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Imran Khan Government Grounds VIP Protocols | Airports NewsThe historic VIP protocols granted by the Federal Investigation Agency in Pakistan have just been withdrawn by the new Government, led by cricketer Imran Khan this week.

Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday, ‘We have decided to strictly implement the decision to provide equal opportunities to all travellers without discrimination. We have seen that influential people used to seek assistance of FIA officials at airports, who accompanied them to promptly clear their luggage.

The new changes have already taken effect, and from yesterday (26/08/18), FIA officials attempting to give preferential treatment to VIPs will now face ‘strict action,’ according to the Ministry.

In Pakistan, VIP protocols were historically granted to a wide range of people, such as politicians, senior bureaucrats, court judges, legislators, high-ranking military officials and even some journalists. The shake-up has been brought on by observations at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport, where reports were given of FIA officials, Civil Aviation Authority or Airport Security Staff clearing luggage, while VIPs relaxed in the dedicated VIP lounge.

The new Pakistani Government, led by Imran Khan has deemed these practices old-fashioned and damaging, which has led to the abolishment of the outdated process and introduction of the new, equal opportunity system, which will be strictly enforced.

The newly-built Islamabad airport notably has no VIP lounge or facilities, and all passengers follow the same check-in, baggage handling and processing system.

Consumer aviation survey shows drop in satisfaction for flight passengers | Aviation NewsAs airports around the world appear to be placing more and more importance on passenger experience and satisfaction, it is interesting to read that the latest Aviation Consumer Survey results from the CAA show that there is a clear drop in just that. But where are passengers less satisfied?

This, the fifth wave of the UK Aviation Consumer Survey, investigates the current behaviour and attitudes of flight passengers to air travel. The survey looks at every aspect of the passenger journey, from arrival at the originating airport to arrival at the destination airport.

3,500 consumers took part in this survey, selected from a cross-section of UK citizens aged 18+, nationally representative of the population.

The results are used by the Civil Aviation Authority to ascertain the most current and rising aviation issues according to consumers, and to assist in decision-making, regulatory requirements, policy and strategic positioning to improve systems and services.

What to the latest results highlight about passenger satisfaction?

The latest results show that satisfaction amongst flight travellers has been dropping consistently over a two-year period (2016-18). The decreases are slight, but significant, with 90% in the first quarter survey of 2016 to 83% in 2018. However, the decreases in passenger satisfaction are not happening on the ground.

Systems and technologies are streamlining airports of all sizes all over the world, and this is paying off in terms of passenger satisfaction. The reduction in queuing and lengthy security screening processing times have both contributed. Airports in particular have been showing an increasing interest in improving passenger experience, and the latest in self-service technologies have placed greater control of the passenger journey directly into the hands of flight travellers.

The greatest dissatisfactions are happening in the air, during flights and during problematic times, when around half of respondents are worried that any complaints they do have, may be falling on deaf ears.

Speaking about the recent drop in satisfaction, the CAA Director, Tim Johnson said, ‘Delays and disruption can be caused by a range of different factors. Some of these are within the control of airlines, and some are not. Whatever the cause, these delays can be frustrating for passengers. We expect airlines to always provide prompt and accurate information and if passengers are entitled to further care and compensation, this should be provided without delay.

The in-flight experience is making passengers less satisfied, according to survey results. Over two years, the number has fallen from 81% (2016) to 77% (2018), and while still a reasonable satisfaction measurement, it shows a significant drop since 2016.

Where are the least satisfied flight passengers?

An interesting highlight of the survey is that there are regional changes. It seems that flight passengers are more satisfied the further north of the UK they are.

East Midlands travellers are the least happy, at just 76%, with Wales close behind at 78%, where passengers in the north east are 89% happy, on average.

It is widely felt that airports are working hard towards making the ground experience as seamless as possible to improve passenger experience and satisfaction. Infrastructural changes, master systems integration and implementation of the latest innovations in self-service kiosks, biometrics and common use airport systems are all helping to improve not only satisfaction, but also airport operational management.

It is now time for airlines to follow suit and take passenger experience and satisfaction to another level.

passenger-processingVirgin Atlantic has spoken out in a call to the UK government to take action to reduce immigration waiting lines, asking that its passengers receive the ‘welcome visitors deserve.’ The US airline spoke out following reports that waiting times for passenger processing through immigration had reached up to two and a half hours.

The airline say they have been ‘doing their bit,’ providing additional staffing and refreshments for queueing passengers, but they understand that their passengers are left ‘frustrated before they’ve even started their trip’ and are calling the wait times ‘unacceptable’.

Virgin Atlantic has experienced significant increases of up to 20% in traveller numbers to the UK, possibly due to increased opportunities to benefit from Sterling exchange rates, and events such as the Royal Wedding, but it operates 23 flights per day into London Heathrow and its meet and greet service is doing little to help ease and improve passenger experience.

The latest figures show that Heathrow’s UK Border Force sometimes falls far short of its commitment under its Service Level Agreement (SLA) to pass 95% of its non-EEA passengers within 45 minutes. There was just one day during July 2018 when this SLA was met.

With airports in other countries performing to a greater extent, there is a growing concern that this news about ‘unacceptable’ immigration processing times across the UK are poorly timed, particularly with uncertainty already surrounding the first half of 2019 as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Although all aviation industry participants understand the importance of security and immigration in today’s current climate, questions are being raised and pressure placed on the UK government to streamline immigration processes as quickly as possible.

