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UK Air Routes Agreements Offer Reassurance Post-Brexit Passengers travelling to Canadian airports can continue to enjoy clear passage after Brexit, according to the UKs Transport Secretary, following an aviation agreement made between the two countries at the end of last month.

The agreement spells good news for the aviation industry, which has been surrounded by uncertainty following the UKs decision to leave the EU in 2016. The UK-Canada arrangement will replace the current EU aviation agreement, thus assuring continued access to the aviation routes the UK currently enjoys with Canada.

This follows the UK government’s announcement last month of a new Open Skies agreement with the United States, which will also mirror and replace the current EU arrangement.

The recent agreements will ensure continued access to vital air routes that carry millions of people across the Atlantic every year, will also make sure business operators will not lose out, and will pave the way for future trade deals supported by air travel.

The UK-Canada air route has been steadily growing over the past six years, and more than 3.5 million passengers were transported last year alone.

This is all good news for the aviation industry, and for global trade opportunities, which rely on the UK as a major European hub. These two latest arrangements with the US and Canada come after an announcement that another eight bilateral arrangements have already been concluded with other countries – Switzerland, Israel, Iceland, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Georgia and Morocco.

UK transport secretary, Chris Grayling said after the US agreement, ‘Our transatlantic flights have helped to bring our countries even closer together, strengthening our ties and boosting our economies. This new arrangement and those concluded with 8 other countries around the world are proof that the UK will continue to be a major player on the world stage after we leave the EU.

Denver International Airport Launches Off-site Bag Drop | Baggage Handing SystemsDenver International Airport (DEN) has launched a new facility to assist passengers with their baggage. The off-site bag drop is located in the car park of the airport and offers passengers and personnel much greater flexibility.

Passengers can use the facility, in the Pikes Peak or Mt. Elbert parking areas to drop off baggage and print boarding passes before boarding shuttle busses to the terminals. The initiative will also create additional space on the shuttle busses and make travel easier for passengers, who can simply arrive at the terminal without their luggage, streamlining the check-in process simultaneously.

Maintaining compliance and security and increasing passenger experience

Baggage handling is an important part of the airport operational environment, particularly since new tracking regulations were introduced earlier this year. With strict guidelines for baggage handling and reconciliation, airlines and airports have been looking for new systems and solutions that maintain security yet make the passenger experience more enjoyable.

Baggage management systems are gaining new ground in airports of all sizes all over the world, and offering flexibility is a major part of airport standards. The latest baggage management solutions incorporate seamless tracking and reconciliation solutions, enabling compliance while meeting growing passenger demand.

If passengers are happier, operations run smoothly as a result, and airports can maintain flexibility in terms of resource deployment throughout the airport – and now that can begin before passengers set foot in the terminal environment. Off-site check-in solutions are not new, but the latest technologies are being utilised to revolutionise passenger experience.

Instances of misplaced baggage have historically cost the aviation industry millions of pounds every year, and the latest regulations are in place to drastically reduce this expense for airlines and airports globally. IATA Resolution 753 promises to deliver enhanced tracking and baggage reconciliation around the world for member airlines to ensure costs are reduced, efficiency is increased, and passenger satisfaction achieved.

A-FIDS _ Flight Information Display System | Increasing passenger experienceAccording to the latest analysis from the Airports Council International (ACI), global passenger satisfaction levels are on the rise again. Comparing Q3 of 2018 to 2017, ACI noted that levels increased to 4.21 from 4.17, and have remained stable since the start of this year.

The survey revealed that passengers are scoring airports higher in all categories from security to wayfinding, proving that investment in the latest technologies for Flight Information Display Systems, for example, has been worth it. Even the smallest global airports are receiving praise for their efforts.

Some industry professionals are not surprised at all by the revealing insights. As airline and airports competition increases, passenger satisfaction becomes ever-more important. When airports rise to the challenge of increasing passenger experience, (and airports around the world have been) they begin to consider all operational aspects, such as queuing, which has been successfully reduced by the introduction of CUTE systems and self-service applications.

As systems and solutions begin communicating, integration becomes more important, as does scalability when airport operators consider how to address critical flow times and exceptional circumstances. The world’s most innovative systems and solutions are often highly integrable, which makes day-to-day operations simpler and more streamlined – opening the door to automation.

The highest increase noted in the recent analysis was in the facilities category. This includes airport eateries and shopping, which are increasingly important for travellers, especially those that are no longer waiting in long queues.

When airports consider the planning aspects of facilities, and have greater capacity with streamlined services and processes, they can make better use of airport resources and terminal space. As passenger demand increases for higher levels of service and facilities, these types of reports and subsequent analysis can really help airports to serve as a model for passenger expectation.

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.

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.