A snapshot of the biggest news stories from across the region.
NEW INDIAN AIRPORT OPERATOR
The Adani Group has officially taken over responsibility for operating Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Mangaluru airports in India.
It will also be responsible for managing and developing each airport and their respective infrastructure for the next 50 years while former operator, Airports Authority of India (AAI), will continue to handle services such as security, customs, immigration and plant and animal quarantine.
Adani, which harbours ambitions to become a key player in the Indian market, entered the airport business with Mangaluru on October 30, adding Lucknow three days later and Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport (SVPI Airport) on November 7.
AIRFIELD UPGRADE COMPLETE AT SIHANOUK
Cambodia’s Sihanouk International Airport recently celebrated the completion of the extension and renovation of its runway, an upgrade that will effectively allow it to handle direct long-haul flights operated by bigger aircraft.
The airport, which serves as the gateway to the country’s main seaside resort, now boasts a 3,300m long runway, which has been strengthened and equipped with LED airfield lighting to allow it to accommodate aircraft up to the size of the B777-300ER and A350-100.
Operator, Cambodia Airports, also notes that the $58 million upgrade should reduce the airport’s carbon footprint by reducing aircraft taxiing times.
Alain Brun, CEO of Cambodia Airports, enthuses: “To sustain the development of Sihanoukville, an efficient airport system and increasing air connectivity are critical.
“Upgrading the runway capacity provides new growth opportunities as airlines can operate bigger aircraft flying from/to more remote markets such as the European one.”
Brun expects the runway to be commissioned in the last quarter of 2020, potentially allowing Sihanouk International Airport to gain the benefits of it as soon as passenger numbers pick up again.
The airport has been one of the fastest growing in the Asia-Pacific region in recent times with triple digit annual growth over the last five years resulting in its throughout soaring from just 94,000 passengers in 2015 to 1.6 million last year.
Sihanoukville, the city it serves, is described as a destination in the making with its deep-sea port and pristine beaches, attracting both business investors and tourists.
PIONEERING NEW E-GATES FOR HYDERABAD
Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport has become the first airport in India to introduce e-gates for passengers boarding international flights.
The gateway was the first to introduce paper e-boarding on domestic flights, and began trialling its new digital solution for international services – developed in-house by operator GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL), in October.
GHIAL calls the move “a significant milestone in the history of Indian aviation”, noting that it is in line with the Indian government’s ‘Digital India’ campaign.
The new e-boarding service for international services is currently only available for select international flights of IndiGo Airlines, and if as expected it proves a success, will become an option for other airlines in the near future.
Other scheduled international carriers operating out of Hyderabad are in the process of integration with the airport’s e-boarding system, which will be rolled out soon.
GHIAL CEO, Pradeep Panicker, enthuses: “Leveraging tech-enabled solutions to continuously elevate the passenger experience is one of our key focus areas.”
NEW FIRST FOR MUSCAT
Muscat International Airport in Oman has become the first airport in the Middle East to be accredited under ACI’s Airport Health Accreditation programme.
“We spared no initiative to ensure our passengers feel secure going through our airports,” said Oman Airports CEO, Sheikh Aimen bin Ahmed Al Hosni.
“Planning and implementing the highest international standards of airport health and safety measures has been our top priority since the start of COVID-19 pandemic.
“We adapted a proactive approach and we placed passenger peace of mind as the focal value of our airports. We highly appreciate ACI’s recognition of Muscat International Airport and we look forward to always raising our quality bar even higher!”
ACI Asia-Pacific director general, Stefano Baronci, noted: “Now that the Sultanate of Oman has opened its borders for international travel, passengers can be certain that every reasonable measure has been taken to protect their health and wellbeing.”
ACI’s Airport Health Accreditation programme assists airports by assessing new health measures and procedures introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in accordance with the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force recommendations.
Areas of assessment for accreditation include cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing (where feasible and practical), staff protection, physical layout, passenger communications and passenger facilities.
QUARANTINE FREE TRAVEL BUBBLE BETWEEN HONG KONG AND SINGAPORE
ACI Asia-Pacific has welcomed the announcement of a quarantine-free air travel bubble between Hong Kong SAR and Singapore.
The arrangement, open to all types of travellers, is a much-needed progressive step towards the recovery of the aviation sector.
“This first-of-a-kind arrangement is a leading example of a risk-based approach that balances the risk of virus transmission with the need to re-establish connectivity based on a robust multi-layered approach of measures for the safety of all,” says ACI Asia-Pacific director general, Stefano Baronci.
“We call upon governments in the region to take note and follow suit for the sake of the survival of the aviation industry.”
The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) estimates that approximately 26 million jobs supported by aviation across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East are at risk because of the loss of connectivity caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Lee Seow Hiang, CEO of Singapore Changi operator, Changi Airport Group (CAG), notes. “This is a positive and important first step to travel recovery for leisure travel, to revive the Changi air hub.
“In 2019, Hong Kong was among Changi Airport’s top routes for passenger traffic. CAG will work closely with both governments and relevant organisations to implement the necessary safeguards to ensure safe travel for the residents of both cities.”
ACI analysis shows the impact of COVID-19 crisis for full year 2020 revenue as –55.1% for Asia-Pacific and –59.6% for the Middle East.
Airport Authority Hong Kong CEO, Fred Lam, says: “Hong Kong International Airport is delighted that the bilateral Air Travel Bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will commence on 22 November.
“Although this appears to be a very modest start, it is the first of its kind and an important breakthrough which would hopefully pave the way for similar arrangements with other destinations in the near future.”
ACI has repeatedly called for the safe re-opening of borders without quarantine by using a co-ordinated approach to testing, with authorities, in consultation with the industry, deciding on testing prior to departure or upon arrival and away or on airport premises.
“The expectation of increasingly performant rapid tests will facilitate the introduction of accurate, cost-effective and simplified testing available to large numbers of passengers,” adds Baronci.
“We encourage governments to mutually recognise test results based on a commonly-accepted protocol, preferably based on pre-departure tests, thereby saving the passenger the ordeal of being subjecting to multiple tests on a round trip.
“We further call on states to bear the cost of these health measures in accordance with the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations.”