Scotland’s airports to have separate, remote ‘tobacco’ area

In a move that could significantly reduce airport revenue, Scotland’s airport duty free shops are banishing cigarettes to the back rooms or to other separate and remote ‘tobacco’ areas.

The move to place cigarettes and cigars in remote areas comes as part of the Scottish Government’s crackdown on tobacco displays in a bid to discourage smoking, especially amongst young people. According to the regulation, starting from April, tobacco and smoking-related products are to be displayed in duty free shops in a separate ‘tobacco area’, which is not visible from any other part of the premises.

Glasgow airport’s duty free shop, which all passengers pass in order to reach their flights, removed its tobacco from view a week ago. Edinburgh airport, Scotland’s busiest airport, is set to follow in the next two weeks.

Prestwick airport’s duty free shop, run by Nuance, said that it had separated its tobacco displays with supermarket-style shutters in June. Out of sight and behind a partition, smokers will now have to access a separate part of the store to buy cigarettes. World Duty Free’s other Scottish store, in Aberdeen, will move its tobacco in 2015. This is in line with the provision for smaller shops that are covered by the second phase of the regulations.

Similar regulations and restrictions on tobacco display will be effective at duty frees south of the border in two years’ time, the Scotsman says in its online report.

A spokeswoman for World Duty Free said: ‘Due to the complexities and access limitations for construction ‘on airport’, the process of building and installing the tobacco display areas (TDAs) is a lengthy one.

‘We have completed the TDA in our Glasgow airport store and are awaiting necessary site access permits to enable us to complete the TDA in our Edinburgh airport store within the next fortnight.’

The move could have a major impact on the shops’ income, a portion of which is passed on to airports to fund improvements in place of rent. World Duty Free, which runs the stores at Scotland’s three busiest airports, has previously agreed that tobacco and alcohol sales were ‘crucial’.

Andrew Pentol, tobacco editor for Duty Free News International magazine, said: ‘Tobacco has long been considered a footfall driver in travel retail and duty free. Tobacco purchases often leads to purchases of other products such as fragrances and cosmetics. New regulations relating to tobacco in the UK will have a significant impact on sales in airports, but the implementation of special derogations in the form of tobacco display areas will limit some of the impact.’

Meanwhile, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ‘The tobacco display bans are the right step to prevent young people in Scotland from taking up smoking.’

Airports Commission receives 50 proposals, seeks comments

The Airports Commission has published a summary of the proposals submitted for the planned expansion of the UK’s airport capacity.

Fifty short and medium term proposals have been put forward to the commission to safeguard the UK’s international aviation hub status. About half of the 50 entries call for additional runways, including Heathrow’s three third runway options and Gatwick’s proposal for a second runway to the south of the current site.

Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies said: ‘The proposals that we have received and that we have published today demonstrate imaginative and thoughtful responses …[and] show clearly the wide spectrum of views that exist on these issues.’

While a few ideas are a ‘little far-fetched,’ there are ‘a number of interesting new proposals. For example, Heathrow are proposing something which is rather different from what was planned before, so the old third runway is not in fact now on the table, but other different types of runway are.’

‘It’s very important that what we propose is within the climate change policies that are legislated, of course,’ Sir Howard told the BBC. ‘So some of the ideas that we just expand to cater for any level of demand, I think, are implausible because you cannot imagine aviation growing so much that the climate emissions of the rest of the economy have to be reduced to zero in order to accommodate it.

So we are looking at that first, and we are then looking at what use you can make of other non-London and the southeast airports, and only when we have done that will we see just what additional capacity is required in London and the southeast. All of that will be done by December.’

The commission is now seeking responses on the various submissions from all parties by September 27.

‘The timetable to comment is tight, as we need to move quickly to winnow down the options and reduce uncertainty for potentially affected communities. I encourage everyone with an interest to make their views known, to help inform our recommendations on these complex and important questions,’ Sir Howard said.

The commission will screen the 50 proposals for a short-list of the ‘most credible long term options’ by the end of the year. There will be further opportunities to comment and submit views on the short-listed options in 2014, and a full report is scheduled to follow in summer 2015.

Glasgow, Edinburgh airports register passenger growth in June

Glasgow, Scotland’s second busiest airport, has announced its busiest June for five years, as passenger numbers increased by 5.4 percent to nearly 775,000 compared to 2012.

