Main News March 14

Passenger baggage to be scrutinized

United Airlines is looking out for travelers who try to bring oversized bags into the cabin.

The crackdown on oversized bags on behalf of the carrier is a strategy, it says, aimed at dealing with one of the biggest complaints in terms of customer feedback. Overhead bins are frequently so overfilled with carry-on bags that a slower boarding process becomes the norm.

“We are getting feedback from customers who have the right-size bags, telling us that there is not enough space in the overhead bins,” said a United spokesman.

United communicated its plans to its MileagePlus members, reminding them that carry-on bags can be no bigger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches. The airline has also been distributing size gauges, which are installed in the airport terminals, to allow the traveling public to measure their carry-on baggage before boarding. This type of aid has been in use in Europe for some years now amongst the low cost carrier sector.

Streamlining the process at Lambert St Louis

US Customs and Border Protection has admitted Lambert St Louis International to its Automated Commercial Environment Cargo Release Pilot with immediate effect.

The ACE Cargo Release Pilot (which was formerly known as Simplified Entry) allows importers to file a streamlined set of data earlier in the import process, and gives them the opportunity to update their entries, right up to the carrier’s arrival, so that information submitted is the best available.

Under ACE, CBP can review shipment information much earlier in the supply chain, and either issue an admissibility message or request additional data. Filers can then resolve issues before the aircraft departs for the US, or during transit, resulting in fewer goods being held on arrival.

ACE Cargo Release streamlines electronic transmission for the filer, and assists importers in planning and arranging their logistics. The carrier submits the manifest and/or the Air Cargo Advance Screening security filing, while the importer submits the Simplified Entry data set.

ASIG in acquisition mode

ASIG has agreed to acquire the assets of Skytanking USA, an independent provider of aviation fuel services. The company, which is headquartered in South Florida, has operations at 14 US airports, six of which represent new markets for ASIG. Skytanking USA provides commercial aircraft refueling and jet fuel facility maintenance. It also provides fuel facility maintenance and inspections for the US military forces at a total of 47 installations, which is a new addition to ASIG’s fuel services portfolio. Under the terms of the agreement, ASIG will divest four operations in Germany and Austria to Skytanking Holding, of which Skytanking USA is a subsidiary. The acquisition of assets should be completed in March subject to customary transaction approvals.
Tony Lefebvre, ASIG’s President and COO, commented on the strategy. “This acquisition represents a strategic expansion of our core fuel business in the United States. Skytanking USA, which began operations in 2003, has created a strong customer base by leveraging their expertise in aviation fuel services.”

 

Main News February 28

New flight kitchen opened in Miami

To facilitate last-minute requests in the busy South Florida region, in-flight catering provider Air Culinaire Worldwide has opened an owned-and-operated kitchen in Miami.

The idea behind the scheme is that where last minute changes in schedules occur, the caterer may well be able to accommodate such contingencies.

The new Miami kitchen represents the third Air Culinaire Worldwide kitchen to be based in Florida, which includes its Tampa headquarters and West Palm Beach location, bringing the total number of owned-and-operated kitchens in the company’s growing network to 19. Air Culinaire Worldwide Miami is actually located just three miles from Miami International.

Winter weather hits schedules

December wasn’t a good month for US carriers in terms of on-time performance, irrespective of whether the carrier was legacy or low cost. Altogether, 16 airlines submitted data for the monthly report.

American Airlines came in at ninth in terms of punctuality whilst American Eagle could only manage fourteenth place. For Southwest, that doyen of cut price travel, only just over half of its flights arrived on time. US Airways managed to battle on despite the elements and its on-time figure of 78.3% reflected its level of perseverance and determination. Despite the doom and gloom (the average on-time arrival rate for the 16 carriers worked out at just under 69%), Hawaiian Airlines still managed to post impressive figures of 92.4% to lead the pack.

The factors that skewed the statistics included a snowstorm at Chicago (December 8) and some days of snow at Dallas Fort Worth. In all, airlines reported a total of ten tarmac delays of over three hours: the majority of these occurred at Chicago O’Hare airport during the above-mentioned snowstorm.

