Heathrow tests new 3D technology to enable faster security check

London Heathrow is testing an innovative ‘glasses-free 3D’ technology that that is intended to help reduce the number of prohibited items placed in hand baggage, and therefore offer departing passengers a smooth journey through the UK’s only hub airport.

The airport is running a trial of the new technology in the departure security zone at Terminal 1. Large screens show 3D images of items that are not permitted through security, such as scissors, tweezers and liquids over 100ml.

Passengers are also shown how to dispose of the items in the recycling bins before putting their luggage through the scanner.

In the usual course, if banned items are identified during a scan the bag is rejected and has to be hand searched by a security officer. The new technology will reduce queues at security by cutting down on the number of bags that are rejected for manual search, and ensures that all passengers have a smoother journey.

The technology is provided by New York-based Exceptional 3D’s patented auto-stereoscopic 3D display technology. The trial was launched after being suggested by one of Heathrow’s security officers, Samit Saini. The trial will run for 8 weeks.

Richard Harding, head of IT innovation at Heathrow said: ‘Helping prepare passengers for security saves them time and reduces the chance of having their bag searched. 3D technology is the latest way to help get this message across. Once we’ve analysed the trial’s results we’ll decide whether to expand the technology to the rest of the airport.’

Matthew Young, managing director of Exceptional 3D Europe, added: ‘We’re very excited to be working with Heathrow Airport in an effort to make travelling an even smoother experience. As our business requires us to travel like many others in the world, we know and understand that there is a mild frustration when it comes to unexpected delays. It’s our expectation that this will not only improve the traveller experience but also help minimise delays at necessary and very critical stages of air travel.’

Heathrow wins sixth Biodiversity Benchmark award

London Heathrow has received The Wildlife Trust’s Biodiversity Benchmark Award for a sixth consecutive year.

Heathrow is the only airport to receive this award. The UK’s hub actively manages around 100 hectares across 13 sites for nature conservation, including four reserve areas that are open for local people.

Heathrow is a founding supporter of the Colne Valley Park Community Interest Company, providing vital habitats for protected wildlife, as well as essential community facilities. Heathrow is also involved in environmental education and supporting community volunteering.

Sustainability director, Matt Gorman, said, ‘We are delighted to have been recognised for our continued commitment to biodiversity around Heathrow and winning the award six years running is an achievement we are really proud of. We are committed to running Heathrow responsibly and continually building on our success.’

The Wildlife Trust independently judges more than 40 organisations’ commitments to biodiversity, visiting each site and assessing their compliance with strict environmental requirements.

Heathrow was awarded the Biodiversity Benchmark for its continued commitment to biodiversity, preserving a wide variety of species in the area and managing the land to support them. The Princes Lakes were also praised for their potential for improvements to wildlife and habitats.

The UK’s hub also collaborates with nearly 320 businesses to establish innovative solutions and operating procedures, aimed at improving environmental performance.

Heathrow recently won a Sustainability Leaders Award for the new Terminal -II and was named ‘Champion of Champions’, winning four International Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice and Sustainable Development.

The awards reflect Heathrow’s firm commitment to enhancing the local, regional and national economic and social benefits of the airport, the airport said.

Heathrow’s new Terminal to open in June

Heathrow’s Terminal 2, The Queen’s Terminal, designed by Spanish architect, Luis Vidal + Architects (LVA), will open on June 4, 2014, when a United Airlines flight from Chicago is scheduled to land at the new building early in the morning, the airport said.

The £2.5 billion project includes the main Terminal 2 building, a monumental new sculpture by internationally-renowned artist, Richard Wilson RA, a 1,340-space car park and an energy centre and cooling station. The terminal is one of the UK’s largest privately funded construction projects and has provided jobs for nearly 35,000 people.

Terminal 2 will house 22 Star Alliances airlines as well as Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic Little Red and Germanwings air carriers.

In line with Vidal’s earlier airport designs, Terminal 2 will feature a bold undulating steel-framed roof that will control the flow of natural light. The roof will feature three large waves signifying the three main parts of the passenger journey: check-in, security control and boarding.

