Mixed reaction as Heathrow Airport expansion gets cabinet approval
Plans for the construction of a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport have received backing from cabinet ministers in what has been described as an “historic moment” for the UK.
The cabinet gave the initiative the greenlight following approval from the government’s economic sub-committee, chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May. It will now be up to the House of Commons to vote on the matter by the end of the month.
Downing Street said on Tuesday that the decision “demonstrates our commitment to delivering the jobs and major infrastructure projects the country needs to thrive” and would help ensure that the UK remains “outward looking and one of the world’s best-connected nations” once Brexit takes place.
But despite May’s enthusiasm, several MPs, environmentalists and members of the public did not welcome the move.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the only minister who chose to speak against the expansion, is one of a number of MPs who disapprove of the initiative, having previously claimed he would “lie down in front of bulldozers” to stop the runway.
The government is also facing backlash from a group of local councils led by Conservative MP for Windsor and Maidenhead Simon Dudley, who recently said he was ready to mount a legal challenge.
He told Radio Berkshire: “Let’s be clear here, if it doesn’t satisfactorily address concerns, then if MPs vote in favour of adopting this National Policy Statement, that opens up a six week window to a legal challenge and there will be a legal challenge.”
Concerns also sparked among nearby residents, who fear the building of a new runway would increase noise pollution to unbearable levels. Within this framework, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced that £2.6bn will be spent on compensation for residents and noise abatement measures.
The Aviation Environment Federation said that the government had “buried the truth” about a runway that could cause “unavoidable environmental damage”. British Airways’ parent company IAG also expressed concern that the project could be too expensive, resulting in price rises for air passengers. Grayling addressed these issues saying that the expansion will only happen if air quality commitments are met.
However, many believe the runway represents a valuable opportunity for the UK and Heathrow, capable of boosting the economy and improving the airport’s international prestige.
Slough Borough Council, whose residents live near Heathrow Airport, said it was “the right decision”, with leader James Swindlehurst claiming it would create helpful job opportunities for the town.
Many businesses also welcomed the initiative. The Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said: “It’s essential small firms are given the opportunity to play a part in the huge procurement exercise to build both the runway and associated works, and that promises for increased regional connectivity are delivered.”
The decision has also triggered a mixed reaction from other UK airports, with Doncaster Sheffield Airport Aviation Development director Chris Harcombe commenting: “We welcome the government setting out final proposals and backing for the expansion of London Heathrow. It is very important for UK competitiveness to have a thriving and expanded global aviation hub in Heathrow.
“However it must come with balance for the rest of the UK through a clear government strategy to unlock existing aviation capacity in the regions and in turn stimulate economic growth locally.”
Dubai Airport inaugurates 18 new smart gates at Terminal 2
Dubai International Airport has opened a total of 18 new smart gates at Terminal 2 in a bid to allow travellers to pass through immigration quicker.
The new gates, which remove any form of human intervention to clear immigration, allow passengers to pass through the process within seven to ten seconds.
Ten of the gates have been installed in the arrivals area while the remaining gates are deployed in the departures area.
The new gates were launched by General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs Dubai director general Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri.
Ahmed Al Marri told media sources: “These exclusive smart gates have resulted in the development of intelligent projects at the Dubai International Airports.”
Featuring the latest face-recognition software, the smart gates can identify travellers through their eyes, fingers and faces.
Upon completion of the process, the system issues transit passes to passengers, which can be used every time they pass through the airport.
According to a plan, the smart gates at Dubai airports are expected to replace passport officials’ platforms by 2030.
The number of passengers opting for the smart gates surged to 2.63 million during the first five months of this year, compared to 2.16 million during the same period a year ago.
Currently, there are a total of 122 smart gates at Dubai airports, including 30 in Terminal 1, 18 in Terminal 2, 64 in Terminal 3, and ten at the Al Maktoum International Airport.
IATA urges for economic regulation of Australia’s airports
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged for strong economic regulation of Australian airports amid concerns about the effectiveness of the price monitoring regulatory system for airport charges in the country.
IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac pointed toward the need to justify the airport charges, saying that travel by air has become cheaper now than it was a decade ago; however, airlines and passengers have not seen similar decreases in airport costs.
“The difference is that airlines operate in a competitive environment while airports have much more market power. We must find an effective regulatory solution to ensure that Australia is well served with competitive infrastructure.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) expressed its concerns last year about the effectiveness of the country’s price monitoring regulatory regime for airport charges and whether it does enough to constrain the market power of Australia’s main airports.
