Editor’s comment: What lies ahead?

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Although the end of 2020 brought with it a glimmer of hope following the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out around the world and a post Brexit UK-EU trade deal being agreed, the new year has so far got off to a rocky start. New strains of the coronavirus (first detected in the UK and South Africa in December) have prompted dozens of travel bans and widespread concern about what this all means for countries around the world.

Many countries have already reacted by closing their borders and suspending commercial flights to restrict the spread of any new strains and, on Monday 4 January, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, declared another nation-wide lockdown until the end of February at the earliest with other countries also reintroducing or extending their own lockdowns. It՚s yet another devastating blow to airports and the aviation sector as a whole.

“While airports understand the public health reasons behind the renewed lockdown, it comes on top of the EU’s ban on UK nationals travelling to the EU for non-essential purposes,” said Karen Dee, the Airport Operators Association’s (AOA’s) Chief Executive.

“We are fast approaching a full twelve months of aviation being effectively shut down, with only limited support for UK airports provided to date,” she continued.

AOA is calling on the UK Government to step up its support for the aviation sector and to cover operational losses during the current heightened restrictions, as well as to extend all existing forms of support until aviation is able to operate free from the barriers that have prevented any meaningful recovery to date.

“The UK aviation industry will play a crucial role in enabling the country’s economic recovery and Global Britain, but can only do so if it gets the support necessary to get through the coming months and years,” Dee concluded.

And while Eamonn Brennan, EUROCONTROL’s Director General, is confident that the recovery will start to firm up in 2021 as the vaccine rolls out across the globe, he also warned that continued financial support is required across the aviation sector in the years ahead. “If we’re ready to ՙbuild back better՚ in 2021, we must start tackling core issues, such as the way the aviation system is financed, regulated and integrated,” he said.

It might not be quite the bright, shiny start to 2021 we had all hoped for, but now is certainly not the time to give up. It’s time to buckle up for the long road to recovery, but recover we will!

Otherwise, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year and please do get in touch if you’ve got a story you’d like to share.

Best wishes,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

 

daa International named as operator of new Red Sea Airport

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Dublin Airport Authority (daa) International has been named as the operator of a new airport at Saudia Arabia’s Red Sea Development Project.

A major development project being built over 28,000 square km on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, the Red Sea Project has been billed as a luxury tourism destination. The first phase of the project, which includes the construction of the new airport, as well as up to 3,000 hotel rooms, recreational facilities and residential properties, is due to be completed by the end of 2022.

The Red Sea International Airport, which is being designed by architecture firm Foster + Partners, is set to serve one million passengers annually by the project’s completion in 2030, with a peak capacity of 900 passengers per hour.  The terminal has taken its inspiration from the local landscape and aims to provide a tranquil and memorable experience for passengers from the moment they arrive and aims to emulate the experience of a private aircraft terminal to every passenger.

A subsidiary of daa, which operates Dublin and Cork airports, daa International has been operating Terminal 5 at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, since it opened in 2016. As the operator of Saudi Arabia’s new airport it will provide airfield and terminal operations, aviation services, facilities management and it will oversee commercial activities, as well as corporate and financial services.

“Our state-of-the-art airport will provide a unique gateway for guests arriving at our destination, and this announcement is an important step in bringing the experience to life, ahead of welcoming visitors by the end of 2022,” said John Pagano, Chief Executive of TRSDC. “daa International was selected because we are confident that they can deliver not only an airport experience worthy of our luxury destination, but for their commitment to ensuring our sustainability goals are met.”

Nick Cole, Chief Executive daa International added: “The Red Sea International Airport will become a fundamental part of each visitor’s journey to this unique destination, and we believe their holiday experience should start from the moment they land. We intend to deliver a seamless airport experience for passengers, underpinned by a commitment to achieving the development company’s stringent sustainability goals.”

Stage one of managing the new airport’s operations will involve ensuring that all airport designs benefit the customer. Stage two will cover planning a full and seamless operational model for when the airport opens to the public, while the final stage will be to manage and operate this plan, maintaining the highest standards in customer experience and sustainability, while prioritising safety and security.

Construction of a runway, seaplane runway, taxiways, helipads and a road network for the airport is already well underway. On completion in 2030, the Red Sea Project will comprise 50 hotels, up to 8,000 hotel rooms and around 1,300 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites.

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway offers free COVID-19 testing for passengers

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Passengers travelling through Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport can now receive a free COVID-19 test when using the Arizona hub, through a partnership with the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS).

Tests are  performed by Paradigm Laboratories, a private third-party contractor, and are available with no insurance requirements. Results are available within 48 hours.

