May Day: Air India Resumes UK Flights

Air India will be resuming flights to and from United Kingdom (UK) starting 1 May 2021. The news comes after the Airline suspended travel between India and the UK during 24 to 30 April. This was because of the huge surge in COVID-19 cases across India, that is on average over 300,000 a day, leading the UK government to tighten restrictions on travel between the two countries and adding India to the ‘red-list’.

Air India will start by conducting flights between Mumbai and London Heathrow on 1 May, with a return flight occurring on the same day. Thereafter, flights between Delhi and London Heathrow will resume on 2 May, which will then be followed by Bengaluru and London Heathrow on 5 May. This will enable thousands of Indians in the UK to be able to return home. Previously, this was rather challenging due to the limited services offered by other Air Carriers between the countries.

Ready for May Day Take-Off | © Trak.in

Requirement to Rebook & Revalidate

It is important to note that Air India will require passengers who have already booked the aforementioned flights to rebook or revalidate their flight tickets by contacting Air India. For those booking fresh flights anew, booking and validating can be done via the Air India App, website, or other third-party vendors offering flights.

Travel from India to the UK now comes with caveats, and Air India has reiterated the need for passengers to factor in the UK’s travel guidelines in relation to COVID-19. The Airline said, “It will be the sole responsibility of the passengers to ensure his/her eligibility to enter the destination country. Air India will accept no liability if non compliance results in denied boarding.”

Airport Passengers Go Astray In Assam

Just as India is in the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, experiencing record number of cases, passengers landing at Silchar Airport in Assam have aggravated the pandemic, by somehow bypassing mandatory Rapid Antigen Test & RT-PCR Test on arrival at the Airport. Furthermore, local authorities are unaware of how these passengers managed to slip under the radar.

“On Wednesday, 690 people landed at Silchar,” said Sumit Sattawan, ADC, Health, Cachar district, “Some were exempt since they were transit passengers travelling to other northeast states. A total of 189 took the test — out of which six were positive. Around 300 went away, skipping the test. Regarding how they ran away and other details, we are still investigating what exactly happened”. However, he remained adamant that every effort would be made to trace the perpetrators.

Conforming to Covid-19 Compliance Not Commonplace in recent times | © News18

Skipping Tests Over 500 Rupees

Passengers should undertake the necessary Covid-19 Tests at Tikol Model Hospital in the vicinity of Silchar Airport. This is due to the Airport lacking capacity to cater for mass testing. Public transport is provided to passengers from the Airport to the Hospital, or they can take private transport, subject to providing vehicle & driver details. The RT-PCR Test costs 500 INR (US $7), which appeared to be a key driver behind many passengers failing to take test.

Sumit Sattawan added, “The police are currently tracing the passengers who fled, following which legal action will be taken. Cases will be registered under relevant sections”. The need for enforcement is further heightened by the state of Assam currently having 9,048 active Covid-19 cases. As such, the State Government is currently ordering all public spaces and places to close by 6 PM each day.

Electric Energy Epitomises Exeter Airport’s Road To Recovery

In the past 12 months, Exeter Airport has witnessed the absence of FlyBe (its main revenue stream) and a perpetuated downturn in passenger traffic and flights, owing to the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, as the prospect of reopening its Airspace draws closer, so does its strategy towards modernising flying from an environmental perspective.

Indeed, Exeter Airport could be about to witness the departure of the first hybrid-electric aircraft commuter flight bound for Newquay Airport. Should this be fulfilled in line with expectations, then this could be the ‘E-Normal’ moving forward.

The hope is for Noise Abatement to turn to Noise Absence | © Radioexe

2ZERO Project Initiative 

All of the above is led by the 2ZERO (Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations) project. This will witness an evaluation of the requirements for electric driven flights to be commonplace. Importantly, there will be particular attention paid to the recharging capabilities of aircraft batteries. The hope is that such initiatives will reduce emissions by up to 70%.

A key stakeholder in accelerating the growth of electric flights, AmPaire, was awarded £2.4 million by The Future Flight Challenge. As such, they hope for the entire Aviation Industry to complement the green school of thought, as evidenced by their Vice President of Global Partnership, Susan Ying’s comments. She said, “For electric aviation to become commonplace, and play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gases, we need to look at not only electric aircraft but the entire ecosystem to support electric aviation. That will be a key aim of the 2ZERO programme.”