Construction of the new building, which took five years, has been completed without disruption to the daily operations of what is considered to be the world’s busiest airport. As Heathrow’s most sustainable terminal, Terminal 2 reduces CO2 emissions by 40 percent compared to the previous building and will be the UK’s first airport to be awarded a BREEAM rating for its sustainable building design.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow development director, said: ‘Terminal 2 has been designed with the passenger at the heart. Building on the success of Terminal 5, it will bring together technology, architecture and human touches.

Our goal is to make every journey better for our passengers and bringing together 25 airlines in this light and airy space is just one more step in the transformation of Heathrow.’

Luis Vidal commented ‘Airports are the Cathedrals of the 21st Century; they are the gateways to nations, and serve a public function.

Putting passengers first and making it easy for airlines and workers have been our drivers at Heathrow; but above all, making it welcoming and comfortable; pragmatic and functional; flooded with natural light and providing for intuitive orientation for everyone.’

Heathrow Airport organises career fair for local youth

Heathrow Airport is inviting young people from the local community to sign-up for its annual jobs and careers fair in February.

The airport is expecting more than 5,000 16 to 24 year olds to attend the event, which will be held on February 11. Around 50 companies that operate at Heathrow will be representing their sectors, and intend to inspire local young people into embarking on a career at the airport. Parents and teachers can also receive advice regarding companies’ requirements from candidates.

Paula Stannett, director of Human Resources at Heathrow said, ‘The Heathrow jobs and careers fair is about supporting young people from the local area and demonstrating the wealth of job opportunities available at the airport. Parents can often benefit too by increasing their understanding of the options available to their children. It was fantastic seeing so many attendees last year and I hope that this year will be even more successful.’

Jo Bellis, resourcing and development manager at security and logistics company, Wilson James, said, ‘We are looking forward to once again participating in the Heathrow Jobs & Careers Fair. This is our second year at the event and it is a great opportunity to engage with young people from the local area about the different roles which Wilson James can offer across logistics and security at Heathrow. There was a strong turnout last year and we successfully recruited several applicants into vacancies as a result.’

One of the largest single-site employers with more than 76,500 people working at the airport, Heathrow offers a wide range of jobs, training and career opportunities. The business community around the airport includes firms involved in construction, engineering, retail, logistics, communication, planning, security and technology.

This is the seventh annual career fair organised by Heathrow and the airport has so far provided local young people with CV advice, help with interviews and career guidance.

RunwaysUK conference discusses London Heathrow expansion

The RunwaysUK conference in London has provided a forum for aviation industry leaders to discuss the options for the expansion of London Heathrow airport and increased capacity in the south east of the UK.

The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, has short-listed three options for runway expansion, which include additional runways being built at Heathrow and Gatwick. Sir Howard delivered the conference’s keynote speech, and said that the interim report published in December has been ‘fairly well received’.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Craig Kreeger, has extended his support to the proposal for expansion, saying that is what ‘customers prefer’.

Kreeger said: ‘I do not like one or the other. It is not me who is voting, it is the customers. But they want to go to Heathrow. When we moved routes to Heathrow it was better, as customers prefer Heathrow.’

Virgin Atlantic has been gaining approximately one new slot per year at Heathrow, but Gatwick is well run and was a ‘very important’ airport for the carrier, Kreeger added.

Rafael Schwatzman, regional VP president Europe for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), also seemed to back the Heathrow expansion. Many businesses are located in the nearby Thames Valley and there was a strong case to develop the hub so the UK can compete in the 21st century, he said.

At the conference, Sir Howard launched the appraisal framework that explains in detail how the commission expects scheme design for additional airport capacity to be developed, and how the schemes will be appraised, which is part of an open consultation running until February 28.

Sir Howard said that the three options will now be developed and appraised and the commission will also now research the radical Estuary Airport proposal, by carrying out four projects into the viability.

In the autumn the commission will decide whether to add the plan for a new 110 million passenger airport in the Isle of Grain, in Kent, to the short-list.

In the meantime, the government will comment on the three options outlined by the commission in March, with a final recommendation expected after next year’s General Election.

Heathrow’s charitable donations for 2013 total £500,000

Local communities around London Heathrow airport received more than £500,000 in grants from the Heathrow Community Fund last year.

The funds come from three sources, fines imposed on aircraft that breach noise limits, an annual donation from Heathrow, and spare change from airport passengers. In the past two years, the airport’s charity fund has donated more than £1m to nine local boroughs.

