Airport News August 2014 – Diseases, Hoaxes and New Security Measures

Written by Kate Goldstone

Airports are always in the news, with a steady stream of fascinating stories covering everything from airport parking and security to jet lag (which we’ll cover in detail next week), the measures taken against terrorism, baggage limits, passenger safety and – occasionally – hot topics like new runways and new airport facilities. Here’s this week’s top trending topics.

Plane bomb hoaxer sectioned under the Mental Health Act

As reported by the BBC, the man who passed a spoof note to the pilots of a plane saying there was a bomb on board has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and held for a ‘fuller assessment’ of his mental condition. We can only imagine the terror the 269 passengers felt when they noticed the fully-armed RAF Typhoon fighter plane escorting their aeroplane.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport

Manchester airport, the plane’s destination, was temporarily closed and some flights were diverted to Liverpool and Leeds airports. But, all credit to the authorities and the airport itself, everything was back to normal by 2pm, with inbound and outbound flights only delayed by 25 minutes or so. It just goes to show that these days, airports will pull out all the stops to keep things running smoothly.

If you’d like to see footage of the drama one passenger, Josh Hartley, filmed the RAF escort on his phone. Here’s a link to the BBC story.

Manston airport business plan on the cards

Do you live in Kent? If so you probably mourned the untimely passing of Manston airport, which shut its doors in May with job losses numbering 150. Now there’s good news on the horizon. Councillors have  agreed to the recommendations highlighted by a report looking at ways to make the airport financially viable.

Thanet council is also keen to establish whether the airport might be attractive to private buyers, a necessary step since the report reveals that the project will need hundreds of millions of pounds spent on it. The first step is a twenty year business plan to give everyone involved the very best chance of returning the airport to useful life.

Manston Airport

Manston Airport – Kent

In the past a US-based investor called RiverOak has tried three times to buy the airport. In the end, five weeks before its closure, Manston airport was bought by Ann Gloag, the co-founder of the Stagecoach Group, for just £1.

Fingers crossed for all you Kent-based holidaymakers and business travellers. A good local airport will make your travelling lives much easier as well as saving time and long distance travel costs.

Baggage reclaim nightmares at Gatwick airport –  ABTA’s advice

Apparently a staff shortage was responsible for the deadly delays at Gatwick recently, where passengers faced long waits to reclaim their luggage. On the bright side, the baggage handling company Swissport has rallied forty more staff to help ensure it won’t happen again.

Gatwick Airport Baggage Reclaim

Gatwick Airport Baggage Reclaim

What if there are more delays? The travel organisation ABTA has the answer: pack essential items in your hand luggage.
What do they mean by ‘essential items’? Anything you need on the homeward journey, for example your car and house keys, medicines, spectacles, wallet and anything else you really can’t do without if your baggage goes missing. Better safe than sorry!

Taking Pride in easyJet

Congratulations to easyJet and Manchester Airport who, together, have said they’ll be sponsoring this year’s Manchester Pride event on 23rd August. It’s the second time the companies have collaborated to sponsor the event and their third year of involvement.

With more than a hundred thousand people expected to turn up it’s a high profile event, and good old easyJet will be flying revellers in from far and wide. They estimate ten thousand extra passengers will descend on the city via the airline, with the airport servicing at least 324,000 people over the late August bank holiday weekend.

easyJet offers flights to an impressive 35 destinations from Manchester Airport, including the popular LGBT community destinations Mykonos, Amsterdam and Berlin. And the airport services a whopping 65 airlines flying to a total of 200 destinations.

The companies’ sponsorship highlights the strong relationships they’ve created with local people, and we’d like to wish both Manchester airport and easyJet good luck for the big day. If you’re attending, we hope you have a splendid time too.

Emirates suspends flights to Ebola-affected Conakry ‘indefinitely’

The UK Border Agency, doctors and government officials are all being briefed about what to do if Ebola arrives in Britain. It’s obviously a serious threat. So what about air travel in and out of Africa?

Emirates has suspended all of its flights to Conakry, in Guinea, West Africa, to help stop the spread of Ebola, one of the world’s most dangerous diseases. It was the first  major international airline outside Africa to do so in a bid to halt the worst ever recorded outbreak of the disease, which has already killed more than 900 people across four countries.

Ebola precautions

Ebola precautions

International air travel provides a way for diseases to spread horribly quickly, one of the biggest risks inherent in a global economy where air travel is often cheap, fast and widely available. The airline says any further bans will be guided by health authority and government advice. If you’re travelling to Africa make sure you refer to the government’s advice.

British Airways have announced that they are temporarily suspending flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia until 31st August. A few other airlines have suspended flights to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. British nationals already in or travelling to these countries should put arrangements in place for onward travel or exit. In other words, make sure you can get out of any of these countries if your airline suddenly suspends flights.

You can also check out the World Health Organisation’s website for Ebola updates.

Russian air space might prove an expensive no-no

To fly to Asia, EU planes usually use the shortest trans-Siberian route. But the recent horrific MH17 crash and resulting political furore have led Russian lawmakers to consider limiting or even banning European flights from entering Siberian air space on the popular Europe-Asia route.

According to the Russian media, consultations have been held between the Russian Transport Ministry and Foreign Ministry about restrictions on Western airlines flying in Siberian airspace, which they do dozens of times a day. It’s being seen as a tit-for-tat move to revenge any ‘unfriendly’ measures taken by the European Union, whether or not those measures are to do with air travel itself.

Watch this space… if you’re travelling the route, the cost of avoiding Siberian air space might just have an effect on your fares.

New airport security measures for mobiles, tablets and other popular gadgets

Air travellers are being asked to charge devices carried in their hand luggage as part of new security measures introduced at British airports. Passengers flying in or out of Britain will need to prove their gadgets are charged enough to allow them to be switched on. So what gadgets qualify? Phones, tablets, laptops and MP3 players are the obvious ones. But you’ll also need to prove these items are fully charged:

  • electric shavers
  • travel irons
  • hair dryers and hair straighteners
  • cameras and other camera equipment
  • hand-held games consoles
  • e-readers
  • to be on the safe side, anything with a battery
Airport Security Tightened

Airport Security Tightened

What’s it all about? Apparently the government is acting in line with advice from the USA, but there are no details available. Experts suggest it might be in response to efforts by Islamic militants in Syria and Yemen to build bombs which can evade airport security checks. Whatever the reason, it looks like it’s here for good, with no plans to step down in the foreseeable future.

Next week – Jet lag and how to avoid it

We’ll be back next week with an in-depth feature about jet lag, what it’s all about and, most importantly, what to do about it.

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