EMA completes parking revamp

East Midlands Airport is to charge a £1 fee for drivers wanting to drop off friends and relatives at the Castle Donnington hub. The fee is part of a wider redevelopment of the airport’s facilities, which has seen the existing car park divided into five ‘zones’ – disabled parking, short- and long-stay areas, car hire, and ‘rapid drop-off.’

The £1 levy has now been introduced at four UK airports; namely, Newcastle, Belfast, Edinburgh, and East Midlands.

Whilst the free drop-off zone has been superceded by the new ‘pay as you stay’ area, airport chief, Penny Coates, notes that the long-stay car park is free for stays of up to an hour. The long-stay car park is located some distance away from the terminal, and users will have to catch a shuttle bus to the airport doors.

Penny claims that the new parking system will ‘enhance the overall experience of flying from East Midlands, and meet the requirements of modern lifestyles.’ Exactly what that means is up for debate, however. The airport hopes that the renovated parking areas will help ease congestion on the M1 and the A453, which leads up to the hub.

Users of the new rapid drop-off zone will be charged £1 for a stay of ten minutes. The same policy was introduced at Belfast Airport last week to enormous criticism. Irish drivers called the scheme ‘confusing,’ noting ‘chaotic scenes.’ Motorists who overstay their welcome can also be clamped, with a £80 release fee.

Bosses at the affected airports have cited ‘customer concerns’ – needing extra time to drop off, for example – and a desire to reduce airport traffic as the impetus for the changes. Irish and Scottish MPs are lobbying to have the £1 levy removed, however, which may encourage the British Airports Authority and Peel Airports, among others, to rethink any plans they had for premium parking services.

EMA posts £1m loss

East Midlands Airport lost £1m to the recent ash crisis, according to airport chief Brian Conway. The Castle Donnington hub, which is owned by the Manchester Airports Group, was forced to cancel more than 1,000 flights in April and May, as the Eyjafjoll volcano poured ash and dust into European airspace.

The airport’s bid to reduce its carbon footprint has not been hampered by the loss, however – bosses recently unveiled an ‘Environmental Learning Zone’ in a bid to make green issues more accessible to passengers. The new zone will incorporate easy-to-read leaflets on the airport’s battle against pollution and global warming.

Nonetheless, the ash crisis was a significant blow to East Midlands’ profits. Passenger traffic fell by 31% in April, a loss of around 63,000 regular travellers. Income from parking spaces and on-site retail was also down as many Britons were forced to stay at home. Bosses estimated a loss of £100,000 for each day that flights were suspended.

Mr Conway claims that the ash crisis, the hard winter and the recession have produced ‘two years of downturn’ for the aviation industry. ‘The ash impact has compounded the difficulties that the industry in this country is facing’, he explained. The airport is now requesting compensation from the government.

In April, Eyjafjoll could have sold newspapers all on its own, but the volcano’s activity has decreased significantly since then. The Met Office categorises the eruption as ‘paused’, but warns that the mountain must stay quiet for three months before it can be declared officially dormant.

EMA returns to normal operation

East Midlands Airport (EMA) is ‘pretty well back to normal,’ according to Penny Coates, the airport’s director, almost 14 days after the eruption of the Eyjafjoll volcano grounded hundreds of flights across the world.

The first plane in almost a week landed at the Castle Donnington site on 21st April – last Wednesday morning. The airliner, which was a Thomas Cook branded flight from Tenerife, was greeted by applause from staff. A red carpet was also laid out, and champagne offered to new arrivals.

Up to 3,000 people were shepherded through East Midlands on the same day, many of whom had been given just two hours to pack their bags and make their way to the nearest airport. ‘We were just sitting around the pool,’ one returnee explained. ‘We didn’t dare go too far away in case we got a call to say we’d got a flight.’

Despite all the celebrations, some holidaymakers were visibly despondent over their extended holiday. People on the Thomas Cook flight from Tenerife were described as ‘very quiet,’ and ‘tired’ by fellow passengers. EMA bosses have also cause to feel blue this week, after six days of flight restrictions cost the airport a hefty £600,000.

Efforts to rescue stranded Brits continue even today, but it seems that customers’ patience with world airlines is beginning to wear thin. British Airways (BA), for example, has been accused of profiteering, after the price of tickets skyrocketed at the weekend. BA boss, Willie Walsh, claims that his airline is simply trying to ‘discourage’ new customers.

and Emirates were also criticised for flying new passengers, when they have yet to return the last group to their home country.

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Householders question EMA silence

Despite being one of the first airports in the UK to embrace biomass as an alternative energy source, East Midlands Airport still has a long way to go if it wants to convince local residents of its commitment to the environment.

