WestJet temporarily suspends flights to four domestic hubs

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Operating at more than a 90% reduction year on year, Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet is temporarily suspending operations to St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, London in Ontario and Lloydminster as well as Medicine Hat in Alberta. Services to the four domestic hubs will be suspended from 19 March to 24 June 2021.

Commenting on how the airline has continued to operate in the face of uncertainty throughout the pandemic as travel restrictions have caused demand to plummet, Ed Sims,  WestJet President and CEO said: “Unfortunately with new and increasingly restrictive policies, we are left once again, with no other option than to suspend services to these communities.”

In June 2020, the airline announced organisational changes through its airport transformation programme. As a result of the suspensions, WestJet will be working directly with newly established third-party service providers in St. John’s and London, Ontario, and directly with Pacific Coastal Airlines for affected WestJet Link operations in Lloydminster and Medicine Hat.

Flights between St. John’s and Halifax will be suspended as of 21 March, while service between London, Ontario and Toronto will cease on 22 March. WestJet Link service from Calgary to Lloydminster will end on 19 March and Calgary to Medicine Hat discontinued as of 21 March.

“Our ability to return to markets remains directly correlated to government policies and the prioritisation of a domestic travel programme,” continued Sims. “As we look ahead to contributing to the economic recovery of Canada, the relationship between testing and quarantine must evolve based on data and science.”

Aurigny agreement with Eastern Airways to boost regional connectivity

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Guernsey-based airline Aurigny has signed an agreement with Eastern Airways that will enable passengers to book  flights from Guernsey on Eastern’s route network via Southampton to regional hubs including Manchester, Belfast City, Leeds-Bradford, Teeside, Aberdeen and Dublin in a single transaction.

By making the onward booking in a single transaction customers can also avoid the need to pay UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) twice.

Eastern Airways’ Managing Director, Tony Burgess, said, “We are delighted to announce and excited to commence this partnership with our friends at Aurigny, which will allow us to collectively provide greater connectivity focussed initially on our Southampton Airport hub.” He added, “By forging this partnership and joining our networks, we will now look forward to welcoming many more customers on board and providing them with an extended choice of simplified route options and seamless connectivity whether they be travelling for business or pleasure.”

Both operators are working with the developers of Worldwide by easyJet to align their booking system and allow a seamless single point of booking for each other’s services to or from Guernsey.

“This is great news for our customers as it is often a challenge in small market jurisdictions to offer the regional connectivity desired by all as demand does not justify direct flights,” said Aurigny’s Commercial Director, Malcolm Coupar. By teaming up with Eastern, the airline is able to offer customers a much wider regional network from Southampton.

As we come out of this pandemic, I expect we will see more airlines concentrate their operations out of certain hubs and that agreements between airlines will be more commonplace for the benefit of the customer. We are also working on agreements with other airlines offering services from the UK to develop ‘Worldwide by Aurigny’, which will offer customers connecting flights to Worldwide destinations booked via the Aurigny website.

Malcolm Coupar, Commercial Director at Aurigny.

Pictured: Guernsey Airport

London City resumes Zurich link with BA CityFlyer

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London City Airport in the UK welcomed the return of flights to Zurich in Switzerland on Monday 5 October. The reinstatement of London City’s fourth most popular international route will see BA CityFlyer offer five flights per week between the two cities.

Welcoming the return of the flights, London City Airport, CCO, Richard Hill, said: “This is a positive step for the airport, good news for business travel, and an important step in the economic recovery.

“Zurich is a key hub of international business, finance, and government. So, it is crucial that London has strong, fast and easy connections direct from the centre of the capital.”

Hill also underlined the airport was hopeful that with COVID-19 cases consistently falling in Switzerland, the Government will remove it from the quarantine list. “This would be enormously welcome for our airlines and would allow them to schedule more routes and rotations through the winter season.”

According to a recent survey conducted by London City Airport with business leaders in the UK on their intentions to travel, two thirds said they consider travel to be important for the future of their business. An additional survey of more than 4,700 customers also demonstrated a strong desire to travel, with 79% of those surveyed saying they are likely to travel when told it is safe to do so.

Alongside industry partners, the airport is calling on the UK Government to replace the current quarantine regulations with a consistent testing regime for air travel. This, it says, will make travel more viable for more people, which would be a significant shot in the arm for the aviation and travel industry.



Australian government extents financial support for regional and domestic routes

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To ensure that regional and major domestic routes across Australia remain available for those who want or need to travel by plane, the Australian federal government is giving further support to local carriers.

Through the Domestic Aviation Network Support (DANS) initiative and the Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) programme,  more than $150 million has already been handed to Australian airlines to cover any costs an airline cannot due to the lack of passengers.

While that support was due to end y, the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has confirmed the upcoming budget will mean these programmes are extended to 31 January, 2021 and 28 March, 2021 respectively.

Commenting on the extended support McCormack said: “Planes in the air mean jobs on the ground and, as part of our economic plan for a more secure and resilient Australia, we will continue to back our aviation sector.”

He added that regional air links are vital to local economies, “underpinning many small businesses including tourism operators, whilst ensuring continued access to key medical supplies and personnel.”