Speedier passenger processing at Dallas

On February 18, Dallas Fort Worth International unveiled 30 automated passport control kiosks, which have been designed to significantly reduce waiting times for US and Canadian citizens who arrive at Dallas from international destinations. The system is alleviating lines by allowing returning travelers to enter their own passport information on touchscreens and register their return to the country electronically. Dallas Fort Worth’s Automated Passport Control is the latest in a number of initiatives being implemented at the airport to reduce queueing times and expedite the entry process for international travelers. In the next few months, the authority plans to add an additional 24 kiosks to serve customers who are permanent US residents as well as those who come from countries that hold visa waiver agreements with the US, such as the UK and The Netherlands.

Later in the year, the airport authority plans to implement a lane for a One Stop service for international arriving customers who have traveled without any checked-in baggage.

Detroit: handlers’ jobs secure…

Delta Air Lines has said that no workers will lose their jobs in April when it changes contractors at Detroit Metro airport. The jobs revolve around regional jet cabin cleaning and ground handling.

The workers, hitherto employed by DAL Global Services, a Delta subsidiary, total almost 750 and they are due to be taken on by Menzies and Prospect Airport Services.

“No loss of employment for any worker is expected as they become employees of Prospect and Menzies,” declared Delta’s spokesman, Morgan Durrant. He added that the government notice filed by the current provider DGS had not clearly stated this assurance and he looked to clarify the matter.

…but some concern at Southwest

Southwest’s proposals to add more contract workers to its staff continues to be a thorny issue for some of its employees.

Members of the Transport Workers Union Local 555, who have been in negotiations with the airline since 2011 over some its policies, have expressed apprehension over Southwest’s plans to hire contract workers and to expand the number of its part-time workers. Arguing that the level of customer care will be eroded if part-time staff are employed (on the basis that such staff will have no long-term loyalty to the company), the Local 555 has flagged up the issue of under-staffing at some stations where B737-800s are turned, pointing out that Southwest’s on-time performance has suffered since the last quarter of 2013.

For its part, Southwest has denied any furtive agenda, saying that it is not seeking to outsource any jobs, but rather that it wants to add more flexibility to its operation.

Main News February 11

Orlando moves ahead with biometric kiosks

Orlando International has become the first US airport to process travelers from so-called Visa Waiver countries with biometric kiosks: these will streamline the arrival experience. These self-service kiosks are now operational and processing international passengers who have acquired an Electronic System for Travel Authorization approval prior to travel.
The kiosks will enable travelers from arriving international flights to complete their Customs Declaration Form on touchscreens, and have their passports read and fingerprints and facial images captured.

It’s official: welcome to O’Hare!

The Chicago Department of Aviation has announced that O’Hare International airport has won the Global Traveler GT Tested Reader Survey Award for Best Airport in North America for the tenth straight year.

Business travelers who participated in a survey, which was conducted between January and August 2013) overwhelmingly voted for O’Hare. O’Hare was also inducted into the Global Traveler 10-Year Hall of Fame for having won the award for every year of its existence.

Alaska reaches tentative agreement with workforce

Alaska Airlines and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have reached tentative agreement on a new five-year contract for around 2,500 of the airline’s staff, which includes those in clerical, office and passenger service posts.
The proposed contract includes enhanced pay levels and job security provisions, amongst other improvements. At the beginning if this year the current three-year contract became amendable but the results of a ratification vote on the new contract are not expected before April.

Labor dispute causes flight delays

Flights to and from Buenos Aires’ international airport were delayed recently after a union offshoot, representing baggage handlers for Aerolíneas Argentinas, went on strike to protest against the company’s proposal that would see it employing handlers for six hour shifts. The strike also extended to the port, where cruise ship passengers were obliged to wait up to five hours for their luggage. The baggage handlers, who are part of the APA airline workers’ union, were urged to fulfill the mandatory conciliation order that the ministry issued. At least 3,000 passengers were affected by the action and the union has demanded that the airport company hire more workers for 12 hour shifts, since they claim that the operation is currently understaffed.

Fuel hedging comes at a price

Delta Air Lines has run into a problem in the wake of its Philadelphia refinery purchase in 2013.

The plan was simple enough: faced with unpredictable market movements in terms of the price of fuel, Delta’s idea saw it employ subsidiary Monroe Energy to produce fuel and thereby cut out the middleman and the variable factor. All well and good – save that the purchase came with strings, primarily that of the requirement to produce a specific quantity of renewable blending fuel that is destined for the nation’s gasoline and diesel stocks. This quantity rises each year in line with the EPA’s guidelines: it will total some 36bn gallons by 2022.