Campaigners were left stunned last week after airport bosses claimed to have reduced noise complaints by 60% over 2008/9. East Midlands received just 1,064 angry letters in 2009/10, continuing a trend of improvement that began three years ago, when over 7,000 complaints were lodged against the airport.

Whilst the figures may be correct, local residents refuse to accept that the plunge is a result of restrictions put in place by the airport, which currently include fines of £1,000 for every plane that flaunts noise rules.

Steve Charlish, a local campaigner, believes that noise complaints are falling for an entirely different reason – ‘It’s no quieter now than it was last year. I’m still woken at 4am with planes thundering over my house. People just think complaining is an act of futility,’

During November 2009, a public forum was given the opportunity to discuss a ‘noise action plan’ with representatives from the airport. This document, which has since been sent to the Department of Transport, proposed no further changes to the airport’s noise controls, despite suggestions from 90 people.

To the casual observer, East Midlands’ commitment to biomass technology might appear suspect: a novel way of generating electricity, or a thinly veiled tactic to divert attention away from the battle against noise pollution? Local villagers remain unconvinced.

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‘Tree Power’ for East Midlands

‘Tree power’ for East Midlands

Just one month after British Airways announced a plan to turn waste food into jet fuel, East Midlands Airport has found a novel way to generate power, whilst simultaneously reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. The Castle Donnington site plans to become the first airport in the UK to produce renewable energy from willow trees.

Otherwise known as biomass, energy derived from ‘forest residue,’ such as tree stumps and fallen branches, or from specially cultivated plantations, is becoming very popular in modern industry, especially as the environment continues to dominate global politics. Organic material is burned in a biomass boiler, and the energy produced is used to power everything from light bulbs to heavy machinery.

East Midlands has already planted its first few willow trees, but the farm is not expected to be ready for harvesting until 2013. The 26-acre site is located to the north of the airport, between the M1 motorway and the town of Castle Donnington. Bosses hope that their new project will reduce the airport’s CO2 emissions by 350 tonnes a year.

‘This is a landmark day for East Midlands Airport,’ Neil Robinson, sustainability chief at the site, said. ‘We are taking another important step towards our overall goal to make our ground operations carbon neutral by 2012.’ Mr. Robinson noted that the willow farm was just ‘one in a long line’ of eco-friendly projects yet to be unveiled.

East Midlands wants to use its new source of energy to heat the main terminal building, but critics are worried that the extra trees might encourage more birds to move into the airport’s largely rural surroundings. The site already employs ‘bird scarers’ to keep avian pests away from aeroplanes.

Fresh redundancies at EMA

East Midlands Airport is to sack up to 30 security staff in a bid to cut costs over the winter season.

Bosses have blamed fewer flights and a slump in passenger numbers for the decision, but as UK airports move towards automated security measures, sacked officers could be forgiven for thinking that they have been replaced by a robot.

The e-Border system employed at Bristol and Cardiff airports removed the need for experienced check-in staff, whilst Gordon Brown’s full-body scanners have put the lid on recruitment at Manchester and London Heathrow.

Modern airports will always require security staff, but there’s no denying that robotic hardware and fancy scanners are becoming the norm at British borders. It begs the question: can a computer be trusted to safeguard planes and passengers?

Critics say that the human eye is superior to a few lines of code, because the Prime Minister’s scanners cannot detect low-density materials such as plastic and liquids, both of which are commonly used in homemade bombs.

Of course, these items would be immediately suspicious to a trained security guard.

East Midlands Airport claims that passenger safety will not be compromised by the latest round of redundancies, which will come into effect over the coming weeks. Unite, the general workers’ union, is maintaining a dialogue with the airport, in an effort to reduce the redundancies.

Whether the airport will be able to deliver on a promise to upgrade airport security is up for debate, but until the new scanners arrive, the remaining security staff could have their work cut out for them.

East Midlands Airport is not currently affected by the adverse weather conditions, but passengers are advised to check with their airline before departing.

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Master plan upset by road link

The A453, a major road linking Nottingham to the M1 motorway, must be upgraded if a plan to treble the number of jobs at the airport is to go ahead. Officials hope to boost the resident workforce to an impressive 26,000 over the next two decades.

East Midlands is one of the most important regional airports in the UK, but one that continues to endure relative isolation from neighbouring cities, Leicester and Nottingham. The Highways Agency (HA) is proposing a £194m overhaul of the A453, effectively transforming the road into a dual carriageway.

Ian Briggs, a local planning expert, was keen to see residents embrace the airport as a seat of commerce, but also as one of the region’s largest employers. East Midlands currently employs around 9,000 people, many of whom are forced to commute from the surrounding towns and cities.

