Airport News

Below are news items relating to specific airports

 

Norwegian is ending its low-cost long-haul flights, to focus on European routes only

Norwegian Air says it is ending its long-haul operation, and end its plans for low-cost long distance flying. It had to ground most of its fleet throughout 2020 – its long-haul Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets have not been used since March.  Even before Covid, it long-haul flights (to the US, Argentina and Brazil) at stupidly low prices were not making money, and Norwegian had financial troubles.  In 2013, after 20 years as a standard short-haul carrier, it had its first  budget transatlantic flights – firstly from Oslo, and in 2014 from Gatwick. One-way economy fares between the UK and US cost from just £125. For that price there was no free check-in baggage, or food or drink.  The first flight between Gatwick and Seattle cost £150. Gatwick was its long-haul base in the UK. In 2019, it flew more passengers between the US and UK than any other airline, to 12 US destinations. Margins were very tight, and the airline had rising debt in 2019. By April 2020, 80% of its staff were on furlough. So there will be no long-haul flights by Norwegian at Gatwick, but their flights to European destinations will continue.

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Heathrow passengers down 72.7% in 2020 (cf. 2019). ATMs down 57.8%. Cargo down 28.2%

Heathrow has published its figures for 2020, which was a year made completely abnormal, by the Covid pandemic.  Heathrow's number of passengers was 72.7% lower than in 2019, with 22.1 million passengers, compared to 80.9 million in 2019 (ie. 58.8 million fewer).  As planes were less full than usual, with lower load factor, the number of flights (ATMs) was down by 57.8% for the year, compared to 2019 .The amount of cargo carried was down by 28.2%, which Heathrow blames partly on the limited number of passenger planes, the holds of which normally contain cargo.  The largest reduction in air passengers was to North America (79.5% down).  Until Covid, the number of Heathrow passengers rose relentlessly, even though the airport claims it is "full" (it always had extra terminal capacity).  In 2009 it had 65.9 million passengers;  in 2016 it had 75.7 million; in 2017 it had 78.0 million; in 2018 it had 80.0 million; and in 2019 it had 80.9 million.  The number of flights  (ATMs) in 2020 was 200,905; in 2018 was 480,339 and the number in 2019 was 479,811 (the figure is capped at 480,000 per year). 

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Stansted Airport Public Inquiry into expansion plans – started 12th January

After over 3 years of fierce resistance by the local community, the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport will be decided by a Public Inquiry which opens on Tuesday 12th January.   The outcome will determine whether Uttlesford, East Herts, and other surrounding districts will continue to consist of largely rural communities or will, in time, become further blighted and urbanised in the same way as large areas around Gatwick and Heathrow airports.  Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) considers it entirely irrational, and potentially dangerous, for the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to insist that the Public Inquiry must start at the height of the Covid pandemic.  Stansted already has permission for 35 million passengers and its passenger throughput peaked at 28 million in 2018, with passenger numbers in decline since mid-2019, long before the pandemic.  In 2020, Stansted handled just 7 million passengers and has forecast that it will take years to return to pre-pandemic levels. Plainly, there is no urgency to increase the current planning cap.

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Letting Gatwick convert its emergency runway for full use would require capacity restrictions at other airports

Plans to bring Gatwick's emergency runway into regular use would only be possible with a government intervention to prevent other airport expansions. This is what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advice indicates. The deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation, Cait Hewitt, said: “Allowing Gatwick's emergency runway to be used routinely as a second runway would only be possible if the government was to intervene to restrict capacity elsewhere in the UK, presumably by removing existing planning permissions - not an easy step to take”  - and that the CCC advice makes it clear that “aviation can no longer be let off the hook when it comes to UK climate policy ... The CCC's advice should represent a line in the sand when it comes to airport expansion. ... Airport expansion runs directly counter to the net zero agenda. It has to stop.”  The Gatwick plans mean the emergency runway could be operating short-haul flights, by the end of the decade.  The CCC's advice to government on the Sixth Carbon Budget, published on 9th December 2020, advises the government that any increase in UK airport capacity would need to be matched by restrictions at other airports to ensure no ‘net increase’.