The Delta/Monroe venture is without the requisite blending infrastructure and so the carrier would be obliged to purchase credits from other facilities that do blend in order to offset the envisioned shortfall.

Delta has lodged an objection to the scheme, which it feels favors those with the requisite facilities whilst alienating those who are unable to comply. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the case since this is the first time that the infrastructural situation is being used as a defense. Critics point out that at the time of the acquisition, Delta had the option of purchasing the blending infrastructure yet it opted instead to employ a merchant refiner which lacked these facilities.

Delta Air Lines has since announced that that its Trainer oil refinery in Delaware County would post a small loss in the current first quarter, after posting a loss of US$46m in the three months ended December 31, together with a US$116m loss for 2013 overall. However, a modest profit was anticipated by the end of the current year.

 

Main News January 22

Thefts at airport to be addressed

At Las Vegas’ McCarran airport, Delta Air Lines has started a two-month pilot program aimed at curbing the incidence of theft from the airport’s baggage claim carousels. Delta will test the effectiveness of the so-called positive bag match program before determining whether to continue the trial and roll it out at other airports. The strategy involves cordoning off the two Terminal 1 baggage carousels where Delta passengers claim their bags with employees who check that bag tag numbers match up with the passenger’s bag claim stub.

According to sector sources, theft from bags is something of a cyclical crime of opportunity. At McCarran, the Metro Police department works with the Clark County Aviation Department to prevent pilfering. In this, both security cameras and undercover operations are employed. McCarran officials believe that increased airline staffing in the vicinity of carousels and tag match programs will add a further layer of security against potential theft.

World Fuel in acquisition mode

World Fuel Services announced last week that a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Watson Petroleum, a leading distributor of gasoline, diesel, heating oil, lubricants and other products and related services across England and Wales, for a purchase price of £117m (US$191m). The purchase price will be funded through cash-on-hand and the company’s existing credit facilities.“We are very excited to be joining a company with the capabilities and breadth of products and services of World Fuel. Coupled with World Fuel’s solid financial foundation, this transaction will allow us to expand our product and service offerings and further grow our distribution network” Watson Petroleum is headquartered in Brinkworth, the UK, and has 670 employees. With expected 2013 revenues of US$2.2bn, Watson Petroleum is one of the largest fuel distributors in the UK.

 

Have gun, won’t travel

It’s official: travelers flying out of Florida either cannot read or are extremely forgetful… or both.

According to the latest statistics, released by the TSA, Orlando International clocked up more gun arrests than any other airport in Florida last year.

In all, 47 travelers fell foul of the regulation that prohibits firearms to be carried on board an aircraft. Although the vast majority of those arrested had permits authorizing them to own a firearm, nonetheless the once-a-week occurrence has led the airport authority to look anew at its methods when trying to ensure that handguns remain firmly within checked-in luggage.

The holiday period and signage changes were blamed for the last couple of arrests although the fact that Orlando, pro rata, handles more passengers than other local airports was also recognized as a reason. Orlando processed 35m passengers in all in 2013 whilst Fort Lauderdale, only the third busiest airport in the list, still managed to confiscate 45 firearms during the same period.

 

Signature makes its mark in Van Nuys

Signature Flight Support Corporation has completed the acquisition of the assets of Maguire Aviation Group at Van Nuys airport. Through this acquisition, Signature Flight Support thus expands its FBO facility at Van Nuys, with a combined footprint of 1.17m square feet of hangar, ramp, passenger lounge and office space. The expanded Signature Flight Support footprint at Van Nuys is set to provide customers with the added convenience of multiple locations on the field for both FBO services and aircraft storage.

Close of play for Evergreen

Evergreen International Aviation’s future seems to be less in doubt at the time of this upload. McMinnville-based Evergreen International Airlines has now filed a Chapter 7 petition in a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, a filing that followed a period of uncertainty about the company’s future.

In a statement, the parent company admitted that Evergreen’s business had been adversely impacted over the past few years by a decreased demand in military spending and a weakness in global economic markets.

Offshoot Evergreen EAGLE had struggled on, continuing to provide ground handling at more than 35 domestic airports, where a range of services had been on offer, including aircraft cleaning, towing and pushback. The handling side has also now ceased operation, however.

App to make passengers happy

Allegiant Air has introduced a paperless mobile boarding pass capability for its passengers at all the airports it serves. In this, the carrier worked with many small to mid-size airports throughout its network to introduce mobile boarding pass scanners.