In 2013, the Waterman’s Art Centre received £25,000 to help fund Urban Ambush, a four-week festival of creative programmes for young people during the summer of 2013. Young art aspirants worked with professional artists to develop new projects, learn new skills and showcase their work.

The Willow Tree Centre in Hillingdon received £25,000 in both 2012 and 2013, to help build new volunteer and maintenance facilities. Volunteers, including staff from Heathrow, maintain 15 acres of woodland, reed beds and meadow, with the centre providing outdoor activity facilities for children.

Caroline Nicholls, director of the Heathrow Community Fund, said: ‘This has been a record year both in terms of the number of grants we’ve awarded and the level of funds we’ve been able to donate to so many excellent community projects. It’s a privilege to be able to see at first hand the inspiring work done by dedicated local volunteers and community organisations.’

Jan Lennox of Urban Ambush, said: ‘Urban Ambush is our new Summer arts programme that gives young people an opportunity to develop their creative and interpersonal skills. The grant of £25,000 from Heathrow Community Fund was central to providing the range of activities that made the project such a great success.’

Dawn Palmer, of Willow Tree Management said: ‘We are indebted to Heathrow Airport, its Community Fund and its employees for their support and belief in what we are doing for the 14,000 young people, of all abilities, who use our Centre every year.’

Heathrow said that similar funds will also be made available this year, and that it is calling for more local charities to apply for grants. Heathrow Community Fund has three separate grant streams: Communities for Youth, aimed at improving education and economic regeneration, Communities for Tomorrow, focused on environment and sustainable development, and the Communities Together scheme, aimed at community focused projects.

Heathrow sees growth in passenger numbers, calls for hub facility

London Heathrow airport has underlined the need for hub capacity after reporting a rise in passenger numbers in 2013.

According to figures released by the airport, nearly 72.3m passengers passed through in 2013, an increase of 3.4 percent on 2012. Seats per aircraft increased 2.8 percent on 2012 and the average load factor was 76.4 percent, up one percentage point. Passengers per aircraft increased 3.7 percent to 154.8.

BRIC passengers were up 6.9 percent over the year, with China up 18.9 percent, and India up 8.7 percent.

European traffic in 2013 grew 4.4 percent, partly benefitting from the integration of bmi into British Airways’ network.

Heathrow CEO, Colin Matthews, said: ‘During 2013 Heathrow was named the best large airport in Europe, T5 was voted the ‘world’s best terminal’ for the second year running and we welcomed the Airports Commission’s shortlisting of Heathrow as an option for expansion. Our passenger figures reflect the growing demand for the long-haul destinations only a hub airport can support.

Yet Heathrow is full, leaving European hubs to add destinations whilst we look on. We are not against expansion at Gatwick, but greater point to point capacity is no substitute for new hub capacity, which only Heathrow can provide.’

Heathrow Hub is an independent proposal for an integrated air and rail facility that it is claimed would double Heathrow’s capacity and create new opportunities for noise mitigation. The hub concept proposes to extend the existing Heathrow runways to the West and then split them to create four, thereby doubling the number of slots.

The proposal was one of three short listed in Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission’s Interim Report, published in December 2013. The Commission is now undertaking a detailed appraisal of the proposals before a public consultation in autumn this year.

Virgin to appeal against CAA’s decision over airport charges

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is considering an appeal against the decision by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over airport charges, The Travel mole has reported.

Virgin Atlantic CEO, Craig Kreeger, said that the airline was ‘baffled’ at the CAA’s decision in October, which suggested that prices rise in line with inflation.

The statement comes after the CAA published its final decisions on economic regulation at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, to be effective from April 2014, offering passengers lower prices and high service standards. At Heathrow, the CAA’s price control decision will see prices fall in real terms by 1.5 percent per year between 2014 and 2019. The changes are introduced after passenger traffic forecasts strengthened from October, and the cost of capital has been revised.

Kreeger said: ‘Today’s decision is a far cry from the reduction needed to mitigate the incredibly steep price rises customers have seen in Heathrow airport charges in the last few years. Prices at Heathrow are already triple the level they were 10 years ago, and coupled with ever increasing Air Passenger Duty, customers flying to and from the UK are facing some of the highest travelling charges in the world.