The most popular routes included those to sunspots in the Balearics, Canary Islands, Portugal and Turkey. Long haul routes including Virgin Atlantic’s direct flights to Florida and Canadian Affair’s Toronto service, as well as Emirates double daily service to Dubai, also saw extra passengers last month.

Amanda McMillan, managing director of Glasgow Airport, said: ‘It really is an exciting time for Glasgow Airport and it’s particularly pleasing to follow the unveiling of our new logo and the launch of the Dreamliner’s first Scottish flight [to Mexico on Monday] with news of further passenger growth.’

The airport reported a strong demand for domestic traffic, which grew by 5.7 percent, and the beginning of the busy summer getaway contributed to a 5.2 percent increase in international traffic. Over 113,000 people travelled through the airport during the last weekend of June alone.

The figures come two days after Edinburgh airport revealed it had registered a record June, with its passenger total up by 8.4 percent to nearly 957,000. Glasgow has been reporting consistent passenger growth since January 2011, while Edinburgh, Scotland’s busiest airport, only returned to growth two months ago after a year of instability.

On July 10, Glasgow Airport reached a significant milestone in its GBP17 million investment programme, with the unveiling of its new look logo. The launch of the logo and accompanying strap line – Proud to Serve Scotland – is a key part of the airport’s extensive preparations for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh Airport is calling for the hub to be directly linked to the M8, as the existing access road will not able to cope with growing passenger numbers. It is expected that the airport will eventually be able to handle up to 20 million passengers a year on the existing runway configuration.

Commenting on Edinburgh’s own expansion, chief executive, Gordon Dewar, said there were no plans to open a second runaway at Ingliston for the next 30 years. ‘We have an airport that is accommodating just over nine million passengers a year, but we’re very busy and we’re growing,’ he said.

Mr. Dewar said that Edinburgh was also at risk of losing flights if the capacity of London’s existing airports was not increased. ‘If London had more capacity, we would have had more connection opportunities out of London. There is genuinely a queue of airlines wanting to fly into London that currently can’t come there,’ he said.

BA expects UK airport expansion plans to fail

British Airways (BA) expects that efforts to expand Heathrow airport will ultimately fail and the proposals from a commission on London’s airport problems will be ignored next year.

On the overly politicised issue of whether to build a third runway at Europe’s busiest airport, Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent of BA, said the commission’s recommendations would be put aside after 2015 elections.

Heathrow operates at around 98 percent capacity and its expansion plans were set aside earlier after opposition from local people and environmental activists following concerns over noise and pollution. Noise produced by airlines using Heathrow affects some 700,000 local residents, according to Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, more than any other airport in Europe.

BA and others have claimed that the project would be a huge boost for UK economic growth, forcing the government to set up a commission to look again at how to expand London’s aviation capacity.

‘I suspect the recommendations by the committee won’t be acted on by politicians. I’m critical of the politics behind their decisions,’ Willie Walsh, the CEO of International Airlines Group said at a public hearing in London assessing the country’s future aviation needs. ‘This government gave no credible alternative to a third runway so BA will continue planning for the future on the basis of a two runway Heathrow.’

Colin Matthews, the chief executive of Heathrow, said that no taxpayer money would be used to build a third runway at Heathrow. It would be funded by a group of airlines that use it and private investors, who would receive a share of revenues generated by passenger landing fees.

The government’s commission on airport capacity, chaired by former Financial Services Authority head, Howard Davies, is set to publish an interim report by the end of next year with a final report due in mid-2015. British aviation officials will submit their proposals to the commission next week.

About 1,300 flights arrive and leave from Heathrow daily. BA is the largest airline at the airport with around 40 percent of the takeoff and landing slots. Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government has also ruled out expanding London’s smaller airports.

London assembly says no to airport expansion

The London Assembly, an elected watchdog that oversees the mayor’s policies and decisions, has snubbed demands from a number of the UK aviation industry’s biggest players for expansion of Heathrow airport in order to boost capacity.

In its submission to the government’s independent inquiry into airport capacity, the Assembly substantiated its opinion by suggesting that Heathrow, which currently operates at around 99 percent of its runway capacity, could still process 20 million more passengers per year just by receiving larger aircraft. It also suggests that there is spare capacity at London’s other airports, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton, which should be utilised.