Of the total of just over 100 airports, some 55 did not have scanners in place: this occasioned the company to purchase the requisite scanners for these airports and during the procedure it worked with the TSA to gain approval.

Allegiant has also extended its service to other carriers serving the airports to ensure that the mobile boarding pass scanners could be utilized by other airlines’ passengers.

To use the new service, users have to install the Allegiant-To-Go mobile app, which is available for free on Apple and Android mobile devices.

 

 

 

 

 

Main News December 24

December 24

Ancillary fees saving the day

According to the latest figures released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US scheduled passenger airlines collected some US$879m in baggage fees, along with US$735m for reservation cancellation or change fees, during the period July to September 2013. Leading the collectors was Delta Air Lines, which was followed by United, US Airways, American Airlines and then Spirit. Another low cost carrier, JetBlue Airways, finished in ninth place, raking in nearly US$20m in bag fees plus US$36.3m in reservations/change fees.

Regular readers (and indeed fliers) will note nothing new in this news: for some years now these ancillaries have been the prime sources of profitability for struggling carriers, and the fees can represent the difference between flying and grounding a fleet.

Agreement for staff at American Airlines

The unions representing flight attendants at the new American Airlines reached an agreement at the end of December on how their workgroup will be represented at the new company – and how they will work together to achieve a joint contract. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA represents the pre-merger US Airways workgroup while the Association of Professional Flight Attendants represents the pre-merger American workgroup.

Want to be on time? Then avoid Midway…

Midway firmly secured the bottom place amongst the country’s biggest airports for getting passengers into the air on time through the first ten months of 2013: this is according to government figures.

Midway’s on-time departure rate through October was just 68.7%: this means that just over two out of every three flights made it off the ground on schedule.

O’Hare International wasn’t much better, though. The airport posted an on-time rate of 70.6% from January to October, making it the second worst out of the nation’s 29 largest airports.

On-time records at both airports have declined significantly since the same period last year, at which point O’Hare had an on-time departure rate of 76.5% and Midway posted a rate of 77%.

Passengers, though, were better off when arriving at these two airports. The arrival rate at Midway through October of this year hit 78.7%, whilst O’Hare trailed with an on-time arrival rate through October of 73.8%.

Signature’s latest flourish

In mid-December, Signature Flight Support Corporation hosted an inauguration ceremony to celebrate the completion of its newly-constructed private aviation terminal at Newark Liberty International airport, which actually opened for business on November 15.

Signature Newark is a state-of-the-art terminal, aimed at providing world-class flight support services for private air travel. The new facility has a footprint of 510,000 square feet of ramp space, together with 39,000 square feet of hangarage and a new passenger terminal that spans 11,200 square feet in all. Its designers have also paid attention to the environmental side of the equation. Designed and constructed to meet US Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification standards, the facility features new energy-efficient lighting and environmental control systems.

The new terminal features amenities to complement the efficient transit of passengers and crew to and from the aircraft. Signature Newark includes an executive conference room, free use of computers, wireless Internet services, a round-the-clock courtesy shuttle service to hotels within the airport purlieu and the commercial terminal, wheelchair access and a lobby area. A separate, dedicated lounge area provides privacy for customers, groups and specialty aircraft charters and can provide customized services.

Main News November 15

Cargo emissions calculator is a first in the US

United Airlines, in partnership with Sustainable Travel International, has released an enhanced cargo emissions and offset calculator that is able to compute and present per capita carbon emissions for customers shipping via United Cargo. Currently, United is the only American carrier able to offer such a calculator to its customers.

Recognizing the emerging global trend for increased accountability and the need to report carbon footprint data to shippers, United’s user-friendly calculator provides information that is often now expected by its customers. Cargo customers can now easily input their place of origin and destination for each flight leg, along with the weight of their shipment, in order to calculate the total carbon footprint for their shipment, using United’s operational data.

Menzies extends Air China rapport

Menzies Aviation has expanded its relationship with Air China Cargo in the US, following the award of a contract for the provision of cargo handling services at Vancouver International airport. This award follows closely on the company’s success in securing the full handling service for Air China at Houston Intercontinental for Air China’s service on a new route that commenced in July 2013. In addition, Menzies has been successful in renewing its Air China Cargo handling contracts in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

 

Technology permits limited electronics on board

The FAA has said that it is to relax existing regulations that restrict the inflight use of portable electronic devices, such as tablets, smart phones and electronic reading devices. In-flight cellular communication, which includes voice calls and electronic messaging, will still be prohibited, however.
In terms of international implications, the FAA rules will apply to all US registered carriers, whereas international airlines will be subject to regulatory oversight by their respective governments. Individual, national regulators will need to make their own evaluations in terms of this subject.

