By Adrian Bishop

Global air traffic rose 7.6% in the year to February, led by Latin American flights, but looming strikes in France and IT updates at London airports flights could pose problems for passengers throughout April.
Delays to hit French

and UK airline passengers.

Meanwhile, air passengers using French and UK airports are set to face delays over the next few months.

Air France strike dates
Air France has announced more strike days in April, bringing the tot

al to eight. In response to unsuccessful meetings with management, unions say there will be flight disruption on Tuesday 10th April, Wednesday 11th April, Tuesday 17th April, Wednesday 18th April, Monday 23th April and Tuesday 24th April. A strike was also held on Tuesday 3rd April. It is estimated that Air France has already lost €100 million due to the disruption in search of 6% wage rises. Management have so far offered 1% plus other incentives.

Heathrow and Gatwick passengers face delays
Passengers at London Heathrow and Gatwick also face weeks of short delays as the air traffic controllers switch to digital flight systems. The electronic flight strip system called EXCDS is being introduced by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to the London Terminal Control Centre, which manages the airspace over London and the South East. As a result, flights are being restricted. A NATS spokesperson says, “Travellers could be delayed by around 20 minutes on flights bound for Heathrow and Gatwick.
“There may also be minor delays into Stansted, Luton and London City. It will mainly affect arrivals at the two airports, although some take-offs may also be delayed.”
Arrivals will be limited to 80% of maximum capacity for 10 days from Wednesday 4 April. For the following 10 days, the airport will be limited to 90% of its maximum capacity. Meanwhile, a number of new airline routes have been announced, offering more choice to air passengers.

Birmingham Airport celebrates new routes
In contrast to the downbeat news, Birmingham Airport in the UK is celebrating new routes and a record of almost 13 million passengers in 2017.

New flights from budget carrier, Primera Air
Birmingham Airport’s newest carrier, Primera Air, will launch direct, low-cost services to New York, Toronto, Malaga, Barcelona, Palma and Crete, from May. Anastasija Visnakova, chief commercial officer for the Icelandic-owned company, says, “We are proud and excited to place Birmingham on our route map for 2018.
“We are opening our operations here with two transatlantic and four short-haul destinations and are looking forward to further development of this Primera Air base.
“This is an important first step for us and a significant development for Birmingham Airport and the wider region. With the technology that our new fleet offers, expensive transatlantic travel becomes a thing of history.”

Low fares for business, holidays or visiting loved ones
Tim Clarke, chairman of Birmingham Airport, says, “Primera has seen the enormous opportunities available in the Midlands thanks to its strong trading and cultural links with the US and Canada, and the leisure travellers’ desire to escape to warmer Mediterranean climes.
“Primera is able to offer low fares due to its Airbus A321 Neos, which means that these services are accessible to all pockets – whether travelling on holiday, visiting loved ones or flying for business.”
Primera Air’s first flights will start on 14 May to Malaga and Palma, with New York launching on the 18 May and Toronto on the 23 June. Crete will the start on 30 July and Barcelona on 1 October. Flights will operate to New York four times weekly, and to Toronto three times weekly, with fares to both destination starting at £149 one way. Crete will operate weekly from £54, and Malaga, Palma and Barcelona will operate daily from £35.

New weekly non-stop service to Amritsar
Meanwhile, Birmingham Airport has celebrated the launch of a new twice weekly non-stop service to Amritsar from Air India. Flights operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays, departing Birmingham at 1845 hours, reaching Amritsar early the next morning at 0745 hours. From Amritsar the flight departs at 1355 hours arriving into Birmingham at 1715 hours the same day. A Boeing 787-8 series aircraft with 256 seats is being used on the route.

Unique flight route
William Pearson, Aviation Director at Birmingham Airport, says, “We are proud to say we are offering a totally unique route, as Birmingham is the only UK airport offering a direct service to Amritsar.

Great news for the Asian community
“The Midlands has the second largest Asian community in the UK and so it is great news that we are making more of India accessible to our passengers for business, leisure and to visit family and friends.”
Tara Naidu, Regional Manager – UK & Europe of Air India, adds, “Amritsar is an important spiritual centre for the Sikh faith being home to the Golden Temple as well as being a major commercial and cultural centre in the heart of the Punjab.
“The Sikh community has long awaited this direct route and so we are sure it will be as popular as our Delhi service from Birmingham.”

Record fliers from Birmingham Airport
In total, 12,983,436 passengers travelled through Birmingham Airport in 2017, up 1.3 million or 11.5% from 2016. In August, the busiest month, almost 1.5 million passengers travelled through the airport, an annual rise of 16.2%. During the year, there were seven months with more than one million passengers. It all there has been more than 30 months of consecutive record breaking growth.