The Road To May 2022

2ZERO project will run until May 2022, by which time there should be clear evidence of progress towards reducing emissions, rather than just coming out of a pandemic recovery. Such thoughts were echoed by East Devon District Council leader, Paul Arnott. He said, “We are keen to support a green recovery rather than just a return to business  as usual and today’s announcement is a  really important step towards this. It will ensure that the airport can act as a test bed for new technologies including electric flight and can play a leading role in helping to meet the global challenge of decarbonising the aviation industry.”  

In summary, the future of the freedoms of the sky will be determined by the care the air is treated with.

Unemployment Pandemic Piling Pressure On Airport Workers

The questions lingering on many peoples minds is, how are Airlines going to survive the pandemic, when will Airport passenger traffic reach the record levels of 2019, how much more will an Air Fare be post Covid-19. Such uncertainties have led to the unwanted reality that the unemployment levels of Airport Workers has exceeded the unemployment rate across the United Kingdom

To illustrate this, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘The Future of Aviation’ research found that the number of claims for unemployment benefit of Airport Workers increased by 145% between January 2020 and January 2021, compared to a national increase of 112%. 

Absence of Airport Personnel is becoming an unwelcome norm

Unemployment Benefits Most Pronounced In The South-East

Given that many of the UK’ mainstream Airports are in the South-East of England, this has correlated to the highest level of unemployment benefits claims by Airport Workers within the past 12 months. By way of example, the London Borough of Hayes & Harlington that has close proximity to Heathrow Airport, witnessed a 221% increase, whilst the Borough of Crawley, that is a stone throw away from Gatwick Airport, witnessed a 224% increase. Furthermore, Saffron Walden, which is in the vicinity of Stansted Airport, witnessed a 228% rise.

The Budget On The Horizon

On Wednesday 3rd March, The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will announce the budget for the forthcoming fiscal year. As such, further pleas have been prevalent from Henry Smith, the Chair All-Party Parliamentary Group, for greater financial support to the Aviation Industry.

He said, “Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have been devastated by the near total collapse in passenger numbers and our airport communities have borne the brunt of this. With continuing travel restrictions adding further delay to aviation’s recovery, without a continuation of the job retention scheme, we run the very real risk that these figures will continue to increase.”

Indeed, the Aviation Industry will hope the motto of ‘First and Foremast For Furlough’ is evident in Wednesday’s budget announcement. 

LEVERAGING LEEDS BRADFORD AIRPORT’S SCOPE FOR DEVELOPMENT

Leeds Bradford Airport has won the hearts and minds of Leeds City Council by being approved to go ahead with a groundbreaking £150 million project to renovate the airport’s terminal. Indeed, the Airport’s owners had to convince the Council that the benefits outweighed the environmental impacts, the latter of which had been vehemently opposed.

Explicit Messages of Protest

The 9 to 5 Effect

The Leeds City Council Panel voted nine to five to approve the plans for the terminal subject to further discussions with the Airport over the conditions of the agreement. Once these discussions have taken place, the Airport will present an updated plan regarding the development, which will require final approval from the Council.

A spokesperson from Leeds City Council took steps to ensure that objections to the development had been carefully considered and in line with government guidance. They said:

“There were a large number of matters for plans panel members to consider during this process, including the council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the issue of increasing carbon emissions from flights.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson put a different spin on the debate by stating that Leeds Bradford Airport’s growth could reduce road traffic emissions by ensuring that local passengers stay local. They said:

“Current Government policy points to these emissions being something that should be primarily tackled at a national level – and addressed through international agreements and protocols – rather than by suppressing growth at individual airports in a way that could simply export passengers to other nearby airports at a higher financial cost to them and increase surface transport emissions.”

Renovation Landscape

The Airport Terminal renovation is centered around constructing a new three-story Terminal, which will acquire 365,000 square feet within the Airport’s boundaries. This will result in the city of Leeds creating an additional 12,650 permanent jobs and a further 850 construction jobs.

Furthermore, this project will increase the Terminal building’s environmental friendliness and presents the opportunity to extend the Airport’s operational hours up until 11:30 PM, thereby resulting in increased flight frequencies. Airport Passenger traffic is likely to increase from current levels of four million to seven million by the year 2030.

