Ireland’s Regional Airports Programme commences mid-term review

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Ireland’s Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton, has commenced the mid-term review of the Regional Airports Programme, which aims to provide funding to Ireland’s smallest airports – those that provide connectivity and handle fewer than one million annual passengers.

Commenting on the mid-term review, Minister Naughton said: “Government recognises the important role that our regional airports play in supporting regional connectivity and as access points for both tourism and business. The mid-term review will consider how the programme is currently delivering on its objectives, primarily in the context of supporting balanced regional development. It will also explore how international connectivity and services, to and from the regions can be maintained and enhanced.”

Funding is targeted at ensuring airports can maintain compliance in the areas of safety and security. It also supports projects with a sustainability focus. Also supported under the programme are Public Service Obligation (PSO) air services between Donegal and Dublin.

Parties interested in commenting on the public consultation are invited to do so on a range of issues ranging from boosting traffic to how to make better use of the regional hubs.

Funding supplied by Government has included an unprecedented €116 million under an EU State aid approved COVID-19 Supplementary Support Scheme for Irish airports. This has benefited small regional hubs such as Donegal, Ireland West and Kerry after the damage caused by COVID-19. State airports, such as Dublin, Shannon and Cork were also supported with the flexibility to roll out route incentives/ charge rebates, in consultation with airlines.

“I am delighted to see the positive impacts of government support witnessed across all of our airports and in particular our regional airports,” added Minister Naughton. “Shannon Airport’s summer 2022 schedule offered 27 destinations to the UK, Europe and the US and the winter 2022 schedule offers 23 destinations with daily flights to the US.”

She also noted that Cork Airport saw an extremely busy summer period leading into their biggest ever winter schedule, which features more than 1.1 million seats across 27 routes, served by five airlines. In addition, “All seven routes, which operated from Kerry Airport pre-COVID, have returned,” she said. “So too has the pre-pandemic route network of air services from Ireland West Airport Knock, with the airport offering a winter schedule of 84 weekly flights to and from a host of cities in the UK and Europe.”

With regard to connectivity to the northwest region, Donegal has yet to restore services to Glasgow, which were lost as a result of the pandemic, Naughton also noted that a new PSO contract has been awarded this year between Donegal and Dublin. “These twice daily two-way air services, facilitating same day return trips from Donegal, and further onward international connectivity from Dublin Airport, marks Government’s commitment to ensuring continued connectivity to this region for the next three years,” she said.

UK airports given their say on independent aviation regulator

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As part of a review of the UK’s independent aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK Government has launched a Call for Evidence. The review will run until spring 2023.

It will enable anybody who uses the CAA or is affected by its work, including airports, pilots, airlines and passengers, to provide insight and evidence to inform the Government review on everything from the CAA’s strategy to its organisation and performance.  The Call for Evidence will ask questions such as whether the CAA has the right powers to effectively regulate the aviation market, whether its charges are good value for money and whether it is effectively structured.

Having begun in August this year, the wider CAA review forms part of the Cabinet Office’s Public Bodies Review Programme, which aims to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public bodies and help these organisations build on their success in tackling the unprecedented challenges of recent years.

The CAA is tasked with a number of responsibilities, including ensuring the highest standards of aviation safety and security, the efficient use of airspace and space operations and protecting consumer rights.

Responses can be made via the UK Government website.

Villa Air chooses Ink to transform passenger experience at Maldivian airports

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Maldivian carrier, Villa Air, has selected Ink Innovation’s Departure Control System (DCS) and Load Control for use across its island network. Top destinations for the airline include the airports of Male, Maamigili and Dharavandhoo.

The multi-channel DCS will help streamline the check-in and boarding process by enabling the airline to process passengers and baggage in any location using mobile devices. This will help transform airport journeys from check-in, boarding and baggage handling to departure. Villa Air will also leverage Ink’s Load Control application to help reduce fuel burn and improve On-Time Performance.

“We selected Ink Innovation to partner with us having been impressed by their forward-looking innovative approach, capabilities and flexibility of its systems,” said Villa Air’s Manager Commercial, Rexy Croos. “The idea to handle passengers on mobile phones to serve passengers anywhere at their convenience fully addresses our strategy, not to mention higher operational resilience and fair cost structure.”

Ink Innovation selected to improve OTP at regional hubs in Finland

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The Finnish independent ground handling provider, Inter Handling, has selected Ink Innovation’s Departure Control System (DCS) to improve the on-time performance (OTP) at Turku and Mariehamn airports in western Finland.