Celebrating the busiest 12 months
David Winstanley, Chief Operating Officer at Birmingham Airport, says, “Last year, we celebrated the busiest 12 months in our history.
“During 2017, we saw the launch of and Jet2holidays and the return of British Airways and bmi regional. News of new transatlantic routes to Boston, New York and Toronto starting from May 2018 with Primera Air were announced as well as new routes, to Goa and Phuket with TUI and Marsa Alam with Thomas Cook to name a few. Emirates maintained a strong presence in the region and introduced its second daily A380 aircraft onto its established lunchtime service between Birmingham and Dubai.
“The year was indeed one of celebration but also commiseration as we sadly saw the demise of a long-established airline, Monarch. This airline carried an average of 5,000 passengers per day from Birmingham, but we have seen some existing carriers and new carriers pick up almost all of this capacity already to reduce the impact on our passengers.”
In 2018, a multi-million pound development project is due to be completed before the summer season and includes a redevelopment of the security processing area, new flooring, lighting and shopping facilities. A new 178 guestroom Hilton Garden Inn hotel is also being built and will open in mid-summer.

Qatar airways launches new Doha-Cardiff route
Qatar airways launches the first daily route from Doha to Cardiff on 1st May 2018, in a landmark move from the airline. The aeroplane chosen for the first flight on the route will be the A350-900, with wings built in North Wales at the Airbus site in Broughton. The new service will provide five star luxury for those travelling from Wales globally. Both the Chief Executive of Qatar Airways, His Excellency, Mr. Akbar Al Baker, and the CEO of Cardiff airport, Deb Barber, are very proud of this new development, referencing the construction of the A350-900 in Wales and the opening up of a milestone new route. Regular services will be provided on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, offering 22 Business Class seats and 232 in Economy.

Global air traffic growth
Total global revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose 7.6% in the year to February 2018, capacity (called available seat kilometres or ASKs) increased 6.3%, while load factor hit a high, up 0.9% to 80.4%, surpassing the previous record of 79.5%, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) data.
IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer, Alexandre de Juniac, says, "As expected, we saw a return to stronger demand growth in February, after the temporary slowdown in January. This is being supported by the robust economic backdrop and solid business confidence. However, increases in fuel prices–and labour costs in some countries–likely will temper the amount of traffic stimulation from lower airfares this year."
"All around the globe we see the same positive picture of growth in demand for aviation connectivity. Aviation is the business of freedom, enabling people to lead better lives. Aviation has helped to lift millions from poverty, but for aviation to deliver even greater benefits in future, adequate, affordable infrastructure is a must.”

Latin America leads international flight demand growth
International passenger demand for flights was up 7.2% compared to February 2017, led by airlines in Latin America. Total capacity climbed 5.9% and load factor rose 1% to 79.3%.
"A case in point is the Latin American region, where aviation already supports jobs for five million people and $170 billion in GDP, says Mr de Juniac. “The potential for aviation to do far more exists, but without concerted action by governments to address capacity shortfalls, the region could face an infrastructure crisis in the future.
“Within the region, Mexico City is the most critical of the bottlenecks. The current airport was designed for 32 million passengers annually but serves 47 million. The solution is a new airport which is already under construction. But its future has been politicized in the current presidential election. The vital need for the new airport needs to be understood by all.”
•             Latin American airlines posted the fastest year-on-year growth, rising 9.8% year-on-year. Demand continues to recover from the impacts of the severe 2017 hurricane season. Capacity increased by 8.9%, and load factor rose 0.6% to 81.5%.

African traffic boosted by business confidence
•             African carriers saw a 6.3% annual rise in traffic, boosted by improving regional economies. Business confidence in Nigeria has risen sharply over the past 15 months while a reduction in political uncertainty in South Africa has contributed to an improvement in business confidence there for the first time in more than a year. Capacity rose 3.3%, and load factor climbed 1.9% to 67.8%.

Strong economic growth aids Euro demand
•             European aircraft demand rose 6.8% in the last year, boosted by strong economic performance. Capacity rose 5% and load factor increased 1.4% to 82.2%, the highest among regions.

New routes help Asia-Pacific passenger growth
•             Asia-Pacific airline traffic rose 9.1%, with economic growth and new routes on offer. Capacity increased 8.4% and load factor 0.6% to 80.5%.

Middle East hit by electronic device ban
•             Middle East carriers attracted a 3.4% annual rise in demand. Capacity rose 3.9% but load factor fell 0.3% to 74.1%, hit by the temporary ban on large portable electronic devices and proposed travel bans to the US from some countries in the region.

Strong economy and weaker dollar help US traffic
•             North American airline traffic rose 7.2% in February, supported by the strong US economy and a weaker dollar. Capacity rose 4.6% and load factor 1.9% to 78%.

Domestic traffic rises led by India and China
Domestic travel represented 36.2% of all global air traffic. Demand rose 8.2% in the year to February 2018, led by India and China, but all markets saw increases. Domestic capacity climbed 7% and load factor increased 0.9% to 82.3%.
India’s domestic traffic rose 22.9%, the 42nd consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year demand growth, and load factor exceeded 90% for the first time on record. Passenger demand continues to be stimulated by network growth and time savings.
China domestic traffic increased 11.8%, but the load factor fell 0.9% to 85.3% and Australian domestic traffic rose 3.9% year-on-year to a 17-month high.

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