 

Labor agreement reached at United

At the end of October, United Airlines announced that its fleet service, passenger service, reservations and storekeeper workgroups at its United, Continental, Continental Micronesia and MileagePlus subsidiaries had finally ratified new joint labor agreements.

Ground handlers and other work groups total around 28,000 in all and derive from both United and Continental, before the two carriers merged in 2010. The agreements will run through 2016.

“The National Mediation Board provided support throughout the negotiating process and I want to thank board member Linda Puchala and senior mediator Patricia Sims, along with mediators Michael Kelliher and Andrew Nordgren,” said Mike Bonds, Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations. “We now have joint contracts for more than half of our represented employees, and we will work to continue our progress in negotiations with our other work groups.”

Since merging with Continental, United has made significant progress in bringing together these work groups. To date, the company has reached combined agreements for pilots, passenger service, reservations, fleet service and stores employees; whilst separate agreements have been signed with flight attendants and technicians from its United, Continental and Continental Micronesia subsidiaries.

Pre-conditioned air a bonus

PC air has been given a fresh lease of life at Seattle.

The Port of Seattle’s pre-conditioned air service can heat or cool aircraft during boarding and deplaning to reduce energy costs for airlines, improve air quality, reduce noise and increase energy efficiency throughout the airport. A centralized plant delivers pre-conditioned air through 15 miles of pipes to each of the airport’s 73 jet gates. This, in turn, allows aircraft to shut down their auxiliary power units, which release CO2 gases and other emissions, adding to airline fuel costs.

At the heart of the application is the piping installed within the existing terminal: this connects all of the gates to a system of chillers and heaters to provide the pre-conditioned air. A central plant houses a total of four 750 tonne chillers that fill 16 ice storage tanks with ethylene-glycol solution cooled by electricity provided by the airport. Additionally, a quartet of secondary pumps circulates the chilled liquid through pipes to the gates for cooling, whilst the airport’s steam plant heats the water that is piped to the gates for heating purposes.

Savings from this VALE grant-aided development are said to be prodigious: Sea-Tac estimates that it will save around 5m gallons of fuel per annum whilst the carriers can expect up to US$15m savings in terms of fuel costs. At the same time up to 40,000 tonnes of CO2 should be avoided.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, the whole network should be on-line and running by the end of this year.

Main News November 1

 

Gaining pace at Chicago

Chicago O’Hare opened a new runway recently, which the city hopes will cut delays by nearly 50% and permit up to 90,000 additional flights per annum as demand grows.

The 10,800 foot runway, built over the site of a former cemetery, is part of the airport’s USD$8bn modernization project. When the expansion is complete, O’Hare expects to have six east-west parallel runways and two crosswind runways.

O’Hare handles the second largest number of passengers in the US after Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, according to the Airports Council International. It has been notorious for delays through congestion and Chicago’s often wild weather.

For the 12 months ending July 2013, 68.3% of O’Hare’s departures were on time, compared to 72.1% for all major airports, according to US Department of Transportation statistics.

 

Sad day for Frontier

Frontier Airlines’ decision to drop its cargo facility has been met with a mixed response by the sector. Whilst it has not been a front runner in the freight stakes, nonetheless it has enjoyed a positive reputation in this industry sector. However, the end of September marked the passing of this facility.

Those saddened by the airline’s decision have commented on the competitive price structure that was the carrier’s trademark. One of its main hubs, that of Denver, looks likely to be untroubled by any ripples in the wake of the decision, though; Frontier’s cargo volumes have been dropping noticeably there of late. The fact that the carrier is currently up for sale may have influenced the decision to cut out the freight factor.

 

 

New temperature-controlled facility

FedEx Express has begun the construction of a new temperature-controlled facility and heavyweight pick-up and delivery operation at the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis. Covering some 88,000 square feet, this new facility will interface with existing Memphis hub operations.

“At FedEx, we offer an outstanding customer experience for those shipping time- and temperature-sensitive goods,” declared Richard Smith, Managing Director, FedEx Express Life Sciences and Specialty Services.