Agreeing that the ban on international tourism and local border closures has made life incredibly difficult for Australia’s travel and tourism sector, McCormack emphasised that, “Uncertainty affects the ability of airlines and airports to plan for recovery and undermines consumer confidence, which amounts to a significant cost to industry and ultimately the Australian economy.”

By underwriting regional and domestic flights the federal government is doing its bit to maintain connectivity. But, McCormack said, “Now we need the states and territories to do their bit too as we again encourage the continued easing of border restrictions.”

Editor’s comment: Turning a crisis into an opportunity

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Winston Churchill famously said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

The former British Prime Minister’s quote has seldom been more appropriate than now given the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. It was certainly a directive that was adopted by speakers and delegates alike during this week’s AviaDev Europe online conference. Rising to the theme of adapt, develop and engage, the overriding message from discussions was clear – don’t be afraid, address the challenges, adjust your model and do not waste this downturn.

“This is a whole new card game and the reality is nobody knows the rules,” offered Claus Raasted, Director for the College of Extraordinary Experiences. He delivered an invigorating talk on how to exploit the unique possibilities of a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, in which he cited Churchill’s quote. “Those who dare, get to rewrite the rules. If you just wait and repeat what you did yesterday, you will fail,” he enthused.

It was fitting then that ahead of the event, Juraj Toth, Managing Director of AviaDev Europe, told Regional Gateway that he was “Excited and proud of the AviaDev Europe team, that we are the first in this space to launch a platform for the route development community to get together online, in the post-COVID world.”

Giving advice on how airlines can survive and rethink their future, Becca Rowland at MIDAS Aviation warned regional carriers they will need to work harder to be more competitive. She also referenced how passenger preferences have changed. “Safety and security concerns around connecting through airports are real and passengers will increasingly want to fly nonstop. Domestic and local regional travel will be first to recover, but long-haul travel will take longer. There are ways to make connectivity and hub systems work but those airports focused on long-haul connectivity will struggle,” she said.

Referencing how the current situation has provided tourism boards with an opportunity to regain their position of power at the aviation strategy table, Gavin Eccles, Professor of Aviation and Tourism Management, urged airports to work more closely with tourist boards to give confidence to airlines. He added, “However, we must be careful that we are coordinated in our approach so that airports and local tourism authorities don’t end up competing with each other.”

Shining the spotlight on the issue of seasonality and how it affects the aviation and tourist industry, Gerard Brown, Founder and CEO of Low Season Traveller (pictured), underlined the need for a collaborative approach. “Budgets are being cut so we should be using some form of barter system,” he advised. “Your airport or destination has a database of contacts that is different to mine. We can help promote each other’s business to our respective networks. No money changes hands, but in the long run we both benefit.”

The need to introduce rapid, cost-effective COVID testing at airports and the call for greater harmonisation over travel restrictions were also discussed, with Max Oldorf from CH Aviation illustrating how there was a definite and sharp increase in air travel when Europe opened its borders and eased travel restrictions in May, but a clear decrease in demand when the restrictions were reintroduced at the end of August.

The conferencing wrapped up with an insightful panel discussion on how regional aircraft are helping to rebuild the airline industry. And alluding to Churchill’s quote, Sameer Adam, Regional Vice President, Sales – Europe, Russia & CIS, Middle East and Africa at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada, concluded that stakeholders across the regional aviation sector need to focus on the long game, saying “It’s about looking to the horizon and coming out of the COVID pandemic having made a difference!”

Have a great weekend and don’t forget, if you haven’t already seen it, the latest issue of Regional Gateway magazine is out now!

Chloë Greenbank,

Editor, Regional Gateway.

How regional aircraft are helping to rebuild the aviation industry

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There are many reasons why we can still be optimistic about the future of regional aviation. So stated three panelists representing Embraer, De Havilland and ATR as they discussed how choosing the right aircraft type can help rebuild the aviation industry during AviaDev Europe’s online conference on Wednesday 16 September.

In a session moderated by John Grant, partner in MIDAS Aviation, Clemente Affinito –Vice President Sales Europe, ATR; Sameer Adam – Regional Vice President, Sales – Europe, Russia & CIS, Middle East & Africa at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited; and Michael Nowak – Marketing Director EMEA & Central Asia, Embraer were all united in their belief that as the aviation industry looks to the recovery period the need for regional aircraft is stronger than ever.

“We’ve all had to adjust to manage through the pandemic,” said Sameer Adam. “We’ve managed to work with our customers throughout the crisis to manage demand and to retain our staff and resources in order to manage production,” he added.

Adam also noted that all three regional players are working hard to help stimulate the market again by ensuring that regional carriers can resume operations as cost effectively and efficiently as possible even with low passenger numbers. One of De Havilland Canada’s most recent deliveries was in June, when it delivered a DASH 8-400 to TAAG Angola Airlines (TAAG) to support the development of the carrier’s domestic and regional network in and around Angola.