The Road to Recovery for Queenstown’s Quintessential Settings

Queenstown’s intention to preserve its status as one of the most visited tourist towns in New Zealand is going to be aided by a more comprehensive Covid-19 testing regime at its airport, ports and maritime borders. Therefore, more visitors could be experiencing arguably the most panoramic backdrop of any air taxi ramp in the world.

Just The View You Need To Eliminate Jet Lag!

No complacency at all costs

There have been no new Covid-19 cases in Queenstown and indeed the South Island since April 2020. However, it is important to note that a recent spike in cases in the North Island has caused a need to reinforce compliance measures in the south of the country.

The Southern District Health Board (responsible for the region’s healthcare) has reiterated that their Covid-19 case-free results were due to mandates in place to manage Covid-19 compliance implementation at major regional events (including concerts) and for the likely influx of tourists during the peak holiday season.

The Director of the Southern District Health Board, Lisa Gestro, said: ‘‘It is imperative that the ongoing requirement to maintain sufficient surveillance in our community, as well as undertake the required level of port and border testing, alongside the need to deliver regular pop-ups in high tourism areas, such as Queenstown, means that we need to transition Covid-19 testing into more of a business-as-usual approach.’’

Cost-efficient strategy going forward

The absence of Covid-19 cases in the South Island in the past nine months has resulted in a reduction in funding for testing regimes. Furthermore, health service personnel that were previously involved in the Covid-19 testing implementation have now had to relinquish their duties. This is so they can facilitate other health departments in catching up with their oversubscribed waiting lists.

Furthermore, the travel corridor between Australia (another example of a country with successful Covid-19 implementation) and the South Island has resulted in the need to reassess Covid-19 testing requirements for travellers between the two regions. This includes testing implementation plans for Queenstown Airport that will require further manpower as and when such initiatives are rolled out.

PITFALLS OF PUNE AIRPORT TO RESULT IN TWO-WEEK SUMMER SHUTDOWN

Pune Airport (in the state of Maharashtra, India) will be subjected to a two week shutdown from 26th April 2021 to 9th May 2021, due to the urgent need to resurface its runway, the Indian Airports Authority (AAI) has announced. “As per information received from Indian Air Force (IAF), due to runway resurfacing works, Pune Airport will have no flight operations for 14 days from 26th April 2021 till 9 May 2021,” said the AAI.

Pune Airport Runway
Pune Airport Runway

The runway resurfacing works started on 26th October 2020. IAF have confirmed that it must complete this maintenance project as high priority, without the interruption of flight operations . At present, the works take place between 20.00 and 08.00 daily and were due to finish by October 2021. Currently this has caused a minimum of ten flights to be rescheduled from night time to day time operations.

Pune Airport currently witnesses an average of 10,000 passengers arriving and departing per day. This includes notable domestic and international flights (the latter largely coming from the Middle-East). Consequently, renovating the current airport terminal and indeed runway have become demands by default.

Airport Gentrification Imminent

The new proposed terminal building will include an in-line baggage handling system able to process 2,300 passengers during peak time. The airport expects completion by March 2022 at a cost of Rs 475 Crores (approximately US $65 million).

Furthermore, a magnificent multi-storey car park that can cater for up to 1,024 cars is planning to open by April 2022. The total cost of the facility will be Rs 120 Crore (approximately US $16.5 million).

“Keeping in mind, growing traffic from Pune, AAI’s Pune Airport has started working on a Multi-Level Car Parking (MLCP) including 2 basements & rising three levels above the ground floor. This will not only add to airport facilities but will aid travellers’ convenience,” the AAI had said last year.

Should Pune Airport recapture its pre-Covid tally of 170 daily flight movements, then the aforementioned works will all be worthwhile.

BELGRADE AIRPORT’S BUMPER RENNOVATION COMPLETED

The Serbian Capital’s Nikola Tesla Airport witnessed the conclusion of its renovation turned innovation project. Indeed, they recently receive Airport Health Accreditation (AHA) from the Airport Council International (ACI) and complemented that with a plethora of new restaurants and duty free shops, as well as glitzy lighting, wall art and furniture.