“Gateway Airport’s ‘Stay Healthy, Fly Safe’ initiative is designed to protect employees, airport tenants and the travelling public from the COVID-19 virus,” said Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Executive Director and CEO J. Brian O’Neill A.A.E. “The State of Arizona’s commitment to provide additional testing locations like the one at Gateway Airport will help reduce the spread of the virus until more of the population has an opportunity to receive the vaccine,” he continued.

Ticketed passengers can make an appointment prior to arriving at the airport either by visiting the Labfinder website, or by scanning the QR code found on COVID-19 testing directional signs throughout the airport.

“Paradigm Laboratories is a proud partner of AZDHA and we are happy to play a part in making sure visitors to Arizona are doing so in a safe and healthy manner,” said Dave Johnson, CEO of Paradigm Laboratories. “Our goal is to provide accurate results in the shortest timeframe possible and testing is one way we all can work together to slow the spread of the virus.”

Shanghai welcomes new link with Beijing

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Shanghai has welcomed a new link with Bejing courtesy of OTT Airlines, a newly-founded subsidiary business run by China Eastern Airlines (CEA). The regional carrier completed its maiden flight between the two cities on Monday 28 December, using an ARJ21, the first turbofan regional passenger jetliner produced by China, which can carry up to 90 passengers.

Until March 2021, OTT Airlines will fly the routes from Shanghai to Beijing, Nanchang, East China’s Jiangxi Province, Hefei, East China’s Anhui Province and Wenzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province. OTT Airlines currently has three ARJ21-700 jets, and is expected to receive another six in the next year eight more in 2022. In total, the fleet will include 35 ARJ21 jets by 2025.

The airline’s aim is to fly homegrown passenger jets in China’s mainland market, ARU21 and C919, both manufactured by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China will comprise the majority of the new carrier’s fleet.

The regional carrier is a welcome boost to the local economy with an operation team consisting of 15 pilots, 28 flight attendants, nine safety officers, two dispatchers and more than 30 engineers.

 

 

California’s Ontario Airport optimistic for 2021

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While the events of 2020 have wreaked havoc across the commercial aviation industry, Ontario Airport in Southern California has expressed a sense of optimism for the year ahead, based on encouraging signs from the last 12 months.

Between April and October the airport recorded six straight months of traffic growth, regaining almost 50% of passenger volume compared to 2019 figures. In addition airlines resumed or initiated new services from Ontario to five destinations in 2020, including Atlanta, Chicago (Midway), Houston (Intercontinental), Seattle and Mexico City. The airport also hosted a sold-out summer drive-in movie series and added app-based ride hail operator Wingz to its ground transportation programme to increase access to the airport.

“When 2020 began, Ontario was Southern California’s newest international aviation gateway and the fastest growing airport in the US, in just its fourth year under local control,” said Alan D. Wapner, Mayor pro Tem of the City of Ontario and President of the OIAA Board of Commissioners.

An attractive low-cost airport for commercial airlines, major e-commerce hub for air cargo shippers and a driver for the region’s economy, Ontario was the airport we’d hoped it would be just a few years ago. With the vision of our commission and the dedicated service of our staff, I can say unquestionably that Ontario holds as much much, if not more, promise today than it did before the pandemic. And as coronavirus vaccines become available to more Americans, I am optimistic we will see a return to more normal travel routines in 2021.

Significantly Ontario’s role as an air cargo destination took off in 2020, growing 20% year on year. In November, FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. completed a $100 million, two-year transformation of its Ontario operations, which now features a 251,000 sq. ft. complex incorporating a state-of-the-art sorting facility capable of handling 12,000 packages per hour, nine wide-body aircraft gates, 14 feeder aircraft gates and 18 truck docks.

The redevelopment of FedEx Express’s facility, along with a 30 year lease extension, sealed Ontario’s role as a major cargo hub in North America.

“We can never forget the pandemic’s toll on human life,” said Mark Thorpe, CEO of the OIAA. “Likewise we will always remember how we adjusted at Ontario Airport, challenged ourselves to adapt and collaborated with so many partners to ensure that travel through our international gateway is safe. We faced an unprecedented threat in 2020, and what we learned about our ability to persevere under the most difficult circumstances will serve our airport, our customers and the Inland Empire well as we move into 2021,” he concluded.

 

Editor’s comment: It’s a (no frills) wrap!

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With the countdown to the end of the year now in full swing, this is typically a time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 12 months. And it’s fair to say there have been rather more lows than highs for many in the aviation sector, but that doesn’t mean we can’t finish 2020 on a festively positive note!

Following the recent roll out of Pfizer’s vaccine, this week has seen regional hubs around the world, including Gerald R. Ford Airport in the US, stepping up to the challenge of serving as gateway’s to transport the vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70°C throughout the transportation process. The first cargo plane carrying Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for domestic use departed the Michigan hub on 13 December and is expected to be the first of tens of thousands of shipments that will deliver the life-saving vaccine to locations around the world.