Amid the current health restrictions Clemente Affinito underlined how ATR has developed a remote delivery process to support customers’ recovery efforts. “There are challenges but we are working hard to overcome those,” he said.  Highlighting how ATR’s versatility and flexibility have been key to its stability, Affinito referenced how his company has seen three new ATR operators (Air Leap, Windrose and Lubeck Air) enter the market in Europe during the peak of the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile Embraer’s Michael Nowak pointed out that the number of aircraft being delivered currently is not necessarily a measure of success. “We are in a tough situation, when forcing delivery to a customer is not necessarily the best decision. It’s about focusing on the longer term plan.”

Nowak believes that, “while hub airports are under significant pressure, and there will be a  shift towards point to point connectivity, this won’t be drastic and regional connectivity will continue to face its own challenges.” He also emphasised that with the sustainability debate more prevalent than ever, regional airlines and manufacturers need to consider how they will face greater competition from other more environmentally friendly transport options on certain routes.

Adam added that manufacturers are learning to adapt to the constantly evolving situation all the time. De Havilland Canada has found that around 8% of routes being flown today are new for regional carriers.

What’s more the passenger demographic and demand is changing. “Does the average passenger still have the income and ability to travel as they did before?” he asked. He also stated that passengers are less likely to want to travel if it means connecting through another major hub where they run the risk of increased testing and delays etc.

All three panelists concluded by warning that while we can still unfortunately expect to see the demise of some airlines and small airports in the coming months, the overall outlook for the future of the domestic and regional aviation sector is optimistic.

Affinito said he was confident that, “ATR will be back up to the same production levels as before the crisis in the next 24 months.”

Nowak meanwhile underlined that Embraer’s value proposition hasn’t changed and the manufacturer’s “narrative is now more relevant than ever,” as he pointed out, “It’s now about  supporting airlines with suppressed demand.”

And whether it’s a second wave of coronavirus or economic decline that will continue to impact air travel, Adam agreed that tough decisions are now having to be made to rationalise aviation’s rapid growth in recent years. But he also urged, it’s about playing the long game, saying, “You need to look to the horizon. It’s about coming out of the COVID pandemic having made a difference.”

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.

Wideroe London Southend Airport Bergen

Widerøe extends network from Bergen hub

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Wideroe London Southend Airport Bergen

London Southend Airport has unveiled direct flights with Widerøe to Bergen in Norway. The inaugural flight departed London Southend on Monday morning. The link with Bergen also offers a further eight connections across Norway.

“We are strengthening our focus on Bergen as a hub for traffic throughout the country,” said Christian Skaug, Commercial Director at Widerøe. “With this new route we continue to build on the network Widerøe has developed in and around Bergen and Western Norway in recent years. We start cautiously, but if we see that the offer is well received, we will consider adding more weekly departures,” he continued.

Meanwhile London Southend’s CEO Glyn Jones, added his appreciation for the new route stating: “At a difficult time for aviation the new route demonstrates confidence in the airport, and the interest people have to returning to fly to locations that continue to have low coronavirus incident rates.”

Swedavia appoints new director for Malmö Airport

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Karin Öhrström has been appointed as the new Airport Director for Malmö Airport by Swedish airport operator, Swedavia. She will assume her new duties on 1 September.

Öhrström holds a Master’s degree in engineering and has been in her current position at energy services provider, E.ON Energilösningar for more than 20 years. She is currently Head of Customer & Sales and brings extensive experience from her previous management positions and duties.

“I am both proud and pleased that we have recruited Karin as the new airport director of Malmö Airport,” said Susanne Norman, director of regional airports at Swedavia. “Her knowledge and experience will be a major addition to the airport and to Swedavia. Our ambition is to continue developing Malmö Airport as an important regional airport that contributes to acess in southern Sweden and to continue driving our climate change work,” Norman continued.

Öhrström will succeed Peter Weinhandl, who has been Malmö’s Airport Director since 2012 and will retire in September this year.

“This is a new and exciting industry for me, one that nevertheless has surprisingly many similarities with the energy sector. Swedavia has an inspiring social remit, a clear customer focus and wants to lead the way in areas that are important to me. This includes regional access and growth as well as the aviation industry’s transformation in the face of climate change, but also gender equality and sustainability. I am really looking forward to taking on my new duties together with all the employees at Malmö Airport,” said 49-year-old Öhrström.

Porter Airlines defers resumption of services to end of July

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Although Porter Airlines had initially planned to resume services next month, the Canadian regional carrier which is headquartered at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has deferred its return to service to 29 July.

“We want to see our planes in the sky as soon as possible and are actively working to prepare for our resumption of service,” said Michael Deluce, President and CEO of Porter Airlines. “However, the ongoing uncertainty presented by government travel restrictions, including border closures, is impacting our ability to operate flights,” he continued.

Seasonal summer markets that Porter intended to serve this year are being cancelled as part of this service deferral. Musoka, Ontario and Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, are the two destinations affected.

“We are closely watching developments and know that Porter will be an important part of providing people with travel options as the economy recovers,” Deluce said.

In advance of its return to service, the airline is preparing to introduce new health and safety measures. Details of these initiatives will be announced closer to when flights restart, so that plans are as closely aligned with the latest public health recommendations as possible.