Inter Handling partnered with ground handling systems specialist, Nordic Aviation Support, to seal the deal with Ink.

Commenting on the deal, Blaine Powell, Chief Sales Officer of Ink Innovation said: “Together with our business partner Nordic Aviation Support we are glad to support Inter Handling’s future growth plans both now and well into the future.”

Ink DCS will be used to connect passengers between the regional hubs of Turku City and the Aland Islands. The flexibility of Ink’s solution will help deliver an enhanced experience through its ability to handle passengers via desktop and mobile. The system will also enable Inter Handling to scale its operation and react quickly to passenger demand on the day of departure.

“To optimise processes and infrastructure for Inter Handling Finland, we needed to deliver a practical, future-fit solution,” said Ola Strangeways, CEO & Founder of Nordic Aviation Support.

“We chose Ink because of the high versatility of its mobile platform and the rapid roll-out of a mere five days. Inter Handling will also leverage additional functionalities to help improve the aircraft turnaround process, resulting in better on time performance and reduced fuel burn for its airline customers.

As a cloud-hosted departure and control platform capable of running across a range of devices, Ink DCS combines a Plug-and-play Web Check-in, Desktop DCS, Disaster Recovery, Ink Mobile, Kiosk Check-in and Bag Drop according to each station’s needs in a single connected platform. It is certified on all major CUTE platforms: SITA, RESA, Rockwell Collins, Aena and Amadeus.

Alstef deploys improved baggage sortation software at Montreal-Trudeau

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Alstef Canada has introduced an improved version of its BAGSORT – Sortation Allocation Control (SAC) software at YUL Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, which is operated ADM Aéroports de Montréal.

The baggage handling specialist installed the Canadian hub’s current baggage handling system (BHS)  for its transborder terminal and since 2009 has overseen its transborder BHS, inclusive of the Automatic Bag Drop (ABD) stations.

The latest BAGSORT SAC upgrade enables the US Customs Border Protection (CBP) to perform pre-clearance of passengers on Canadian soil, which requires processing data related to baggage and passengers. The solution also controls the Early Bag Storage system (EBS) comprise of 450 individual conveyors.

Describing the latest collaboration as a “major project”, which involved the software development team in France the Canadian local IT and operations team, Paul Marty, Alstef Group IT Software Project Manager added: “Teamwork was fundamental to ensure the knowledge transfer of the development team to the operations team and go guarantee a smooth roll-out.”

This latest project further underlines Alstef’s commitment to working with airports in Canada. The company has completed more than 15 projects throughout Canada including 15 CATSA-funded checked-bag screening machine upgrades which required significant baggage system modifications. “We focus on long-term relationships,” said Steven Tanguy, Managing Director, Alstef Canada.

“We have completed multiple, repeat projects at many regional airports throughout Canada and have been present at all of the main hub airports including Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, since entering the market in the early 2000s,” Tanguy concluded.

Porto offers best value car parking for all European airports

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According to a study conducted in Q3, 2022 by car parking at Porto Airport in Portugal costs 97% less than local parking. The hub was also found to have the cheapest airport parking among 32 European hubs. A total of 32 airports were ranked according to the price difference between airport parking and nearby public car parks on Parkopedia.

At Porto, customers looking for short stays pay £3.44 at the airport, instead of the local average of £115.01. This was alsmost five times cheaper than parking at Alicante Airport in Spain (£16.36). Porto Airport also has the most affordable on-site parking for week-long stays, charging £24.08 for seven days. Nearby parking was found to cost £805.07 (£780.99) more expensive for the same amount of time.

Ranking second for cheapest parking was Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden, which was found to charge 77.09% less than the nearby average for parking. Nice Cote d’Azur Airport in France was found to cost 58.82% less than the nearby average. Customers parking at the French hub typically pay £17.21 for 24-hour stays, instead of the local average of £41.81.

Dublin, Munich, Athens, Barcelona El Prat, Malaga, Fontanarossa and Dusseldorf airports all featured in the top 10 cheapest hubs for parking.

London airports however have the highest prices in Europe for on-site parking. Gatwick, Stansted and London Heathrow charge the highest price increase for their on-site parking in comparison to the local average. Short-stay parking at Gatwick Airport costs £45 (five times more than the local average of £8.20). This is an increase of 448.78%.

Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at commented: “Holidaymakers are no doubt trying to save money where they can. And this will include parking costs. But airport parking, while expensive, can be worth the money for peace of mind when travelling as it’s often hassle-free and secure.

