU airports key to recovery

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A report commissioned by the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) has found that there are potentially huge economic benefits to be achieved through the introduction of arrivals duty and tax free shopping at EU airports. Alongside Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, ETRC is calling on the European Union to review current legislation to allow passengers travelling from third countries to buy duty and tax free on arrival in EU airports.

“The introduction of EU arrivals duty and tax free shopping presents us with a great opportunity to renew the outdated approach to arrivals shopping in the EU,” offered ETRC President, Nigel Keal alluding to the fact that arrivals duty and tax free shops are commonplace in airports around the world including all European Economic Areas (EEA) such as Norway and Switzerland. But under current EU legislation, only those passengers ‘leaving’ the EU are allowed to purchase duty and tax free sales. Allowing such sales for arriving passengers travelling from third countries to the EU will help restore competition for EU airports with their international counterparts, by creating much-needed revenue and supporting employment at EU airports.

“As allowances will remain the same, this proposal will simply give passengers another opportunity to avail of their duty and tax free allowance and to choose to support their local airport rather than buy abroad,” Keal continued.

Findings in the report reveal that based on 2019 traffic figures, duty and tax free arrival shops would have generated around €4.3 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA), supported 41,500 jobs and generated €1.6 billion in tax revenues. The report also estimates that arrivals duty and tax free sales could generate up to 30% of total travel retail sales at EU airports.

Recognising the impact of COIVD-19 on air traffic, the report draws the conclusion of an initial impact per million passengers of around €1.3 billion in GVA, 12,100 jobs and €475 million in tax revenues, rising to €3.5 billion in GVA, 33,700 jobs and €1.3 billion in tax revenues. What’s more, with the UK’s transition period for Brexit coming to an end this year, the numbers of non-EU passengers is expected to increase substantially in the coming years, meaning that many smaller airports would benefit from duty free purchases made on arrival.

“Given the unique role that airports play as economic gateways, it is imperative that all steps are taken to keep them open through these difficult times. EU airports are currently losing hundreds of millions of euros of potential commercial income to their non-EU counterparts each year. Arrivals duty and tax free shopping will allow retail sales to be displaced from third countries back to the EU airport of arrival,” concluded ACI Director General, Olivier Jankovec.

 

Allowing duty and tax free