COVID-19: Aviation News Alerts for 31 March 2020

NZ airports, Elenium, GEODIS, ACI World, Mumbai airport, Emirates SkyCargo, Qatar Airways Cargo

Matt Driskill
A screenshot of the virus tracking website at Johns Hopkins University taken on 31 March. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

airport mapNZ airports maintain lifeline operations: New Zealand’s airports are operating as “lifeline utilities” as the country continues life under Alert Level 4 movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Twenty-one of New Zealand’s airports are classified as lifeline utilities under the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act. These airports have to maintain their airport facilities for use in a state of emergency. They link with regional emergency operational centres as key strategic lifeline assets. Smaller airports not legislated as lifelines are operating in hibernation – maintaining their facilities ready for essential services when needed, and keeping their core capabilities intact for when travel restrictions are lifted. Aviation operations have changed to catering for reduced domestic flight schedules for essential services personnel and freight, alongside hospital patient transfer flights. “Our airports are maintaining air connectivity across the country but it is certainly not business as usual,” says Kevin Ward, the chief executive of New Zealand’s association for airports (NZ Airports). Ward says lifeline utility airports have to ensure they are able to function to the fullest possible extent, even though this may be at a reduced level, during and after an emergency.  For airports, this includes continuing to meet safety and regulatory requirements.

AustralianAustralian company Elenium announces contactless tech: Australian company Elenium Automation announced it has developed contactless, self-service technologies that can estimate a passenger’s vital signs, to allow for touch-less health screenings at airport kiosks and bag drops and assist in the fight against COVID-19 coronavirus. Elenium said has lodged patents for both the automatic detection of illness symptoms at an aviation self-service touchpoint, and touchless self-service technology at an airport. Combined, this would ensure health screenings can become standard across airports now and into the future, without leaning on staff to activate this process manually. Etihad Airways will be trialling the technology from April and Elenium is in discussions with other airports and airlines regarding implementing the technology.

GEODISGEODIS flies masks from China to France: GEODIS has been commissioned by the French government to organise the emergency supply of millions of masks from China to France. In order to respond to requests from the national authorities, GEODIS is planning 16 flights over the coming weeks, representing in volume terms approximately 2,400 m3 of capacity weekly. If necessary, this schedule could be extended into the month of May. For this operation, GEODIS chartered two Antonov 124 aircraft which will operate in rotation between France and China. The French Minister of Solidarity and Health said the air bridge, was part of the expected delivery to France of 1 billion masks over the next 14 weeks. The first flight from Shenzhen Airport in China containing 8.5 million masks arrived in France on Monday 30 March via Paris-Vatry airport. A second flight is scheduled later this week carrying 13 million more masks.

ACIACI issues airport IT best practice guidance during COVID-19 pandemic: Airports Council International (ACI) World has issued guidance on IT practices being implemented by airports around the globe in response to the unprecedented disruption and upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the rapid decline in traffic as a result of widespread travel restrictions and the health and safety implications of the spread of COVID-19, airports are ensuring the safety and health of all airport stakeholders by reducing onsite staff – including IT staff -to essential personnel only. They are adopting emergency HR measures and increasing the use of online collaborative tools and remote working to ensure business continuity. These new working practices are not without challenges and risks and this Advisory Bulletin – Airport Information Technology recommendations during COVID-19 – provides recommendations to help airports with this transition. “Airports are being forced to reconsider their normal business and operational processes and this advisory bulletin provides airports with a set of important key actions for addressing IT concerns during this pandemic,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “A key aspect for airports, especially with larger numbers of staff accessing IT systems remotely, is the implementation of cyber resilience for business continuity. It is imperative for airports to have up-to-date cybersecurity policies and procedures which should be made available and apply to not only the IT and cybersecurity personnel, but the workforce in general.”

CISFMumbai airport  works to resume operations: With the recent directive by the government of India, suspending all commercial passenger flights until 14 April, GVK-led Mumbai International Airport continues to remain operational with a curtailed staff of over 500 personnel working for cargo operations and emergency evacuation flights. The airport continues operating its cargo handling activities to cater to the greater need of mobilising and supplying essential commodities across India and the world. The items include pharmaceutical goods and medical equipment, which are approved by the regulatory bodies and customs. The airport  is the largest gateway for pharma products in India.

EmiratesEmirates cargo keeps goods flying to Singapore: Emirates SkyCargo said it has stepped up its commitment to facilitate the flow of essential goods across international markets. In response to a scenario where air cargo capacity across the world has been extremely constrained due to the restrictions imposed on passenger flights, the air cargo carrier continues to ensure that goods such as food and medical supplies are transported around the world to destinations where they are needed the most. Between mid-January and mid-March 2020, Emirates SkyCargo transported more than 225,000 tonnes of cargo in total out of which 55,000 tonnes were food items including fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood, and more than 13,000 tonnes were pharmaceutical cargo. Emirates SkyCargo is also deploying sufficient air cargo capacity to ensure the constant supply and replenishment of food products and medicines in Singapore.

Qatar AirwaysQatar Airways resumes belly-hold cargo ops to China: Qatar Airways Cargo announced that it will resume scheduled belly-hold cargo operations to China with the utilisation of widebody and passenger-configurated aircraft. The additional cargo capacity is being added to the carrier’s existing freighter service amid increased demand for the shipment of immediate goods in and out of the region. The decision to reinstate belly-hold service to six of its passenger destinations in the country is in line with airline’s initiative to continue supporting worldwide connectivity, re-establishing the global supply chain, and meeting the market’s strong demand for freight exports and imports. This includes the transportation of urgent medical relief aid that is pivotal to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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