Meanwhile, according to PrivateFly’s annual Private Jet Charter trends report for 202o, its clients have flown between an impressive 648 airports this year, which according to PrivateFly CEO, Adam Twidell, is three to four times more than major airline route networks.

“2020 has certainly been an unusual year, but I’m very grateful that private aviation has not seen demand fall in quite the same way as airlines or other travel sectors,” said Twidell. “In fact at PrivateFly we have seen increased demand for private jet travel during the pandemic.”

He added that, “Private aviation has always offered the convenience of using smaller airports to get closer to your destination, but this year we’ve provided a huge number of bespoke routings, due to repatriations and other atypical itineraries.”

Twidell concluded that with vaccines now on the horizon, “travel confidence is increasing and while much of the usual business travel provided by our sector is still on hold, we are optimistic for continued growth in 2021”.

Although commercial airlines have struggled for survival amid the impact of the global pandemic, according to LIFT Airlines co-founder, Gidon Novick, there has never been a better time to launch a new carrier. The start-up South African low-cost airline serving key domestic routes from O. R. Tambo including Cape Town and George Airport, flew its maiden flight on 10 December.  Its aim is to fly in the face of the “outdated supply-drive, high-debt airline model. Instead it’s time for a demand-driven business model. One that’s super-efficient, leverages off record low input costs and is both agile and flexible,” said Novick.

And despite Australia’s international borders remaining closed, the country is experiencing a surge in domestic travel with airports across the country welcoming the news that Jetstar, the homegrown low-cost carrier, is set to operate more domestic flights in February and March 2021 than ever before.

As we wrap up this crazy and challenging year, there’s no doubt that 2020 has been a reset for the industry. Nonetheless, as airports and airlines are already demonstrating, there is plenty to be hopeful for in 2021.

On that note I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support this year and to wish you happy holidays and a safe and prosperous 2020. The next Regional Gateway newsletter will be sent on 7 January, but you can still follow us online and on social media until then. In the meantime my parting gift to you for 2020 is the latest issue of Regional Gateway magazine, which is out now!

Best wishes,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

Southampton celebrates the return of British Airways

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After what has been a truly challenging year at Southampton following the demise of Flybe, the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent travel restrictions on airlines and the delay on a decision on the airport’s runway extension, Southampton is closing the year with some good news. British Airways has unveiled that it will be launching 11 new European routes from the airport in summer 2021.

The exciting summer schedule will see BA CityFlyer connect customers travelling from England’s south coast with popular holiday destinations in Spain (Malaga, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca), Italy (Florence), Portugal (Faro), Greece (Mykonos), France (Bergerac Dordogne Perigord, Limoges-Bellegarde and Nice Cote d’Azur) and Germany (Berlin), as well as Edinburgh in Scotland. The airline will operate up to 17 flights each weekend between 1 May and 31 October 2021. Flights will be operated using BA CityFlyer’s existing fleet of Embraer 190 aircraft.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the British Airways family,” said Tom Stoddart, Managing Director of BA CityFlyer. “The ideal location of the airport and excellent facilities on offer will hugely benefit our customers along the South Coast as they plan to take to the skies again and book a well-deserved holiday in the sun.”

Southampton’s Operations Director, Steve Szalay, described the announcement as “fantastic news” for both the air transport hub and the surrounding region during what has been one of the most challenging years.

“It’s also great to see BA return to the airport once again and the range of excellent destinations on offer is sure to be a welcome early Christmas present for passengers looking to plan a European holiday next summer.”

Southampton has submitted a planning application to Eastleigh Borough Council to extend its runway by 164cm(538ft) to increase the number of flight and the type of aircraft that can land. It was initially hoped a decision would be taken before the end of the year, but that decision has been delayed until the new year.

“We’ve always been clear that the runway extension is critical to the survival of Southampton Airport, which is why it’s important we take on board all feedback to ensure all stakeholders are aligned, supportive and the right decision is reached for our community. We will be submitting additional information to Eastleigh Borough Council to review early in the New Year.

Fly Arystan

Turkistan Airport welcomes low-cost carrier FlyArystan

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Fly Arystan

Turkistan International Airport in southern Kazakhstan has welcomed the arrival of low-cost carrier FlyArystan from Nur-Sultan, the Kazakhstan capital. Services to Turkistan’s brand-new airport were officially launched at a ribbon-cutting event attended by Air Astana Group President, Peter Foster; the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Committee, Talgat Lastayev; Deputy Oblas Akim, Arman Zhetpisbay; and the Chairman of YDA Group, Huseyin Arslan; as well as the Deputy Chairman of the YDA holding Cuneyt Arslan.