Rockwell Collins Award for Customer Service Support from Airbus | Aviation NewsRockwell Collins, leading aviation and high-integrity solutions provider, reached the top five of 43 aviation companies with the recognition of customer services by Airbus last month for the 11th consecutive year.

Airbus and its customer airlines presented the industry-respected Rockwell Collins with a Customer Services Award for its avionics service at the Farnborough Airshow on 18th July during a special ceremony.

The Rockwell Collins team is honoured by the award

Scott Gunnufson, vice president of Sales, Marketing and Customer Support, Commercial Systems for Rockwell Collins, said ‘Our long-standing relationship with Airbus and its airline customers is one that we are very proud of. The Rockwell Collins team is honoured by the recognition and we remain focused on continuously improving support for Airbus and its customers. I commend our dedicated team around the world on their ongoing efforts and dedication.

The recognition was awarded based on several factors from more than 165 global Airbus customers, including in-service feedback, cost, service and customer support.

Munich Airport Security Breach Leads to Hundreds of Cancelled Flights | Airports NewsAround 200 flights were cancelled, and two terminals evacuated at Munich Airport on Saturday, following reports of an unauthorised entry to a secure area by an unidentified adult female.

According to the reports, the woman entered a secure area of Terminal 2 with no security checks and then disappeared. This was originally reported to the Police at 06:45am local time. An extensive, five-hour search of Germany’s second-busiest airport followed, and the terminal remained closed between 07:47am and 12:44pm while Police conducted a thorough investigation, and flights resumed at 1pm GMT.

Delays have led to the continuation of cancellations, and the airport warned airlines more cancellations could follow. By Sunday afternoon the number had risen to 300 cancelled flights, which left more than 32,000 passengers stranded.

According to local newspaper reports, Police have identified the 40-year-old woman, who was not considered to be an ‘extreme danger’. It is not yet clear if she will face any criminal charges for the airport security breach.

The breach was taken extremely seriously, and restaurants and duty-free stores also closed during the search. Passengers who had already cleared security areas were redirected through the arrivals lounge to pass through security again. Delays were severe and led to hundreds of passengers taking to social media to voice their concerns and in some cases, fury at the temporary closure.

The incident delayed sixty flights on the ground, which led to chaos in the airport. Passengers have since said that there was a worrying lack of information surrounding the situation, which was made worse by searing temperatures and led to several passengers being treated by Paramedics. According to local news, at one point, the Munich fire department was called in to blow fresh air into large ventilators in an attempt to cool down the airport.

Terminal two airlines were most badly affected, and inside around 700 people spent the night on camp beds in the terminal, as local hotels did not have sufficient capacity.

Thousands of passengers returned to rebook flights on Sunday, as delays continued throughout the day as airlines and airport operators struggled to deal with the backlog.

The airport is advising passengers to be patient and to contact the airline before attending the terminals.

San Antonio International Airport Breaks Records | Airport BlogTexas’ San Antonio International Airport (SAT) has been experiencing record growth for two years, but this June has seen a record-breaking 887,000 passengers through its doors, marking the most passengers served in a single month since the airport opened.

Russ Hardy, aviation director for the City of San Antonio, is delighted with the record numbers and said, ‘If the numbers continue to grow as we anticipate, we could realistically exceed the 10 million mark in passengers for 2018. This is a benchmark we would happily like to achieve this year.

The figures represent an increase of 6.8% compared to the same period last year for domestic travellers. There was, however, a drop in international passenger numbers of 4.6%.

Looking ahead, SAT is already looking to break more records. It is expected to outdo last years’ figures with preliminary releases scheduled to deliver 10% more passenger seats sales in the later half of this year, including the busy summer season.

Cargo handling has also increased for the airport. Figures show an 8.2% increase in cargo during June, which translated into more than 22,000,000 pounds in weight. This could represent another record level, as the recent upturn in figures is almost double the average growth in cargo transportation for the airports of North America.

Automated Screening in Airports | Airport BlogAll over the globe, airport operators are seeking the seamless passenger experience for the traveller journey, from arrivals to departure.

Automation in airports is bringing this closer, particularly in the area of airport security.

It has been announced that the UK’s Department of Transport is looking to use automation technology for the screening of liquids, which currently are limited to just 100ml. This could mean the end of such limits in the UK, which currently has some of the strictest security measures in the world, according to a Department of Transport spokesperson.

The limit on carrying liquids onto aircraft was imposed in the summer of 2006, when a bomb plot was uncovered on a passenger flight. The chemicals were discovered in an ordinary drinks bottle, which at the time, would have been relatively simple to smuggle on board the aircraft.

The latest automated baggage screening technology uses 3D imagery, which can look at items in passenger baggage from all angles, and explosive detection technology, currently being trialled in the UK, could lead to the elimination of current liquids restrictions.

Reducing passenger security screening time

The time passengers spend in security lanes is already being reduced with the latest screening technology, and passengers are moving through these areas with greater efficiency than ever before, but, according to industry professionals, this can be improved even further with the latest in automation, enhancing passenger facilitation across the entire airport environment.

Some of the industry’s leaders, such as Rockwell Collins, have introduced solutions for passenger facilitation, including options for biometric identity management, boarding pass verification and automated border control. Using automation is universally accepted in the aviation industry as being the way forward for future travel, and passenger experience is high on the agenda.

If passengers no longer have to empty their hand luggage completely, remove liquids and other items to be screened separately, it is easy to see how this is going to speed up the process of security screening. There won’t be many passengers complaining about that!