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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.

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Airport News | Trends in Aviation for 2019While passenger traffic numbers will continue to grow at a stable rate, some industry experts are looking at what could be trending next year, such as how many airports are looking at expansion projects all over the world, how the competitive framework will create opportunities and how disruptive the UKs departure from the EU will be.

Biometrics and integration

Intensified competition driven by passenger growth is already encouraging greater investment in airports infrastructure. This is most commonly seen in the introduction of biometrics, and the drive towards the single-token airport journey. Biometrics are creating opportunities, but are also creating disparate data, so integration is becoming the focus of airports on a global scale.

Brexit

Across Europe, traffic is increasing, and industry analysts conclude that the rise in line with GDP could spell airport revenue increases of 2-4%. The uncertainty still surrounding Brexit and the UKs access to the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) following March 2019 is creating concern about reduced passage of passengers and freight through the UK.

Although many experts agree that the likelihood of a standstill of EU-UK traffic is slim, in the short-term, traffic could be affected, particularly when another area of uncertainty surrounds the right of movement of passengers between the two areas and whether visa arrangements will be made. Airport operators and airlines with a reliance upon EU-UK traffic may face a period of disruption which could result in revenues being affected.

Merging airports and acquisition

Airports across the world, and notably in the Asia-Pacific region are looking towards the consolidation of assets as competitive positioning increases. Opportunities for mergers and acquisitions are popping up all over Europe due to the expansion of favourable conditions such as low interest rates, for example.

This trend is likely to increase, according to industry analysts, and additional opportunities look favourable in regions such as Latin America, where in 2019, 12 airports in Brazil are being scheduled for investment and privatisation. This is expected to attract global interest.

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.

Montreal Airport Green Airport Transport | Airports NewsCanada’s Aeroports de Montreal (ADM) has taken another important step in its bid to become more environmentally aware this month, as it received its first electric vehicle conversion as a part of the Quebec government initiative – Ride & Drive.

The new truck, which is 100% electric, will be used primarily by ground handling personnel in a maintenance role, as they inspect runways, and supervise outdoor maintenance and emergency tasks.

The reusable electric drive motor is said to have an incredible lifespan of a million kilometres and should lower greenhouse gasses by up to nine tonnes per year. This system is also expected to reduce vehicle operating costs for the airport by 80% and maintenance costs by half.

The environmentally-friendly airport has done much over the past year to improve its vehicle record, including an initiative to make airport taxis friendlier. Since November last year, 70% of taxis working out of the airport have a hybrid engine, which in itself has an estimated impact of reducing C02 by 8,700 tonnes.

There has also been an effort to encourage users of hybrid and fully-electric vehicles with the installation of additional charging stations at the airport site. By Autumn 2018, there is a plan in place to double the current figure of 28 stations. The airport has plans to introduce a bus service for passengers to and from the terminals, which will be eco-friendly.

Investment in the projects has been healthy, and the airport announced it has spent more than $2.8 million in just eco-friendly solutions just last year. The airport operators feel that this initiative is super-important, and is really making a difference.

Sustainable development has become an essential condition for the success of organizations and Aéroports de Montréal is committed to this new reality,’ said Martin Massé, ADM’s vice president of public affairs.

In this regard, ADM’s commitment is resulting in concrete actions. In 2017, we invested more than $2.8 million in environmental protection projects which, like this initiative, are making a difference in our day-to-day operations.

Queue in Airport Set to Reduce with Cashless System | American Airlines Go CashlessAmerican Airlines is moving towards a cashless transaction experience in airports all over the US, as it removed cash payment options at Miami Airport this week, making the total number now 50 airports.

The airline says that moving away from cash assists its customers more efficiently, and adds, ‘It also reduces the complexity of work for our agents who will no longer have to worry about handling cash, find exact change or close out a cash drawer at the end of the day. In general, our ticket counter agents support the transition to a cashless environment.

Beginning tomorrow at Miami International Airport, passengers will be advised to bring credit and debit cards only, although, having partnered with Ready Credit, American Airlines check-in desks will have ReadyStation kiosks nearby, providing prepaid Visa debit cards up to $1,000. There will be a $5 surcharge for this service.

American Airlines spokesperson, Aran Coello, has acknowledged that this new system may cause problems for foreign passengers, rather than native Americans, but also says, ‘we have noticed that many travellers who are returning to a country where [U.S. dollars] is not the accepted currency will often add more funds to their cards as it is a cost-effective method of converting [U.S. dollars] to other currencies.

With successful operation of the scheme in 50 other locations in the US, including JFK International Airport, LaGuardia, LAX and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines believe that the move to a cashless environment is the right step to take in the modern airport.

Most travellers already use debit and credit cards for expenses such as excess baggage, additional flight upgrades and other necessary fees, but it is accepted that some travellers, particularly those from foreign countries, will have exchanged currency into dollars in cash for use on their journey, but the prepaid Visa debit cards will often give a much better rate of exchange for passengers.

Trace Detection System Approved by TSA | Airport Security NewsIt has been announced that the TSA has approved the first trace detection system on the Air Cargo Screening Technology List (ACSTL).

The portable system has been designed to detect tiny quantities of explosives within moments, in addition to the capability of detecting trace amounts of narcotics like fentanyl.

The flexible trace detection system has the ability to operate using batteries to enable seamless operation within a dynamic environment, and is perfect for screening cargo ‘on-the-go’ kerbside.

Plans are now in place to submit the trace detection system for testing and approval at other airport checkpoints, further improving security screening. The new system has been designed to operate in a similar way to previous versions, reducing the training time needed for the new devices. The provider also suggests that the units are easier to maintain, and will save time and resources over their lifespan.

Physical security in airports of all sizes around the world is increasing, and the pressures are growing for operators with mandatory regulations. Operators are looking towards the latest airport security technology to improve operations, increase efficiency and flexibility, while maintaining the highest levels of security within the airport environment.

Proven systems and solutions need to be in place to enable operators to rise to meet the challenges the latest security mandates and security threats place on the aviation industry. A wide range of security measures must be met, including:

  • Access management
  • Intrusion detection
  • Biometric identity management
  • Vehicle and personnel identification
  • Explosive detection
  • Narcotics detection
  • And much more.

Physical security solutions providers are embracing the latest technology to ensure airport operators can achieve maximum security at every level, and meet the mandatory requirements without creating undue ground delays that can result in fines and a reduction in passenger experience.

Solutions such as the trace detection system can help airport ground handling personnel to confidently expedite cargo, while maintaining efficiency and operational productivity.