“Turkistan is the spiritual capital of Kazakhstan, which is visited annually by thousands of tourists,” said Foster, commenting on FlyArystan becoming the first carrier to operate services between the two hubs. “With the opening of the Turkistan International Airport and the launch of flights on safe and modern FlyArystan aircraft, the landmarks of the ancient Silk Road such as the mausoleum of Ahmet Yassawi, the mausoleum of Arystan Baba, the town of Otrar, the cave of Ak Meshit, Kara Ungir waterfalls and many other historical places will become more accessible,” Foster added. He also encouraged more tourists to “discover the amazing beauty and heritage of Kazakhstan.”

Speaking on behalf of the YDA Group which constructed the new airport, Arslan said: “We are pleased to welcome FlyArystan and the first passengers at the Turkistan International Airport, which was built in just 11 months and has become the second project successfully implemented by YDA Group in Kazakhstan. In 2007, YDA Group built and set in operation an airport in Aktau. We believe our brand-new airport will contribute to development of tourism and prosperity of the Turkistan region and Kazakhstan.”

Twice-weekly flights from Nur-Sultan to Turkistan will start from as little as US$16.50 and will be operated on an Airbus A320 aircraft on Tuesdays and Fridays. Direct flights from Almaty to Turkistan also launched on 5 December and will operate twice a week on Mondays and Sundays.

Cardiff Airport named new base for Wizz Air UK

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Wizz Air UK has increased its footprint in the UK with a new base at Cardiff Airport – it’s fourth UK base alongside London Luton, Gatwick and Doncaster Sheffield. The airline will allocate one Airbus A321 aircraft to its Cardiff base launching nine new leisure routes to destinations including Alicante, Faro, Larnaca Tenerife.

Seasonal routes during the summer will also include Corfu, Heraklion and Palma de Mallorca and routes to Lanzarote and Sharm El Sheikh during the winter season. The new routes will increase the annual capacity of Cardiff Airport by more than 350,000 seats, providing local passengers with even more affordable and exciting travel opportunities on their doorstep.

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales described the news as “a positive step that will help Cardiff Airport emerge from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.” He added that the new Wizz services will “increase choice for passengers, create jobs and add to the airport’s economic benefits.”

Wizz Air’s first venture into Wales represents a significant investment in Cardiff Airport and a boost for the local economy as it is expected to create more than 40 direct jobs and more than 250 indirect jobs, supporting industries such as aviation, transportation, hospitality and tourism.

“The fact that one of the leading low-cost carriers in the world has chosen to set up their next base at Cardiff is fantastic news for Wales,” said Spencer Birns, interim CEO at Cardiff Airport. “The Wizz Air UK base will bring a huge amount of choice for our customers to travel to some of the most popular holiday destinations from Cardiff, at affordable prices. We know many people living in Wales are craving a well-deserved holiday after such a challenging year and these new flights will give so many more opportunities for holidays to be planned now that will give us all something to look forward to for new year.”

Meanwhile, Owain Jones, Managing Director of Wizz Air UK, added: “This expansion into Wales brings increased connectivity to the region, so passengers can take advantage of Wizz Air’s ultra-low fares to travel to their favourite sunny holiday spots on-board our young and green aircraft fleet. With the launch of 47 new routes from the UK alone this year, we’re making sure that passengers can make up for lost time in creating amazing travel memories.”

Transavia France’s entry into domestic market is part of long-term strategy to improve profitability

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According to Ben Smith, the CEO of Air France-KLM, Transavia France’s entry into the French domestic market is integral to Air France-KLM’s strategy to rationalise its short-haul network and improve profitability following the impact of COVID-19.

Speaking during the Routes Reconnected online conference on Monday 30 November Smith said that the group expects its domestic operations in France to return to the black in the near future, reversing a loss of around €200 million.

“Transavia has a very similar construction to easyJet. And with the combination of Flying Blue – the Air France-KLM frequent flyer loyalty programme – it’s a very powerful combination,” Smith said. “We expect that in the short-term we should be able to turn domestic plans for flying back into profitable territory.”

Transavia France launched its inaugural domestic routes at the beginning of November. The low-cost carrier is taking over most routes operated by Air France and its regional subsidiary HOP! from Paris Orly serving regional hubs including Biarritz, Nantes and Montpellier. Air France and HOP! meanwhile, will continue to serve domestic routes from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Once Transavia France is operating profitably, the LCC will look to expand its network from secondary domestic markets in France to European destinations. Smith also underlined that more aircraft will be needed with both the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo being considered.

 

Header image: Copyright Christophe-Leroux