Cranfield Airport hosts world first for hydrogen-electric passenger flight

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Cranfield Airport in the UK celebrated a major milestone last week, when ZeroAvia completed the world’s first ever hydrogen fuel cell powered flight of a commercial-grade aircraft on 23 September.

Commenting on the achievement, Val Miftakhov, CEO, ZeroAvia, said: “While some experimental aircraft have flwon using hydrogen fuel cells as a power source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could be boarding a truly zero-emission flight very soon. ”

The flight took place at the company’s R&D facility with the Piper M-class six-seat plane completing taxi, takeoff, a full pattern circuit and landing. It marked the first step to realising the transformational possibilities for moving from fossil fuels to zero-emissions hydrogen as the primary energy source for commercial aviation.

A significant step on the road to commercial zero-emission flight, ZeroAvia’s flight is part of the HyFlyer project, a sequential R&D programme supported by the UK Government. It follows the UK’s first ever commercial-scaled batter-electric flight, which was conducted in the same aircraft in June 2020.

Next up and the the final stage for ZeroAvia’s six-seat development programme is a 250-mile zero emissions flight from an airfield in Orkney before the end of the year. The exciting element of this demonstration flight will be that the range is roughly equivalent to major commuter routes such as London to Edinburgh or Los Angeles to San Francisco.

While hydrogen’s potential to fuel the future of climate friendly flying is nothing new, its ability to offer a viable alternative to aviation fuel has been hampered by the lack of dedicated hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, which is needed for both production as well as distribution and storage at airports. However, to help overcome that ZeroAvia, alongside its partner the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), has developed the Hydrogen Refuelling Ecosystem (HARE) at Cranfield Airport. It’s essentially a microcosm of what the hydrogen airport ecosystem will look like in terms of green hydrogen production, storage, refuelling and fuel cell powered-flight. This also marks another world first – a fully operational hydrogen production and refuelling airport facility for primary commercial aircraft production.


Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport sees steady return of passenger traffic

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Despite having seen a near disappearance of activity due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Phoneix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona is now seeing travellers returning with more passengers on Labor Day weekend than in 2019.

When compared to the same months a year before, passenger traffic at the airport was down 93% in April and 61% in May respectively. However beginning in June, the airport has seen that trend reverse and has continued to show significant gains in passenger activity throughout the summer. In August 2020, the airport was down 35% when compared to last year.

This increase in traffic can in part be attributed to Allegian Air, Gateway Airport’s predominant air carrier. The airline serves more than 45 nonstop destinations from greater Phoenix and welcomed approximately 1.8 million passengers in 2019. Many Gateway Airport passengers have expressed appreciation for how the airport responded to teh COVID-19 crisis and are excited about Allegiant’s record low fares. Select destinations are as low as $29 each way.

“Gateway Airport and Allegiant have done a good job ensuring that high touch areas in the terminal remain clean, passengers wear masks and everyone respects social distancing,” said Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport’s Executive Director and CEO, J. Brian O’Neill. “Our ‘Stay Healthy Fly Safe’ initiative has helped stop the spread of COVID-19 and helped build consume confidence in the safety of air travel.”

Demonstrating its commitment to the Greater Phoenix region, Allegiant has added dozens of new nonstop routes during the past two years. Most recently, Allegiant announced that as of 19 November it will be operating flights between Gateway Airport and Santa Maria, California. This will connect visitors to the Santa Maria wine country just outside of Santa Barbara, great hiking and other popular activities along the Pacific Coast.

Karachi welcomes multiple new links with Pegasus

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As part of plans to expand its international network Turkey’s digital airline, Pegasus, will start operating flights to Karachi, the capital city of the Sindh Province in Pakistan on 25 September.

Passengers will be able to connect to Karachi via Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen in Turkey from Pegasus’ destinations in Manchester, London Stansted, Zurich, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Cologne, Brussels, Kyiv, Bucharest, Kharkiv, Moscow, Stuttgart, Geneva, Barcelona, Marseille, Zaporizhia and Prague.

Stockholm Bromma Airport at risk of early closure

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Based on the results of an impact assessment Swedish airport operator, Swedavia, is recommending the early closure of Bromma Stockholm Airport.

The airport’s current lease with the City of Stockholm is due to expire in 2038. However, Jonas Abrahamsson, Swedavia’s President and CEO said that ahead of that date, “Bromma will most likely have excess capacity due to low traffic volume for a long time going forward. In the long term, the cost of this will be borne by passengers and already wounded airlines, which we do not believe is possible.”

Ake Svensson, Chairman of Swedavia’s Board of Directors added: “In Swedavia’s view, given the new market situation, the continuation of operations at Bromma is no longer justified on commercial grounds and a consolidation of air traffic in the Stockholm region at Stockolm Arlanda Airport is possible. However, it is essential that Arlanda has the long-term conditions to develop in line with the needs of society.”