“With airport parking being quite a significant expense, many may be attracted by the cheaper alternatives, such as off-site car parks. However, these do come with some risks.” He pointed out that for passengers wanting to save money on car parking it is tempting to opt for off-site options. However security at some of these facilities could be compromised and passengers should check the security measures in place before booking and avoid leaving any valuable inside.

He also noted that car doors should be locked and alarms working when using parking facilities. “It’s also advised to check your mileage when returning to your car. This is because some unofficial car parks could be charging less for your stay, but actually using your car whilst you’re on holiday.”

Loganir ramps up services despite being up for sale

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Loganair, currently the UK’s largest regional airline, is expanding its service between Manchester and Aberdeen in response to growing demand.

The airline is adding a fourth daily service to Aberdeen (up one flight on its current three return services per day). The enhanced service is expected to be welcomed by those working in the energy sector; many of whom travel to Aberdeen to meet numerous helicopter flights that connect the North-east of Scotland to offshore platforms across the North Sea.

For those in Aberdeen, the additional flight times will facilitate better connectivity via Manchester to destinations around the world with Loganair’s interline and codeshare partners; including United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qatar and Turkish Airlines.

Chris Woodroofe, Managing Director at Manchester Airport said: “We welcome Loganair’s decision to increase capacity on its route from Manchester to Aberdeen.

“This service forms an important part of our domestic network, also giving people in the north of Scotland even greater access to the more than 110 destinations across four continents served daily from Manchester Airport.”

News of the regional carriers increased service between the two hubs follows an announcement at the end of last week that the Scottish airline is up for sale. The airline has been owned by brothers Stephen and Peter Bond for 25 years and operates a fleet of 44 aircraft serving around 35 destinations across Europe and the British Isles.

In reference to the sale Jonathan Hinkles, the airline’s Chief Executive said: “The airline is trading profitably and has repaid its COVID-19 bank debt ahead of schedule… Passenger numbers are growing and 50% ahead of pre-pandemic levels and our fleet renewal programme is also well advanced, continuing apace over the coming months.”

He added that “the Bonds are committed to finding the right future owner for Loganair… In the meantime, they remain wholehearted supporters of Loganair until any process is successfully completed.”


European airports report exponential passenger growth

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European airports handled an additional 660 million passengers in the first half of 2022, according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s latest air traffic report.

Passenger traffic in the European airport network jumped by +247% in H1 2022 compared to the same period last year – resulting in airports across the continent handling an additional 660 million passengers.

“These numbers speak for themselves,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe. “If COVID-19 caused an unprecedented collapse in passenger traffic for Europe’s airports, the rebound we have experienced this spring – especially in the EU+ market – is equally extraordinary. The fact that volumes across the continent still remained -28.3% below pre-pandemic levels for the first half of the year should not eclipse the sheer and unprecedented unleashing of pent-up demand that has occurred since March.”

According to the association, the increase was predominantly driven by international traffic (+381.2%) rather than domestic traffic (88.5%). It was also very much concentrated in Q2, which followed the easing as of March of the Omnicron-related restrictions for travel within Europe as well as for an increasing number of external markets.

The month of June was the closest so far to full passenger traffic recovery with the month closing at -17.4% against pre-pandemic (June 2019) levels. This marked the strongest monthly performance since pre-pandemic reporting  in February 2020 with recovery continued to be driven by leisure and VFR demand, as evidenced from the results achieved by airports in countries relying heavily on tourism.

Airports in Greece (a holiday hotspot) and Luxembourg were the only ones to fully recover their pre-pandemic passenger traffic volumes in June. Meanwhile airports in Portugal came close to a full recovery, as did hubs in Lithuania and Norway.

At the other end of the spectrum, airports in Slovenia, Finland, Bulgaria, Czechia and Latvia struggled to recover more dynamically, notably due to the impact of the war in Ukraine and related international sanctions on Russia. Among the largest EU+ markets, airports in Spain and Italy posted the best results, followed by airports in France, the UK and and Germany.

The top five European airports (-17%) and large air transport hubs kept under performing smaller and regional airport hubs (-6.6%) in June, when compared to pre-pandemic (2019) passenger traffic levels. This is most likely due to travel restrictions on selected Asian market – in particular China.

There was also good news from a number of regional airports serving popular tourism destinations and/ or relying on low-fare carriers, as they exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) traffic levels in June, including: Santorini (+72.5%), Tirana (+59.3%), Zadar (+39. 1%), Funchal (+27.9%), Mykonos (+12.9%), Kauna (+8.1%), Menorca (+6.5%), Billund (+5.5%), Olbia (+4.7%) and Bergamo (+1.1%).

