LONDON - Pressure from budget airlines to cut check-in and boarding times at Stansted may damage any attempt by owner and operator BAA to sell the airport.
With passenger numbers down and short dwell-times limiting the benefits for retailers, aviation experts say that Stansted faces a crisis.
Last week it was announced that the building of a second runway at the airport has been delayed until 2017, while BAA confirmed passenger numbers fell by 6% in 2008.
Uncertainty over Stansted's future is also hindering its long-term development, with the Competition Commission expected to insist BAA sells the airport along with Gatwick.
Michael O'Leary, chief executive of budget airline Ryanair, is advocating a no-frills second terminal for Stansted, minus check-in desks and retailers.
The transformation of the airport into a 'glorified bus station' might suit O'Leary, but Virgin Atlantic marketing director Paul Dickinson argues the case for more luxurious airport surroundings. 'Long-haul carriers are oriented toward giving a great experience, and the airport experience is part of that,' he said.
Alasdair Lennox, design director at branding agency Fitch, which worked on several retail projects at Heathrow's Terminal 5, believes the types of retailers at airports such as Stansted will change over the coming years. 'It is never going to compete with the flashiness of Heathrow, but if people are spending less on flights they are going to want to treat themselves. It opens up opportunities for different kinds of brands,' he said.
Stansted has suffered from airline bankruptcies, including those of business carriers Eos and Maxjet, and received a blow last year when American Airlines pulled its route between Stansted and New York JFK.
CAA announced its final decision on price caps at London Stansted for the next five years and confirmed that it will toughen performance targets, noting that under the new incentive scheme BAA could be forced to return up to £10 million ($13.8 million) per year if delivers "poor" service to passengers and airlines.
Under the incentive regime, up to 7% of the charges from passenger flights at STN could be put at risk if standards of service at security queues, baggage systems, terminal facilities or those delivered directly to airlines are found lacking. A similar scheme at Heathrow and Gatwick has forced BAA to pay out nearly £9 million in rebates to airlines so far in fiscal 2008-09, CAA said.
Conforming with its December proposal, CAA set the price cap for passenger flights from April 2009 until March 2014 at £6.53 per passenger for the first two years. The following three, the airport operator is allowed to increase the maximum revenue it can levy through airport charges to £6.63, £6.74 and finally £6.85 in 2013-14 (ATWOnline, Dec. 10, 2008).
"Stansted's price control is about ensuring that this airport, and those with the potential to compete with it, develop in a way that meets the needs of users," CAA Director-Economic Regulation Harry Bush said. "This is why we have brought in an incentive scheme to improve services for passengers and airlines" (ATWOnline, March 10).
He added, "Going forward we will now be working on developing our approach to economic regulation to meet the challenges of a developing airport market and to ensure that the benefits of increased competition from the forthcoming sale of Gatwick, and from the potential sale of Stansted, are delivered to passengers and airlines" (ATWOnline, Dec. 18, 2008).
EasyJet described the new price caps as "the best of a bad bunch but it is still wrong," while Ryanair said the proposal to fine poorly performing airports "is too little too late after it has presided over years of abysmal service at Stansted and its history of rubber-stamping cost increases for airports."
BAA said CAA failed to recognize a large element of its investment at STN in the price control ruling. "We are disappointed that a large element of the full cost of developing new capacity has been retrospectively disallowed," the operator said. "Looking to the long term, the regulator should not discourage future important investment which it accepts is necessary."
Stansted Airport has renamed its main runway because the position of the Earth's magnetic North Pole has moved. The magnetic North Pole drifts naturally, and every 50 years its position alters significantly.
The runway was known by pilots and air traffic controllers as 23/05 - the abbreviated magnetic runway headings of 230° and 50° - because of its location and compass heading. However, it has been renamed 22/04 to reflect the new position and bearing.
Trevor Waldock, head of airside operations, said: ‘We've had to make this change due to the Magnetic North Pole slowly drifting on the Earth's surface. It will be roughly be another 56 years before we have to consider changing it again.'
‘Redesignating the runway at a busy international airport, such as Stansted, presents a number of complex challenges, so we've had a programme of works specially organised to minimise any disruption to normal operations.’
The project, which took place at night, was completed on 5 July and included the replacement of all airfield signage and the repainting of the huge numbers at each end of the runway.
[textarea]Swissport strike threat at Stansted Airport
Summer strike action is now looming at Stansted Airport, in addition to at Manchester and Liverpool airports, as previously reported. Unite union members at Swissport, the ground handler used by Ryanair, are currently being balloted about industrial action at Stansted in a dispute over pay.
The dispute is over a pay deal, agreed in 2008, which should have seen wages increase by 2.7 percent from April 1 this year. However, management ‘reneged’ on the agreement, blaming the recession. The vote started on August 7 and will close on August 21. The Unite union would then need to give seven days notice of any planned action.