IATA said that it agrees with the ACCC’s view.
At present, IATA is working with Airlines for Australia and New Zealand and the Board of Airline Representatives Australia to give input to the Productivity Review on Economic Regulation of Airport Services taking place this year.
At the Australasian Aviation Press Club, Juniac also shed light on other topics relating to Australian airports.
He added: “The apprehension of potential aircraft bombers in Sydney last year was a grim reminder that aviation remains a target for terrorists.
“We welcome the nearly A$300m ($227m) that the federal government has allocated to further improve security at airports. As this is rolled out, we must carefully ensure that associated costs don’t leak back to the airlines.”
Report finds thousands miss UK border checks due to misdirection
A recent report has revealed that over 11,000 travellers have unintentionally avoided UK border checks between 2013 and 2017 due to a lack of clear directions.
According to figures released by the Home Office, there has been a 70% increase in the number of passengers who were misdirected, from 1,364 in 2016 to 2,328 in 2017.
Further statistics from a Freedom of Information request show that the Border Force recorded 2,394, 2,665 and 2,278 misdirected passengers in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The UK Government said that these mistakes often take place when the wrong doors are opened or the airline operators send travellers in the wrong direction. Checks are now being carried out to identify those responsible.
The Home Office released a statement claiming no cases of dangerous individuals who avoided checks had been registered, adding: “The security of our border is paramount”. It also said that despite the majority of travellers regularly passing through the borders, “a relatively small but unacceptable” number still gets misdirected.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We are determined to eradicate these errors and believe a civil penalty is a vital tool in ensuring this happens.”
Earlier in March, the government unveiled plans for civil penalties of up to £50,000 for airports and airlines that misdirect passengers, though the Airport Operators Association (AOA) called the measure disproportionate.
A spokesman for the AOA said the number of misdirected passengers compared to total travellers has decreased since 2013, a figure that proved the operators’ willingness to tackle the issue.
He said: “We are committed to working with airlines, ground handlers and Border Force to continue to improve on our track record.
“We do not believe that the proposed civil penalty should be part of that ongoing work as it is disproportionate in light of the numbers of passengers involved.”
Delta unveils plans for $1.86bn Delta Sky Way at LAX
Delta Air Lines and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) have unveiled a $1.86bn plan to modernise, upgrade and connect Terminals 2 and 3, as well as the Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Beginning in October, work is set to commence on the Delta Sky Way at LAX, a walkway that will connect all the terminals.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said: “The Delta Sky Way at LAX project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in and transform the airport experience in partnership with LAWA and the City of Los Angeles.
“Delta is excited and proud to be leading the way not just in LA but in our hubs across the country, with more than $12bn in airport infrastructure investments in progress over the next few years.”
The modernisation will provide more security screening capacity with automated security lanes, additional gate-area seating, and an improved concession programme in collaboration with Westfield.
Additionally, passengers will enjoy regular amenities such as the Delta ONE at LAX check-in space, a new Delta Sky Club and the integrated in-line baggage system.
The redevelopment plans include a 27-gate complex on Terminals 2 and 3 with a secure connection to Terminal B, which will allow Delta and its partners to use the gates properly.
Plans also include complete reconstruction of Terminal 3 with a brand new shared ‘headhouse’ with centralised lobby, security screening checkpoint and baggage claim.
A convenient bridge linking Terminals 2, 3 and B on the secure side of the airport, in addition to a dedicated baggage recheck and security checkpoint, will be provided for hassle-free connection of international to domestic transfers.
South Korea’s Incheon Airport deploys SITA’s bag drop technology
Incheon International Airport in South Korea has installed SITA’s self-service bag drop technology at its new Terminal 2.
The new Drop&Fly technology will simplify the bag drop process and reduce wait time for travellers, improving the passenger experience.
SITA stated that the technology also helps to use terminal capacity more efficiently while ensuring accurate baggage handling.
Drop&Fly has been deployed at the airport’s Terminal 1 since 2016. At present, a total of 48 Drop&Fly units (14 at T1 and 34 at T2) are available to passengers with 30 more on the way.
Incheon International Airport Smart Airport Group executive director Sang-il Kim said: “We want to give our passengers a fantastic experience when they travel through our airport and that means using the very best technology.
“Deploying SITA Drop&Fly is part of our extensive modernisation programme that will help ensure Incheon International remains on top of the list of the world’s best airports.”
