Following the approval by Phoenix City Council of Sky Harbor International Airport’s roadmap for the future, the airport’s Comprehensive Asset Management Plan (CAMP) is now being sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for review and approval.

As the largest economic engine in the state of Arizona, the airport brings in more than $38 billion to the economy and creates 58,000 jobs. Ensuring the airport has the facilities and services to serve the region and meet future demand is critical.

“The best infrastructure projects anticipate the needs of a community far into the future,” said Phoenix Mayor, Kate Gallego. “Sky Harbor is one of our state’s largest economic engines and, with this unanimous vote, it will continue to drive our economy for generations to come.”

The long-term plan includes: Moving cargo and support operations to the north side of the airport to create room for expanded terminal facilities; working with the Union Pacific Railroad to partially trench the track and build a taxiway bridge so that planes can access the relocated cargo operations; and providing space for the Air National Guard 161st Refueling Wing to expand on the south side of the airport. The airport is also exploring ways to improve Sky Harbor Boulevard – the road leading in to the airport.

The airport roadmap is designed to be phased incrementally with all project funded by grants, airport revenues, facility charges and bonds.

Councillor, Thelda Williams, added: “Sky Harbor Airport is not only important for Phoenix but for the State of Arizona as well. The approval of the airport’s Comprehensive Asset Management Plan is a big step in ensuring we are prepared for the future use of Sky Harbor. I want to thank the community, stakeholders, staff, and airlines who participated in this process. This was truly a team effort and I know we will look back on this day in the future and be proud of the work we completed.”

 

Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

This week has seen the Regional Gateway team attending the British-Irish Airports Expo in London. According to Chris Garton, COO, Heathrow Airport (which hosted the event), it’s been a “fantastic year with record numbers of passengers passing through British and Irish airport terminals as well as increasing levels of passenger satisfaction.”

Opening the conferencing sessions on ‘operations, sustainability and supply chains’, Neil Pakey, chairman of the Regional and Business Airports Group (RABA) and CEO Nieuport Aviation (which owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport’s terminal) talked about how Airports Council International’s (ACI’s) Airport Service Quality (ASQ) programme has provided a framework and tools for Billy Bishop to improve the customer experience and service levels across the airport. To find out more about the airport, read our exclusive interview with Neil Pakey in the current issue of Regional Gateway magazine.

Meanwhile, Samantha O’Dwyer, strategic director of aviation services, Wilson James – the aviation services provider, raised how delivering a good quality passenger experience is now more important than ever. She highlighted the need to provide a respectful and appropriate service for passengers who request special assistance through the airport, including wheelchair users, passengers with sight or hearing impairments, the elderly and those with hidden disabilities.

Accessible airport

Airports can be challenging environments at the best of times and ensuring they are accessible to all passengers was a key theme throughout the two-day conference and exhibition with speakers taking to the stage throughout the day on Tuesday 11 June to discuss the challenges and opportunities for airports embracing the need to be accessible to all.

Liverpool John Lennon’s customer services executive, Christina Smith, explained how staff training and a cultural shift is vital in ensuring all passengers can benefit from a smooth and enjoyable airport experience. In addition to providing training for its staff, Liverpool Airport is working directly with passengers with disabilities to ensure it can cater adequately for all travellers. In 2014, the airport joined a network of organisations working towards an Autism Friendly City region and the airport is committed towards training its staff in ASD awareness.

Agreeing that a cultural shift is needed, Samantha Saunders, head of innovation and regulatory compliance at Omniserv, stated that simple measures such as referring to staff who assist passengers with reduced mobility as “customer service experience executives” rather than “wheelchair pushers” will help. She also reiterated that no two passengers are the same, they all have different requirements so there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, as she urged all airports to “work towards a better level of inclusivity and understanding.”

See differently

Sara Marchant, Gatwick Airport’s accessibility manager, teamed up with Paralympian Marc Powell to showcase how collaboration breeds innovation and improvement. Gatwick has an ongoing partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to ensure that the airport has appropriate processes and services in place for blind and partially sighted passengers. Powell, who is partially sighted, explained that 93% of those who are registered as blind or partially sighted “still have residual visions, they can still see something,” so educating staff within the airport about different passengers’ needs is crucial. The airport has introduced Eyeware – an app that simulates six of the most common eye conditions in the UK – so that staff can gain a greater understanding of the needs and challenges for blind and partially sighted passengers. The airport is also trialling the aira app alongside easyJet, which enables blind and partially sighted passengers access to 24-hour support from an agent who can help passengers navigate their way around the airport via their phone.

Gatwick was also the first airport to introduce a ‘hidden disability’ lanyard, as a discreet signifier to staff that the person wearing it has a hidden disability and may need a little extra help. All major UK, and several international, airports have since introduced the lanyard, but Marchant pointed out “consistency is vital and whether it’s a sunflower or another symbol that’s used – it needs to be internationally recognised.” She also concluded that in order for the lanyards to be rolled out across all airports including the smaller regional hubs, and for services and standards to be consistent, “perhaps it’s time for government to get involved…”

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Regional Gateway e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

 

Located in Hampshire, in the UK, Blackbushe Airport has welcomed the decision of the Planning Inspectorate to grant an application to deregister the active aerodrome from Yateley Common.

Yateley Common, which includes part of the aerodrome, was registered as common land in 1975. However, the airport’s current owners believe the land at Blackbushe Airport was wrongly registered as common land because the airport’s terminal building and clubhouse have been in existence prior to and after 1967 (when the airport was provisionally registered).

The recent decision in favour of Blackbushe Airport to deregister the aerodrome from Yateley Common brings an end to five decades of uncertainty regarding the airport’s future. With the airport in need of substantial investment, the Planning Inspectorate’s decision now paves the way for a new era of development at Blackbushe.

The airport’s current owners, who purchased the facility in 2015, have an ambitious vision to see Blackbushe developed as a general aviation centre of excellence supporting small aviation businesses as well as services for the local community and employment opportunities. Proposed improvements will include the development of existing infrastructure alongside new hangars and other aviation buildings.

Tamworth Regional Airport in New South Wales, Australia, has completed a $3.9 million terminal upgrade, opening the city up for future opportunities and also as a regional NSW site for international air freight operations.

The $3.97 million upgrade was wholly funded by the NSW Government under the ‘Restart NSW Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund’, which enables the funding and delivery of infrastructure projects throughout NSW. The project followed the $2.3 million airside upgrade which was awarded $2.1 million under the same programme.

The expansion and upgrade features a new boarding gate, departure lounges and retail space (for car hire companies) as well as toilets, an expanded check-in area, new café and associated food preparation and storage areas.

The upgrade also includes a newly furnished dining area with ceiling to floor windows taking in views across to the mountains, new bathroom amenities (including a separate facility for use by people with a disability or parents who need a baby changing area), as well as new lounge areas and a function room.

Electronic flight information displays have also been installed.

“The terminal upgrade is a complete makeover, ensuring we are able to meet future travel demands, security requirements and business growth opportunities,” commented Tamworth Region Mayor Col Murray adding that it will provide a “positive experience” for passengers travelling through the airport.

“The airport is going from strength to strength – its steady trend of increasing passenger numbers, in recent years, is expected to continue.

“The airport is a key community asset which delivers major economic benefits to the region through business and tourism travel and as a hub for the local aviation industry,” he concluded.

Work started on the redevelopment of the passenger terminal in January 2018 and the upgrades were completed in March with the official opening event held in June.

This followed an upgrade and extension of the main apron which was completed in July 2017, giving the airport the capacity to accommodate aircraft up to the size of Boeing 737-800s.