[textarea]Off duty nurses save man at Stansted Airport
The ambulance service has praised two off duty nurses who saved the life of a 51-year-old man who went into cardiac arrest at Stansted Airport earlier this week. Paramedics were called to the main terminal after the man, from Filleigh in Devon, collapsed at 09:00 on Tuesday.
Paramedic Steve Salter said: ‘Luckily two nurses were passing and an automatic defibrillator was close by. Before our arrival the man benefited from good CPR and had been shocked four times.'
‘Although he was still unconscious he was making progress and had a good cardiac output. We gave oxygen and other treatment while monitoring the patient. About five to 10 minutes after we arrived he came round and although confused said he felt fine. He was transferred to hospital where he is recovering.'
These machines are fantastic. Most public areas have them these days, certainly most major train stations and airports have them. I believe at least two people have been saved by these machines at LBA.
In 2003 Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer, was seated on an easyJet aircraft at Bristol Airport waiting to fly to Edinburgh when he had a massive heart attack and was only saved by the prompt intervention of cabin crew and the airport fire brigade with their defibrillator equipment.
He then had heart bypass surgery in hospital and since then has performed all sorts of adventurous feats including running seven marathons in seven consecutive days.
Stansted Airport will have a new managing director on Monday, BAA announced yesterday. David Johnston has been appointed to replace Stewart Wingate, who is leaving the airport to join service company Connaught plc.
Mr Johnson is currently BAA's group procurement director, having joined the company in 2007 as managing director of Edinburgh Airport. Prior to joining the operator, David was managing director of Thorn Lighting. He said: ‘I am delighted to be joining Stansted at such an interesting time in its development.’
[textarea]Stansted ‘targets Heathrow overspill and US flights’
Stansted Airport wants to cash in on its 'unique spare capacity' by targeting airlines based at Heathrow to switch, Business Weekly reports. Bosses have also 'breathed fresh fire into plans to bring more long haul routes into Stansted', with a new service to the US a priority.
Airport MD David Johnston, is spearheading a strong growth strategy buoyed by improving passenger numbers and an upsurge in interest from airlines keen on a Stansted base. With BAA now under no immediate pressure to sell Stansted, he is reported to be 'keen to ensure the airport exploits its huge capacity edge in the UK. Gatwick is full (at least for prime daytime slots), Heathrow over-full, while permission to expand to 35 million passengers per annum has given Stansted massive headroom.'
Mr Johnston told the weekly:‘We also seeking to attract airlines to move across from Heathrow and to bring online more long haul routes, starting with the US.’ He added that the move carries a profitable payback for the UK economy as, unless Stansted takes the overspill from Heathrow and Gatwick, a lot of airlines and new routes will be lost to France, Holland and Germany.
He said: ‘We are prime for growth. The airport is already in brilliant shape without further investment on infrastructure so we can maintain a low cost, highly competitive base while other airports have to push the cost of infrastructure improvements onto carriers.’
Stansted will almost certainly suffer from the same problems as Gatwick when it comes to trying to get airlines to switch and move their services away from Heathrow. Stansted will always be seen as London's third airport by the majority of airlines. Most overseas passengers wont even consider travelling to what they generally consider as a second division airport unless Stansted can market itself as 'the new London airport'.
A new Stansted Airport lounge opened on Friday, targeting passengers flying with Ryanair. The No.1 Traveller lounge, which costs £17.50 per passenger, has a bistro, fully-tended bar and business facilities - printing, fax and scanning facilities are available.
The lounge, which can seat up to 50 people, also offers free UK land line calls, free wi-fi internet access, newspapers, magazines, board games and televisions to watch. It is located opposite Gate 49 on Satellite 3, where most Ryanair international flights depart from, and is the second No.1 Traveller lounge to open at the airport.
Stansted Airport's cargo operation has enjoyed its fourth month on month increase in a row. More than 15,000 tonnes of goods were transported through the airport last month, a 14.2 percent increase on January last year.
Nick Barton Stansted's commercial and development director, said: ‘The upturn in cargo through Stansted is encouraging news, reflecting an increase in trade and economic activity. We have a world-wide reputation as an excellent cargo hub and we're proud to be the second largest London airport for cargo operations into and out of the UK.'
'Fed-Ex has their largest UK hub here and the airport is also home to BA's World Cargo operation. And with AirAsia X carrying goods on direct flights to Kuala Lumpur and beyond and other passenger airlines transporting items daily across their route networks, its not just freight operators linking Stansted onto the vast cargo networks around the globe.'
'Passenger numbers are also beginning to stabilise with rates of decline significantly down on 2009. We remain hopeful that this area of our business will also see a return to growth towards the end of 2010.'