Transport committee chairman, Caroline Pidgeon, said, ‘The Airports Commission must examine whether better use of existing airport capacity could be an intelligent, cost- effective alternative to building new airports or runways. Currently London sees 130 million passengers travelling through our airports each year. The challenge for the government and decision-makers is to find the best way to support the UK’s economy globally, while ensuring Londoners are not adversely affected by worsening noise and air pollution.’

In its report the committee said, ‘If the Airports Commission finds that there is a need to increase airport capacity, it should rule out the expansion of Heathrow airport.’

The committee also cast doubt on previous estimates of the extent to which the demand for air travel will grow in the foreseeable future, saying that it could be 2040 before capacity is reached rather than 2030.

The idea of a complete new aviation hub for London, based in the Thames estuary, was also considered by the commission to be a non-starter. The option, which is being championed by London mayor, Boris Johnson, was challenged for a number of reasons, including its cost, its logistics and the increase in air traffic over central London.

ABTA makes its stand on airport development

The UK’s Association of British Travel Agents, ABTA, has submitted its opinions to the Airports Commission on how Britain’s airport infrastructure should be improved.

The UK’s well documented airport capacity problems have lead the Airport Commission to seek the views of interested parties on effective options that are also practical, in order to ease the situation.

Amidst fears that the British economy is suffering as a result of its restricted capacity for air traffic expansion, ABTA’s opinion is that the airport infrastructure in the South-East of England should be prioritised for urgent development. The organisation also suggests that attention is given to the mix of aviation models, as it believes that business and leisure travel should be viewed as interdependent and should be developed as such.

Key to ABTA’s submission is that the travel infrastructure around airports should be addressed to provide realistic, speedy access from major conurbations. ABTA supported this view with the results of its 2012 annual consumer survey, with 78 percent of respondents wanting a journey time to the airport of two hours or less. A preference for flying from a local airport also found favour with a large majority of 62 percent, and connecting flights were unpopular with a third of those canvassed. 90 percent of those questioned for the survey considered themselves air travellers.

ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said, ‘It’s essential that when the Government looks at airport capacity particularly in the South East, it recognises the interdependence of business and leisure travel and does not prioritise one over the other. It also needs a coherent policy on improving surface access to the airports. Passengers want short journeys to the airport and many are not willing to take connecting flights.

The Government needs to invest in efficient, fast public transport connections which will also help restrict the impact of flying on the environment and local residents. The extension of HS2 to run via Heathrow would be a firm declaration of intent and would undoubtedly prove a great success with passengers both from the UK and overseas.’

Air travellers prioritise shorter queues, according to research

According to research carried out by ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, the average air traveller’s wish list is topped by a desire for shorter queues.

When asked what improvements they would like to see at airports, faster check-in and security checks were the two items that headed the list for the majority of respondents. In fact, more than half of those questioned, 52 percent, sited a speedier check-in, with faster security checks close behind at 48 percent.

Conversely, the quality of food and shopping outlets and the availability of wi-fi were all deemed to be of less importance, with more than a third of those questioned, 34 percent, saying that improving the number and variety of retail outlets would not improve their airport experience and, surprisingly in these days of electronic device addiction, 40 percent of respondents were equally unconcerned regarding improvements to wi-fi services.

Other factors that were considered important involved the quality of service, with more information on alterations to flights, comfortable lounges and friendliness of frontline airport employees all figuring highly.

Ranked in order, the factors that passengers most felt would improve their airport experience were:

Speed of check in process 52 percent
Speed of security process 48 percent
Quality of communication of flight changes or delays 40 percent
Quality and comfort of lounges (e.g. departure/gate lounges) 35 percent
Friendliness of airport staff 33 percent
Quality and variety of Food/Catering offering 29 percent
Quality/availability of public transport access to the airport 29 percent
Quality of airport parking facilities 27 percent
Facilities available for families/children 25 percent
Access to Wi-Fi facilities 20 percent
Quality and variety of retail offering 19 percent

The chief executive of Abta, Mark Tanzer, commenting on the study’s findings, said, ‘This research confirms that for many passengers, the airport experience is the first part of their holiday or trip abroad and they don’t want to spend it in a queue. Improvements to check-in and security times would allow them to plan their journeys better, shorten door-to-door journey times and help avoid a stressful last-minute rush through the airport.’

