Industry News




Auckland Airport to begin second runway maintenance project

Auckland Airport in New Zealand is set to begin a second major runway maintenance project this week.

The project, which involves the replacement of 81 slabs at the western end of the runway, was brought forward in view of weak travel demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the project, around 250 truckloads of concrete will be poured to rehabilitate 3,000m² of runway. A 150-member construction team will be deployed for the programme.

The work is expected to be completed at the end of the year.

The airport completed the first runway maintenance project in August this year. This programme involved the replacement of 280 large concrete slabs.

Auckland Airport Infrastructure general manager André Lovatt said: “The first slab replacement programme was a great success, and we’re continuing to get ahead of planned maintenance by bringing forward other important work on our runway.

“Our organisation has been significantly affected by Covid-19, but the downturn in aviation traffic has also created opportunities for us to carry out runway works with minimal disruption to airlines, to ensure the ongoing safety and efficiency of our airfield.”

The runway will be shortened by 990m at the western end during the maintenance project.

Around 14,000 flights are expected to use the shortened runway during this eight week work period. The figure is nearly half the number of flights operated from Auckland Airport in the same period last year.

The contractor of the project is Brian Perry Civil.

Lovatt added: “We’ve had to reduce our infrastructure development programme over the next couple of years but we’re making a point of prioritising projects that are focused on essential safety and asset maintenance.”




Orlando Airport takes step to assist travellers with hidden disabilities

Orlando International Airport (MCO) in the US state of Florida has launched a customer service that seeks to assist passengers with hidden disabilities.

The initiative, called Sunflower Lanyard programme, aims to help people suffering from issues that are not apparent such as low vision, hearing loss, autism, anxiety disorders, dementia, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder and learning disabilities, among others.

The voluntary, self-identification programme will allow such travellers to wear Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyards, enabling airport staff to identify them and reach out for any assistance.

Passengers who seek to avail the assistance can procure the lanyards from the third level information booths in the main terminal.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Customer Experience director Brian Engle said: “Not all disabilities are visible and this programme allows our staff to subtly identify those in need of an extra level of customer service and make sure that everyone, no matter what their circumstance, has a good Orlando experience.”

The Sourcing Group CEO Billy Caan said: “We are excited to partner with the Orlando International Airport on this growing initiative to offer the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower products in the Southeastern US.

“This programme is a very worthy cause and creates a more comfortable, positive airport experience for people who have disabilities that might not be visible.”

The programme was launched in London’s Gatwick Airport in 2016. Subsequently, it was adopted by supermarkets, railway stations, sporting venues and museums in the UK.




Berlin’s new international airport opens after nine-year delay

Berlin’s new international airport has become operational after a delay of nine years and amid struggles faced by the global aviation industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Construction on the Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt (BER) commenced in 2006.

It was initially scheduled to open in 2011.

Due to technical and construction problems, the inauguration was repeatedly postponed.

The delay increased the operational pressure on Berlin’s two already-crowded airports Tegel and Schoenefeld, which have merged into the new facility.

An Easyjet flight was the first to land at BER. The flight took off from Tegel, which will close in a few days. This was shortly followed by a Lufthansa flight.

Berlin’s airports chief executive Engelbert Luetke Daldrup said that around ten million passengers will land in the German capital this year, as compared to 36 million in 2019.

The current capacity of BER stands at 40 million passengers.

The new airport is owned by the states of Berlin and Brandenburg and the German Federal Government.

It cost around $7bn, which is approximately three times the initial estimated budget.

The airport covers a total area of 1,470ha and its terminals 1 and 2 are located between the two parallel runways while Terminal 5, the former Schönefeld Airport, is in the northern area.

Its two runways can be operated independently. Besides the northern runway, flights will also be operated from the southern runway starting from 4 November.




LAX simplifies international arrivals with facial recognition system

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has unveiled a facial recognition system at Tom Bradley International Terminal to simplify the arrival of international passengers.

Known as Simplified Arrival, the new touchless system will automate the document checks that are mandatory for entry into the US.

In addition to streamlining international arrivals, the system will help the airport fulfil congressional directive to record the biometrics of non-US citizens.

The new technology only uses the biometric facial comparison process where passengers are already required to authenticate their identity by presenting a travel document.

The newly unveiled biometric facial comparison process will compare the new photo of the passengers to images that they have previously submitted to the government such as passport and visa photos.

However, foreign passengers who have previously visited the US will no longer have to provide fingerprints. Their identity will be verified via the facial comparison system.

The system was implemented by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in partnership with Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).

LAWA CEO Justin Erbacci said: “Los Angeles World Airports is an innovation leader, deploying new technology to enhance safety, streamline the passenger experience and create an increasingly digital curb-to-gate journey.

“Our partnership with US Customs and Border Protection has led to many passenger improvements, and the addition of Simplified Arrivals further solidifies LAX’s position as a premiere international port of entry.”

CBP’s deputy executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations Diane Sabatino said: “Simplified Arrival is a secure, efficient and intuitive process that delivers a seamless experience for travellers arriving into the United States. CBP is using an accurate, reliable technology to verify identity while protecting the privacy of all travellers.”

LAWA has allocated a budget of $1.9m in capital funds to renew the Federal Inspection Service area at Tom Bradley International Terminal for the new arrival process.

Sabatino added: “CBP’s facial comparison algorithm shows virtually no measurable differential performance in results based on demographic factors. We continue to partner with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to further enhance the Simplified Arrival process.”