[textarea]New Government’s Stansted runway stance ‘a major blow to business’
The new Government’s opposition to a second runway at Stansted is 'a blow to major businesses in the region',Denise Rossiter, managing director of Essex Chambers of Commerce, has said. However, the stance has been welcomed by environmental campaigners and residents.
The Government is firmly opposed to extra runways at any London airport. Stansted is the biggest single-site employer in the East of England with more than 11,000 staff. Ms Rossiter said a second runway would have created jobs and strengthened the case for better road infrastructure.
She said: ‘I think it’s a major blow for business. I am speaking on behalf of probably three quarters of our members that want Stansted. More than 200 businesses are on the airport site and it is the biggest employer for the local community.’ Dr Adam Marshall, from the British Chambers of Commerce, said the decision would diminish London and the South East’s attractiveness to investors, which could impact on the UK economy.
However Carole Barbone, campaign director for Stop Stansted Expansion, said: ‘It is very good news the coalition Government has made its opposition to a second Stansted runway clear.’
To be considered more that just a provincial airport Stansted Airport needs to provide the big airlines with sufficient incentives to fly there. This is what they do on the continent and as long as the airport is controlled by BAA this will never happen.
Stansted also needs to up its own game in terms of parking management, the drop off areas at peak times are a joke, and the rail service is second rate. At the same time all of these services including the on site taxi business Checker Cars are very expensive - why would you travel from Stansted?
The Government should have forced BAA to sell Stansted if they want the airport to grown and propser. The irony is that out of the 4 London airports Stansted has the most potential for significant growth over the next 25 years.
We hope that with the recent decision to allow the larger bodied jets like the "Super Jumbo" to start to use STNS then this could result in more quality airlines starting to view Stansted as a more viable option for travel to and from London.
We must also remember that in 2012 the airport will be the closest [save London City which is a business airport predominantly] to the Olympic Village in east London and so we hope that the airport authorities will be looking at ways to really bolster Stansted's credentials as a leading UK/London airport in the years ahead.
BAA has confirmed the appointment of Nick Barton as Stansted Airport managing director. Mr Barton has been performing the role on an interim basis since the departure of former boss David Johnston at the end of November.
Mr Barton has six years experience at the airport, most recently as commercial and development director. He said: ‘I am delighted to be the new managing director of Stansted Airport. It is a privilege to be part of this fantastic airport, working with staff who provide an excellent service to our customers.'
‘2011 is a showcase year for us; we will be celebrating our 20th birthday in the spring and later in the year we will see new trains in service on the Stansted Express as we head towards 2012.'
‘My immediate focus is ensuring Stansted continues to be prepared for the on-going cold weather. We are striving to keep disruption to an absolute minimum for our passengers and, where possible, have been assisting other airports, taking in diverted planes to help people reach their destinations.’
[textarea]New Stansted boss puts rebuilding ties ahead of new runway
Stansted Airport's new boss Nick Barton has said that his role is to make the airport a world class facility while building relationships with its local community, the Cambridge News reports. The airport’s latest managing director believes that growth to 68 million passengers a year has been ruled out by the current Government – and the Labour opposition – co-operation rather than conflict is the way forward.
Unlike his two most recent predecessors, who were parachuted in to the post by BAA from outside the area, 44-year-old Mr Barton has been at the airport for six years, and has a thorough understanding of both sides of the expansion argument. He told the newspaper: ‘My role here is to make this airport be what it really can be – a world class airport within the constraints of a single runway. The aim is to serve our customers and serve our community.'
‘We need to rebuild the airport’s relationship with its community. Airports are controversial entities – wherever they are, they are controversial and it’s incumbent on me to balance the arguments. I know a lot of people have deeply held convictions about the airport, but I’m very passionate about this airport and can see the benefits it produces not just locally, but at a national level. Now the prospect of a second runway has receded, it gives us an opportunity to rebuild relationships.’
Currently around 19 million travellers pass through its terminal annually, but unlike its major London rivals, it has the capacity to expand to 35 million a year. While uncertainties remain over Stansted’s ownership – now the subject of a BAA appeal to the Supreme Court – Mr Barton is focused on expanding the 20 airlines that currently serve more than 140 destinations in 31 countries from Stansted.
Stansted Airport is celebrating 20 years since the launch of its ‘iconic’ terminal building today. Designed by the then Sir Norman Foster (now Lord Foster), since it was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen more than 250 million passengers have passed through the terminal and more than 2.5 million flights have left the airport.
Films including Tomorrow Never Dies, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Sliding Doors, have shot scenes at the airport and a congregation of 1500 attended for a recording of Songs of Praise. Nick Barton, the airport’s managing director, said: ‘Stansted’s iconic terminal has helped create a new era of innovative airport design and style that still provides inspiration for terminal developments all over the world.’
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