‘Virgin Atlantic is totally committed to improving the passenger experience at Heathrow, but we believe this could have been achieved with a more significant reduction in charges. We will be carefully considering our right to appeal on behalf of our passengers who will ultimately pay the price for the CAA’s decision.’

With a regulation based on the airport operator’s own commitments to its airline customers, the CAA is backing the commitments with a licence, to allow itself to step in to protect users if there are reductions in service quality that are against the passenger interest.

Virgin also accused the CAA of laxity with its regulation at London Gatwick.

‘We hope the CAA will properly hold Gatwick Airport and its shareholders to account in order to improve its price offer to its airline customers,’ said Kreeger.

‘If it fails to do so, coupled with looser regulatory controls, we are concerned that the CAA is failing in its statutory obligation to protect passenger interests, and will consider our right to appeal on their behalf,’ he added.

London Heathrow most expensive for airport parking

Britain has the most expensive airport parking in the world, as holiday makers pay a staggering £10 to £12 to park for one to two hours, reports have noted.

According to reports in the Sunday Mirror and the Daily Mail, Heathrow’s terminal 4 is more expensive than major international airports such as New York, Sydney, Paris and Milan.

The peak-time fee at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 is also indicative of the high rates across the country, with a two hour stay costing £10 at Gatwick and Stansted, and £11 at Luton.

The British airport charges are in stark contrast to major transport hubs around the world – the short term charge at New York’s JFK is £5.50, less than half the Heathrow cost, and at Paris Charles De Gaulle, it is £6.60. Only Sydney Airport charges are comparable with UK rates, at £11.00.

The Automobile Association’s (AA) Paul Watters voiced his disapproval of London airport’s prices, saying: ‘Drivers will feel they are being fleeced. They don’t want the stress of big parking charges when they are worrying about getting people to the airport on time.’

Charges in Scotland are also high, with the cost of a two-hour stay at Scottish airports being as much as £9.00.

Airports in Greece are considered the cheapest in the world, with a short-term stay at Athens International costing only £5.40 for two hours.

Airport operators increased Heathrow parking charges in September, bringing in peak morning and evening rates in an attempt to ease traffic problems around Terminal 4. At off-peak times, drivers pay £10 for one to two hours, while a 24-hour stay costs £53.90.

Also, at airports in Athens and Berlin, those dropping off passengers are allowed 20 minutes or 5 minutes free respectively, before the stop becomes chargeable. In comparison, even a 5 minute stop at Heathrow costs £3.00, the Daily Mail said.

Pilot reports ‘near-miss with UFO’ flying into Heathrow

A pilot of a passenger jet has reported a near miss incident when a ‘cigar/rugby ball-shaped UFO’ passed within a few feet of his aircraft while it was flying into Heathrow Airport, The Telegraph has reported.

The captain of the A320 Airbus told British aviation authorities that he was certain that the object was going to crash into his aircraft and ducked as it headed towards him. The incident occurred while the plane was cruising at 34,000ft, around 32km west of the airport, over the Berkshire countryside.

The captain spotted the bright silver, ‘metallic’ object travelling towards the jet out of a left hand side, cockpit window, apparently heading directly for it. However, when he checked the aircraft’s instruments and contacted air traffic controllers to report the incident there was no sign of the mystery craft.

Without naming the airline or flight, a report into the incident said: He (the pilot) was under the apprehension that they were on collision course with no time to react. His immediate reaction was to duck to the right and reach over to alert the FO (First Officer); there was no time to talk to alert him.’

It added: ‘The Captain was fully expecting to experience some kind of impact with a conflicting aircraft.’

The incident was investigated by the UK Airprox Board, which studies ‘near misses’ involving aircraft in British airspace. The investigation was unable to establish any earthly identity for the mysterious craft. It ruled out meteorological balloons, after checking that none were released in the vicinity. Military radar operators were also contacted but were unable to trace the reported object.

The Ministry of Defence closed its UFO desk in December 2009, along with its hotline for reporting such sightings.

Following this, the Civil Aviation Authority decided that it would continue to look into such reports from aircrew and air traffic controllers, because they could have implications for ‘flight safety’.