Belgrade anticipating upward trends in Air Traffic

The Investment in Full

The overall investment took five months to complete at a cost of €2 million. It will ensure that post-passport control, passengers will have a seamless experience throughout their duration in the airport. There are exclusive relaxation and gaming zones, family friendly areas near Gates A5 and A6, and walk-through duty free shops covering 876m2.

WI-FI is now available across the breadth of the passenger terminal, on an unlimited basis for both business and leisure passengers. The latest trending video games can be played without incurring costs for such an interactive experience.

The redesigning initiatives of the aforementioned services were driven by the Airport’s parent company, VINCI, who oversee the operations of 45 airports worldwide. As such, Nikola Tesla Airport is in line with VINCI’s best practices.

In relation to obtaining AHA, the CEO of Belgrade Airport, Francois Berisot, stated:

“We have always been fully dedicated to making passenger protection and safety our priority, which is crucial nowadays, more than ever. This accreditation shows our commitment to maintaining safe operations, and can reassure the travelling public that all of the necessary prevention measures at the airport are in place.”

Passengers can now be assured of a Covid-19 compliant environment, with luxury and comfort remaining at the forefront of the epicentre of Belgrade’s commercial flight operations. Furthermore, it appears that Norwegian Air may start operating flights to Belgrade from 05-June-2021, and hence the timely manner of Nikola Tesla Airport’s upgrades.

THE ‘L’ IN KLM HAS A NEW IMPORTANCE: ‘LONG HAUL’ FLIGHTS CAN NOW RESUME!

KLM can look forward to a resumption of their Long Haul Flight Operations, due to relaxation measures by RIVM (the Dutch National Institute for Public Health & the Environment) on the requirements for Air Crew to produce a negative rapid Covid-19 Antigen test before flight departure from ‘high risk’ countries.

KLM bound for Intercontinental routes AGAIN!

Resumption of Long Haul Flights

After a consultation took place between KLM and RIVM, it was agreed that Air Crew will undertake a rapid Covid-19 Antigen test before departing the Netherlands and can take the same test upon returning to the Netherlands. Consequently, this eliminates the risk of Air Crew not being able to board return flights from ‘high risk’ countries and therefore potentially being stranded abroad for a period of time until they could satisfy the previous requirements.

That being said, passengers travelling from ‘high risk’ countries to the Netherlands, will still be required to present a negative rapid Covid-19 Antigen test, as well as a negative PCR test that is conducted no more than 72 hours prior to travel. This could become problematic in countries that do not have such comprehensive rapid Covid-19 Antigen testing facilities. However, KLM said they will try to support passengers in such predicaments as much as possible.

The Road Ahead

It is also important to note that the resumption of Long Haul routes, will enable KLM’s Cargo Operations to continue to transport Covid-19 vaccine supplies back to the Netherlands. KLM remains intent on stringent measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, and they can now achieve this in an environment that does not completely hinder their Long Haul Flight Operations.

Malta’s International Passenger Traffic Experiences Spiral Dive in 2020

Malta International Airport’s decade long growth in airport passenger traffic came to a grinding halt in 2020, dropping to just 1,748,050 compared to a high of 7,310,289 in 2019.

Whilst the island has a storied diving scene, the dive in airport passenger traffic took precedence in 2020. Consequently, Malta International Airport PLC (who took over the management of the airport’s terminal back in 2002) has recorded its lowest passenger traffic under its management.

The sights tourists hope to see in Malta in 2021

The Comeback

That said, Malta is targeting a summer 2021 surge in passenger traffic, with plans to rollout a comprehensive fast-track vaccine program complemented by a robust Covid-19 testing program.

“In order for this prediction to materialise it is imperative that, over the next weeks, measures aimed at boosting consumer confidence take centre stage. A faster vaccine roll-out should be complemented by the establishment of much-needed uniform testing regimes and travel requirements at a European level,” said Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg.

Such statements are a clear indication that should these parameters not be met with immediate effect, then 2021 could be a continuation of 2020’s lack of tourist footfall, thereby putting local livelihoods at risk of insolvency.

All eyes will now focus on the Airport’s Board of Directors meeting on 24th of February 2021, where further discussions will take place on implementation and effectiveness of Covid-19 compliance measures.