“With our new, world-class cold chain facility, we will be able to better manage health care products and other perishables in the event of unforeseen delays, such as clearance holds or inclement weather, and give our customers the peace of mind they deserve when shipping sensitive goods.”

Scheduled for completion by the third quarter of 2014, the FedEx facility will provide temperature-controlled rooms for frozen, cold and controlled room temperature products. The construction will also feature flexible walls that will allow precise temperature control and segregation of commodities, alongside real-time CO2, humidity and temperature monitoring.

The features of FedEx’s new building should lead to a more precise temperature control of shipments once they have left the aircraft and as they travel through the Memphis hub.

 

United fined over unacceptable tarmac delay

The US Department of Transportation has fined United Airlines a total of US$1.1m for lengthy tarmac delays that took place at Chicago’s O’Hare on July 13 last year. It said that the airline had been ordered to cease and desist from future violations of the tarmac delay rule.

This figure represents the largest fine ever assessed for a tarmac delay violation since the rule limiting long tarmac delays first took effect some three years ago. Of the US$1.1m fine, United will pay just US$475,000; the remainder will cover mitigation measures for affected passengers and significant corrective actions by United to enhance future compliance with tarmac delay requirements.

 

 

Main News October 15

 

 

Request for cargo screening data to go

The International Air Cargo Association has asked the TSA to certify that its 100% cargo screening level on passenger aircraft has been achieved – and further requested that the body remove the ongoing requirement to report cargo screening data. This requirement is currently included in the standard security programs that cover the air cargo supply chain.

TIACA’s Chairman, Oliver Evans, whilst complimenting the TSA on attaining its 100% screening target, added that although this had, in fact, been achieved more than nine months ago, the requirement to report monthly air cargo screening statistics was still in place.

This, he felt, was of some concern, for the requirement places a significant labor and data collection burden on the air cargo industry, since to comply companies have to invest in IT and personnel.

Oliver Evan also asked the TSA to lift the reporting requirements, arguing that this revision would permit shippers, forwarders and carriers to adopt a more streamlined modus operandi.

 

 

Tentative agreement is reached at Horizon

Horizon Air and the Teamsters Union have reached a tentative agreement on a five-year extension of their existing labor agreement.

The new agreement, drawn up at Sea-Tac, if approved by union members, would cover 280 aircraft technicians, fleet service agents and other ancillary workers.

If the agreement meets with members’ approval, the contract will take effect from November and run until 2019. The extension agreement has come more than a year before the existing contract was scheduled to become amendable. This is not unusual, for under federal law, contracts in the airline industry do not exactly expire but rather become amendable on a specified date.

“Mechanic representatives, assisted by the Teamsters, met with the company to chisel out a contract extension well before the amendable date,” confirmed Curtis Bernier, an Horizon Air Technician and Teamster shop steward. “There are some very good provisions for consideration and it is now up to the membership to make the final decision.”

“This tentative agreement recognizes the value of our skilled and dedicated technicians, fleet service agents and other equipment technicians, whose dedication to safety and excellence are a key element to our operational excellence,” commented Glenn Johnson, Horizon Air’s President and EVP of the Alaska Air Group. “I applaud the hard work of the negotiations team, who are to be commended for reaching a tentative agreement before the amendable date of the contract.”

 

 

TSA appraisal: could do better

Overall, some 85% of frequent flyers feel that the US Transportation Security Administration is doing either a poor, or at best, a fair job in the security screening function at the nation’s airports. These are the findings of a new survey of frequent flyers recently conducted by the Frequent Business Traveler magazine.

The survey disclosed that the typical US frequent flyer continues to feel that the TSA is not doing a satisfactory job in this area, with 65.6% of respondents indicating that the TSA’s screening procedures are not effective or not too effective at preventing potential acts of terrorism on an aircraft. In contrast, some 26.6% of respondents indicated that in their view, procedures were somewhat effective, with 6.8% believing that they were very effective.

In all, the survey polled 2,415 flyers and it was conducted from August to September in partnership with FlyerTalk. Looking at the findings, Jonathan Spira of Frequent Business Traveler noted that there was still much work to be done at America’s airport security checkpoints.

Other points were that almost 45% stated that they were not satisfied with their last security experience, whilst 29.6% said that they were either satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with their processing.

Just under half reckoned that the TSA was doing a poor job in airport security screening; 38.2% thought it fair and 14.7% said that they rated it good. Just 1% thought that the work of the TSA was excellent.