Since September 2018, CBP has prevented nearly 300 imposters from illegally entering the US by using facial biometrics.




ACI Europe proposes duty and tax free shopping for EU arrivals

Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) has proposed duty and tax free shopping on arrival at airports across the European Union (EU) to support the recovery of the aviation sector.

The association, along with the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), called on EU lawmakers to revise the current legislation to allow arriving passengers to shop duty free at EU airports.

The move comes after an ETRC-commissioned report found that the introduction of duty free shopping at EU airports will have significant economic benefits.

The report stated that the step would generate around €4.3bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) and €1.6bn in tax revenues, based on last year’s traffic figures.

It would also help 41,500 jobs, the report added.

Arrivals duty and tax free shops are common in several countries across the world, including airports in some European nations such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

However, existing EU legislation restricts duty and tax free sales for passengers leaving the European Union.

ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said: “EU airports are currently facing the most difficult trading conditions in modern history and are urgently in need of government support.

“Given the unique role that airports play as economic gateways, it is imperative that all steps are taken to keep them open through these difficult times.

“EU airports are currently losing hundreds of millions of euros of potential commercial income to their non-EU counterparts each year. Arrivals duty and tax free will allow retail sales to be displaced from third countries back to the EU airport of arrival.”




Airports in Europe facing insolvency if passenger traffic does not pick up

An estimated 193 airports in Europe face insolvency in the months to come if passenger traffic does not pick up by the end of the year, according to ACI Europe.

These airports provide around 277,000 jobs and account for €12.4bn of European GDP.

Given the threat of airport closure, ACI Europe has urged governments to step up support for airports as Europe faces the risk of a collapse of part of its air transport system.

According to the data, there has been a year-on-year decrease of 73% in passenger traffic at Europe’s airports in September.

There has been a loss of an additional 172.5 million passengers in September, taking the total volume of lost passengers since the beginning of this year to 1.29 billion.

Passenger traffic was 75% down from the same period last year as of mid-October. This reached an 80% decrease for airports in the EU / EEA / Switzerland / UK footprint, indicating a downward trajectory.

According to ACI Europe’s latest forecast, the permanence of stringent restrictions to international travel in the upcoming season has only worsened the traffic outlook.

Several airlines have cut down their capacity plans for the remainder of the year, as well as into the next year.

ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said: “In the midst of a second wave, ensuring safe air travel continues to be our primary concern. It’s crucial that we reduce the risks of importation and dissemination as much as possible. But surely we can do a much better job of reducing those risks by testing air passengers rather than with quarantines that cannot be enforced.

“The figures published today paint a dramatically bleak picture. 8 months into the crisis, all of Europe’s airports are burning through cash to remain open, with revenues far from covering the costs of operations, let alone capital costs. Governments’ current imposition of quarantines rather than testing is bringing Europe’s airports closer to the brink with every day that passes.”




Hyderabad airport launches e-boarding facility for international passengers

India’s GMR Hyderabad International Airport has launched an e-boarding facility for passengers on international flights.

The paperless e-boarding facility is claimed to be the first for any airport in India. It is already being provided to passengers on all domestic flights at the airport.

GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL) chief executive officer Pradeep Panicker said: “After the successful pilot of the project and all regulatory approvals, we have used our internal capabilities to take up e-boarding solution for international operations.”

On 2 October, the e-boarding solution for international passengers was launched by IndiGo Airlines, on a flight bound to Sharjah.

Following a successful pilot project, Hyderabad International Airport received governmental approval to launch its e-boarding services for international passengers.

An official GMR release said: “The service is currently available for select international flights of IndiGo Airlines.”

According to the company, other international flights from the airport are integrating the e-boarding system and the service will be launched soon.

Passengers boarding a flight to an international destination and using e-boarding service will need to book the ticket online and then complete web check-in.

They need to showcase the digital / printed boarding card at the e-boarding scanner installed at the airport.

The CISF personnel will then authenticate the documents and allow the passenger to enter.

The check-in agent scans the boarding card at the check-in counter, and the passenger is required to drop luggage off at the counter.

Passports are verified by airport authorities at the immigration counter.

At security screening, passengers are required to put their baggage on the Automatic Tray Retrieval System (ATRS) and get the boarding card scanned through an e-boarding scanner at the boarding gate.




Stockholm Skavsta Airport to commission solar plant in 2021

Stockholm Skavsta Airport will commission its solar energy plant in the summer of 2021.

Once operational, this will be the first large solar plant in a Swedish airport.

The plant will offer CO2-neutral power to the airport operations.

In partnership with the local municipality, the airport will also have an opportunity to resell the surplus green energy.

Stockholm Skavsta has been operated by VINCI Airports since 2018.

Stockholm Skavsta Airport CEO Cédric Fechter said: “As a VINCI Airports infrastructure, all our employees are fully focused on the global environmental stakes and are working hard on our mission to become a ‘0 net carbon emission’ airport.

“Fully supported by the VINCI Airports environmental policy and together with the Municipality of Nyköping, Stockholm Skavsta Airport is proud to stand for such a sustainable project for our airport and the territory we serve. We will actively continue our strive to find ways of making aviation more sustainable and to interact with society for a better environment.”

With this commissioning, VINCI Airports will be foraying into the first stage of its environmental transition in line with the group’s global goal pursued since 2015 to develop sustainable airport infrastructures that will cut down carbon footprint.

VINCI Airports claimed that it is supporting all its airports throughout the obtention cycle of the ISO 14001 certification, as well as the completion of carbon accreditation programme (ACA) of the Airport International Council (ACI).