In the shorter term, Swedavia believes that should Bromma close early commercial air traffic can be handled at Arlanda. It also believes that with further investments in infrastructure needed at and around Arlanda, the airport needs to be able to continue to serve as a catalyst for the aviation industry’s ongoing transformation in response to climate change.

While focusing Stockholm’s air capacity at Arlanda could mean that, for some areas of Sweden, air links to Stockholm would deteriorate, at the same time some areas would benefit from better national and international connectivity by consolidating domestic and international traffic at one airport.

Svensson also advised however that while Swedavia reached its conclusion based on the commercial conditions of the company, a political decision to close Bromma ahead of time should be made taking a broader social perspective into consideration.



Editor’s comment: Stepping into the spotlight

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With long-haul international travel heavily restricted and a large number of people still working from home and therefore looking to fly from their local airport if needed, could regional and business aviation airports be in a position to recover more quickly than their bigger primary counterparts?

Indiana’s Terre Haute Regional Airport’s Executive Director, Jeff Hauser, certainly thinks so. He reveals that while activity at his airport slowed down back in March and April when the pandemic first hit, by June numbers at the airport were more-or-less back to normal.

“As of now we are pretty much on our normal schedule,” he told News 10, before adding, “We’re having most of our regional commuters – those types of airplanes – coming in, and corporate never really seemed to slow down a whole lot for us.” He added that it’s not the same for the bigger airports, such as Indianapolis, which has still “not come completely back”.

In New Zealand, where borders are currently closed to almost all arriving or departing passengers, local travellers are opting for staycations and choosing to fly between regional hubs to areas they perhaps may never have opted to travel to previously.

In response to rising demand, local New Zealand-based carrier Originair revealed this week that it is increasing its Nelson–Palmerston North services from eight to 14 flights per week. “Demand for our services on the Nelson–Palmerston North route has grown and we hope that this extra scheduled frequency will be helpful for travellers accessing the central North Island and for North Island travellers visiting the Top of the South,” said Originair CEO Robert Inglis.

Originair is also restarting a regional link that was previously served by Air New Zealand from Hamilton Airport to Palmerston North. Referencing how the partnership with Originair was good news for the regional economies of Waikato and Manawatu, where the respective airports are based, Hamilton Airport’s Chief Executive, Mark Morgan, said: “Both the Hamilton and Palmerston North airport companies are committed to supporting business and regional recovery, and the re-establishment of the Hamilton–Palmerston North service will help facilitate that.”

If all goes well, Hamilton plans to increase its Palmerston North schedule as well as look at a direct route to Nelson in 2021. The airport is also supporting Air New Zealand with plans to expand its schedules to Wellington and Christchurch.

Meanwhile, in the northern hemisphere, a new codeshare agreement between Loganair, the UK’s largest regional airline, and Channel Islands-based regional operator Blue Islands, is set to improve north-south connectivity across the UK and to Jersey and Guernsey with a strong focus on regional hubs.

Passengers can now book connecting itineraries including Inverness to Southampton and Exeter via Manchester, Aberdeen to Southampton and Exeter via Manchester, and from Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh to the Channel Islands via Southampton or Exeter.

The ability to book journeys in a single ticket through either airline’s website will also enable customers to save the double Air Passenger Duty, which would otherwise apply if tickets for the flights were purchased separately. Music to the ears of airports, airlines and passengers alike…

This pandemic is by no means over but with domestic and regional services starting to pick up, if ever there was a moment for regional airports to step into the spotlight, this is surely it!

Have a great weekend and I hope you enjoy reading the latest issue of Regional Gateway, which is out now!

Chloë Greenbank,

Editor, Regional Gateway.

Kelowna Airport welcomes restart of Swoop’s winter schedule

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Ultra low-cost Canadian carrier, Swoop’s winter schedule includes the restart of operations at Kelowna International Airport (YLW), as well as the addition of non-stop service to popular sun destinations. These consist of flights from Toronto to Montego Bay, Cancun, Las Vegas, Orlando and Tampa Bay.

“We are very pleased to see Swoop return to YLW for the winter travel season,” said Sam Samaddar, Director Kelowna Airport. “This ultra-low fare airline has great opportunities for Kelowna residents to visit family an friends or enjoy a winter getaway with four weekly flights to Toronto served by good arrival and departure times.”

With passenger and crew safety a number one priority, Swoop has implemented a number of measures to ensure a safe and healthy travel and work environment. It has initiated stricter boarding processes allowing for shorter queue wait times, traveller screening measures and increased sanitisation.

“Our winter schedule is in response to a growing rebound in travel, as we know travellers are eager to plan their next getaway,” said Charles Duncan, President, Swoop commenting on the airline’s winter schedule.

“It is time to travel again, and that can be done responsibly and safely,” continued Duncan.