IAG Chief Criticises UK Government on Airport Expansion

International Airlines Group (IAG), the UK-based parent company of Iberia and British Airways, has criticised the UK government policy for increasing airport capacity in the southeast of the UK.

The company chief executive officer, Willie Walsh, said at the opening session of the Business travel Show 2013, in London, ‘My own view is that we are not going anywhere with this. British Airways has planned its business on the basis that there will be no third runway at Heathrow. In 50 years time I expect that BA will still be operating from a two-runway airport at Heathrow.

I have heard Gatwick talking about a second runway but that is assuming that airlines are willing to pay for it. I am not going to spend one penny on new runways at Stansted or Gatwick.’

Earlier a study commissioned by the London Heathrow airport owner, BAA Ltd, suggested that lack of capacity at London Heathrow Airport is affecting the UK’s economy. The report, prepared by Frontier Economics, says that the lack of capacity is currently costing the country up to GBP14bn a year in lost trade, and the loss may increase to GBP26bn a year by 2030.

London Heathrow currently operates at 99 percent capacity, with no extra capacity for new trade routes to new economies, thereby affecting the growth of the UK economy. There are around 1,532 more flights to cities in Mainland China from Paris and Frankfurt airports than from London Heathrow.

The mayor of the city of London, Boris Johnson, has appealed to the city’s businesses and people to forward their views on how the city can solve the capacity crunch at London Heathrow airport.

GTMC Narrows Ten Most Required Routes from London

Guild of Travel Management Companies, a UK-based professional association of travel companies, is reporting that the UK is currently in need of at least 10 new direct air routes to support its business travellers.

The top 10 most urgently required new direct air routes from London Heathrow airport includes Bogota (Colombia); Brasilia (Brazil); Chengdu (China); Dammam (Saudi Arabia); Douala (Cameroon); Lima (Peru); Panama City (Panama); Phuket (Thailand); Santiago (Chile); and Shenzhen (China).

The association chairman, Ajaya Sodha, said, ‘Any discussion about increasing airport capacity in the south-east hinges on its link to growth.

It is business travellers that ‘do the deals’ that will mean more exports, investment and jobs for the UK economy and they need to be able to access target markets easily and speedily.

We urge the government to insist that any decision on allowing mixed mode or night flights is dependent on these routes being added to the roster at Heathrow.’

The association is currently participating in a new lobbying campaign to pressurize London Heathrow airport to offer direct flights to the 10 routes identified by the association as most required for air travel.

The Ten Routes for Growth campaign is being led by political lobbyist, Gareth Morgan, who is an associate director with Cavendish Communications and an advisor to the association.

Gareth Morgan said, ‘We have been trying to persuade politicians that there is the need for new capacity in the south-east. We have reached the point now where that argument has almost been won and it becomes about battling over where that capacity will come from.’

Former UK Transport Secretary Says New Hub Airport Could Prove Too Costly

With London Heathrow airport operating at around 96 percent of its capacity, the UK authorities are looking at a proposed new hub airport to be located close to the Thames River estuary.

However, according to the UK’s former transport secretary, Lord Adonis, the proposal for the project planned by architects, Foster & Partners, is likely to cost double the current valuation of £50 billion.

At the recently concluded session of the World Travel Market in London, Lord Adonis said, ‘I would be surprised if we were not talking about £100 billion-plus because it would involve a second Thames barrier and a new high-speed link to London.

To rule out expansion at Heathrow would be barmy and could undercut the role of the Davies Commission. Never has one public policy issue been so analysed. Six or 12 months would have been ample, instead of three years that has been given to Davies.’

In a new development, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), a global tourism association, reported that tourism in the UK is worth around GBP63 billion, and its growth is being affected by the lack of airport capacity in the south-east of the nation. WTTC is offering its support to the concept of a single airport hub for London, connected to a broader transport network.

WTTC president, David Scowsill, said, ‘The UK Government welcomes tourists with one hand while holding up a ‘keep out’ sign with another.

UK visa policies are overly bureaucratic and cumbersome; UK Air Passenger Duty is the highest of any country in the world; yet it is the incessant delay in providing new airport capacity, which is by far the biggest problem facing tourism in the UK.

The Davies Commission will take too long to review the position.

The private sector stakeholders of the tourism industry stand ready to be the earnest partner in delivering on solutions.

The UK government should grasp the nettle and make a decision that will bring jobs and economic growth at a crucial time for the UK economy.’