Drop&Fly features a sliding door and advanced sensors which thwart tampering and the intrusion of unauthorised objects.
It can be tailored to the specific needs of the airport and is equipped with technology such as payment devices and baggage facing cameras, among others.
Additionally, the new system is capable of offering live status and notifications on all bag drop units for ground agents, and real-time statistics to analyse trends and generate reports.
SITA Asia Pacific president Sumesh Patel said: “We know passengers want self-service options because they like having control over their journey and it saves time. Self-bag drop is a win for the airport because it makes very efficient use of the available space and makes the baggage process more accurate and efficient.”
Incheon International Airport served over 60 million passengers last year. The airport has set a target to reach 100 million travellers by 2030.
Air BP introduces Airfield Automation technology
Air BP has announced the launch of its new Airfield Automation technology in a bid to enhance safety, reliability and compliance in airport fuelling operations.
The company, which supplies aviation fuel products and services, has described the digital platform as an ‘integrated, real-time, global solution’ that will help airports and operators improve safety barriers and lower risks during the fuelling process.
Air BP said it is the first commercially deployed system to provide an engineering barrier capable of preventing misfuelling. The company is currently pursuing patent protection for the automated, end-to-end, paperless system.
Air BP technical director Kerry Rutherford said: “Misfuelling is one of the biggest risks we face in our industry, the new Air BP Airfield Automation technology provides an engineering barrier to stop it happening. As aircraft engine technology advances and new unleaded fuel grades are introduced, we anticipate that it will become even more relevant in future.”
The Airfield Automation technology is a cloud-based platform that combines data related to airport fuelling operations and works through an app, called ‘safe2go’, on a handled device in the fuelling vehicles.
The app captures fuel volume readings and provides fuel grade checks. It also registers customer details, which are confirmed with an electronic signature from the pilot or airline, minimising any potential miskeying errors.
The launch comes after a two-year trial period carried out at nine airports in the UK, Cyprus and Portugal. Air BP plans to introduce the technology to its network this summer, with the platform expected to be operational at around 350 locations by 2020.
According to the supplier, the Airfield Automation technology has helped complete over 5,000 aircraft fuellings at one airport over the last six months, delivering more than 46 million litres of fuel into customer aircraft.
Air BP chief commercial officer Matt Elliott said: “This new platform reinforces our ambition to be a leader in digital fuelling technology. Air travel continues to grow, putting more pressure on airports and operators to provide a seamless service to customers.
“With this new technology, we are playing our part in ensuring that the fuelling process is fast, efficient and safe. Future enhancements to our system will support wider digitalisation at airports.”
Several other organisations are developing solutions to prevent misfuelling, with the National Air Transport Association (NATA) launching its General Aviation Misfueling Prevention initiative in 2016 to raise awareness on the matter.
NATA also launched a Supplemental Safety Training Program earlier this year, which targets the risks of jet fuel contamination with diesel exhaust fluid.
AI-powered footstep recognition system may boost airport security
Researchers at the UK’s University of Manchester have collaborated with the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain to develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-based biometric verification system for airport security.
The system is capable of measuring a person’s individual gait or walking pattern and can verify footsteps of an individual simply by walking on a pressure pad in the floor and analysing the footstep’s 3D and time-based data.
The study found that the AI-based system correctly identified an individual almost 100% of the time, with just a 0.7 error rate.
With the new discovery, instead of fingerprinting and eye-scanning, behavioural biometrics such as gait recognition, could be used as biometric identification at airport security.
Manchester School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering researcher Dr Omar Costilla Reyes said: “Each human has approximately 24 different factors and movements when walking, resulting in every individual person having a unique, singular walking pattern.
“Therefore monitoring these movements can be used, like a fingerprint or retinal scan, to recognise and clearly identify or verify an individual.”
The team collected the largest footstep database using floor-only sensors and high-resolution cameras, which includes about 20,000 footstep signals from 127 different individuals, to accumulate the samples and dataset.
Dr Costilla Reyes added: “Focusing on non-intrusive gait recognition by monitoring the force exerted on the floor during a footstep is very challenging.
“That’s because distinguishing between the subtle variations from person to person is extremely difficult to define manually, that is why we had to come up with a novel AI system to solve this challenge from a new perspective.”
Contrary to being filmed or scanned at an airport, the process is non-intrusive for the individual and resilient to noisy environments.
Gait measurements ensure that the person does not need to remove footwear when walking on the pressure pads as it is not based on the footprint shape.