Meanwhile, Craig Bradbrook, COO for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said, “These new destinations from Swoop provide passengers with more choice… Together with our airline and agency partners, we remain committed to providing a safe, hygienic and efficient travel experience, so passengers can travel with confidence through Toronto Pearson.”

Blue Islands offers connectivity boost to UK airports

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Channel-Islands regional carrier Blue Islands has restarted services from Manchester to Exeter. The key regional service previously attracted thousands of regular passengers travelling for both business and leisure.

Exeter has also seen the return of flights to and from Jersey thanks to Blue Islands. Rob Veron, Blue Islands CEO said, “we are very pleased to reinstate two very popular routes from Exeter. The flights will initially operate three days a week, and for next summer we will increase frequencies with Manchester served three times a day and Jersey once a day.”

While the plan initially is to use aircraft based in the Channel Islands to serve these routes, from the end of October the airline plans to base an aircraft in Exeter. This will result in around 20 pilots, cabin crew and engineers also being employed at the airport.

The routes from Exeter follow the reintroduction of Channel Islands’ flights from Birmingham to Jersey at the end of August. These flights are initially operating four days a week and from next summer will increase to a daily service to Jersey with convenient onward connections to Guernsey.


Wizz Air strengthens base at Doncaster Sheffield Airport

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Doncaster Sheffield Airport has welcomed Wizz Air’s expansion at the air transport hub with the addition of a second Airbus A320 aircraft . The Hungarian carrier is also offering six new routes to Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Lisbon and Eindhoven from Doncaster Sheffield. The new routes will start on 22 October.

The addition of a second based aircraft and the new routes comes less than three weeks after the announcement of Wizz Air UK’s based operation at the airport. This recent development of Wizz Air’s offering at the airport reflects the positive response from customers. It also demonstrates the airline’s long-term commitment to bring affordable travel opportunities to its British customers on Europe’s youngest aircraft fleet.

Jackson Hole Airport welcomes new routes from Alaska Airlines

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Alaska Airlines is to offer a seasonal service to Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming with nonstop flights between Seattle and the first nonstop flights from San Jose California and San Diego.

Describing Jackson Hole and the surrounding Grant Teton mountain range as offering a “legendary winter playground,” Brett Catlin, Alaska’s Managing Director of capacity planning and alliances, said the region offered a “rich history, amazing service, and plenty of activities both on and off the mountain.” He added that, “We know our guests on the West Coast are looking for nonstop access to more outdoor locales and we’re excited to expand our footprint with the addition of Jackson Hole.”

The flights will be operated on Embraer 175 jet aircraft and are scheduled to start later this year with the five-times weekly service from Seattle and Sand Diego operating from 17 December through until  11 April 2021. Twice weekly flights from San Jose are scheduled from 19 December through 10 April. The flight schedules have been designed to allow for maximum time on the slopes.

“We know this is a challenging time for travellers and for our local community; offering nonstop service to Jackson Hole will appeal to skiers/ snowboarders and winter enthusiasts, while providing a great option for many of our locals with family and/ or business connections on the West Coast,” said Senator Mike Gierau, chair of JH Air.

Moose Jaw Municipal Airport to benefit from strategic investment

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Moose Jaw Municipal Airport in Saskatchewan, Canada, is set to benefit from strategic investments in infrastructure  thanks to government funding.

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, the honourable Lori Carr, Saskatchewan Minister of Government Relations; and His Worship Fraser Tolmie, Mayor of the City of Moose Jaw, announced funding for important improvements to the remote regional hub which will benefit the local economy and increase safety.

The rehabilitation and expansion of the existing runway and taxiway will help accommodate larger planes, including business class, turbo props and light jets. The construction of a new apron space will increase the parking area and allow for heavier aircraft to be parked. A new hangar access road will reduce the use of taxiways by vehicle traffic. Improvements also include the installation of additional runway, taxiway and approach lights.

The Government of Saskatchewan is contributing $999,900 in funding to the project, while the Government of Canada is investing $1.2 million in the airport project through its Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Scheme (RNIS).

“Canada’s experience under COVID-19 has demonstrated how interdependent Canadians are, as well as our need to stay connected. Connecting Canadians through regional transportation hubs, like the Moose Jaw Airport, brings jobs to rural communities in the region, and will support Canada’s economic recovery, ” said the Honourable Maryam Monsef.

“By investing in projects such as this, we are helping communities across Saskatchewan strengthen their economies and build more resilient infrastructure,” she continued.

Greg Simpson, chair of the Moose Jaw Municipal Airport Authority, added:

The Moose Jaw Municipal Airport Authority team is very excited to see this runway expansion and rehabilitation of the airside facilities project begin to come to fruition. When construction is finished, these upgrades will improve safety and benefit current airport users in the health and agricultural sectors, along with potential new business that rely on general aviation. This will improve access to critical health care services and help support economic development in our community, thanks to improved transportation infrastructure. We are grateful for both the confidence demonstrated, and the financial support provided.”