Frequent Business Traveler conducted a similar survey last year, where the TSA’s negative ratings were, in fact, higher. This year, the administration received improved marks in every category – the amount of frequent flyers who found the TSA to be doing a poor or fair job in airport security screenings dropped by a total of five percentage points. Moreover, the percentage of survey respondents who found the TSA’s efforts ineffective at preventing acts of terrorism dropped by ten percentage points.

Main News September 23

July statistics flag up delays

Airlines reported 13 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and three tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights in July. This information was detailed in the US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report.
Of the 13 domestic delays, 12 involved flights departing New York’s LaGuardia airport on July 22: this was in the wake of a runway incident. All of the reported tarmac delays, domestic and international, are under investigation by the Department.
All the larger US airlines have been required to file complete reports on their long tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008. Under a rule that took effect August 23, 2011, all US and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report any unduly long tarmac delays at US airports.
Also that year, carriers operating international flights were not permitted tarmac delays at US airports to last longer than four hours without giving passengers an opportunity to deplane. There is a separate three hour limit on tarmac delays involving domestic flights, which went into effect in April 2010. Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.

The 16 airlines that file their on-time performance data with the Department have reported that 73.1% of their flights arrived on time in July, which was down from the 76% on-time rate recorded in July 2012; this was, however, better than the 71.9% figure posted in June 2013.

 

 

Sequestration: cause for concern

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has warned that airport security lines would be longer if Congress allows sequestration to continue in the next financial year. Further, she has called for Congress to end the automatic budget cuts that have been in place since March this year. If the budget cuts continue, she believes, passengers will have to wait longer at security checkpoints before their flights.

When the sequestration process was first implemented, Napolitano warned of the possibility of longer airport security lines. Critics argued that she (along with other Obama administration officials) was using “scare tactics” to win the political argument with Republicans over the budget. Napolitano denies this, saying that the threat is very real and that it needs addressing now.

 

 

Passenger figures up

According to recent data released by Airports Council International, which is based in Montreal, more than 1.56bn passengers arrived and departed from North American airports in 2012. This represents a 1.3% increase on the previous year. Cargo increased by 0.8% while total operations decreased by 1.4%.

“The fact that North America’s airports continue to rank among the world’s busiest underscores their tremendous importance to the global economy and the economies of the local communities that they serve,” said Deborah C. McElroy, interim President of Airports Council International-North America. “Making the necessary infrastructure investments today will ensure that companies in North America, as well as ACI-NA’s member airports, retain their competitive edge in the future.”

The four busiest airports were Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, with more than 95.5m passengers, followed by Chicago’s O’Hare, with 66.6m. Los Angeles was close behind (63.7m) whilst Dallas/Fort Worth posted a figure of 58.6m.

Memphis International kept its position as the largest cargo airport in North America, handling approximately 4m tonnes of freight, which equated to an increase of 2.5% over last year’s totals. Anchorage International ranked second in North America, with a 3.1% decrease in its cargo volume to 2.5m tonnes.

Canada’s busiest airport was Toronto Pearson, ranked 14th in North America for passengers with 34.9m: this was an increase of 4.4% over 2011. It ranked 15th in terms of total cargo handled (with 417,022 tonnes) and took 11th position in terms of total movements.

 

 

Vancouver goes for automated solution

At the start of September, Vancouver Airport Authority announced that its Automated Passport Control, a technology solution developed by Vancouver Airport Authority in conjunction with the US Customs and Border Protection, would be available to Canadian passport holders travelling to the US from Vancouver International.

“Vancouver Airport Authority is constantly looking for ways to move people and bags through the airport more efficiently,” commented Craig Richmond, President and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority. “Automated Passport Control is just one of the many examples of homegrown innovation developed here that improves the traveling experience. Because of the demonstrated success of Automated Border Clearance and now Automated Passport Control, other airports are approaching us to help them implement these Vancouver-designed programs.”

Automated Passport Control is an expedited customs entry process that allows eligible passengers travelling from Vancouver International Airport to the US to clear Customs and Border Protection more efficiently, while still ensuring the same high standard of safety and security. Since its launch at the airport, Vancouver Airport Authority has provided the technology to Chicago Department of Aviation, installing the system at Chicago O’Hare, which has become the first US airport to implement Automated Passport Control. Vancouver Airport Authority is now working with Montreal-Trudeau Airport and Delta Air Lines at John F Kennedy’s Terminal 4 in New York to implement the same technology.