Improvements to the A453 could help alleviate congestion on the M1 motorway, reducing accidents, and attracting more customers from the north. The Campaign to Protect Rural England is not impressed with the news, however, and has lobbied to prevent any expansion of the A453, fearing the loss of local wildlife and habitats, and an increase in air pollution.

East Midlands is the second airport this year to be hampered by poor infrastructure, behind Robin Hood. Officials at Doncaster were left shaking their heads when an £11m shortfall in funding derailed plans for a motorway link road – a road that could have brought an extra £1bn a year into the local area.

The outcome of a public inquiry will determine the fate of the proposed A453 expansion.

EasyJet bored of East Midlands

and East Midlands Airport have parted ways. The airline, noted for its orange and white livery, cited traffic stagnation as the reason for its decision, which could see hundreds of jobs lost before the end of the year.

Despite a much-publicised row with Luton Airport, EasyJet remains one of the most profitable carriers in the country, weathering the recession virtually unscathed and emerging with its pockets lined with jewels.

Few could fault the airline’s business plan.

Since then, EasyJet has proved a difficult beast to calm. After downsizing at two major UK airports, the airline is now determined to take its operations abroad to more profitable hubs in mainland Europe.

Budget airline BMIbaby has pledged to plug the hole left by EasyJet’s departure. Crawford Rix, managing director of the carrier, was keen to support the beleaguered airport, saying that East Midlands is "home to BMIbaby", and wanted to reassure the people that "we will remain committed to the airport”.

During August, Ryanair and EasyJet axed flights at Newcastle, London-Luton, Robin Hood, East Midlands and Manchester, leading to accusations of bullying on the part of the airlines. The pair dissolved hundreds of jobs between them, simply because airports refused to acquiesce to their demands.

Despite moving to airports with cheaper landing fees, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary had the gall to increase check-in costs by 50%. Factoring in all the obligatory charges, a typical ‘budget’ airplane ticket now costs in excess of £100.

Jet2 has been quick to capitalise on Ryanair’s escape from UK airports, and other budget airlines will be all too eager to fill EasyJet’s shoes.

Jet2 signs for East Midlands hub

Budget airline Jet2 has announced plans to establish a base at East Midlands, creating hundreds of new jobs and bringing an estimated 130,000 extra passengers to the airport.

The airline, recently applauded for its commitment to Newcastle Airport, will house one silver aircraft at East Midlands, with a view to building a larger fleet in the future. The lone Boeing 757 is expected to operate nine flights a week.

Jet2 has enjoyed an upwelling of funds, forging new routes at three airports across the UK – Leeds-Bradford, Newcastle and now East Midlands.

Airport officials were delighted with the news, which could help develop the region as a whole, generating admin jobs in Leicester and Derby, and control positions at the airport itself.

The airport director, Penny Coates, explained how the news "is a positive indicator for the future" and puts the airport "in a strong position".

East Midlands survived the bank holiday weekend relatively unscathed, despite a rash of strikes affecting many UK airports.

A nearby boat show, an annual event hosted by the Inland Waterways Association, caused minor delays for tourists travelling from Nottingham, but the airport reported no further problems.

Jet2’s new base will boost the airport’s summer holiday roster by seven “fantastic scorching sun destinations,” to quote the airline.

Flights to the Canary Islands, Dalaman in Turkey, Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt and Tenerife in Spain will commence in May 2010.

View the full list of destinations on the Jet2 website, or book a package holiday through Jet2’s official tour operator, Jet2Holidays.

East Midlands Airport celebrates record year

Last week saw some good news emerge from East Midlands Airport, with officials announcing a record year in 2008. Approximately 5.6 million passengers took advantage of the facilities and routes offered by the airport, which has been working hard to raise its profile in the local area and beyond during recent years. The opening three quarters of the year were particularly successful and East Midlands Airport managed to record a total increase with regards to passenger numbers of 3.9 per cent compared to the figures for 2007. November and December were slightly more challenging months for the airport, as potential travellers prioritised the purchase of festive gifts over last minute long weekends.

The managing director of East Midlands Airport, Penny Coates, revealed her excitement at the news. She believes the increase in passenger numbers is a “great achievement” for the officials at the airport and “evidence that the efforts” being made to continually improve the airport “experience” for customers have culminated in success.

The year ahead is likely to be a tough one for East Midlands Airport and, like numerous managing directors at other airports across the United Kingdom, Coates revealed that the airport is fully expecting to see an overall decline in passenger numbers as the recession impacts upon the aviation industry. However, despite the challenges which the following year may bring, she believes that those in charge at the airport will remain fully “committed to improving the customer experience” which has proved so attractive over the last year.