In the cargo sector, freight traffic across Europe made limited gains in H1 at -0.8% compared to the same period last year. This reflects the wider impact of the war in Ukraine on supply chains, which sent freight traffic on a downward trend as of last February – with the month of June closing at -4.5%.

Liverpool John Lennon’s Ravenair partners with Jetfly for UK flying

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Fractional ownership and aircraft management company, Jetfly, which is headquartered in Luxembourg and operates a 50-strong Pilatus fleet is now offering its UK members domestic flights on newly registered PC-12NG (G-OJFA) aircraft thanks to a new partnership with UK PC-12 business aviation operator Ravenair, which is based out of Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

“This convenient arrangement with Ravenair provides more flexibility for Jetfly members, who can now fly from the UK to the EU, intra UK and intra EU through the Luxembourg-headquartered Jetfly Group,” said Sales Director UK, Jonathan Clough.

To help meet increased demand for flights from destinations such as Fairoaks Airport to Jersey, Oxford to Cornwall and Goodwood Aerodrome to the Isle of Man, two more Jetfly PC-12s are expected to join Ravenair’s UK Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in due course.

Jetfly has four fully trained UK pilots already supporting G-OJFA and is training more in line with G-registry rules as demand escalates.

“The UK coming out of the EU and EASA at the beginning of the year presented us with some interesting licensing challenges and restrictions flying UK domestic routes,” noted Clough.

“Joining the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) last summer helped us navigate relations with the UK CAA and we were able to successfully work through the UK AOC process with Ravenair. It’s important to engage with and be a part of the UK general aviation community,” he added.

Capable of using runways as short as 2,485 feet and able to operate from tarmac, dirt, gravel and grass surfaces the Pilatus PC-12 can access over 3,000 airports and small airfields in Europe, giving passengers a unique level of access for business and leisure trips. Jetfly members typically use the aircraft for golf, horse racing, yachting, skiing, shooting and classic car sports.

UK Government’s 22-point plan to support the aviation sector ahead of summer season

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The UK Government has set out a 22-point plan to tackle aviation disruption ahead of the anticipated swell in passenger traffic this summer. The government action comes as Scottish and Northern Irish schools break up for the summer period, with Welsh and English schools following later in July.

The government is calling on the industry to do everything within its power to ensure there is no repeat of the problems experienced during the Easter and half-term breaks.

Measures the government is taking to support the aviation industry include: helping recruit and train staff; ensure the delivery of a realistic summer schedule; minimise disruption; and support passengers when delays and cancellations are unavoidable.

The plan follows the recent one-off ‘amnesty’ on airport slot rules, which is being provided as an exceptional measure while industry progresses plans to recruit necessary staff, and to enable airlines to plan ahead and avoid last-minute cancellations.

Under these exceptional airport slot rules, the government has given airlines a short window to hand back slots for the rest of the summer season that they are not confident they will be able to operate.

Underlining that the industry must take the appropriate steps to avoid the chaos seen at airports throughout the Easter and half term break, government ministers have been clear that reaching for the lever marked ‘more immigration’ is not an obvious solution to the problem. Instead the UK Government has emphasised its commitment to building a robust and dependable domestic aviation industry following the launch in 2021 of its Aviation Skills Retention Platform to help develop and retain UK workers.

“Holidaymakers deserve certainty ahead of their first summer getaways free of travel restrictions,” said Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. “While it’s never going to be possible to avoid every single delay or cancellation, we’ve been working closely with airports and airlines to make sure they are running realistic schedules.

He added that the responsibility of running flights on schedule or cancelling them with plenty of time to spare is the responsibility of airports and airlines.

“With 100 days having passed since we set out that restrictions would be eased, there’s simply no excuse for widespread disruption,” he added.

Richard Moriaty, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority noted: “We share government’s ambitions for resolving the travel issues that we’ve seen in previous months. These actions will help the sector to be more resilient in dealing with strong consumer demand.”

Other actions outlined by the government in its action plan include measures taken to reduce the time it takes to get new staff on board while maintaining the highest standards of security, including changing the law to allow greater flexibility over background checks and allowing employers to use an HM Revenue and Customs letter to verify  five years of employment checks.

A new aviation passenger charter is also expected to be launched by the UK Government in due course. Developed in partnership with industry and consumer groups, the charter will be a one-stop guide for consumers informing them of their rights and what they can reasonably expect of airports and airlines when flying.