Based on data collected at Vancouver and O’Hare, Automated Passport Control has significantly increased passenger processing efficiency. Key improvements when using Automated Passport Control include that of a quadrupling of passengers processed per Customs Border Control officer and a solution that is 89% faster than the typical Customs and Border Protection primary inspection process. Further, it has been calculated that 33% less time is spent waiting in line by travelers.

Main News September 6

Outsourcing on the cards at United?

O’Hare International airport was picketed recently by a group of United Airlines union workers who were objecting to plans that would see ground handling jobs being outsourced.

The action was organized by Local Lodge 1487 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. In all, six airports were named by United: those of Albany and Rochester, Tucson, Harrisburg, Cincinnati and Grand Rapids. Positions under threat included those of gate staff, customer service agents and baggage handlers. In its defence, United’s spokesperson alluded to the ongoing search for greater efficiencies within its operation. She added that those affected would have the chance to transfer to other stations or take advantage of an “early-out” program.

United’s outsourcing plans have been in the news for several months now.

 

 

New ops center due next year

Air Canada is opening a new global Operations Center in Brampton, Ontario, that will be fully operational in the first quarter of 2014.

The new facility is the result of a two-year US$57.4m investment and will serve as the central control for the airline’s operations, with 400 employees overseeing, on a round-the-clock basis, nearly 600 Air Canada flights each day.

“Air Canada is already recognized as one of the world’s best airlines and our new, leading-edge Operations Center will further strengthen our position. This new mission control center incorporates the latest in technological and other design elements,” revealed Calin Rovinescu, President and CEO.

The 75,000 square foot facility has been completed on time and within budget.

Once the building is in service in 2014, it will become the global nerve center for Air Canada’s operations.

 

 

San Diego benefits from Club lounge

In mid-August, United Airlines opened its new United Club lounge in Terminal 2 at San Diego International airport: this is the third Club to feature the airline’s new design concept. The opening coincides with the consolidation of United’s terminal facilities with the newly expanded Terminal 2 West, offering customers a new ticketing lobby, baggage claim area and improved shopping and dining options.

The 5,842 square foot United Club in San Diego is located in Terminal 2 West on the Mezzanine level, directly above the airport’s new Sunset Cove, an atrium that offers panoramic views of the airfield. The United Club features spectacular views of the Point Loma seaside community, balcony lounge seating within the atrium and a centrally located buffet and bar. The new and improved furnishings enable customers to relax or work with greater ease and comfort.

United is investing more than US$50m this year to renovate several of the airline’s 49 United Club locations. United unveiled the new design prototype with the opening of the United Club in Terminal 2 at Chicago O’Hare International airport last year. The airline recently opened a newly designed United Club at Seattle-Tacoma International airport.

 

Brazilian project handed to Swissport

Swissport has been selected to manage an FBO/hangar project currently under construction at Brazil’s Sorocaba airport. When completed at the end of this year, the new World-Way Aviation facility will cover 150,000 square feet, and will include a pair of hangars with enough room for large business jets up to the size of an Embraer Lineage 1000; there is also provision for around 100,000 square feet of ramp space. The complex has been designed by the architectural firm Galvao Consolin Aircraft. Comprising three levels, the terminal will feature a VIP lounge, conference room, coffee shop, pilots’ lounge, flight planning room and a fitness center, along with 30 private offices. There will also be a security camera-monitored parking garage.

 

 

Maguire Aviation purchased

BBA Aviation, the aviation support and aftermarket services provider, has announced that Signature Flight Support has entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of the Maguire Aviation Group, which is based at Van Nuys airport, in Los Angeles. The purchase price has been put at US$69m and is on a cash and debt-free basis. The acquisition will be subject to customary approvals but is expected to be completed before the end of 2013.

This acquisition of the site’s largest operator will serve to strengthen Signature Flight Support’s existing position at Van Nuys, and extend its footprint by a considerable margin to 1.1m square feet of hangar space, ramp, passenger lounges and office space. Following the acquisition, Signature will also become the owner and operate the dedicated NetJets facility on the field, which is the second such facility in its network.

Van Nuys airport serves the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area and currently ranks as the sixth busiest business and general aviation airport in the US: it handles in excess of 250,000 aircraft movements per annum.

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