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Letter to DfT: The Airports National Policy Statement should now be withdrawn, as it is out of date

The Supreme Court ruled, on December 16th, that the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was legal. The ANPS is the policy document necessary to Heathrow to proceed with plans for a 3rd runway. But the Court ruling does NOT give the runway consent. The government did not challenge the earlier ruling, in February, by the Appeal Court. The ANPS was written around 2017-18 and approved in Parliament in June 2018. Since then, life has moved on, and it is very out of date. The economics of the situation have changed; awareness of the climate implications of a runway is hugely greater; the Committee on Climate Change has given its advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget, and that aviation growth has to be constrained; knowledge has increased about the health impacts of air pollution from aircraft; and now Covid has reduced demand for air travel, which may never recover to its 2019 level.  Neil Spurrier, from the Teddington Action Group (TAG) has written to the DfT to ask that the ANPS is now withdrawn. He says the ANPS "is now completely out of date and should be withdrawn. I request that this is done pursuant to a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 ..."   See Neil's full letter.

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Government legal restrictions on flying abroad in Covid lockdown – holidays, leisure trips are NOT allowed

The government guidance on travel abroad, under Covid lockdown in England, from 4th January 2021. "You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting. If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice. UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.  Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.  If foreign nationals are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination. You cannot leave your home or the place where you are living for holidays or overnight stays unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed."

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Legal fight to stop Bristol airport expansion – public inquiry in July into airport’s appeal against Council refusal

In February 2020 North Somerset Council rejected (by 18 to 7 votes) the application by Bristol airport to expand its annual number of passengers from 10 million to 12 million. In August, despite the fall in passengers due to Covid, the airport decided to appeal. North Somerset Council says it will make a “robust defence” […]

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Gatwick investors say they will put in the money to develop its emergency runway for routine use

VINCI Airports and infrastructure fund GIP say they have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade Gatwick’s ‘standby’ northern runway, for routine use. That would add around 90 extra flights per day. The northern runway is currently short, and is used as an emergency runway.  It is too close to the main runway to be used independently, for safety reasons.  But it could take short-haul planes in gaps between use of the main runway.  Gatwick - struggling with the impact of the Covid pandemic - says it will now develop the development consent order (DCO) application for the project, including environmental surveys. The airport intends to launch a public consultation this summer.  Gatwick's biggest airline customers – BA, easyJet, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic – have suspended or scaled back flights, or moved some to Heathrow.  Gatwick hopes passenger traffic will recover fast, once vaccination against Covid makes it safer to travel, with traffic back to the level in 2019 by 2023.  Gatwick claims the runway will not add to carbon emissions (as it does not include the emissions from flights). The CCC has said there should be no net airport expansion in the UK. If an airport expands, another should therefore contract.

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Effects on cardiovascular and respiratory systems of short-term exposures to ultrafine particles in air, near an airport, in healthy subjects

There is a growing body of research into the negative health impacts of very tiny particulate air pollution. The nanoparticles of ≤20 nm are produced by vehicle engines, but seem to be produced in considerable amounts by jet engine. A new study in the Netherlands looked at impacts on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of 21 healthy young (18 - 35), non-smoking volunteers. They were exposed between 2 and 5 times to 5 hour periods of the ambient air near Schiphol airport, while doing intermittent moderate exercise like cycling. Various aspects of their circulation and respiration were measured. The study found the exposures  were associated with decreased FVC (forced vital capacity - a measure of lung function) and prolonged QTc intervals (the time it takes the heart to re-polarise for the next beat).The effects were relatively small, but they appeared after single exposures of 5 h in young healthy adults. "As this study cannot make any inferences about long-term health impacts, appropriate studies investigating potential health effects of long-term exposure to airport-related UFP, are urgently needed."

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Airlines want lower airport landing fees – airports not keen (all suffering Covid impacts)

Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet are among the airlines increasing pressure on airports to reduce landing charges. The airlines have suffered financially due to the pandemic, but so have the airports. The low cost airlines are pushing for cuts in charges, and threats they will only fly to airports which charge less.  This is seen as a race to the bottom. Airports will have to compete, to get airlines to fly to them, when they recover from the pandemic.  O’Leary said Ryanair planned expansion at Venice airport, where a new base and 18 new routes were announced in December following what Ryanair called “competitive” pricing.  Airports make money from landing fees, and also revenues from their own facilities including retail space, catering and car parking.  A spokesperson from ACI Europe (an airports group) said the financial situation of airports was bad, and agreeing to discount their charges was unsustainable.  Airports have fixed costs such as air traffic control, fire services, airport buildings and much else that cannot be cut. ACI Europe has estimated that 6,000 flight routes across Europe have been lost during the crisis, leaving airports competing for flights. Heathrow wants to increase its landing charge by 5% due to its pandemic losses.

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